Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Smiles and Tokens of Appreciation Go a Long Way

Over the years, I've encountered many people in my athletic, personal and work lives who have helped me in some way, and I try and help others whenever I can. I have many tokens of appreciation, some of which merely signify we are happy to know one another. When I look around my house, I see so many little things (I now have a policy against anything larger than about 6" any dimension) that came to me under happy circumstances. I have articles of clothing that were given to me that whenever I wear them remind me of the giver. 

I especially appreciate when someone gives me something that is "me." I have an Incredible Hulk action figure given to me by my good friend, William. I have a hot dog ornament that was given to me by a former coworker, Liz. I once sent Liz a box of candy and fucks, because I knew she would like the candy, and I also knew she was running out of fucks. I wrote FUCK on about 30 Post-It notes! I have a skull given to me by Lori, and when she gave it to me, she told me how she had searched for the perfect skull. It's an anatomical model, that some people wouldn't like, but I love it. I have many things from my BFF, Susan. From skulls to a picture of some wild asses we saw in Hawaii when we were there together when I was training for my very first marathon! Joshua gave me some decorative bottles that have skulls on them and little things inside that I immediately asked, "Are those candy?" Sadly, they are not. My favorite earrings were given to me by Shelley--they are heads in a jar from New Orleans!

Back in 2004 when I was fortunate enough to get into Ironman Hawaii via lottery, I was there with Susan and another friend, Judy. They were my support crew and put up with my moody ass. Here's the 3 of us in a convertible that I rented for our stay and I think we were on the road up to Mauna Kea. This was taken after the race, which explains my winning tan! 

I had such a good time showing Susan and Judy my favorite places on the Big Island after the race. Some time after we all returned to the mainland (sadly), Susan sent me that picture in a beautiful frame. I display the picture always in my living room as it reminds me of good friendship and a wonderful experience. 

On our last day in Kona, we went to Lulu's on Alii Drive. It's now closed. Strung around the railings were banners from the race that merely read Ironman World Championship. There were no sponsor names on it. I asked if I could have a piece of it, and they gave me about 10 feet worth! I took it home and it was precious to me; however, I have given pieces of it away to others--some as they qualified for Kona, and some for inspiration. I don't have any of it left myself, which at times makes me sad, but I hope that the recipients appreciate it.

I try and give people a token of appreciation when they do a favor for me. It's not because I believe in quid pro quo (or as I like to call it, Squid Pro Quo),

but it's just the right thing to do. Sometimes people turn me down, but I'm usually quite insistent on showing them how much I appreciate what they did.Yesterday I decided to go swim at Good Samaritan Wellness Center again. I figured it was worth it for the cool water and hot tub to pay the $15. When I got there (finally, after I'd started on cleaning/organizing my garage, applied a bag of sand to my patio, dropped off a ruined car tire for recycling and checked if I could still get some hanging flower baskets), Jamie was at the front desk, but so was someone else, and she took my information and I paid the $15. Jamie winked at me, and I engaged her in quiet conversation after I paid up, and I told here when my next 3 visits would be, and without saying anything out loud, I know she will let me in for free. Just as I did a few years ago, I am going to give her a bottle of wine for the favor. I remembered that she liked reds, and I did quietly say to her yesterday, "If I remember correctly, you like reds, right?" I didn't even need to say WINE. She remembered, too. So I bought a pretty nice bottle, since after all, I'm still saving money based on her generosity, and I even found a nice wine gift bag at home and thank you card.

Why has this woman been so nice to me over the years? Because I show up smiling! One time it was to go there at oh-dark-thirty to do my very first 10k swim. Many other times it was because my Y was closed on a holiday (now my Y is open almost every holiday) or it was closed for the annual cleaning. We've both aged, but she is much younger than me (I'm guessing 20 years?).  When I went to swim on Sunday, she asked me what was new, and I told her I'd left my job and was starting in on some ambitious athletic goals.

I've had my share of being depressed and/or surly, but my natural state is exuberant and smiley. Some describe it as "bouncing off the walls." Well, yes, sometimes it's like that, too! As long as I'm doing something I enjoy doing, I'm generally going to have a smile on my face and know that my own smile can infect others. I've experienced incredible sadness, too, like in 2006 and 2007 when my parents died back to back. I was a wreck for the better part of 3 years straight, and for months after each parent's passing, I could barely go out in public without crying. But there were many people who were incredibly kind to me and I will never forget that. During that time, I learned how to help others through their own grief process, and unfortunately, have had to utilize those skills regularly. To me, there is no greater gift you can give a person than to be able to help them through that shit. When you know the horrors of deep, crippling grief, you never want to see a friend or loved one go through that, but you do what you can for them.

I'm sure I'm not always as thankful/appreciative for what others do for me, but I am always trying to get better at it. There have been times in the not too distance past when I've been depressed and thought I didn't have many friends. But I am finding that in having the time and energy to reach out to them all now, that I've not lost any of the important friendships, and those people are willing to stand by me and support me in my goals. And that, my friends, is the greatest gift I could ever receive. I hope I can make them all proud not just for what I accomplish, but for who I have become as a person. Because while I love the athletic stuff, none of that is going to be important when I'm dead. What will be important is that I lived my life with joy and integrity and gave as much to others as they have given to me.

For at least 10 years, I've mentored or coached (typically for free) many people because to me, knowledge is useless unless you give it away. No offense to people who charge for that, and I may begin doing that again, but having a passion for something and sharing that passion with others is one of the best things in life. I love gardening and love it when people appreciate my yard as they walk by, and sometimes we chat about plants and stuff. I love training and racing, which is why I like to be well-dressed when I do it so it's obvious the joy I am experiencing, even when it sucks. There is too much good stuff in life to experience for one lifetime! But I am going to give it my best shot!

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