It Must Mean Something…or Not by Kristin Andress                                          

I don’t figure out what I’m going to write in my blog, Tomes & Truths, until I sit down at my generationally handed down desk in front of my way over-priced laptop, and put my fingers – nails currently painted Tiffany blue – on the keyboard. Today there is French Vanilla flavored coffee in my Cancun mug. It’s dark outside and I’ll finish at about sunrise.

All set. Go.

Given my blog’s title, I should write about a book or some truth.  Book: as in one I’m reading or writing or a classic or a long running best seller. Truth: as in Confucious-say ancient wisdom or the current day fact that I’ve owned my 2003 365i red BMW for nearly 20 years with only 66,000 miles on it and I don’t know how to unlock the doors when it is running. I literally turn it off when someone needs to get in the back seat or to get my dog out of it. And, why the low miles? Limos organized by clients, driver in San Diego, the evolution to Uber. My car, creatively named Beemer, is simply well kept. Well, maybe under-used is a better term. She gets dusty, and a bird is nesting in the garage. I refuse to try to keep up with the random poop splash. These automatic car washes are pricey and Windex smells weird.

There is a lot of deeply meaningful and meaningless stuff out there, being written or spoken every day. (Consider paragraph 2 above.) We assign meaning. Just like I squirreled above on my car and bird poop, our attention can get diverted very easily. Associations are made that may or may not be relevant. Making associations with thoughts or people often involves assigning meaning.

I am drawn to what is meaningful to me, and what I define as meaningful is typically based on what I’m going through or thinking about.  It is meaningful to me to read and hear uplifting and useful content. I know I need the good stuff to keep coming in. If I want some oomph in my day, I’ll dial up a YouTube video. A fav go to is Tony Robbins. Check out Now I am the Voice. There are multiple links, but this is a good one –

If you can’t fire up on that video, you are not firing on all cylinders anyway. Tony changed my life when I was 23 and I went through his CD box set after watching his late-night infomercial and participated in impulse buying. It was a good impulse. Fast forward 7 years into a high-stress career and dissolving personal life and he probably saved my life. I walked on fire at Unleash the Power Within and made choices needing made. But I digress.

You can study why people place meaning on things and what we usually place meaning on. I don’t want to write about that. No rationalization or psychobabble. But I have some questions. Why does meaning matter?  And is meaning based on observation, fact, opinion, other people’s behavior or perceived attitude? Is how I show up as who I am or is what I do meaningful to me? Is it (or am I) meaningful to others?

I notice things. I’m naturally a pretty conscious observer. People are pretty cool. Even if they aren’t, the stories you can make up about them can be. Part of how I show up is in either concocting stories or seeing and telling real ones.

What do I mean by show up? I don’t just mean your physical body appearing where it is, I mean how your spirit comes forward. Think about the people that you notice when they enter the room. You pick up on the good or the bad energy they exude. With your body, comes your soul. Probably best they enter together.

Yesterday, my Walmart checkout dude wouldn’t make eye contact. The meaning I put on that was kind of slim. He looked tired. He was young. I asked him a direct question and potentially intimidated the hell out of him. He was probably thinking, Why does my day matter to her and shut up already I just want to check your cat treats through. I don’t care if it is for the strays. 

Reality? No idea why I thought about it later, but I did. Why did I wonder why he didn’t make eye contact or mumble an answer, and why am I going into a saga of his backstory when I can’t even remember his name?

Here’s why. I had a day of weird responses or non-responses and then the meaning I had to grapple with is why? Often, responses to me are pretty good. But on this day, what if I’m coming off as weird. Well, yes. Duh. I am. I own it. Usually. (Oh come on, you aren’t weird sometimes? Even if you admit it, it won’t make you unweird.)

So earlier the same day, I took myself to Jacksonville, IL for a pedicure and a lunch date with a dear friend. I had an hour in between and needed shoes for an LA trip coming up. (No LA stillettos for me and the flops are probably too laid back, even the blingy ones).  I went to Beall’s. Some of you will know it. It’s sort of a mini–Home Goods with clothes. Sort of.

I found myself looking for something new for my mom, which happened to be by the pet items, which was next to the paintings, and then the chocolate goodies (toward the back for inquiring minds). I heard a woman and young girl in the aisle over.

The little girl said, “Thank you so much for bringing me here.” And the woman replied, “Why you are very welcome.” It was somewhat of a formal exchange, and I thought, “How nice.” Curious, my cart and I rolled over and I glanced then gawked. The woman was probably my age or a little older, tall, dressed beautifully and with fabulous, full blow out gray hair to her waist. She was stylish and exuded confidence. The little girl was maybe 7, red hair in a ponytail looking pretty dialed in for her age.

I didn’t make eye contact and rolled along.

Only to think to myself, “Wouldn’t I want to hear a good comment out loud from someone who thought it in his or her head?” Why, yes, so I rolled around and back and interrupted them to say, “I just needed to come back by to tell you, you are absolutely stunning.”

