You risk, I risk….

May was a slender attractive brunette, around 5’6″, maybe 35 years old.  She responded to my “What’s been a highlight of your day?” question in several steps of progressively greater openness – startling to me and maybe even to her.  “I had a really good hypnosis session….We’re working on fear….I’m a cancer survivor and lots of little symptoms bring up fear.”

My response was in its own way a little startling to me.  “Are you familiar with A Course in Miracles?”  Now why did I bring that up?  I’m sure not getting paid to promote far-out, channeled, New Age metaphysical programs.  I do know why I brought it up – because in my life A Course in Miracles has been a very powerful lever for working with fear.  But it still feels like a risk to be recommending it to a customer, maybe especially a customer who is at such a vulnerable point in her life.

May’s next response was also surprising.  She got positively electrified (I get goose bumps recalling it): “Yes – love is letting go of fear!  My hypnotherapist was telling me about it today!  This is total affirmation that it can be good for me.”

A Course in Miracles is a dense metaphysical system paired with a very concrete workbook with 365 daily lessons that tend to turn your daily reality upside down.  I spent 3 years making my way through the lessons, then turned around and spent another 4 years doing it again.  My life has been forever changed by it.  Jampolsky's book is a great introduction.

A Course in Miracles is a dense metaphysical system paired with a very concrete workbook with 365 daily lessons that tend to turn your daily reality upside down. I spent 3 years making my way through the lessons, then turned around and spent another 4 years doing it again. My life has been forever changed by it. Jampolsky’s book is a great introduction.

After May left, I had no mixed feelings about having recommended A Course in Miracles. I’m a big believer in synchronicity and felt as convinced as her that her hypnotherapist and I both recommending it within a few hours of each other indicated it could be good for her.

What did all this teach me about taking risks with customers?  Sometimes I’m the first one to risk – to offer something personal or unusual.  Today May disclosed first.  But is it really so easy to know who opens first?  Did May know from the way I asked my question that I was a safe person to open up with?  I don’t ask the question to everyone – did I pick up something from her that indicated that asking her the question would go someplace?  Was I in a more trusting place because of the enchanted interaction that I had had just an hour earlier? (“I’m vertical…”, 1/7) Why did she end up in my line?  Why shortly after this hypnosis session?

Sometimes it makes sense to think in terms of taking risks.  I want to develop my sense for which risks are worth taking and which are perhaps too risky – and to recognize when my customer has taken a risk, has made themselves vulnerable, and needs to be supported.  Yet it also seems equally valid to hold that we are always totally supported – and that love means to recognize this, to trust it, to surrender to it.  And as we do this we progressively let go of fear.  I learned that from A Course in Miracles.

Advertisements

I’m vertical and taking nourishment

Adrian was totally on to me.  An attractive, slender blonde of average height, her face was very familiar, but I couldn’t remember her name (turned out I didn’t yet know it) and could not recall any conversations we had had.  But I did recognize her and she clearly knew me.  I was having a tough morning and she knew it – she had obviously been checking me out when she was next up in the line.  When she moved in front of me, she immediately asked me my stock question, “What’s been a highlight of your day?” with a really compassionate look.  Oh, Lord, it’s that obvious that I’m in bad shape.

“You know about my question.”

“I’ve been reading your blog –  I really like it.”

I have two responses: “Nice – she’s reading the blog.  That feels good.” And “Oh shit – if she’s reading the blog, she knows just how bad my days can get.  I feel very exposed.”  There followed a brief, intense wrestling match between these two voices.  I chose a few years ago to be a spokesman around bipolar disorder, to write and teach about it – to make it my personal mission. I chose to write a personal blog.  I chose to out myself around bipolar disorder in the blog – even though coworkers and customers would be reading it.  Oh, but right in this moment I’m not sure I can bear the openness.

Audrey has bought two little 89 cent chocolates – my fav’s, though I’m off sugar.  Her brief (10 items?) transaction is over and she leaves the chocolates on the counter after putting the rest of the stuff in her bag.  “Do you want a chocolate or a hug?”  Even if I was still doing sugar, it would have been an easy choice.  “I’ll take a hug.” I indicated to the next customer – who had heard the whole conversation – that I would be just a moment and Audrey and I met at the foot of the counter.  There was no ambivalence on my part in that hug – it just felt great, better even than chocolate.

