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Home > Columns > "The Mirror" > January, 2007 - Dang! There's Aikido Everywhichwhere

Dang! There's Aikido Everywhichwhere by "The Mirror"

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This article was written by Janet Rosen.

2006 was a challenging year for me. Soon after it opened, due to a combination of soft tissue/joint problems, I stopped training in aikido and abandoned my goal of achieving mastery as a corsetiere. As the year progressed, I had to accept pain as a companion on my walks, and stepped off of (at least temporarily) a new creative path involving hand sewing.

So, comes a clear crisp day in October. I accompanied my husband, Stuart, to work in Berkeley. I was physically hurting and pretty depressed, and decided a long walk in the sunshine might help. As I walked up San Pablo towards University, fairly absorbed in self pity, I passed an elderly man. He was in shabby but clean clothing, hunched over a front-wheeled walker and walking about as slowly as a man could without it being considered standing still. He called out if I could spare some change for a cup of coffee. I said, "Sorry, no" as I marched on.

I got about a quarter of a block further and stopped dead, asking myself, "what the HELL is wrong with you that you should ever have such disregard for another person?!." I turned and walked back to fall into step with him and we started to chat.

He told me that he had started out in Oakland and was walking to a doctor's appointment on University. Now, by my reckoning, at the point he'd already walked at least three miles one slow step at a time, clinging to that walker. He had another half mile to go. So I asked about the appointment. He said that he'd gotten up in plenty of time for it, but realized he didn't have money for the bus. Well, if you work with old folks, you know that commonly the swift brainstorming of alternate plans is not a strong point. So while he knew he was going to be hours late, and maybe wouldn't be permitted to see the doctor, he didn't really know what to do except keep on going and show up. All he asked of the world was money for a cup of coffee to perk him up a bit.

The above was delivered as we slowly ambled up San Pablo in the sunshine, his attitude totally matter-of-fact, without self-pity or embellishment. For my part, clearly I wasn't going to solve his other problems, but it was pretty easy to take him at his word for what he felt he needed. I gave him a few bucks for coffee and something to eat and fare to eventually get home from the doctor's office, and wished him well. I think also gave him the gifts of presence and respect, and that felt pretty good.

But for his part, I doubt he know that he'd given me a tremendous gift in return. As we parted ways, it struck me quite hard that I am more than the sum of my physical capabilities or the job I do. Yeah, strip away pretense, desire, masks, all the bullshit. Forget what I want to do, forget what I think is important. If my heart is open, I remain a person who can be with another person and offer to connect with him. This is where my value as a person resides. For the first time in my life, though it was not the path I would chose, I understood the spiritual basis of the mendicant monk who goes forth into the world willing to rely only on connection with others for sustenance.

This brief episode was a powerful attitude adjustment, simultaneously sobering and uplifting. It also made me realize that, after a six year hiatus from nursing, I was ready to return to the profession in which I'd worked over 20 years. Two weeks after starting to send out resumes, I was contacted by a program that wasn't even on my radar. They invited me to apply for a position as nursing supervisor at a non-profit residential program for people living with HIV/AIDS. From the moment I stepped through the doors for the first interview it felt like home. Sometime during December I'll step through the doors as a nurse, but more so, I hope, as a genuine human being with an open heart ready to connect. Oh, and to breathe, blend and even restore harmony if need be (smile).

Yep, it's been a heck of a year.

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