In Passing: Influence

What influences you?

Yesterday, I sat in a coffee shop in Boulder. Two meetings in succession: the kickass @tripplanier followed by @roktott. When I sat down with Jon, I reached over to move a discarded newspaper off the table and a headline caught my eye:

Cyclist Dies After Crash With Pedestrian

If you know anything about me, you know that if it’s got two wheels and my legs make it go, I’m a fan. I begged forgiveness as I flipped open the newspaper to read the deats. And then I saw the picture.

Let’s dial it back to the first Sunday in March. I went up to Niwot to watch my better half race in a criterium (a crit is a circuit/loop-style bike race measured by both laps and time). It was quite a trek from parking to the start/finish and when I landed in a pile of weeds (the ideal environment from which to watch a bike race), I struck-up conversation with a woman named Alison. Her husband, Bill, was racing that day, too.

Over an hour, I felt like I’d stood next to someone who shared with me. Her life, her story. From a career as a professional cyclist to suffering an on-bike stroke that ended her career, to how she explained how she saw me. The stroke had left her partially blinded in one eye and ruined her depth perception. She saw everything from that eye in pixels. I laughed when she said she saw every sixth dot of my face. I asked her to move a little left so she’d miss the zit on my chin.

I could tell you every detail of our conversation that day. I felt lighter, inspired. When we parted, I said thank you (how often do you thank people for conversation?) and that I hoped to see her again soon. I truly did hope to.

Yesterday, I saw her on the front page of the Boulder Daily Camera. That wasn’t how I hoped to see her again.

A woman I met once made me cry this morning. While I make a career out of dropping the f-bomb and being unapologetic for who I am, this redhead can cry. I’m reeling as I think about how many times since I met her at the beginning of March that I’d thought about her.

So this morning, I’m pondering that some people influence us in passing. Maybe they weren’t meant to stay or reappear. They do their fly-by in our lives and impart what they will, leaving us better and forever wondering if they’ll pass our way again. I spoke about it previously in a post about one of my junior high teachers, Mr. Crowley. I’ve taken a lot of time lately to consider who influences me and that I don’t get a second chance to go around on life’s tilt-a-whirl. My feet are never firmly planted but I’m learning to walk (and enjoy walking on) shifting sand. I’m really grateful that Alison was part of the sand between my toes. She made year 37 brighter.

I never get a second chance to do what I do. Sometimes we get so busy that we’re stuck in front of a keyboard on a Thursday morning typing a blog post on a blurry keyboard because we forget what it feels like to feel. The tears roll. We think we’re silly because how can something or someone so fleeting…so in passing…have had an influence on our lives and that there are bigger things to worry about.

But then we remember: it’s the small stuff that makes memories.

Just think: do you remember loving the look of the fruit you bought at the grocery or the sound of your teeth biting through a pear’s skin and the mildly sweet and sandy texture of the first nibble?

What influences you? Share.

33 comments
Joel MacCollam
Joel MacCollam

Your point is great, Erica. This maxim: "Be thankful for people, even if they are only in your life for a few moments", always helped me encourage people at funerals I conducted on how to bring perspective to our emotions following someone's death. I learned this at a young age, from the organist of the NY Philharmonic who was my music mentor for three years and who died of AIDS five years later. I still remember the day he mentioned this while eating his homemade fish chowder. I still haven't quite figured out why I remember almost every detail of that moment at lunch ... the clams in the creamy broth, the flowers on the table, sunlight streaming thru a window on W. 22nd Street over his harpischord, etc., etc. Both the thought and the setting have been blended into the fabric of my life for years, with far more influence over me than I could have ever anticipated that single afternoon in 1971.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Cherry, you never cease to amaze me. Thanks for sharing your story of "connecting." Isn't it delightful when people help because they WANT to, not because the HAVE to? So cherished.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Ted :)

Tekee
Tekee

I read that story too. Very sad. I'm glad you wrote this article because it explains perfectly what I felt yesterday. I was at a funeral for my 63 year old neighbor who died Sunday. He was more of what I call a "hey neighbor" because that is nearly the only thing we ever said to each other. 16 years at the same address, and our word cloud consisted of one GIANT Hey, a few medium sized Hellos, and several small howdys. But sitting in the funeral home watching a slideshow of his life and seeing his three well adjusted adult children fight back tears and deliver his eulogy, I realized I am very much like him. I do think I was influenced by him over the last 16 years, even though our conversations were very few and very short.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Cherry, you never cease to amaze me. Thanks for sharing your story of "connecting." Isn't it delightful when people help because they WANT to, not because the HAVE to? So cherished.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Ted :)

Tekee
Tekee

I read that story too. Very sad. I'm glad you wrote this article because it explains perfectly what I felt yesterday. I was at a funeral for my 63 year old neighbor who died Sunday. He was more of what I call a "hey neighbor" because that is nearly the only thing we ever said to each other. 16 years at the same address, and our word cloud consisted of one GIANT Hey, a few medium sized Hellos, and several small howdys. But sitting in the funeral home watching a slideshow of his life and seeing his three well adjusted adult children fight back tears and deliver his eulogy, I realized I am very much like him. I do think I was influenced by him over the last 16 years, even though our conversations were very few and very short.