I love these little chocolates, but even this chocoholic can recognize when love is a sweeter option.

I love these little chocolates, but even this chocoholic can recognize when love is a sweeter option.

As Audrey left, I continued to feel great – great about the hug, great about the blog, great about the life path I have chosen: to live a relatively public life, to offer my life for teaching about cashiering, about bipolar disorder, about life.

I was a little dizzy through this next customer.  The guy after her, when I asked him my stock question, answered “I’m vertical and taking nourishment.”  I had heard this somewhat clever answer before, but never had it meant so much to me.

You’re too weird!

I did something creative at work today.  In honor of the first day of the year, I let go of my standard customer question “What’s been a highlight of your day?” and instead asked “What’s a way you intend to express your creativity in the new year?”  I got back some great answers, ranging from “Continually adapt to new cultures as I practice my international consulting business” to “Learn how to build a table – I’m a musician, not a carpenter” to “Parent my two-year-old”.

Our cafe at work is celebrating the creativity of our staff with every wall covered with staff art.  This massive, beautiful painting was created by my old roommate Will, a brilliant artist in several media.

Our cafe at work is celebrating the creativity of our staff with every wall covered with staff art. This massive, beautiful painting was created by my old roommate Will, a brilliant artist in several media.

I felt good about the results of the question – and, as always, a lot of people asked me the question back.  I had some fun responding to this by talking about writing, but sometimes when you target a positive new behavior what you get first is a clearer picture of where you’re stuck – what’s in the way of  that behavior.  That’s what I got today – more clarity about what makes it hard for me to be creative.

Over lunch I had a conversation with a colleague in which I told him that I don’t like the way he does announcements over the public address system in the store – that it’s too weird for me.  I’ve been chafing on this for a while – waiting for the right time to tell him.  Some part of me had a fantasy  that he would wake up, repent, start doing more normal announcements.  He didn’t do any of that – but he also didn’t get defensive.  I think his lack of defensiveness allowed me to take a look at myself.

By the end of our 20-minute conversation, I was asking myself What is it about his weirdness that I find so threatening?  Why does it bother me?”  I’m all about creativity, improvisation and risk-taking – and that’s exactly what he’s doing.  Why don’t I support it?  Why don’t I regard him as a real role model?  What kinds of risks do I take with my announcements?  None – they’re very straight-arrow.  I’m sure not practicing improvisation in that area of my work life.

Which differences are OK?  Which ones are exciting for the ways they open up the envelope?  Which ones are too weird?  Is it possible to let all these questions go and let these differences just be different?

Which differences are OK? Which ones are exciting for the ways they open up the envelope? Which ones are too weird? Is it possible to let all these questions go and let these differences just be different?

So this stuck with me today – especially in the face of what I was doing to celebrate creativity, to aim towards creativity.  It really was hitting me between the eyes, in terms of how I get in my own way.  All the ways that I focus on what’s negative – but maybe especially my fears of being weird.  I have a mental illness – bipolar disorder.  What does that mean?  For some that very term means weird – and definitely not good weird.  Sometimes I’m just fine with it – it feels like just one more way to be in the world.

Today when people were asking me where I planned to express my creativity this year, I would say “Two writing projects” and I would tell them the title of this blog, but not the subtitle – “The ups and downs of a bipolar cashier”.  I not once got around to telling them about the second writing project – online training for people with bipolar disorder.  I left that out because I would have to explain about me having bipolar disorder.

It seems like as long as I’m holding a concept of weird as a bad thing to be, I’m going to keep myself stuck around my creativity and self-expression.  What is weird anyway?  It’s different too much or different bad.  So am I going to go through life scrutinizing my differences, to see which ones are bad? Am I going to have a continuum that goes “normal – creative – eccentric – weird” and continually be assessing where people lie on the continuum?

It seems like the more I give other people a break – room to be different – that will automatically translate into giving myself a break.

A grocery store holiday greeting

(This post only started to formulate itself today – and kept bubbling up in me on and off all day.  Many or most of you may not see it until after Christmas, but my holiday wishes will still pertain.)

