Thursday, January 26, 2012

I think I'm glad

I was riding the express train back up north. The 1 train started off going slightly faster than us, and I watched the people in the other car as they passed us by. Then their train slowed down to make a station stop, and we seemed to go faster and faster, and the people passed by me in the opposite direction, and I could see the outlines of the train cars, could see how strange it was that we were in these massive mechanical train cars, and I could also see bits of the station through three sets of windows, and then the people were gone and we were hurtling through the near darkness alone again.

We were already past 72nd Street. At one point I stumbled, caught myself, looked up at the man standing closest to me, hoped I hadn't run into him. Our coats were poofy enough that I might not have noticed. But he was not paying any mind.

He started singing ever so quietly. Humming, perhaps. Wordless, but I knew it.

Some...times in our lives...we all have pain...we all have sorrow....

Ever so quietly. I felt the need to connect, to acknowledge, to put myself into his awareness, his singing. If he had been playing the song on a saxophone in the middle of a train station, I would have stood there a bit and sung along, harmonized. It would have been fine. It would have been fun. As it was, I wasn't sure what to do. Things were too quiet, too personal.

But...if we are wise...we know that there's...always tomorrow....

I went ahead and harmonized. So, so softly. I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted him to notice. He did not, and I think I'm glad. But what would have been the issue?

We got to our stop. He hesitated in front of me, and I asked him if he was getting off there. He smiled faintly and said he was, and then he left the train, and I followed. I became happier with the smile, calmer, more comfortable.

I had been thinking about saying, "Good song." Just some sort of recognition. Some sort of bond. But for whose sake? I didn't say anything. We went up the stairs. One person was between us by the time we got to the turnstiles.

I had started singing again, melody this time, louder than before. With words. Why not, I figured. What was I afraid of? But he never heard, and I think I'm glad.

The song stayed in my head for a while. Maybe I'll pass it off to someone tomorrow.


Mike Lunapiena said...

My first thought is this:

Suppose you were the one singing ... suppose you were singing because you were really sad and down - it's the only way of making things better right now ... then somebody joined in with you ... wouldn't that be the most magical, heart-warming thing in the world at that moment? What if there was somebody else on the train who wanted to join in too? Maybe your example would have given them the courage... you might have made a friend, or at least really brightened this person's day (and yours too)

Same comment about giving someone a compliment... have you ever been given an unexpected compliment and not suddenly felt happier?

You never know who the people you meet on the train could be in your life ... I met one of my best friends in the world on the train a few years ago... I almost didn't work up the courage to talk to her at all ... thankfully she decided to talk to me.

We develop shyness for different reasons, maybe it was the way we were parented, or maybe it was a coping mechanism or something we learned from school ... whatever it may be ... but honestly, when we choose to be shy, we are interacting with our own fear & imagination instead of interacting with another person ... and more importantly, we are denying that other person the opportunity to give to us, and denying ourselves the opportunity to receive...

Are you familiar with the story of the Good Wolf/Bad Wolf? When we choose not to be open, we feed the Bad Wolf... We feed fear.

Is that really what we want to put into the world?

(Thank you for asking my thoughts on this by the way. I'm grateful for the chance to share, and am also grateful for the chance to remind myself of the reasons to overcome this sort of shyness. I think it's a reminder I need every day & I'm only beginning to discover all the things I'm afraid of that I never even knew where there... I'm gonna go write my own blog about this now...)

MEM said...

Thank you for such an amazing response, Mike. I think that my main concern would be breaking into a private moment. I could have brightened someone's day, but I also could have been an intrusion. Then again, you are totally right - I would absolutely love it if someone (or someones) joined me in song. No matter the mood in which I was wallowing or rejoicing. But that is me.

I wonder, would anyone go ahead and hug someone who was crying on the subway? I would certainly want to! But I cannot imagine that I would do so, even if I decided to take some other action. People set different limits on how open they want to be to interaction, on how much they want their own selves exposed, on how much they want to know about others, even.

There are many people whom I would have told were beautiful if shyness or some other consideration did not keep me from doing so. I remember in particular one woman behind the coffee shop counter at the Harvard COOP. I only saw her once.

In fact, sometimes it's easier for me to tell a stranger than to tell a non-friend acquaintance.

I skipped down the hallway in the subway last week. Almost didn't because of everyone around me, but then I realized, why should that matter? It was great. I moved so fast! And maybe someone saw and smiled.

I wish I could more often interpret opening up as the opportunity to receive instead of the opportunity to be rebuffed. Thank you for reframing the matter for me (and anyone else reading).

You have nice thoughts! (compliment for the day) And I appreciate that you are adamant, and that you take a stand. Thank you again, Mike.

Now everyone go check out his thinking blog! And his other blog, too!

MEM said...

How appropriate is this.