The Redhead
The Redhead

And it *is* effortless, isn't it? Just saying hello. Strange that we pass up a chance to nod, say hi.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for sharing your "Perfect Moments" post, Shelly. It was the ideal read after a much-needed nap :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

You're welcome. And thank you for sharing that I influenced you. That's a gift.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

I'm sorry you lost this friend, Erika, even if she wasn't an especially close one. The moment that you shared together was clearly an important one, and that's what life is all about - perfect moments. And the risk of soundling like a self-promoter (which I loathe) it made me remember why I wrote this post: Perfect Moments | http://bit.ly/bUxaBY. I think that (after you take a nap) when you have a moment to read it, you'll see why it reminded me of your friend and how lovely it was to share a moment with her.This is a good reminder that we don't have any guarantees - we need to treasure all those chance encounters, rays of sunshine - and every single moment and interaction in between.Thank you for that!{Big Hug} {Wedgie}Shelly@shellykramerhttp://v3im.com

Raschella
Raschella

What influences me? Your post. I've never even met you, much less spent an hour chatting in a pile of weeds, but your post was enough to make me cry, and then to think, seriously, about what you wrote. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, not just grab it on the way out the door. Thank you.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I'll be trying this if I have insomnia again tonight!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Imprint...LOVE that word. Thanks for stopping by :)

Keendege
Keendege

The way a light spring rain feels when the temp is in the high 50's. It refresshes without soaking. And if your lucky enough to get out on the trail as it starts,the firmness of the trail beneath your tires. Not sloppy, splashing mud more like the rubber on climbing shoes. A crystal clearity. It's nice how if you pay attention random moments can enlighten & imprint.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thank you for that. It's good to know that eyes wide open continues past age 37 ;-)

WickedShawn
WickedShawn

If you go to bed at night and your head hits the pillow without one thought of pure joy from your day, you need to get back up, walk through your house and touch something......feel it as if it is the first time you have ever felt it. Run your hands over it, savor the moment, enjoy it, memorize it. Then go back to bed and drift off to sleep.

Benita
Benita

A daily good morning and a nightly sweet dreams from the one I love. My world feels so right. The little things that mean so much. My sand between my happy wiggling toes.

maldaly
maldaly

I'm sorry for the loss of this wonderful woman whose brief touch was so deep. I feel as if I know her through your post. Thank you. ~mal

cw
cw

Wow...thanks for sharing that memory, Erika. i live an abundant life...wonderful things are constantly happening around me. Some people believe that i am just lucky. However i am certain that my dedication to a very simple principle is at the core of this wonder: every person deserves to be acknowledged with a greeting...it can be a simple one...but everyone gets a little something from me as i travel through my day. What i have received in return has influenced my life and is priceless...just like your story of meeting Alison. Making a difference in life...in mine and in my world certainly isn't this simple. However, this almost effortless approach has made my life richer.

SEOcopy
SEOcopy

Erika how touching and very poignant. I am going to be 50 in August talk about looking back on your life and accomplishments HA! But I have to tell you it's those little moments in your life that matter the most. A smile, a story, and yes, a fleeting friend. Nothing is forever, and moments like the ones you so eloquently wrote about are what touch our hearts forever.

Cherry Woodburn
Cherry Woodburn

Poignant story. Thanks for sharing her and yourself.What influences me? Like the woman who died, a person who is open, real, vulnerable combined with deep listening impacts me immeasurably. It also makes me think about how I want to make sure I do the same for others. Also, kindnesses that people bestow, especially when I least expect it, influence me in several ways. I puddle up just thinking about it. For some reason the one that came to mind, was several years ago when I moved. I had to do it myself and my young realtor said he'd help and that he'd get some other guys to help. He said he'd help for free but I should pay the other guys, which was fine, direct and clear. They were all amazing. Then a new woman friend who I didn't know well said she'd help. She and I stayed in the house and moved things where they needed to be etc. while the guys moved furniture and boxes in during a torrential downpour that flooded many areas. I now make sure that I offer to help people in similar and unsimiliar situations. They saved me on many levels that day.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for sharing that with us, Jess :)

jess
jess

after my sister passed away unexpectedly - it was amazing to hear from people that got in touch with us - who had met her in passing, in moments like that, to let us know how she had resonated with them in a brief moment, or small window of time. if there is anyway you could (and maybe you did!) - i would convey all that you say above to her friends/family. speaking from experience, it was amazing and comforting to hear people who knew her, even for a short moment be able to surmise all the great things that we knew about her, from having her in our lives everyday. i can only imagine it would offer the same comfort, etc. to her family to listen your words...great post. and so sorry to hear about this tragedy. make every interaction count, b/c they do, and you might not even realize how or why until after the fact.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks, Michelle. Those are the best words a writer can hear. Appreciate you stopping by.

MichelleGillies
MichelleGillies

Thank you for sharing this. It has left me at a loss for words...however, I wanted you to know that it touched me to the core.

The Redhead
The Redhead

How often do we forget that the "moments" are the reason we live and breathe? It's not the paycheck, the car, the house...it's what the world gives us. I hate to think of everything I've missed...but I'm glad I've opened my eyes. Thanks for stopping by, Cindy.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I've started erring on the side of saying hello. You never know what will stem from that :)

cindycragg
cindycragg

Great post, Erika. So true. It's amazing how hard it can be to take the time to stop and really experience the moment. Whether its thoughts, feelings, scents, colors... whatever. But you are right, it is in those moments when I - stop - and tune in that I feel the most alive. Thanks for sharing your experience and offering a reminder, yet again, of what's important.

Kim Woodbridge
Kim Woodbridge

I'm so sorry - how tragic. I think about passing influence quite a bit. I had a teacher in high school that I still think about frequently - she was elderly then and I am sure she has since passed away. I also think about people that I see around all the time but that I don't know - why does my path keep crossing with this person? Is there a reason? Should I get to know her?

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