Off getting my morning coffee, they had Summertime playing in the background sung by Aretha Franklin and Louis Armstrong. It’s a great song, and I found myself singing along to it. I felt better after that standing there waiting for my coffee to be made, the languid, sensual tune recalling memories to me of my childhood when such songs would be played on high rotation, and of my mother, who would often sing around the house in her trained voice. I grew up with her singing the standards as she did the dishes or attending to some other domestic chore. That’s how I absorbed the music and came to love it so much and why often, as she did, I’ll break into song (I know just about all the words by heart).
The song had a restorative effect upon me. I returned to work feeling as if a situation that had become twisted had been normalised. I wished I was somewhere else, but as I hummed the tune to myself, I felt nourished. I went about, a sardonic smile on my face and cracking wise left, right and centre as I haven’t for so long. That little episode in the coffee shop had a restorative effect on me.
I needed it. Despite my brave words on Sunday, I felt pretty bleak yesterday. There was no belated thank-you, and in fact, after quickly checking in she left the floor, a 3-month secondment as a trainer meaning she’ll be here but a fraction of the time.
Initially, it all came as a blow to me. I found it hard to concentrate or to take my work seriously. I reasoned with myself. It really was pretty trivial, and for someone with skin as thick as mine, it was ridiculous to feel so upset. But of course, the snub is symbolic of so much more.
After my coffee this morning, I am beginning to wonder if her absence is my opportunity to become myself completely once more. It seems to me that one of the ongoing issues – if that’s the word – is that much of the fun had gone out of her interactions. I would make her laugh now and then, but mostly our dealings were sober and matter of fact.
For me, that was one of the problems. With everyone else on the floor, I felt I could be the me people knew, open and witty. I would engage with people around her, make them laugh sometimes or have them call me over.
It was different with her because the first few times I tried that with her after our problem she was non-receptive. She would politely smile, determined not to engage or to show anything. I took my lead from that, and as a result, there was a zone about her in which I was perfectly sensible and proper, unlike the occasionally free-wheeling and irascible character I was elsewhere (the character she had been drawn to in the first place).
Now she has gone, and the zone goes with her. I don’t have to abide by those restrictions. Looking back, I don’t know if I realised how restrictive it was to my natural self. I’m glad to be free of it, and a little angry with myself that I allowed myself to be so constrained. I understand, though.
The bottom line is that I’m freed up, and I want to make the most of it. I need it too. It’s been a busy few months, and I’ve made many strides forward, but in hindsight, I realise I’ve survived a destructive segment of my life.