My standard greeting to people today was “Happy holidays”.  Besides my Jewish friends and customers, there’s Kwanzaa – and one lovely young woman in my line today said that when people wish her a Merry Christmas, she sometimes says, “I’m pagan and I celebrate the solstice.”  But when people wish me a Merry Christmas, I say it back: it’s my heritage and it is a day to celebrate Christ.  Whether or not you consider him the Messiah, he – along with others like the Buddha, Mohammed and others – certainly deserves to be celebrated.

Early in my 10-6 shift today, I got kind of obsessed with what was I really trying to communicate when I said, “Happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas”.  I realized that it’s different here at the grocery store, dealing with my customers, than it is in other parts of my life.  Here’s what I came up with.

“May the groceries I am selling you nurture you, be beautiful and delicious, and make you happy.

"May the food I am selling you nurture you...."

“May the food I am selling you nurture you….”

“May you get it that I care about you and like serving you.

“May you experience all of our staff as dedicated to your health and well-being – and that serving you is something we really like to do.”

“May the whole congregation that is our store feel to you like a community of like-minded souls...."

“May the whole congregation that is our store feel to you like a community of like-minded souls….”

“May the whole community that is our store feel to you like a community of like-minded souls, where people who care about their health. take personal responsibility for it and are willing to invest money in it come together – as a place where you meet old friends and have positive connections with new people you meet in the store, often in the checkout line.

“May all who gather around this food – at your table or someone else’s – thrive on this food and the good company,  If you will be spending a quiet day at home, may that be peaceful and fulfilling for you.

“May you have a wonderful new year, may our store be part of it, may I get to serve you again – and maybe even get to know you more, which would please me a lot.  Who knows, maybe this blog will increase your sense of connection with me, our staff, our store and your fellow customers.

“Happy holidays.”

Customers who piss you off…

Some customers radiate a vibe that you just can’t stand.  You perceive – accurately or inaccurately – hostility leaking out of them.  Other customers actively do something that pisses you off.  I’ll address some of each of these situations.

When a customer pisses you off, you have probably several options – I’ll talk about two of them.

  1. You could, on the spot, start writing a blog post about customers who piss you off.
  2. You could charm the pants off them.  The essence of this second strategy is to take it as a personal challenge to win them over.  I have experienced this, where the more pissy a customer was, the more excited I would get about “I’m going to make sure that something shifts for them before they walk away from this transaction.”  And when I would take that attitude, I was usually successful – though not always.

    I learned this approach from Cathy, a supervisor at the Biltmore Estate Carriage Shop gift shop who just loved that kind of challenge.  One day I was standing next to her when one of the other cashiers came over and said, “This woman is so mad that I just can’t deal with her.”  Cathy winked at me and said, “Watch me work.”  And she did it – she got that customer happy.  They were laughing together before the customer walked off.

Yesterday I had a customer, a very overweight 50 ish woman, who pissed me off – I don’t even remember why – and I used Option 1.  I mostly withdrew from her and got my little notepad out and started to jot notes for this very post.  It distracted me from her, it helped me avoid doing something nasty to her – which was always a possibility.  It took some of the pressure off.  It was only at the very end of the interaction that I decided to try some of the charm.  So I looked up at her – maybe almost the first time I looked at her since she first pissed me off – and said, sincerely, “That is one great hat – where did you get it?”  She said “I made it.”  Usually at this point you’re home free: compliment an item of clothing that the customer has made and you have a happy customer.  No, uh-uh – she barely cracked a smile.  But then, I did wait until the 11th hour to try being nice to her.  What did I expect?

Sometimes a customer pisses you off so much that winning them over is not really in the mix - the real issue is to get through the transaction without saying something that will get you written up or fired.

Sometimes a customer pisses you off so much that winning them over is not really in the mix – the real issue is to get through the transaction without saying something that will get you written up or fired.

