I calmly blink back the stinging threat of tears. I can feel my eyes slowly growing watery to the point of almost brimming over so I let them roll back in my head in an effort to reel the moisture back behind my eyeballs to hide my momentary weakness from my coworkers.
When I saw the email this morning in my in- box I knew it would tug on my heart strings—I scrolled to the bottom and first saw two lines from a familiar song; “May the good lord be with you down every path you roam. And may sunshine and happiness be with you when you're all alone,” the rarely used sign off; “daddy,” and further up the page the long list of tough questions followed by tender apologies and professions of fatherly love and concern.
I breathe in stiffly and blow out a mouthful of hot air. My coworker, Kurt, peers at me over our shared cubicle wall, but I act like I don’t notice. I pull up my Siebel on-line phone system and click “sign in”. One more time I breathe deeply in and out very much in control now and click “ready”.
BEEP- my phone gives me a jolting alert- my recorded sing-songy voice recites: “Customer accounting, Sarah Lovelace, how can I help you?”
The shrill voice that comes through next rockets into my ear drum and makes me jump again.
“Hi Sherry, how are ya,” I say as I turn the volume down on my ear piece.
Sherry rattles off an account number and a problem and I ask a few follow up questions when she’s done explaining her quandary; “you mean the $0.36 from the 16th,” “and the request is this one here, the one that was rejected,” and so on until I am stumped and have no other questions to follow her question, and more importantly, no answers.
“Ok, Sherry,” I say, “can I put you on a really quick hold? I’m going to go check on that for you.”
I push “hold” on my Siebel and sit back for a minute thinking about who I can check on what with.
I need a “hold” and a “ready” button in real life. I’m not so good at those two functions; “hold” and “ready.”
The email from my dad sits waiting for a second look at the top of my in-box until late in the afternoon. The phones are busy, the market is down, our service levels are slipping with each half hour update email. But still the note patiently waits at the top of the list.
I scroll the mouse over the subject line “Hey, Sweetie!” and click.
A quick read once again through the message and I find myself mentally demanding tears to hold their fire, though it’s less of a threat this time. Blinking slowly and gently itching my nose, I look over the list of questions one more time:
In a nutshell; “How do I work it so that my life is shaped by who I am, instead of who I am being shaped by my life?”
I scroll up to read the two paragraphs above the questions:
“I think you know that I've looked for the good side of your trip from the beginning and I've felt all along that there was a definite good side. I thought of the perspective to be gained by taking time to paddle around in some interesting brooks before the river of your life pulls you into its mainstream. But yesterday you turned it, in my thoughts, from an educational interlude to a transformative adventure; from a stolen moment to enjoy before you have to grow up, to a moment focused on incubating your best self.
“As you know, the journey is a pervasive metaphor in literature: a metaphor for change and growth, for overcoming obstacles, for learning - about new worlds, but more importantly, about your self; a metaphor for life. This journey can be the first days of the rest of your life. But only if you study the journey, and your self. Study not as an academic, not by standing outside the experience and trying to shape it into your preconceived ideas; study it by living it, feeling it, drinking it into your life's blood and letting it shape you; study it by expressing it; study it by letting it challenge who you think you are.”
I lean far back in my chair and let my eyes wander into that space between here and nowhere. My father’s words melt into place around me and I turn them slowly considering each.
I think, for this entry, just his words alone are enough. I think my response for the moment will be rushed and cliché, so to let this mellow and settle in my mind will someday create a more informed, more satisfying answer to the questions posed by this wise man, my father. A charge still to be met, but for the moment I stay in my contemplative space and look to the button on my Siebel, steady and bold, which reads: Ready.