Scarlett’s Letter December 26, 2013

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls ~ Mother Teresa

I have two very juxtaposed needs; a social circle and silence.

I am still trying to find a circle, or a few circles, a source, a place, or places, for socializing, as a middle-aged, solitary woman with a wildly fluctuating calendar of availability. I am not “single” and am a misfit in the “singles” crowds. I just want to establish a circle of interesting, non-threatening folks to hang out with a time or two a week, for coffee or wine tasting, a hike, a yoga class, or something like that. I don’t let the absence of such a circle deprive me of those joys, I am perfectly willing and able to go to coffee, wine tasting, a hike or a yoga class by myself, a solitary participant amidst a group of strangers, but I would prefer, on more occasions than not, to have a familiar face, or faces, to share with socially, on more than a casual, “hey, you on the yoga mat next to me, nice weather today, eh?” basis.

I’ve found one great, promising and very unlikely resource; grocery shopping. I am a “Whole Food-ee”, as you are probably aware. I am lucky enough, currently, to live in a town that has a Whole Foods Market ten minutes from my front door. Being situated in the Napa Valley, this market has a “tasting bar”. This, I’ve been aware of for some time and I have also been aware of the fact that they have a calendar of events; different featured wineries, breweries, and pairings, for a very nominal fee. As I shop for my local organic Greek yogurt, local, organic, free-range eggs, local organic produce and organic whole grains, crisscrossing my way back and forth across the aisles, I frequently pass the tasting bar, which is “corralled” off, dead center of the store, adjacent to the wine aisle, with a split rail fence and a gate complete with a rope latch, to keep the underage out, I suppose. Often, I see people sitting at the tasting bar and the few tables nearby, enjoying the featured selections, and I’ve thought, “I’ve got to take the time to do that some day.”

Making a plan.
Making a plan.

One afternoon, last week, with a little burst of fortitude, I reached for my MacBook and opened a couple of new tabs in my browser. I navigated to my gym’s class schedule from my bookmarked pages on one tab and to Whole Foods events calendar on the other. I grabbed my phone and opened up my personal calendar and scheduled out my fitness for the week, including runs, yoga classes, spin classes and cardio. Then, I found a few tasting events and scheduled those on my calendar, complete with a couple of carefully timed reminders. Later that day, right on schedule, I attended a caviar and sparkling wine tasting event at the “Whole Foods Corral”. I found a seat at the bar, a few minutes before the scheduled start time for the event, and enjoyed a fantastic Northern California brewery’s stout offering, just a small glass, for two dollars. There were a few folks at the bar and they struck up easy, casual conversation with me. They were “regulars”, I gathered, from their banter with the “bartender” and because they greeted, by name, nearly everyone that passed by the “corral”. From what I gathered, everyone there was sort of like me; not single, not content to sit home and rot in front of the television, and looking for a way to connect in the community and enjoy beer. And caviar. And sparkling wine. And then, maybe even do some grocery shopping. It was great. I’ve been to the German beer-tasting event, since, again, meeting some nice, non-threatening and immensely interesting people. Today, after my spin class at the gym, and a shower, of course, I’m going to go buy some yogurt and oatmeal and stop by for a wine tasting event, a winery I know, have visited, and am quite fond of, from the foothills of Amador County, southeast of Sacramento. I might be close to becoming a “regular” at the Whole Foods Corral.

At the "Whole Foods Corral"
At the “Whole Foods Corral”
North 101 Brewing - Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
North 101 Brewing – Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.

The other craving I have; silence.

Likely more elusive than a platonic posse of pals to socialize with, a contiguous block of uninterrupted silence with which to read, think, meditate and write. I don’t consider this need to be one rooted in selfishness, though some may beg to differ. Fine, believe what you want, but, please, don’t approach me with your argument while I’m trying to read, think, meditate or write.

