with my friend who normally has me bat crap crazy after an hour - and I have lived to tell the tale. Will wonders never cease? This afternoon, Heather called just as I was leaving to go see my tortilleria client. "Let's eat at Applebee's," she suggested and headed into a ten minute explanation of the limited window of availability in her schedule that evening. I felt the stress creeping up on me; when you call and invite someone to dinner, do you start the conversation with I have about an hour and fifteen minutes free and expect your friend to agree to rushing through what should be a leisurely meal and uplifting conversation? Stop, I said to myself, you're expecting a barking dog to behave like something other than a barking dog. You might recall that I had previously decided to cancel my subscription to this particular acquaintance - more issues than a magazine rack. Trying to gracefully decline, I explained that I had to see my client (who has legitimate scheduling problems because he is a full time firefighter as well as owning a business that is open seven days a week, twelve hours a day) and that I wasn't sure how long I would be there. "That's okay, " she said, "I'll go on ahead to the restaurant and you can call me when you leave your client. I have to be at a meeting at 7:10." Who parcels out their time in ten-minute increments? I guess I've gotten used to setting my own hours and knowing better than to cram too much into one day. I told her I'd call her when I was on my way, secretly hoping it would be just too late to meet for dinner. Yes, I know. I'm passive-aggressive. I had a nice visit with my client, did some paperwork for him, entered some information in his sales tax spreadsheet in ten minutes that would have take him an hour (poor guy!) and by the time we finished up, it was nearly six. Yes! I thought - I can get out of going to dinner. I called my friend and she gleefully announced that she was waiting at Applebee's and asked, "What do you want to drink?" Crap, I thought, I am just not in the mood for this. My client laughed at the look on my face when I hung up the phone. "Just go eat dinner and think about the fact that you didn't have to cook it," he reminded me. And so down the road I went, saying a fervent prayer for patience. As I parked in front of the the restaurant, I could see Heather waving at me from a table on the patio. It was a cool, breezy evening; the fresh air will be nice, I told myself. As I sat down, she looked at her watch and announced, "It's 6:15 - if I leave here by 7:05 I should get there on time." I exhaled and silently asked for more patience. The waitress came and took our order and scurried away after being reminded that we were on a tight schedule. I took Julio's advice and ordered my favorite: Santa Fe Chicken salad. It's just dinner, I told myself, I have to eat anyway. Little by little, in the cool evening air, I felt myself start to relax. We didn't chat about anything in particular; I told her about a little Christmas project I was planning and she offered to contribute. She told me about leaving a client off her schedule and not realizing it until the next day. "But I didn't stress out about it," she said. Which, if you knew Heather, is a serious accomplishment for her. We ate our dinners and I was amazed to realize that I didn't feel stressed out at all - not like our usual conversations. Then it hit me - we hadn't talked about taxes or anything of a financial nature - nothing that I had to explain in any detail - which I suddenly understood is just as stressful for my friend as it is for me. Promptly at seven, Heather declared that she had to get going. I looked around for our waitress and since my client had inexplicably decided to pay me fifty dollars extra for the month, I decided to pay for dinner. Heather dashed off to make it to her meeting on time and I asked God to forgive me for my crabby mood. I finished my tea and signed the check, grateful for a stress-free dinner with my friend and thankful that I hadn't cancelled my subscription. And I even shared my little windfall with the waitress in the form of a bigger tip than usual. It is Christmas time after all.
4 years ago