Lucky #13, turtles & a timely perspective

Soooo, I’m moving again.

I can’t help but think there was a colossal mix-up during my incarnation, and I was actually supposed to be a turtle.

 

Why? Because this will be move #13 in 3 years and move #4 in the past nine months, which includes a 5-month stretch living out of a suitcase…in 3 different countries.

I fear I might have cursed myself with the whole gypsy association. If this is the case, I would like to clarify: what I meant was “a free-spirited, love to travel, always up for adventure” gypsy…not the perpetually displaced kind.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, well, I am. Because let’s be honest, moving is f*cking terrible. One of my favorite bloggers, mydangblog, summed it up perfectly:

Moving is bullsh*t. Everyone knows that. In fact, I can’t understand why people don’t just live in the same place until they die because moving is so horrible.

And just to make sure these moves were sufficiently terrible, I did most of them with virtually no help- one, on the hottest day of the year, another, in the pouring rain, and the most recent, minutes before the worst blizzard this year ensued.

One move, in particular, I believe #7, stands out as one of the more challenging. To add insult to injury (literally), I had conveniently torn a tendon in my ankle two weeks before. So, I hired Karl to help…Karl, with a “K”.

Karl was a friend of some random guy I met at a coffee shop. I was so grateful, I never asked if “said friend” was a guy or girl, which proved to be a good thing.

I’m the first one to declare that our gender is just as capable as men at performing most physically arduous tasks. But realistically, the average woman isn’t primed for hauling heavy furniture and boxes upstairs. And since women aren’t frequently recruited to help friends move, they aren’t necessarily good at it. And I’m here to tell you, there is an art to moving.

All to say, I was admittedly disappointed when *they showed up…and a bit worried. My concerns proved to be valid. In addition to having to haul the heaviest boxes myself and explain how to maneuver furniture around corners, there was an additional element that proved to complicate things further.

In an attempt to make the task at hand more bearable and boost morale, I tried to lighten things up a bit- crack a joke here and there, throw out the occasional affirmation, for example, “We’ve got this, girl.”

But I was getting the vibe that my cheerleading wasn’t working. This was confirmed about 30 minutes in when they turned around, mildly annoyed, and said something to the effect of…

Helper: Could you please stop calling me that?

Me: Wait, what? Oh god, what did I say?

Helper: I’m actually transitioning and no longer identify as a girl, so if you wouldn’t mind…”

Me: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t…I mean, I couldn’t…I was just…

Awkward pause.

“Right, got it.”

I darted downstairs and slid into the bathroom. Seriously Brooke, could you have made that any more awkward? Just call her by her name…or do I say his name? Oh shit, I forgot what her name is. I mean his! Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

Within an hour, they announced they needed to go. I panicked. We had barely made a dent, and my ankle was twice its normal size at that point. I caved and called “E”.

Me: Um, so I hate to ask you to do this, but I’m kinda desperate. This girl, I mean, this friend of an acquaintance, was helping me, but she, shit, I mean, this person has an appointment that she. Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

E: (Laughing) Uh, you okay?

Me: Tears.

E. Oh, alright. I’ll be over in a bit.

I grabbed my checkbook.

Me: So what is your name again? I mean, I know what your name is, but how do you spell it, exactly?

Helper: Karl Adams, Karl with a K. But for now, just make it out to Carly Adams, Carly, with a C.

Me: Right, got it.

* This is not intended to disrespect anyone in transition AT ALL. After the fact, I did some research and the consensus seems to be that “they” is best when you are writing if you aren’t sure. In retrospect, I should have just asked, which upon further inquiry, seems to be what most everyone prefers. All to say, I’m so very sorry, Karl, wherever you are!

In contrast, my next move, or maybe it was the move after, had serious potential for a better outcome. I happened to meet a kind, extremely fit, very attractive Australian who offered to help- a seemingly fortuitous encounter that turned into a love story of sorts, just minus the happy ending.

