Friday, November 13, 2009

The Things I've Left Behind

Last night, dropping my bags in the center of the living room, I had a familiar moment of dread. It went like this: “Oh, crap.” My calendar…I’d left it behind at a company where I’d just done a presentation on meditation and being in the moment. That’s so sad. Actually, I’d set-up a guest speaker for that session, and I got to sit in like a student. I had just done an “attunement” and then spent two minutes meditating and getting my bad-self centered, only to wrap up, pack up and somehow leave my calendar behind. My calendar, the only place I’ve scheduled my appointments/my life for the rest of this year and next (and where I’ve tucked a couple other important calendars), is pretty crucial to me. Most importantly, it’s where I’d left the gift certificate for the massage I’m supposed to get tonight that’s going to attune and center me again, so I was there first thing this morning, explaining myself, borrowing security fobs, and getting the little devil. We were reunited and off I went…doo tee do.

Earlier this week there was a little post-it on my door. It said, “Denise, we have your purse/phone. Come by anytime. Love, Kate”. I wasn’t home when Kate had come by to return it, because I was on my way to her house, running late to take my dog, Lola, to the vet. I’d had the moment of dread again, and the familiar experience of retracing my distracted steps. Kate’s daughter, standing on the porch in her tutu said, “Why did you leave your purse in my white chair?” Good question, little girl.

Two weeks ago, it was my journal at the grocery store. Walking away with my keys and the goods, I was humming doo tee do, but I left my notebook full of confessions right there on the little shelf-thingee where they have the pen duct-taped to the holder. Evidently, other people have trouble not taking things while I can’t seem to keep ahold of what I got. The guy checking out behind me called out, “Miss! Miss!” I turned, thinking, look at that, I’m still a “miss”, not a “ma’am”, I guess I look pretty cute today, and there he was with my precious 3-subject black notebook. “This yours?” Same moment: Oh crap.

Three weeks ago it was two cans of pumpkin that I needed not for pie but to keep Lola’s bowels smooth after surgery – it was an important errand I was on. It was two of the three items I went to the store to buy. I didn’t go back for them – I just went to another store the next day and bought more pumpkin rather than having to explain myself. I thought, well, at least that’s not as bad as the time I only went to the store for hair color and then left it there. The one thing I went to buy, and I left it. The worst is when you have a friend with you, which I did. We were sitting through the drive-thru at Bojangles when I said, “Oh crap, we have to go back.” She just stared at me, and then she started laughing and she laughed until she cried and she could barely conduct herself while accepting our biscuits and paying the lady. I knew she wasn’t just laughing because of this, she was laughing because I always do this. I went back and asked for my hair color, and I got that familiar phrase…“I thought you’d be back.”

I’ve gotten used to voicemails that come in before I’ve even walked in the door from a trip, voicemails to the tune of, “Hey, I think you left your diamond earrings on the dresser in the guest room. I’ll pop them in the mail this week. Let me know if they’re real so I’ll know how much insurance to get.” I’ve gotten two wallets back in the mail: one I left on the back of a toilet at a truck stop somewhere in Northern California and one that I left on a park bench in Downtown Seattle. They both had notes something like, “You’re really lucky I found this.” No one returned the wallet that I left on the roof of my Honda right before I got on the LA freeway on the way to see my brother. My college roommate and I searched and searched and she was a pretty good sport about it even as dangerous as it was to be out there parked in the median and walking around. Merging back on was a bitch. What I really hated about that whole situation was not that I had to show up at my brother’s door and spend the first hour canceling my credit cards, but that it painfully reminded me of the time he came home to visit when I was in high school, and I made him go looking all over the 2-mile radius around 7-eleven where I was sure my gas cap had fallen off the roof of my Dodge. I remember he said, “If you want your math teacher to stop calling you an airhead, you’re going to have to knock this shit off.”

The folks at the La Quinta Inn in Memphis, TN were really patient with me when I called them in a panic from Midland, TX to see if they’d found my bag of toiletries under the bathroom counter in our room. Well, you’d be upset, too, if you showed up for a week of Christmas with the in-laws only to realize that twelve long hours before you’d left behind all your makeup, your new digital camera, all your lotions and potions AND your birth control pills. That’s why they build so many drugstores, because making-do for a week is impossible without…moisturizer. On New Year’s Eve, on the long drive home, I was finally reunited with my bag. Doo tee do.

The list is long: adding to earrings, wallets, notebooks, calendars, cosmetics, and gas caps are watches, flip charts, jackets, water bottles, keys, shoes, dishes, serving spoons, books, and cds.

This behavior can get depressing. I drive not just myself crazy -- when my husband hears, “Oh crap. We gotta go back.” he just shakes his head. Nobody likes the urgent phone calls, and I hate the race over to the salon to pick up my phone just after they’ve closed and I’m trapped for a whole night without my phone. I repeat…without my phone. I don’t like it that my friends and family do a “Denise sweep” before I leave in a good-hearted effort to save me from myself.

Since the flare-up this week of stuff left behind, I thought it might be personally encouraging to make a list of the things I don’t leave behind and here’s what I came up with: In all this time I think I’ve only smelled the smoke of one burning bridge. I keep safe and very close, maybe too close, the way people and places smelled or looked or felt. I’m sure I still have your letter. I don’t like to forget what your children said or what you wore and I’ll scare/scar you with what I remember about your mother. Since I’ve never gotten any voicemails or emails or old-fashioned Hallmark cards about it, I don’t think there are any broken hearts in my wake. That’s not exactly a perfect test, but since I haven’t heard any clamoring, I gather everyone I’ve left is managing without me. I remember names and birthdays and when to pick up my child. When it’s possible, I try not to leave without saying goodbye. While I may forget my precious calendar, I don’t usually leave without collecting any kisses I have coming to me. Doo tee do.

In an effort to be thoughtful and anticipate my next “dropping”, I ask that if I leave anything with you that you think I’m going to need, please email me or just keep it safe until you hear me stomping back up the steps of your porch, tugging on your door, mumbling, “oh crap.”

copyright © 2009 Denise Stewart