It’s been just a little over three months since I’ve recommitted myself to the happiness tools, and doing them for this long every (mostly) day, I notice the taking-care-of-myself spirit bleeding into other parts of life. One of them is food. So the other day I picked up a salad for lunch and decided to replace a huge hunk of bread for a banana. The Randy of yesteryear would scoff at such a granola notion, but the Randy of today realized he needed more fruit in his diet. Holding my banana like a nutrient-loaded pistol, I walk back to the office and see a very chatty homeless man at the crosswalk. The light turns red just as I approach, so I know I’m going to be stuck talking to him. I’ve been told I have an “approachable face” (which I think is secret language for round and naïve), and now that I make eye contact with pretty much everyone, it’s kind of inevitable.
He asked for money, and I replied I didn’t have any cash, but how about a banana? He says that he already ate, but everyone could use more potassium, so I relinquished my attempt at more fruit. But it’s a long stoplight, and he has more to say. So he says very matter-of-factly: “You can tell by the way I use my walk that I’m a woman’s man with no time to talk. Music’s loud and women warm, and I’ve been kicked around since I was born. But it’s alright; it’s ok. You can look the other way. Or you can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on man.”
It was only when the light turned green, and I smiled and walked away that I realized he was reciting the lines of “Staying Alive.” I didn’t get it at first, though, from the way he was saying it, and it totally and completely changed the lyrics. What I heard was that he’s been kicked around since he was born and that people tend to look the other way. Wow. Who knew the Bee Gees understood the plight of the homeless so well. Seriously, never did that song sound like anything other than a cheesy disco number, much less a sincere expression of how one guy is trying his best to stay alive. The man is a genius.
Fast forward a few days, and I’m proudly returning home on my bike after a 50-mile ride, feeling all smug and full of myself because the hills were significantly easier this time, and I wasn’t bleeding or crying internally. Hubris is the downfall of many a hero, as it was for me that day. Riding over the Golden Gate Bridge, I run smack dab into a side fence and crash to the ground with my feet still stuck in the pedals. A few scrapes and bruises, nothing too severe. The thing that was damaged most was my ego. The thing that frightens me most about doing new things is people seeing me fail. But I remembered that guy holding my banana (seriously, no pun intended there) and saying something profound about keeping on. And it occurred to me that whether I’m a brother or whether I’m a mother, I’m staying alive. We’re all doing our best to keep on keepin’ on, and we all look like klutzes sometimes so screw it. So I painfully shook it out, got back up on the proverbial and literal saddle, and finished crossing that bridge–bruised but alive.