Customer 2 was today – near the end of my shift, when I’ll admit that I was tired, running out of gas…risky terrain.  About 60 – tall and wiry – he presented very defended – strong male body armor, cold, hostile.  I immediately took a dislike to him.  I didn’t want him in front of me. When I reached that point in the interaction where I often ask “What’s been a highlight of your day?”, I considered it and inside said “No way! I’m not going to waste that nice question on this guy -I’m not giving him the time of day.  Screw him.”

A few moments after that, I swiped his last two purchases – two cartons of Roots hummus. He said, “Those were supposed to be two for the price of one.”  I said, “Let me call grocery and find out about that.” If I could have pitched my voice to a tone that would have intentionally and clearly said, “I bet you’re wrong”, I would have done it. Maybe I did do it.  When I got back the message from grocery that it was in fact another brand that had that special price, did I in any way betray some satisfaction at his downfall? I cannot with confidence say that I did not. Even though we had finished ringing his groceries and it was time for him to just pay and move on – and there was another customer patiently waiting her turn while we did this price check – he stormed off to go back and look for himself.

I apologized to the next customer – a tall, lovely young woman – and, in a very unprofessional moment, allowed myself to vent to her about this guy.  Now, in my defense I will say that she had watched this whole situation devolve and had, I thought, been giving me some sympathetic looks.  “I’ve about had it with this guy.  He’s got no business keeping you waiting.  I’ve got half a mind to suspend his transaction and ring you through – but you’ve got a lot of groceries and he’ll have a fit.”  She was all reassurance: “Don’t worry about it.  I’m not in a hurry. I can see that you’ve got your hands full with him.”

He came back and angrily said, “It was false advertising.  The sign says ‘all varieties’.” I didn’t respond – didn’t even look at him.  “Your total is….” He paid his money and grumped off.

Charm is definitely the preferred way to go, but sometimes I just don’t have it in me – and sometimes it probably will get you nowhere.  But sometimes life takes care of you anyway.  As this jerk was leaving, Mary – who was running the breaks – told me to put up my “Lane closed” sign, which meant that I could count my money and go home.  This lovely young woman, with her big order that meant we could hang out with each other for a few minutes, was my last customer.  Sometimes, even when you kind of lose it, life treats you mercifully.

A very special place

The grocery store where I work is a very special place.

The heart and soul of our store is the healthy groceries.  A week ago, a customer said to me, "We drive a long ways to shop here.  Our local grocery store abuses us with the produce they expect us to settle for.  Here the produce is all so beautiful."

The heart and soul of our store is the healthy groceries. A week ago, a customer said to me, “We drive a long ways to shop here. Our local grocery store abuses us with the produce they expect us to settle for. Here the produce is all so beautiful.”

It’s got most of the downsides of other human and corporate systems.  Sometimes management make decisions or enforce policies that I wish they wouldn’t.  Sometimes it seems like the bottom line upstages human needs in unfortunate ways.  Sometimes people feel unfairly treated by their supervisors.  Sometimes coworkers don’t get along, feel that the other is not pulling their weight, etc.

But all this happens here a lot less than most other places I have worked.  Much more, it looks to me like management has their heads on straight, support workers from the top of the store on down, are willing to pitch in and do whatever needs to get done – including cashiering and bagging groceries.  (I’ve had the store manager bag groceries for customers I am working with.)  Most coworkers like each other.  I don’t have as much data about other departments, but in my “front end” department (cashiers, juice bar, “floaters” who cashier/clean the store/round up carts) people generally get along really great and have a lot of fun with each other.

Grocery store love.  Tom is a great grocery guy (keeping the shelves stocked). He also was my roommate until a couple of months ago.  Marta is a dancing friend to both of us. Not all store hugs are quite this go-for-it, but there are plenty of them.

Grocery store love. Tom is a great grocery guy (keeping the shelves stocked). He also was my roommate until a couple of months ago. Marta is a dancing friend to both of us. Not all store hugs are quite this go-for-it, but there are plenty of them.

And then there are the wonderful customers.  OK, not all of them are wonderful, but an extraordinarily high percent of our customers range from good people to amazing/fascinating/totally cool.  They are willing to invest money in healthy eating.  They tend – more than the average bear – to take personal responsibility for their lives, to be progressive and creative and out of the box, to be into personal and spiritual growth.

