Last week I stopped for a cup of coffee on my way to work. Standing on a line with seven other people, I took advantage of what would be the last quiet moments of my morning before entering my fast-paced office; I took a few deep breaths, smiled at the Latin music playing overhead and chatted with the friendly stranger behind me. The woman in front of me, however, was a different story. An impatient woman with an abrasive demeanor, she walked up to the counter to order her coffee, barking the words as though they were a command.
“Sugar?” asked the polite barista.
“Gimme two,” the customer snapped back. “And don’t use skim. I want regular milk.”
As the barista put the lid on the top of the cup, the dragon-lady in front of me sighed and rolled her eyes, giving an impatient backward hand-wave, that rude way of speaking volumes without saying a word. “You’re slow and incompetent,” it implied. “Hurry up! My time is valuable and you’re inferior.”
But the two words she should have said – she didn’t. Grabbing the coffee and walking out the door without even acknowledging the man holding it open for her, she plowed down the street, never even bothering to say, “Thank you.” Continue reading →
Ask any number of people to summarize their childhood, and you’ll hear a variety of descriptions. Our childhoods are laced with humor and heartbreak, tragedy and joy, failure and triumph – all in varying degrees. Some of our parents gave their all, though limited emotionally, financially or physically. Other parents had much to give but thought only of themselves and neglected, abandoned or abused us instead. Some of us possessed an innate tenacity and self-assurance while others harbored self-doubt and timidity. Some of us thrived, some crumbled, and some are still trying to come to terms with who we are and how we feel about the men and women who raised or didn’t raise us. Whatever our backgrounds and tendencies, though, I think our journeys contained certain commonalities; what we wanted wasn’t always what we needed, and sometimes what we needed wasn’t at all what we received. Continue reading →
I recently had an opportunity to see “King Lear” at Boscobel’s Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. As I took in a breathtaking sunset over the cliffs beyond the river – and brother turned against brother; sister murdered sister; and children and their father acted rashly, abusively and cruelly to each other – I considered the fact that Shakespeare’s play is as significant now as it was in his day. From the cases we read about in the news to the injustices we suffer at the hands of our own so-called relatives, it’s appropriate to consider the truism, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” The saying, of course, implies an unspoken wish that we could choose our relatives. But I have to wonder, maybe it’s a good thing that we can’t. Continue reading →