So I opted to go solo my last move. A sore back and a few bruises seemed better than offending the shit out of someone or a broken heart.

I made it a little easier on myself this time, leaving all things too cumbersome in the ally for some stable homeowner or renter to enjoy. I have replaced them with versions I can manage by myself if necessary. And yes, this includes a desk and a dresser. (You can’t even wrap your head around what I’ve managed to haul up and down three flights of stairs.)

Moving usually makes the list as one of life’s most stressful events. Divorce is usually high up there too (check), death of a loved one (partial check, with a terrible twist), financial upheaval (check). Imprisonment is high on the list too, but to date, I have managed to avoid any run-ins with the law, for the most part, anyway.

But, I shall refrain from complaining further. I do still have my limbs, after all, and a roof over my head…most of the time. I mean “I have a roof over my head most of the time.” My limbs are hopefully here for the long haul…because I kinda need them to haul shit around, it seems.

be thankful.paradise

I try to keep reminding myself of this because I know it to be true; I’ve been on both sides.

When I was packing for the Congo, one of the essentials I was told to bring was a watch. Electricity was going to be a luxury, so if I couldn’t charge my phone, I wouldn’t know what time it was.

Why would one need to know what time it is in a remote village in the Congo? Well, there were chimps to be fed and an imposed curfew we were supposed to abide by for safety purposes. I admittedly regularly missed the latter, but I truly didn’t know what time it was…because I had misplaced my watch the first week I was there.

I wasn’t too upset about it. I’d only ever used it to time my track workouts, and I had my travel alarm, so the chimps wouldn’t go hungry.

So a month or so later, I was running with Rafael, one of the staff I had become friends with, and I noticed he was wearing my watch. I don’t think for a second that he stole it. I think I took it off when I was washing the chimps’ veggies and left it on the counter. That meant it was up for grabs, plain and simple.

As we were running, I realized the watch no longer worked. It was just a dirty, pastel green band with a blank screen. But Rafael was now one of the only people in the village who had a watch. It didn’t matter if it worked or not; he had a watch.

He did not, however, have running water or electricity in his home. And his home was what most would consider a shack, probably just one open room with dirt floors and a tin roof.

My point is, for most of us in the developed world, Rafael’s life seems tragic. But he was always smiling with a kind disposition and fun sense of humor. He had a job, which was extremely rare in the village. He had food to eat, albeit mostly beans and cassava. He had friends and a healthy family, all of his limbs, and a roof over his head. Most of these were a luxury there.

I know, a seemingly random tangent, but I think of these things when shit seems like it can’t get any worse. A) I make it a point to never say that because I’ve learned it definitely can, and B) I can focus on the shit that’s wrong or the shit that’s not. Unfortunately, the prior wins out more than I’d like.

So, here’s to lucky number #13 and the hope that a kind soul will swoop in and help a girl out. I promise I will commit your name to memory and keep the cheerleading to a minimum.

And if you are in fact, a kind, fit, attractive male, that’s great. Just no broken hearts, please. Cause, although I can’t give you the exact length of time (I misplaced my watch, you see), I know a good chunk of it has been wasted trying to move on…which I think we’ve established, I’d rather stop doing.

Besides, I’m simply not wired to be a turtle. I’m too impatient and tend to operate in 5th gear most of the time. And even if this is someone else’s paradise, it’s not mine, so I’d like to get things moving (or even just help moving), and time is of the essence.

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In the Service of Others

 

“Everyone can be great…because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”   -Martin Luther King Jr.

In keeping with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I’d write a tribute to what I believe his legacy stood for- his steadfast commitment to fighting for human rights, justice, and equality through nonviolent activism on a scale that had never been done before in the U.S. He was driven to serve others, to lift up those who didn’t have the courage or capacity to raise their voices.

I believe this to be the underlying motivation for most people who achieve success in their endeavors: to make a difference in the lives of others- whether that be their children, co-workers, neighbors, or complete strangers. I think this is why most change-makers accomplish what has never been done before. They ultimately want to help improve the lives of others in whatever capacity their gifts and talents allow them to.