Great customers and great kids, well parented - it's a real perk of this job to get to be around such beauty and wonderful energy.

Great customers and great kids, well parented – it’s a real perk of this job to get to be around such beauty and wonderful energy.

And they like each other.  They run into friends, hug, erupt in high spirits – and have great conversations with people they have just met in the checkout line.  One day, as two friends were excitedly rediscovering each other in my line, I said, “Wow, you two are really having fun!”  One of them said, “If you can’t have fun at <this store>, where can you have fun?”  That was a great little moment and for me captured some of the vibe of this place.

One of my customers occupied himself while waiting for his turn by decorating his bag of flour with his kiwis. It was an absolute delight to turn and be greeted with this bouquet. This stuff goes on all the time around here.

One of my customers occupied himself while waiting for his turn by decorating his bag of flour with his kiwis. It was an absolute delight to turn and be greeted with this bouquet. This stuff goes on all the time around here.

I have somewhere (I really hope I find it again) a little button that came down from the corporate office (marketing, it must have been) that says, “Keep <my store> weird.”  This wonderful little play on one of Asheville’s favorite mantras, “Keep Asheville weird”, again captured some of what makes our store special for me.  Our store is kind of weird.  Staff are eccentric, creative, out of the box – lots of artists, musicians, writers and generally creative souls.  People with whom you can have really cool conversations.  Our customers likewise are really interesting.  And this button came from corporate!  How cool is that?!

The produce people take a lot of pride in what they sell.  I was talking with Kristie about this blog, then asked her "What's your art form?" - pretty confident that I would hear something interesting.  "She didn't miss a beat: I crochet hats and scarves - and I make custom-designed hula-hoops." Later that day, I ordered hats and scarves for me and my best buddy Monty - and one hula hoop for me and one for a Christmas gift.  A few days later, I realized that I had been manic when I committed to all that expense - and reneged on the hula hoops.  Kristie understood - and is excited about the hats and scarves.

The produce people take a lot of pride in what they sell. I was talking with Kristie about this blog, then asked her “What’s your art form?” – pretty confident that I would hear something interesting. “She didn’t miss a beat: I crochet hats and scarves – and I make custom-designed hula-hoops.” Later that day, I ordered hats and scarves for me and my best buddy Monty – and one hula hoop for me and one for a Christmas gift. A few days later, I realized that I had been manic when I committed to all that expense – and reneged on the hula hoops. Kristie understood – and is excited about the hats and scarves.

I could go on about all this more than is strategic for a blog post – and may (probably) weave more of this stuff into future posts.  But I want first to mention one final aspect of – for me – my store’s coolness, and that is the support I’m getting for this blog.  This is not a corporate blog: it’s a little eccentric, left of center.  It’s by and about a guy who is very out about being bipolar – and frequently writes about it.

And my boss really loves it!  She told me to put something about it in our front end logbook (done – and people are reading the post I put in there).  She told me to put something by the time clock, where all staff can see it. (I will put something up there.)  She encouraged me to talk to customers about it.  I think that honestly is a strategic move, because this blog can support a customer’s relationship to the store – but I worried that I might get in trouble for this.  And here my boss is encouraging me to do it! Very cool.

So cool store, cool merchandise, cool staff, cool customers – and I honestly think this blog is supporting this community that embraces all that.

Just that time of year…

My Christmas poem.

Really kind of long – and dark in places, like the season.  But worth it, I think.  Set aside maybe 5-10 minutes or more (it’s most satisfying consumed in one sitting), get yourself in a comfortable chair with a good cup of coffee or tea or a glass of wine – and maybe with a journal and pen.  My journey is not your journey, but perhaps in places they may touch.  I wish you love and hope at this dark – for some of us at times very difficult, but really still pretty special – time of year.

winter dark 4

 

Just that time of year…  (Majo, 12/15/14)

It’s that time of year again
Jingle bells and all
But is there really all
That much to celebrate?

