Friday, February 04, 2011

Etta Jones In A Bathtub.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I lived in a little house in a historic neighborhood of Montgomery, Alabama.

It had no insulation and all of the original fixtures (including the plumbing) were intact. The glass doorknobs were stripped raw from decades of use, but who needs a working doorknob when you have an antique glass one? The utility bills were often higher than my rent and there was no shortage of quirks. When words like "old" or "broken" might come to mind for some, words like "charming" and "romantic" come to mine.

I had friends who lived across the city in sterile, cookie-cutter apartment buildings in gated communities... with linoleum floors and particleboard cabinets. If something broke, a little man in a golf cart would come round and fix it while they were at work.
When my plumbing broke, a historian was consulted. My friends felt sorry for me, I think... and I always felt so, so much more sorry for them.

I keep having flashbacks of being in that house, watching steam rise from my porcelain tub while I counted rows of coke-bottle green tiles and listened to jazz records on Sarah Beth's turntable.

I had a lot of great ideas in that tub. I made a point to reflect. Was I good to my friends this week? Did I get angry in traffic? Did I try my best and work hard or was I lazy and rushed and complacent? Was I joyful?

This week I learned that I can't change people. It only took me 25 years of doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Some people will never open their eyes and see that their actions are blatantly disrespectful, hurtful, or wrong. Some people will not consider consequences or conceive of a larger picture. They see only their good intentions. And that is enough for them. They can live lives in peace, justified in the fact that they were just doing what they thought was "best."

I can try to take these people by the shoulders and walk them down the garden path, or I can accept that they will never change and be happier for it.

So I will walk down this garden path alone.

And I will close my eyes and watch the steam rise from the tub, and I will take inventory. Did I let someone rob me of my joy? Did I take the situation by both hands? Will this happen again?