This might sound naïve. I know there are those hungry for power or fame or other self-serving purposes. We all deserve to experience joy and success in addition to fulfillment from helping others. But I think most who achieve success (whether that success is on a smaller scale or one that impacts millions) are driven by their inherent goodness and compassion for others.

I was struck today when my young friend who works in my complex declared, without hesitation, that all people suck. “I don’t suck!”, I reminded him. “No, not you, and there are a few others, but for the most part, people suck. Once you accept this, you will quit being disappointed by people.”

I wanted to stay and argue with him, to try to change his mind, but a customer came in, so I quietly made my exit, shooting him an ‘I’ll deal with you later‘ look.

I’ve thought about our conversation all day. I don’t think he really believes that. He has always gone out of his way to help me when I needed it…which has been a lot over the past 6 months. And I don’t think it’s because it’s me. I think he would do that for anyone precisely because he does believe people are good, and he does want to make their day better.

I’ve been the recipient of random kindness from complete strangers more times than I can remember. People in every country I’ve traveled to have helped me out of various predicaments I get myself into- from spending the day showing me the highlights of their city (Siena, Italy), to driving out of their way to get me where I need to go (I have a tendency to get turned around at times), to fixing me a warm meal and giving me a place to stay when I got stranded in the pouring rain on a bike trek. (Northern Ireland).

I know a big part of being the recipient of such kindness is because I do my best to extend the same when I can. I seem to attract people in need of rescue as well. I’m usually the random person people select when they are in need of directions (which is both comical and hazardous) or want someone to sign their petition or are hungry need someone to catch them as they stumble down the stairs. And it makes me happy.

The point of this is just an effort to remind you (and myself) to ask for help. Most people really do love the opportunity to help someone, to feel like they are making a difference in someone’s life. When we ask help, we are giving those who are helping us something invaluable. We’re giving them an opportunity to experience the joy and fulfillment of making someone’s day better, even if it is in the smallest way.

I recently experienced this with one of my closest friends. She invited me over because she knew I needed a friend in the worst way. We settled into her cozy couch, and I gave her the nutshell version of the nightmare I had been going through. She got tears in her eyes and told me how strong and courageous she thought I was.

Yes, I needed to hear that, but it made me stop talking. This girl had been through most people’s worst nightmare, and she had handled it with such grace and resilience.

She’s one is one of the most upbeat, positive people I know and doesn’t talk about things that might make people sad often. I knew she hadn’t talked about what happened to her as much as she needed to, so I asked her to tell me about it.

She took me through that day, described what the lighting looked like when she found him, the thoughts that went through her head, what she said out loud, what she did immediately after. And she cried and I cried and we laughed and cried some more.

It was a conversation that most of her friends most likely had avoided because it is uncomfortable and sad and terrible. But I know from experience, we desperately want and need someone to ask those questions. Otherwise, the pain just festers inside and continues to haunt us.

I went to sleep that night feeling the closest to happy I’d felt for months. I helped one of the people I love most release a little bit more of her pain. At least I hope I did. She unknowingly gave me something more valuable than a shoulder to cry on. She gave me the gift of letting me help her.

So no, I don’t think all people suck. I think most are kind and compassionate and generous. Maybe some have difficulty giving of themselves, but deep down, I think most truly do want to.

I think Martin Luther King Jr. believed this, too. I think he believed in the inherent good in people. That’s why he had the impact he did; he made people want to begive back, to take action to make the world a more peaceful place.

Yes, he showed us the power of serving others, of giving people who feel powerless a voice and hope and a way to fight for what they deserve with love and peace, instead of with fear and hatred.

But he also empowered people in the most effective way we can; he gave them the opportunity to make a contribution, to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

This, the capacity to help others- to love and serve- and the courage to ask others for help- to receive and express gratitude- this is humanity at its best. This is why we’re here.

 

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