The cold and dark have returned again
Do pretty much the same time every year
I try to be cheerful about them
But this little whoosy man
Gets depressed with the onset of the shorter days
And pisses and moans pretty much the same
The whole winter through

The events in the world
Wars, gang shootings
Racial profiling and horrific injustices
Seem no better than ever
I want so badly to believe
That the human race and societies
Are somehow evolving
Somehow getting better, smarter
More fair, more loving
But can see no signs
That this is true

In my own so-limited human life
What sign is there of positive change?
My biochemistry maintains as cruel a reign
Over my desperate moods
As does the Islamic State over
Its desolate segment of humanity
Oh, I’ll give you that
I have not now been suicidal for five years
No more trips to the hospital – or even close
Housing – with Tom and Will for two years
And with Lotus Lodge newly now
Has been a good part of my life
OK, actually very good
After some extended tsuris before that
Alright, I can’t deny that work has been good
A really good year at my new job
With no end in sight

winter dark 2

OK, I will not deny that
There are some good things
OK, very good things
In my life
But what about my moods?
My moods!
Ten days up, fourteen down
Pretty predictably these days
Now is that fair!?
The steady repetition of the cycles
Is so discouraging
The ups slightly to more-than-slightly
Out of control
If also predictably a lot of fun
But the downs, the downs
So painful, so disheartening
So much self-hate
So much of everything looking ugly and wrong

I had my one big shot at a shift
October 18-25
Eight days of training in
Brainwave Optimization
I put a lot of eggs in that basket
My Chicago friends Sally and Mary Ellen
Who knew a lot about it
And who deeply love and support me
Had very high hopes that it would help
Gave me financial support
To make it happen
My friends Byron and Nancy
Took this traveler in
For ten days in my home Chicago
I got to see my beloved brother Terry
Three times on this visit
Instead of one on my last week-long visit
Just back in May
His new chemo is hitting him less hard
He has more strength
For spending time with his
Intense handful of a brother

winter dark 4

The brainwave treatment is very subtle
No effects promised for 3-6 weeks
But half-way through I got depressed
And everything else looked like shit
In the throes of depression
Nothing ever seems to have changed
And I have no hopes
For anything new to help

On November 6, the Shine Expansive
A very exciting personal growth workshop
Stood before me like a shining city on a hill
But I got depressed the day it began
And was significantly depressed for all three days
But the Shine did have power – enough power to
Keep me moving, with even some real high points
And I came away with a new mission statement
“I shepherd my flock”
Which seems to pull together
All the threads of my life up to this time

But my mood swings
Remain unabated
What of the Brainwave Optimization?
What of the Shine Expansive?
What of any of it?
What of positive change in the world?
The dawning of the Age of Aquarius –
My youthful dream?
What of my hopes for humanity?
For the world?
What of peace on earth?

winter dark 8

But then there is this blog…
Born 11/24/14
Now 21 days later – an adult?
Not in blog years – still a baby
70 followers in three weeks – unprecedented
In my personal experience with writing blogs
1085 page views
261 on one particular day
55 yesterday
So many people posting beautiful comments
So many people emailing me encouraging words
So many people telling me on the street
How much the blog means to them

Except for an occasional poem
My writing had been stuck
For over a year
Now completely unstuck
My sense of purpose in my life
Fully reborn
My mission from the Shine
“I shepherd my flock”
Being lived out

winter 1

I have now several very potent flocks
The community of people sharing the blog
My community of co-workers at my store
One of my blog posts is in our cashier log book
At my boss’s suggestion
And many of my colleagues are talking about it
I will soon post one of my blog entries
By the time clock
(Again my boss’s suggestion)
Where all my coworkers can read
And maybe return to the blog on their own

My customers are a flock
I tell them about the blog in the checkout line
The other day, two customers
Friends to me but strangers to each other
Discover that they are each fans of the blog
And begin an animated conversation about it
My boss says
“When you print up business cards for the blog
Give them out to customers”
Amazing support from the store
I had thought that if I gave out cards
From my cash register
I might get in trouble with the brass
And so I will print them up and give them out
The blog creates for my customers
A sense of connection with our store
With our staff
With each other
With the cashiers of the world
And with me

winter 2

And what of those cashiers of the world?
About ten years ago
Working as a cashier
At the Enmark gas station on Merrimon Street
Standing in that little kiosk
Selling gas and cigarettes for a year
Until I got fired for calling a customer a bitch
But oh she deserved it
I didn’t just use the term
When she said
“How dare you call me a bitch”
I looked her straight in the eye and said
“Sometimes it just fits”
She took it badly
But I never regretted it
Even my boss did not blame me for it
“I never would have fired you for this
But she went straight to a company VP
I had no choice.”
It was a great moment in cashiering
Though obviously a strategy
I cannot recommend in this blog
Except in moments of great trial
And when your integrity demands it
I used to teach Empowerment Training
At a local community college back in Chicago
And taught people to say “Fuck you”
When no other assertiveness technique worked
And when their sense of self
Was at stake

