Heartstrings

“I love the way you play,” he said.

I smiled, flattered.  “Thank you.”

We were standing backstage at Carnegie Hall.  I had invited him to the performance and was thrilled that he actually came.

“The way you played that piece it was as if you were telling a story.  You had me hooked.”

“Joshua Bell, the celebrated violinist once said that when you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller and you’re telling a story.”

“I would like to hear your story.  How about going for a cappuccino with me?”

“Yes,” I said without any hesitation.  I wanted to be with him.  Since we started working at the same company, I have wanted to get to closer to him.  This was my opportunity.  I quickly put my violin away and followed him to the parking lot.  The café where we went was about a twenty minute drive.  It was a nice and cozy place.  I have never been there before.  We managed to get a seat beside the window.

After ordering two Lattes, he asked, “So, how old were you when you first started playing the violin?”

“I was five when I started learning how to play it.  My father loved classical music and he used to play it all of the time.  I would sit and listen it, especially the music featuring the violin.  I told him that I liked the violin and wanted to learn how to play it.  He took me seriously and got a friend to teach me.”

“Five.  Wow. That’s very young.”

I smiled.  “I’ve heard of children starting as young as three.”

“My sister started playing the piano when she was nine.”

“What about you?  Wasn’t there any musical instrument that you wanted to learn how to play?”

“I liked the saxophone but never got around to learning how to play it.”

“Most people like the saxophone because of its cool image.”

“And most women think it’s sexy.”

“That’s true.  When my sister met her husband he was playing the sax at a Jazz club.”

“So, if he hadn’t been playing the sax, she wouldn’t have been interested?”

“Well, it turned out that it was how he looked as he played was what really attracted her to him.”

He laughed, revealing even white teeth.  “Whatever works.”

“Yes.  Twenty years later and they are still happily married.”

“What about you?” he asked.

“I’m single.”

“That’s good to know.”

I was surprised to hear him say that.  Did he want to have a non-professional relationship with me?  Was I reading more into this than there was?  Did he just want to be friends?  All these and other questions swirled around my head.  I didn’t know what to say.  I just smiled.

He continued, leaning over, his hands clasped in front of him, his eyes meeting mine directly.  “I have wanted to ask you out for a long time now but wasn’t sure if you would want to date someone you worked with.”

It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking my Latte at that moment or I would have choked on it.

“You look surprised,” he commented.

“I am,” I quickly admitted.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, there are other women at the company, especially in our department whom I thought you would be more interested in.”

“Yes, there are but I’m not interested in any of them,” he reached over then and covered my hand.  The skin tingled and my stomach did a cartwheel.  “I’m interested in you.”

I felt warm all over.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you’ll have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

I felt like a giddy schoolgirl.  “Yes.”

He smiled again and I felt my knees go weak.  We ordered sandwiches and sat there for another couple of hours, talking.  The following night he took me to an upscale restaurant in Soho where in the background Jazz music was playing.  I smiled when I heard the saxophone.  We had a very pleasant and enjoyable evening together.  I laughed a lot and felt totally relaxed with him.  After dinner, we went to Club Shelter where we had a blast.  I don’t recall ever having such a great time with anyone, not even my sister who used to be a real party animal.

It was after mid-night when he took me home.  We stood outside of my place, facing each other.  I didn’t want him to leave.  I didn’t want our time together to end.  “Would you like to come in?” I asked.  I waited, hoping that he would say yes.

Instead, he said, “If I do, I might not want to leave.”

Heart pounding wildly against my ribs, I stepped the foyer as I replied, “What if I don’t want you to leave?”

His response was to come in and close the door behind him.   The expression on his face thrilled me and I gasped when he pulled me roughly against him, his eyes smoldering as they met mine.  Then, we were kissing like two crazy people.  We barely made it to my room where we had an explosive session.  Afterwards, we fell asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.

He left the following morning after a shower and breakfast.  We made plans to see each other that evening.  No one in our department knew about us until the day we announced our engagement.

She tugged at his heartstrings with her violin playing but by the cords of love he was drawn to her.

 

The Cafeteria

He was always having lunch by himself every time she went to the cafeteria.  She would pass his table and he would look up.   Their eyes would meet and then she would smile.  He smiled back and she continued walking until she reached the table where she usually sat with Angie, her co-worker.

