Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is (Insert Stressor) a Matter of Life & Death?

Talking to some friends last night, I was reminded of a lesson I learned during my "carnival" days (as fellow blogger Bruce refers to the trade show biz).  Back then, I was a workaholic ball of stress most of the time.  I would have laughed at anyone who even suggested the idea of life balance.  Bah!  

One day I was at a team meeting to discuss a new pricing model.  I was not happy with most of the decisions being made.  Frustrated and fatigued, I kinda freaked out. Angst and argument emanated from me like the world might actually end if this (clearly faulty) pricing model passed into reality.

Later on, my boss AD met with me in the hallway.  In a Tim Gunn tone he said, "Charlene, I'm worried about you." 

I vented.  He listened then continued, "What we're doing here... it's not life and death you know."

He was right of course.  I heard the words and agreed.  On an intellectual level anyway; enough to temporarily get my knickers out of a twist.

A few weeks later, a fellow carny friend and I were taking a break, strolling the back streets of Cannes, France.  Our path became blocked by a crowd of people in an unlikely spot.  I stepped around a tall, thin lady holding a rat-sized dog.

Nestled between road and curb was a body; neck and limbs twisted in unnatural positions.  His mangled scooter was several yards back near an only slightly dented car.

When the SAMU ambulance arrived, AD's words rang in my mind even more loudly than the sirens,  "Life and death. Life and death. Life and death."  Over and over.  Life and death.

I stared at the wedding ring on the man's bloody left hand and pictured his wife receiving the news of his tenuous state.   Did he have kids?  I wondered painfully.  

Of course I've experienced death and the pain of loss before. However, up until this moment I'd never actually seen the black scythe swing down right in front of me.

My friend tugged at my arm for us to move on as tears for a man I didn't know rolled down my cheeks.

We walked in silence back to the other carny folk waiting for us at the Palais des Festivals.  The words life and death continued to drill into my core.

To this day I wonder on which side of the deal the "man in Cannes" ended up.  It didn't look promising. Still, I try to imagine a happy ending to the story as if I could somehow will it to be so, even after the fact.

Now, anytime I find myself freaking out about something at work or the bills or the laundry (or whatever), the words which rang in that awful memory act as an instant reality check.

Is it a matter of life and death?

Enjoy each moment...

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15 comments:

therealbobthought said...

well little lady that was a good lesson to pass on, no sense in crying bout ungrowed potatoes neither.
hugs
i choose a life full of laffs.

Bruce Coltin said...

Yes Charlene, it's all about perspective. It sounds so simple, yet it takes so long to figure that out. We were playing a game, where we believed perspective (anything other than being obsessed with winning) to be a fast track to failure. You've told a great story. It will be in my head forever.

500Mak said...

Great post and love your new blog design! (The free cows are a nice touch sicne you don't eat them anymore! LOL!)

Charlene said...

Thanks and welcome to the new site! Yep - I figured the roaming animals would be a nice touch. :-) I also get hot air balloons near my house almost everyday in nice weather so I had to include those! And in general, wanted a happy, peaceful flowing, freeing, BEAMING feeling to come across. Enjoy!!

Kristen said...

I appreciate the sentiment. It hits home with me today, for I have been overly anxious about so many things this last week, and it's good to be reminded that it's not life or death. Thanks.

Johnz said...

I like this setup. Ofc I forgot the old one already. but this is nice on the eye. The comments block is cool :)

JAMJARSUPERSTAR said...

Nice comments block!

It's important to have a good balance but I think sometimes this just isn't possible - but as long as you try it's okay!
Nice site, thanks for visiting mine!
Ciao

Scarlet xx

Hunter said...

Hi, Charlene. Great post. And for me at least, quite timely. I certainly struggle with work-stress that I recognize (on an intellectual level) as not being worth it. But sometimes it just seems so visceral.

I'll try to think of this story the next time I find myself in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Charlene. We all have a tendency to take it all too seriously, don't we?

Neo said...

Not sure about your musical taste, might I suggest some listening that is almost as good as reading, Rush, a Canadian band bases many of their old songs (1974-1979ish) on balance of the heart and the mind, let me know if you like it, the first song on the Hemispheres 'album' is a great example.

Charlene said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Anon - yes, I think so.

Hunter - that's the hard part... reconciling the intellectual with the emotional. That's where the whole "count to 10" thing comes in; gives your mind a chance to catch up with your emotion and hopefull rein it in.

Neo - my sister was a HUGE Rush fan. I think I still have pictures she took at a concert once and she painted a huge mural on her bedroom window (which later became mine). I'll check out Hemispheres!

Sandy Hayashi said...

Dear Charlene,

We are huge fans of The Balance Beam over at Glam Media! We’re one of the top 10 online media companies in the US and would love for you to help pilot our new Health & Wellness Community at Bliss.com, slated to launch in the coming weeks.

If you’re interested, please contact me about joining our community for the launch!

Cheers,

Sandy Hayashi
Community Partners Editor
Glam Media
sandyh@glam.com

Natalya said...

I had a similar experience walking along one day in Atlanta... There was a huge crowd around the street and in the centre of the road was a dead man, early 30's, who looked like he had been shot to death. It really makes you step back and wonder if everything that you're upset about is really worth being upset. Experiences like that put things in perspective.

MsByn said...

Wow. Did I need this post. Thank you for sharing. I need to take more time to appreciate life and not take things so seriously. I'm finding that all of the new blogs I'm finding today are all pointing in the same general direction. I guess I've been needing the reminder enough that its all coming to me so I can't avoid it. GREAT post. Thank you:)

Jewel said...

You have made an important point here - events like this do help put smaller problems in perspective, which we often need to do from time to time.

Visting you from the no rules blog hop.

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