My basic need for a bit of uninterrupted silence, a couple of times a day, as I’ve mentioned a time, or two, or maybe a dozen or two times, before, is very hard to come by in my current living situation. One of the petty minor irritations Mom and I are trying to work through. Mom differs from me in that her most basic need seems to be one of filling every moment with noise, chatter, inquiry (often bordering on inquisition) and distraction. If I fall silent for any period of time, say, during breakfast, she will ask a rapid-fire succession of questions on a topic in, what seems to me, an attempt to extend the lifespan of said topic well beyond its natural and logical bounds. She will chatter incessantly, often using the newspaper as a catalyst, the result being a near constant barrage of completely unrelated factoids that, to me, require no response, or even acknowledgement. Mom seems to desire both, acknowledgement and response. I listen to her many stories of the past, of her acquaintances, and her (very) few social encounters of the week. She relates very detailed stories of the people in her life; doctors, nurses, hairdressers, and of the people in their lives that she has never met, but has only heard tale of. If Mom runs out of material, she will simply narrate everything she is doing, like a “blow-by-blow” account of wrapping up leftover cookies to freeze. If I am not in the room to chat with or chatter to, she will turn on the radio or the television to fill the void.

I love companionable silence; being able to sit, peacefully, with a friend, family member or loved one, after the conversation has been temporarily spent, and just enjoy their presence, their company, and pursuing those more personal, thoughtful endeavors; reading, thinking, meditating, writing.

I’m not sure where the middle ground is here, between my need for companionable silence and Mom’s desire for constant conversation. I think …

“Knock, knock, knock,” on my bedroom door, which I’ve closed to afford some kind of sound barrier from the television downstairs, the ringing telephone and the triple play of the message left; its Mom, of course, on the other side of the door, with a list of questions, a couple of stories and a detailed account of the upcoming hour of her life.

My train of thought has just derailed. I’ll end my musings for the day here.

How Do You Do?

A greeting, a making of acquaintance. I am happy to meet you! How do you do is also a question I’d like to pose. How do you do?

My day is not quite complete unless I’ve made the acquaintance of someone I’ve never met before. I find this exciting, exhilarating and illuminating. People are so tremendously interesting, and from each and every meeting, often the first and last in one, I learn something valuable and hope I have left an impression, as well.

Today, I met lots of “new” people on a hike. Yesterday, I had a brief, but interesting conversation with the cashier at the grocery store, the day before, a very interesting man at a coffee shop. In the past three days, I have had casual conversations with at least a dozen people I’ve never met before. Sometimes, I think I am like the curious, friendly little puppy, panting and happily wagging my tail as I strain against my leash, eager to meet new people.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Why do I find people so fascinating? I like to find out what they do. Yes, I love to learn what people do for a living, but more interesting, what they do when they aren’t working. I find that many people live interesting lives, have hobbies and activities that I’ve always wanted to try, or to learn more about. Many people I meet are enthusiastic about their health, or their fitness, or their academic pursuits and I am thrilled to learn what they have to say. Almost always, we end up having a shared interest or shared topic and can chat for some time.

To say I have an energy, or enthusiasm, or confidence might be a little bit of an understatement. I really am eager to meet people and I think it shows when I walk into a room. I find that most the people I end up engaging with have a similar energy level, enthusiasm and confidence. If you believe in the law of attraction, I suppose this makes complete sense; like energies attract like energies. Or, perhaps my energy, enthusiasm and confidence make me a little more approachable than other folks.

I do try to be approachable. I make eye contact with people, and I guess I smile, whether I am aware of it, or not. A couple years ago I was at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, I was returning home after a long week away, waiting for my last of several flights. It was quite late at night and I was chatting on the phone with my son. People were milling around me as I sat near my departure gate. There were a few flights departing from a few gates clustered close together. After I concluded my call, I did my usual thing, I checked in on Facebook. After I got home, I received a comment on my check in from a man I’ve known since kindergarten and probably haven’t seen since high school. He obviously knew I’d been at LAX, but asked if I had been sitting at gate 81, wearing a black coat and a scarf. Yes, I had. He was standing right next to me, waiting to board another flight, and I was on the phone. He recognized me, I don’t remember seeing him, or didn’t recognize him, but he said I smiled at him. So, I guess I smile, randomly at people, if I am unable to strike up a conversation. I’m not really sure, but so it would seem. I am just grateful, for whatever reason, I have so many opportunities for making acquaintances.