On day, Angie wasn’t there, so she was sitting at the table alone.   She was about to tuck into the Fettuccine with Spinach, Ricotta, and Grilled Eggplant when she heard someone ask, “May I join you?”

She looked up and her heart leapt when she saw that it was him.  Up close, he really was very attractive.  He had beautiful eyes and a pleasant face.  “Sure,” she said.

He pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down.  “That looks really good,” he said, looking at her plate.

She nodded.  “Yes, it does.  I couldn’t decide between it and the BBQ Chicken Salad.”  He was having the Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Sandwich which looked very appetizing.  She made a mental note to try it the next time it was on the menu.

“How long have you been working at the company?” he asked.

“For a year and a half.”

“Really?” He sounded surprised.  “How come I haven’t seen you before?”

“It’s only recently that I started coming to the cafeteria to have lunch.  I eat at my desk until my co-worker encouraged me to have it here instead.”

He smiled.  “You must thank your co-worker for me,” he said.  “I wouldn’t be having lunch with you now if it weren’t for him or her.”

“Her.  What about you?  How long have you been working here?”

“About five years.”

“Which department are you from?”

“Engineering.  And you?”

“Marketing.”

“What’s your name?”

“Samantha.  My friends call me Sam.”

“Graham.  May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“I’m not seeing anyone either.”

The rest of their time together went pleasantly now that they were each aware that the other was not already in a relationship.  He asked her questions about herself and she learned that he was the fourth of six children.  His mother was Argentinian and his father was British.  He still had relatives in Italy and visited them every year in the summer.  He used to play soccer but stopped when he turned thirty.  In his spare time he liked to watch sports, especially English football or going for long walks or spending time with his family or playing video games with his nephews. They shared the same birthday in November and love for classical movies, art, food and travel.

Then it was time to go back to work.  “Will you have lunch again with me tomorrow?” he asked as they cleared the table.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’ll be here at the usual time.”

He walked with her to the elevator.  “It was really nice meeting you, Sam.”

“It was really nice meeting you too, Graham.”

The doors to the elevator opened and she stepped in.

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

“See you tomorrow.”  The doors closed and she was on her way back to her cubicle.

Suffice to say, she couldn’t wait for the following day to come.  This time she was there before him.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I had a meeting at eleven.  I rushed out of there as soon as it was over.”

“I got here a couple of minutes ago,” she told him.  They went to buy lunch and sat at his table which was in a better area.  She had a salad and a chicken burger while he had soup.  They talked about all sorts of things.  At one point he made her laugh so hard that tears came to her eyes.  She thoroughly enjoyed his company.

They met for lunch every day that week and the subsequent weeks.  When her Angie returned from vacation, Samantha told her that she was having lunch with someone else.  Angie was thrilled for her.  “I know him and he’s a really nice guy.”

One day at lunch, he asked her, “Do you like dancing?”

She nodded.  “I love it.”

“I’d like to take you out for dinner and dancing on Saturday.”

“I would like that very much,” she told him, her eyes bright with excitement.  Finally, they were going to see each other outside of the cafeteria.

“Good,” he said smiling.  And they continued talking and eating until it was time to go back to work.

On Friday, she gave him her address and phone number.  That night she sorted out what she was going to wear and then turned in early.  Saturday came, bright and sunny and she got up, her thoughts immediately falling on Graham.  She wondered if he was as excited about tonight as she was.  She couldn’t wait for seven o’clock to come and when it did, she was ready and waiting.

When she opened the door and saw him standing there, she couldn’t help but exclaim, “You look amazing.”  He did in the black silk dress shirt and black dress pants, no tie or jacket.  The top button of the shirt was undone, exposing his throat and the area just above where his chest hairs would begin.  He looked sexy.

He smiled and allowed his eyes to travel slowly over her.  The red cap sleeved dress fitted her nicely and flattered her coloring.  The elegant black dance shoes with the low heels completed the outfit.  His gaze lingered on her legs before they returned to her face.  “You look beautiful,” he said, looking serious now.  “I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you.”

