Wednesday, July 8, 2009

flow with it

The last time I listened to a life coach I was a first year teacher hoping to get a job closer to my boyfriend. I had just interviewed at a school in Minoqua. The interview itself wasn't stellar. I parked in front of the main entrance and decided another swipe of deodorant might be a good idea. I was very nervous about this particular interview because I actually wanted the job. I was mid-swipe, one arm raised and the other poking around under my shirt when I saw office blinds move aside and a man peer out the front window. We made eye contact. I shook his hand two minutes later.

"How are you?" he asked.

"I hit a deer," I said.

"Oh my."

"Yes, well, I hit the deer last night. That's my boyfriend's car I'm driving. Mine is...mine is not in good shape right now."

The interview plummeted from there. Then I tripped on the carpet on the way out. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be getting a call from Mr. Minoqua and I was pretty sure the English department chair was wondering exactly how I landed in the interview pile in the first place.

So this life coach I listened to had quit a few jobs before deciding to help other people realize their potential. I can't remember his name. Eric, maybe. Anyway, Eric was at school one afternoon talking with my mentor teacher in the classroom next to mine. I was ready to leave and walked by the open door when my mentor called out, "How was the interview?"

"Not good." I stood in the doorway.


"No. Oh well. I guess I'll wait. They might call for a second interview. I doubt it." I was bleak (realistic) about my prospects as the new eighth grade language arts teacher for Minoqua.

"Do you want it?" Eric asked. He was leaning back on a student desk in a way that looked casual but I knew required good balance. And - you can't say this about many people but this guy - he beamed. He repeated himself, carefully emphasizing each word so they all weighed the same, "Do you want it?"

"Yeah, but-"

"Then go for it!" He smiled. Another life coached.

"It was a pretty bad interview."

"Call. At least call. Tell them you want it. Believe that you can!"

I felt a flutter of possibility. Maybe I could still get the job if I called and - "But the interview. Seriously. Not great."

"That's okay!" Eric said, "Tell them that. Own it. And tell them you'd love another opportunity."

He sense my hesitancy. I looked at my mentor who was lapping up Eric's advice. My mentor was owning it better than I was. Was this a joke?

"Look," Eric said, "You have nothing to lose."

"You have nothing to lose," parroted my mentor.

I tried the phrase out myself, "I have nothing to lose." It sounded a little flat. But it was getting there. "I have nothing to lose,"I said, more firmly.

"That's right!" Eric beamed.

I was beginning to understand why old ladies write big checks to television evangelists. I was beginning to feel excited. I was beginning to think: I will go home and I will call Mr. Minoqua and I will say to him I want this job. With exclamation points. I want this job!

"Okay," I said, "I'll do it. Thanks."

"Good for you!" Eric said.

I turned to leave and practiced what I would say to Mr. Minoqua and imagined him reassuring me We all sweat a little and We all have off days and I'm so glad you called. How about we talk next Tuesday at ten. Can you make it back? So when I got Mr. Minoqua's voicemail, I stumbled through my blurb trying for confident but landing closer to anxious. When I hung up, I couldn't remember if I'd left the correct phone number. So I called back. I called two or three more times. Then I sent a note thanking them for the opportunity to interview with them and praising their school, using words like initiative and purposeful.

Yeah, I know.

A couple weeks later a typed letter informed me that the position had been filled by another candidate and it was difficult to choose from such a pool of qualified yada yada just quit calling to politely inquire, okay? I didn't need a life coach to tell me the appropriate response. I moped and figured I was stuck where I was and it was the end of everything and now Justin and I may as well break up because long distance for one year was enough.
* * *
I hadn't thought about Eric and Minoqua and parking lot deoderant for a long time and then a couple of days ago my mom, in a very life coach way, said, "Flow with it."

I looked at her and tried not to grit my teeth. "I am flowing."

She didn't say anything. She smiled. She isn't a life coach. She's my mother and she knows that I get snagged on small things and hung up on big things and that it doesn't take much for my flow to totally not flow. Insurance companies and litterbugs set me off. And the other morning it was Big Red Truck: my flow hiccupped. I could see whitewater ahead.

It started off as a glorious run: technicolor blue sky, good breeze, low seventies. I met a woman named Ann and kept pace with her for a half mile before she turned off to go home. When I needed a bathroom, there was a gas station on the corner and when I walked in, the clerk smiled at me, "Womens' restroom?" and pointed. This run was all so perfectly choreographed with runners and bikers and dog walkers, good mornings and hellos and green lights. And then, two miles from finished, Big Red Truck.

I was running on the correct side of the road, a road at the edge of country but not quite out there yet, when Big Red approached. I raised my hand to wave - just a little wave to say hello, I see you, please see me - and he slowed down. I heard a car approaching from behind me in the opposite lane so I hopped onto the gravel shoulder. Understand that this was a short two hundred yard jag in the road and cars can't go fast unless they want to land in the pines at one end or a front yard at the other. Big Red stopped and I was thinking sunny thoughts about how polite and considerate this hulk of a truck was so as I passed the hood I waved again, this time a thanks for watching out for me and enjoy your - when Big Red's driver laid on the horn and turned to glare at me.

What I heard next was a choking gurgling sound as several choice words in terrific combinations bubbled up while I fought to keep them submerged. I won out, barely, with a ribbon of be nice be nice be nice be nice be nice all the way to the corner where I stopped, looked at the sky and said to God, "It is really difficult not to wish very bad things on-" I swallowed another choice noun, "On obnoxious people."

And then I started to think about what Mom said. Flow with it. I could flow with this. My day wasn't wrecked. Not yet anyway. I should know by now that not every detail is mine to order. And then I started thinking about Big Red's driver and what was going on in his life at eight o'clock in the morning that a runner on the side of the road would set him off. And I'm still thinking about that man today.


Angela and David Kidd said...

I like your mom's advice. "Just flow with it" is good stuff. And sadly, I think there are lots of big red trucks out there. And I'm impressed you kept yourself from spewing obscenitites. I certainly would have lost that battle with myself.

The Adventures of Lobby Girl ! said...

"I was beginning to understand why old ladies write big checks to television evangelists."....I love that...what a wonderful image....Keep writing Sarah!!!!

DC Running Mama said...

My favorite was the mid-swipe meeting of eyes:> Great post.

Anonymous said...

hey sarah! i think you might have just written a great prologue for your book! i laughed all the way through this, which isn't easy with strep throat. love you! mom

Sergio en Colombia said...

how awkward! i felt embarrassed for you while reading about the interview experience. answering machines are a horrible anxiety-inducing invention. voice mails are my downfall for sure!

Anonymous said...

I love your writing! It doesn't even matter if I am interested in the topic; I can't help but keep reading. I miss you and I hope that you are doing well!
Christina KoKo