About opportunities; they don’t just happen. No one is going to walk up to your front door and want to meet you, unless they’re selling something. In which case, I don’t generally answer the door. I know exactly what I want to buy, where I want to buy it, when I want to buy it, how much I want to spend on it and where I am going to put it. I don’t need anyone trying to mess up my very deliberate acquisition process. I’m going minimalist. Thank you. Back to opportunities; they are made, they don’t just happen. If you spend most of your leisure time in front of the television, you are not creating any opportunities. The dozen or so people I met in the past three days? I left my house and went out into the world and while I was interacting with society, I made the acquaintance of a bunch of really nice people.

How do you do; how do you create opportunities for meeting people? When I walked into the coffee shop a couple of days ago, I was there to work on a project for work between appointments. I take advantage of free Wi-Fi all the time, I love working from public places whenever I can. I ordered my half-caf and a banana and plunked my computer down at a table near an outlet, which happened to be adjacent to another table with an outlet where a nice looking man had plunked down his computer. I went about my tasks and before long, he struck up a conversation and we chatted, intermittently, for an hour. He was very interesting and found a lot of what I had to say interesting, as well. He left and went about his day, I left and went about mine. Simple as that. But in that meeting and the brief friendly conversation, I learned that he did many different, interesting things to make a living and had some spare time interests in common with me as well. I was smiling.

Today, I deliberately sought an opportunity to meet people. I belong to several “Meet-Up” groups (www.meetup.com). One of my favorites is a local group called “40 Something Women’s Group” and they do all sorts of fun things; dancing, movies, happy hours, brunches, wine tasting, hikes. All things I enjoy. Today, a hike. Of the ten or so ladies in attendance, I’d met two of them previously. During our lovely hike on this very warm, spring day, I enjoyed nature; the green hills, the wildflowers, the waterfalls, not so much the rattlesnake. More than nature, I enjoyed the many conversations I had with various ladies as we strolled along.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Of course, you get a bunch of 40 something ladies together, many divorced, and often the topic of meeting men comes up. Many of the ladies use online dating services, with limited success. A lot of energy goes into “meeting someone”. I don’t know, I’ve never tried. For me, it just happens, whether I’m ready, or not. I meet people all the time, one I met turned out to be someone I’d love to share my life with. I most certainly did not set out to find someone of a certain age, height, hair color, income level with specific spare time interests. I drank an oatmeal stout and ate ice cream at a bar, by myself, while traveling for work and I guess I was approachable. I must have smiled.

One of the ladies I chatted with today had a similar experience. She and I agreed that often times we meet someone compatible, someone terrific, someone we click with, when we aren’t trying, at all. We also agreed that rather than working on meeting someone, we put our time to better use working on ourselves. When we like ourselves and have become someone we would like to spend time with, often someone else comes around that feels the same way. I think this is where energy, enthusiasm and confidence come into play. I genuinely like myself, pretty much most of the time, and that translates into a confidence, approachability. And that also explains why I mostly meet people who are confident, energetic and enthusiastic, because they like themselves and are therefore, approachable, likeable. They smile.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with the lack of opportunity to meet people, that can be easily fixed. Find resources for meeting people, like Meet-Ups or other social groups; church, fitness, sports, activities, philanthropies, volunteering, and the list goes on. If you find, no matter how hard you try, you can’t find someone compatible to spend time with, whether friends or for dating or serious relationships, it’s possible you’re working too hard at it, and possibly, you’re working on the wrong person. Work on yourself and when you like what you’ve become, genuinely and completely, chances are, other people will feel the same way about you. Give yourself the opportunity and be approachable, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have more “how do you do’s”! Smile!