She laughed.  “That’s the idea,” she told him before locking the door behind her.  As they walked down the hallway, she could feel him staring at her.  When they were in the lift, she looked at him and her heart began to pound when she saw the expression on his face.  He moved closer to where she was, his eyes lowering to her lips which had parted and for one heart stopping moment she thought that he was going to kiss her but just then the doors opened.   She preceded him out of the lift on trembling legs.

It was a warm evening.  The sun was going to set in about an hour.  His car was parked on the street.  He held the door open for her to climb in before he walked round to the driver’s side and got in.  And off they went to restaurant where they served up good food and salsa for those who loved to dance.  She had the Chicken Escalope while he opted for the Chimichurri Half Chicken.  She ordered a virgin Pena Colada and he had Sangria made with pomegranate juice instead of wine.  Like her, he didn’t drink alcohol.  They talked as they ate and afterwards, they went downstairs to the nightclub where the music was pumping.  Samantha was ready to let loose.  After they secured a table, they went on to the dance floor.

Graham took her hand and twirled her around, their bodies moving to the pulsating Latin beat.  He was a terrific dancer and made it easy for her to follow him.  She watched his hips, their movement almost hypnotic and moved hers to match them.  They danced for a while until she needed to take a break.  While she sat down at the table to catch her breath he went to the bar and ordered two virgin Chi Chi drinks.

As they nursed their drinks, they watched other people dance.  Then, they danced a couple more songs before calling it a night.  It was near two in the morning when he took her home.  It had been ages since she had stayed out so late and it was obvious.  At the door, when they said goodnight, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes as the feel of his warm lips against her skin awoke all sorts of sensations.  When he drew back, his eyes were dark.  “Good night, Sam,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Graham.”  She watched him walk away and then went inside, leaning against the door after she locked it.  It had been a lovely evening, one she would always remember.

The next day, he called her and they spoke on the phone for hours before he rang off.  She busied herself with housework, laundry, cooking and getting ready for work the following day.  That night, she lay in bed, thinking about him and their night together.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow.

As soon as the time display on her monitor read 12:00, she got up from her desk and rushed down to the cafeteria.  He was already there.  “Hello,” he said when she joined him.

“Hello,” she said.

They went and bought their lunches and then sat down.  “I wrote you a poem,” he said, pushing a neatly folded piece of paper across the table toward her.  “Please don’t read it now.  I shall be very embarrassed if you do.”

She smiled and put it in her handbag.  “I look forward to reading it.”

They talked about their evening at the restaurant and made plans to go out again.

As soon as she got home, she took the note out of her bag and eagerly unfolded it.  She didn’t get past the first couple of lines before she began to cry.

Into my boring life you came,

your beautiful smile and face I see.

My world will never the same

because of the joy you bring me.

 

There’s not a day that goes by

when I don’t think about you

which lifts my spirit up high

fills my heart with love anew.

 

Words alone cannot express

what I feel for you in my heart

They fill my thoughts to excess

but are difficult for me to impart.

 

I have written a poem to tell you

how much you mean to me

I hope that in time you too

Will see that we are meant to be.

 

She read it over and over, the page becoming a blur as the tears ran down her cheeks then she folded it and held it against her chest.  I have to see him now, she thought.  I have to let him know that I read this and that I love him too.  Brushing aside the tears, she rushed over to the phone and called for a taxi.  After hanging up, she hurried into the bathroom, hurriedly got undressed and took a quick shower.  She dragged on a shirt and pair of jeans.  After putting the poem in her handbag, she left the flat and went downstairs to wait for the taxi.

On the way over to Graham’s flat, she read the poem again and when the tears threatened to fall again, she put it back in her handbag.  After paying the taxi driver, she ran up the steps and pushed open the doors, anxious to get to him.  Thankfully, there was no one else in the lift so she went straight up to his floor.  She rang the bell and waited, her heart racing.  The door opened and Graham stood there, staring at her in surprise.

“Hello,” he said.  “What a lovely surprise.”

“I had to see you,” she said in a choked voice.

He stepped aside for her to go in and closed the door.  When he turned to face her, she was crying again and he became alarmed.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.

She took out the poem and showed it to him.  “I read this,” she said.  “It’s so beautiful.”