This – said to the statuesque woman who I imagined to be ex-supermodel meets doting grandma. I made eye contact that time and after a millisecond pause, she said in a no-shit, of course I am voice, “Thank you.”  And turned back to the shelf. Obviously not her first rodeo with positive appraisals.

In the meantime, the little girl was staring at me, not like I had a booger or something, but her eyebrows were crinkled like, “Duh!” So, I said, “And you are beautiful too!” and rolled past knowing the kid was giving me ‘you’re-an-idiot-face’. I tried to be the cool cucumber they were, and busied myself looking at tops on the nearest rack, which was the 3X clearance rack, which I do not wear by the way – I mean the 3X’s, however, bring on the clearance. I even remember the expression I consciously wore. So businesslike in my smock (and smug) exploration. I tried to be nice, right?

I do make it a point to compliment when I mean it. I don’t make it a point to be creepy. But what I think is common kindness, someone else may find an infringement. Maybe if I had made eye contact with her sooner, I would have known the woman was very self-contained and really in no need of a compliment. But really, what woman – or man – doesn’t like a compliment?

At the same time, not many of us are very good at receiving them. You look great! No I don’t! (Thank you would do here, but not with that face.). There is always, “Wow! How much weight have you lost?”  It’s a very short answer if you know the number. It’s a very long headspace conversation if you don’t want to tell it. Is it meant as a compliment or an acknowledgement that I was previously pudgier? If I say the number, I admit I ate too much, moved too little and used it as a crutch. And instead of being happy with how I look or feel now, I’ve damned myself to self-consciousness, knowing I have 10-15lbs (20) to go. (Resonate?)

I don’t mind the question, “What did you do to get in better shape?” But the warning there is the simple answer of yoga and Pilates will lead to telling you how Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene) also changed my life about a year ago when I discovered her YouTube channel and did a 12 min practice. Hooked. You should try it. It’s not all pretzel, bendy, woo woo stuff. Really.

Maybe I give more meaning to the process, not the outcome. No. It depends on the situation.

Meaning. The meaning of things. Probably the stories above have little meaning except for the wonder created in human interactions. Did I know I’d dissect those interactions or the later one, when while picking up Mexican food and asking about a t-shirt the drive-thru window girl was wearing and learning it was for a benefit for one of her friends who passed away, and she told me where I could buy it and I might because the shirt has on it the nickname of my deceased brother (Boogie or Buggy to some of us). Never mind the run on sentence, my girl and I had a connection.

We are all connected. Maybe we need to invest more time in discovering the touchpoints.

Over said Mexican food (seafood…why seafood at non-seafood place?), I also repeated a story about our lunch server with the Shamrock shirt and cross necklace with a piece of jade who brought me a delicious blood orange and black raspberry S. Pellegrino seltzer. Delicious. Frivolous details? Meant something to me, didn’t it? I repeated it. Again.

Maybe I’m channeling Seinfeld. In the scheme of things, it didn’t mean anything. Any of it. Except that it was part of my day. And that means something.

And there’s more…I also recounted info about the couple sitting over my friend’s shoulder who were maybe on a date or maybe in that long-term relationship space where talking isn’t necessary or its boring. I don’t know them or their status, though the girl (I could describe her to a T if you’d like) looked uncomfortable. Was she? No idea. But if she got up to go to the bathroom, I told myself I might follow her to make sure she was safe. There’s a boundary with creepy for sure – but if I think a woman (or child or pet) is at risk, right or not, I’m sticking my neck out, not turning the other cheek.

How the hell do I notice all of this about people I don’t even know? Half of it, at least, is imagined! Or is it? I really don’t know anything for sure, but as mentioned I’m a conscious observer. When I am in one conversation, there are a few happening in my head. There are a few more that will take place internally on the drive home or at night – or wee morning hours (after Yoga). Some of the interactions – or lack thereof – will stick.  Some won’t. After the next batch of interactions, the latest will be the greatest.

Is this piece going to make it into The New Yorker or Real Leaders mags? No, but Malcolm Gladwell wrote on why mustard ended up having so many varietals and ketsup didn’t. (Search for the article. It was published in in The New Yorker and in his book, What the Dog Saw. There I mentioned a tome, of sorts.)  Mean something? Maybe if you like mustard.

Is it mundane or does it matter? If it matters to someone it matters – to them. You can choose whether it matters to you.

What did I learn in my day of peopling? (People-ing)

In my day, I noticed random things which may or may not have been random to the person I noticed them about. It occurred to me that it is a good idea to give that much (or more) attention to those I love and spend time with.

What do you notice about the person sitting beside you or across from you in your own home? Is it enough? Is it too much? What can you let go of? What do you need to grip on to?

Are you passive aggressive or just passive? Say what you mean – someone might give meaning to what you say. Maybe it’s a whole lot of nuttin’ noise. Maybe not.

Pay attention. It’s free.  Well, it’s not. It might make you think. Sometimes there’s a cost to that. Next time you hit the drive thru, check out lane, sit at restaurant, stand in any line – simply look around. Amazing what you see. Or create.

It must mean something.