Wednesday, January 6, 2016

LETTING GO OF A BLACK PEARL

 'Let go or be dragged,' goes the zen proverb. So my New Year's effigy this year was about letting go.  The aim is to let go of toxic relationships and expectations that stultify when they don't come to fruition. Because of all the things that make up our lives - some are impostors, and holding onto false comforts and expectations might be less an asset than an impediment as we go forward.

I'll never find inner peace dragging all this!

Turns out I also had to learn to let go of a treasured possession - a black pearl ring to which I had attached several degrees of sentimental value. Ben gave me the pearl when we lived in Caracas, and it was set on a ring given to me by my mother's step-mother when I was sixteen.

I had this ring on my finger when I was working in the bookstore two days ago.  Then I lost it. I had spent the morning re-shelving and reorganizing the Arts and Crafts books at the far end of the store. I had then called special orders and shelved many individual books behind the cash registers in the front of the store. I had also been down to the receiving room, for a stack of Fates and Furies - and piled them on the table of neighborhood favorites. Then there was a mishap with several special orders, which fell behind a pile of cartons when I tried to remove them from a shelf in the receiving room. It took several minutes to gather up the fallen books, before carrying them up to the main floor.  I was calling special orders when I looked at my finger and gasped.

The pearl was gone.  Two empty prongs grasped nothing.
an empty ring

I checked the desk and floor around me. I went about the rest of my morning scanning the carpets - hoping in vain to find it. What chance did I have of recovering what looks from a distance like a small black bead, somewhere, almost anywhere, on the floor of this enormous crowded bookstore - or downstairs - in the receiving room.

Heartsick and feeling foolish for having worn the ring to work in the first place, I tried to resign myself to its loss. I didn't tell any of my co-workers.  Let go or be dragged.  Then I thought,  you know, it will be very interesting to see how this all turns out. I actually looked forward to the end of the story - whatever that might be. Because when you let go - isn't something wonderful supposed to happen? Otherwise, what's the point!

At lunch I took the band  with its empty prongs off my finger and put it in my bag.  Maybe I'd get a different ring, one to mark a turning point in my spiritual growth.

a sad moment

I see many hands during a day at the bookstore - hands across the counter signing for purchases.  They are sometimes well manicured hands, and also sometimes uncared for, hands with clean well shaped nails and hands with colored varnish or with bitten nails. There are fingers adorned with rings and empty fingers on old wise hands, and young smooth and inexperienced hands. I saw a hand with a beautiful beaded ring that day - ruby red circles of beads. Maybe I'd get one like that, I thought.

Later that afternoon, my co-worker Rhonda came up, agitated, to the cash registers. She was picking things up and putting them down and tipping aside the trash containers.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

 "Remember when you took a phone call for me earlier in the day," she said, " and it was a customer asking about the book a month program? Well, I took down a list of all the books she wanted. But now I've lost the list.  I can't even remember the customer's name and it's very upsetting."

She moved the pens and staplers on the desk. I looked down at a box of plastic bags beneath the counter.  On top I saw a small piece of paper with a handwritten list. "Is it this?" I asked.

Her face burst into smiles.  "It is! Oh, thank you!" she cried, drawing me into an enormous hug. "I've been looking for that everywhere! I owe you one..." she said.

Well, if that could happen for Rhonda, I wondered what would happen for me.  I remembered once, many years ago, I was fiddling with my wedding ring in a movie theater and it fell to the floor. I heard the sound as it fell to the ground, but I couldn't find it.  After the lights came up, I was still unable to locate it on the floor around my seat - and afterwards my son Elliot and I, along with the cleaning crew, combed the empty theater up and down the rows looking, to no avail.  Finally, I surrendered.  It's gone, I thought. And then as I stood at the front of the theater - diagonally across from where I had been sitting when I lost the ring - and three quarters of the length of the theater away from my seat, I looked down. On the floor before of me was the ring.

Were the fairies playing tricks on me? Was the universe having a joke - or was God trying to teach me a lesson?

I remembered this experience as I returned to the cash register where I had been working.  Something then impelled me to step back.  As I did, my eyes fell on the carpet underneath a table.

And there, in the middle of the floor, was my pearl.

a pearl of great price: the lesson I learned



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