But I digress
But then it’s my poem
And I did tell you to curl up in a good chair
With a good cup of coffee

So there I was spending all my work time
In this little kiosk
I wrote a blog on customer service
My own model
Authentic Customer Service
I got really very excited about it
46 posts, 2650 page views
Check it out
http://authenticcustomerservice.blogspot.com/
There’s really some very good stuff on it
A great payoff from that at times boring
At times very stressful job
Along with some very good
Experiences with customers
(No coworkers there in that lonely kiosk
One of the biggest downsides)

winter 3

So I have this blog
My ability to keep writing when I am down
Unprecedented in many years
Perhaps the Brainwave Optimization is working
And the Shine Expansive
And my newly refined but longtime mission
To shepherd my flock
I have a walking stick that Annie gave me at the Shine
When she so ably facilitated us
Through our mission-developing process
A flag hanging from the handle reads
“I shepherd my flock”
Amazingly more apropos for a staff
Than if it said “I sell more widgets this year”

So maybe I do have more light in my personal life this year
Even as my grueling moods remain unabated
Maybe I don’t get to have my whole Christmas list
Delivered for me under the tree
But then the human race
My brothers and sisters
Do not get to suffer appreciably less this year
And maybe you readers of this poem
My brothers and sisters
Still have pain in your lives parallel with my moods
My brother still has his cancer
My friend Bob still has his grief
From his wife Nina’s so-recent passing
My roommate Jesse has his
Search for a fulfilling job
My old roommate Tom has his
Pressing need to unload
His desperately financially depleting house
My old roommate Will has his frustrating
Quest to live out his calling as an artist
My store has its battle to contend
With all the supermarkets
Flooding this saturated market
My coworkers have their struggles
To make ends meet on paltry wages
To live out their gifts
As artists and musicians
To manage their relationships
Their health, their work aspirations

winter dark 7

Everybody, it seems
Has their struggles and their sorrows
Caroling at the hospice last night
In the Community Room
I looked around and it looked like only us present
“Where are the dying people?” I thought
Then I looked to my left and saw
In a little pod, three of my dear friends
Who have had tragic losses
In the last few years
I realized that we were singing
Not just for the shut-ins we were visiting all evening
But also for ourselves

We – all of us
Need to buck up our spirits
At this dark time
We – all of us
Need all of us
To come together
To love each other
We – all of us
Need this poem
We – all of us
Need to create
Whenever we can
However we can
We – all of us
Need to hope for the future
For our writing and painting
And music-making
And our gardening and cooking
And parenting and love-making

We need to come together
As we are reading this poem
As we read this blog
We are coming together
As all of us staff at my grocery store
Are serving all of our customers
We are coming together
As all of our customers
Rub shoulders in our store
Stand next to each other
In our checkout lines
Greet and often hug their friends
You are coming together
As all of us front-line customer servers
In all of the various stores
Serve all of our customers
Who, at other times
Are all of us
Who, when we are not working
Also patronize these other stores
We are all
Every one of us who deals
With customer servers
Coming together

We are serving our customers
Trying to put a smile on their face
Trying to put a smile on our face
Trying to get our customer’s needs met
Trying to check them out
Quickly and accurately
Bagging their groceries tenderly
Ripe avocados on top
Trying to exchange some pleasantries
And, when we are lucky
Even some meaningful exchange
Some “What’s been a highlight of your day?”
Trying to be real for each other
And to be kind
Trying, trying, trying
All of us humans trying
To make things work
To make this a better year
And when we are lucky
To love, even

winter final