Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Like Ships Passing in the Night

"I think I’m going to quit and just move back home after I return from Africa," she said in passing as we both walked down the hall today. This was the woman who had sought me out to be her partner in the (raw) egg toss at last week’s afternoon office picnic.

She has worked in our division for how long? A year? Two years? I don’t know. I just recently learned that we are the same age. We both walk like 50-somethings. I’ll bet we have a lot in common.

I found myself saying, "But you can’t leave yet. I haven’t even gotten to know you."

She explained that she intended to quit her job, give up her health care, and just move out west closer to where her children live, where she will look for a new job. I realized that I didn’t know whether she had a partner or spouse or grandchildren or even a dog. I had absolutely no idea why she was going to Africa. But I had concluded that she would be a good friend.

She put her arm around my shoulder and said, "I only have one more 35-year period and I want to make the most of it." That was a startling thought. That we are more than half done with this life.

I replied, "Let’s at least go out to lunch before you take off. I really would like to get to know you better." Sometimes we take a person’s presence so much for granted.

Now I’m more curious than ever about this person. I’m thinking of slipping her a little note with looking2live.blogspot.com written on it as she heads out the door for Colorado or Montana or wherever her spirit leads her.

We were just two souls passing in the hallway today for such a fleeting moment.


Blogger Kristin said...

It's funny. You think you have forever to get to know people, to spend time with the ones you do know and then something changes. It's over in an instant.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I agree with Kristin - we need to pay attention to the moment.

I like that you made note of the moment, Barbara, and that it mattered to you that you hadn't gotten to know this woman as well as you wanted. Knowing is always the first step to changing...

7:40 PM  
Blogger Aileen said...

I know exactly what you mean, Barbara. As I get older, I don't want to lose out on chances to get to know someone new...to learn about them...and to really connect. It's great you've reached out to your co-worker.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin, Pauline -- This was one of those moments that gets indelibly etched in my mind. There was such a sudden urge for a connection between the two of us that simply had to vanish as we both went back to our offices to work.

Aileen -- This was a mutual "reaching out" so I get only half the credit. I guess the bottom line is that we have to make the most of what little time we have to get to know one another before she moves away.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

While I am younger, I did lose my sense of immortality a while back.

Hmmm … for me, coworkers are just that, coworkers - I never think of them as friends. This is not to say I am antisocial and never speak with them, but I certainly do not look to spending time with them outside of work.

My wife would describe your liking of her as a "matter of skin" - it probably makes more sense in Spanish. It is just the immediate feeling that things are good or bad between two people. In English we would say 'hitting it off' or 'rubbed the right way' - I guess.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- Maybe this is just a difference between men and women, but I would have a hard time turning off my emotions toward other people for what amounts to about 1/3 of my waking hours. I have a lot of friends at work. I met my husband at work. However, I usually don't socialize outside the office with people who work directly for me because that would seem like showing favoritism.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I still waddle like a duck, every once in a while I get a hitch in my get along.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I am a people person and I would just try to "humanize" the work place even if no one else did. People are what makes this world go 'round and we are all bonded by something. In teaching, we are all touched by our interest in and love of kids, and the whole atmosphere is constant bonding to everyone in the building to create a safe warm and nurturing feeling. I would try to do that no matter where I worked. It just sets a pleasant, connected social-emotional tone and one to which people look forward to coming each day.

Hope you somehow can connect with your new friend.

9:37 PM  

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