“I didn’t mean for it to upset you,” he said, looking troubled.

“I’m not upset,” she told him as she put the poem back in her bag and pulled out a tissue to wipe her eyes.  “I came over here to tell you that I read it and that I love you too.”

Graham’s eyes darkened and he moved closer to her.  “You love me?”

“Yes, I do.”  She dropped her handbag on the floor and went up to him.  Reaching up, she pulled his head down to hers.

He groaned against her lips and his arms went round her waist, pulling her tightly against him as he kissed her back.   They stood there for a long time, hungrily exchanging kisses.  Then, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I love you, Sam,” he said huskily.  “I think I loved you the first time I saw you.  When you smiled at me my heart stopped.”

“I have to remember to thank Angie for encouraging me to have lunch in the cafeteria.  It changed my life.”

“And mine,” he rejoined before kissing her again.

 

 

 

Source:  Bar Salsa

World Mental Health Day

“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.”

Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is Mental health in the workplace.

It is so important for those who are living with mental illness work in environments that are supportive and conducive to their well being and productivity.  We spent more time with our co-workers during the week than we do with our families so it helps when employers and managers put initiatives in place that would promote mental health.  A negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems, drive people to abuse substances, alcohol, skip work or perform their jobs poorly.

A friend of mine was working in a negative environment which may have contributed to her relapse.  The last time I saw her, it was obvious that she was not taking her medication.  She suffered from bipolar disorder.  She had personal issues as well which could have also been a contributing factor.  Another woman who used to work in the same department also suffered from mental illness.

You can look at people and not know that they have mental illness until something happens and they have a breakdown.  We can’t tell who is living with depression, anxiety disorders or other mental issues.  There is still a stigma attached to mental health and those suffering with it may not feel comfortable disclosing their struggles.  The platform for them to do so may not be there.  This is why World Health Day is observed on October 10 every year to raise awareness and mobilize efforts in support of better mental health.

What can you do to support mental health in your workplace?  The Mental Health Foundation offers helpful tips for those who have mental illness and for those who work with them.

1. Talk about your feelings

2. Keep active

3. Eat well

4. Drink sensibly

5. Keep in touch

6. Ask for help

7. Take a break

8. Do something you’re good at

9. Accept who you are

10. Care for others

 

You can support a colleague by:

  • Asking the person how they are doing.  Be warm and sincere.
  • Setting a time and place that is most comfortable for the person.
  • Active listening.  Give your undivided attention.
  • Managing your own feelings.  You want the person to feel that they can talk to you about anything without fear of judgment.

If your co-worker says that he or she is having suicidal thoughts or you suspect that they are thinking of committing suicide, it is very important that you encourage the person to get help.

You can keep in touch with co-worker who has been away from work by calling or sending cards.  When they return, you could help them to get back into their work routine.  For the co-worker who you see on a day to day basis, you can check up on them informally and find out how they are doing.  You can offer to help them as a mentor or coach or friendly support on an ongoing basis.  You could ask them if there is any way you can support them as they manage their condition such as spotting signs that they may have missed which indicate that they are becoming unwell.

My sister suffers from bipolar disorder.  I will never forget the time when she was having a breakdown and she just clung to me.  I held onto her.  It was heartbreaking. Mental illness affects not only those who have it but those around them.  We have to be there to offer them our love, support and whatever they may need.  We have to be sensitive to what they are going through.

 “We feel alone because due to the illness we have lost loved ones, families, friends, jobs, and it has created broken hearts & shattered dreams. We feel extremely unwanted for something we didn’t ask for and trying so hard to cope with. Believe us, if we could snap our fingers and make it disappear, it would be a wish come true. But that only happens in fairy tales.”

“Those who suffer from mental illness are stronger than you think. We must fight to go work, care for our families, be there for our friends, and act ‘normal’ while battling unimaginable pain.”

“Ignore those who say just get over it. Healing is a process.”

“The only thing more exhausting than having a mental illness is pretending like you don’t.”

“You keep a lot to yourself because it’s difficult to find people who understand.”

“This disease comes with a package: shame. When any other part of your body gets sick, you get sympathy.”

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about.”

Quotes on Mental Health Stigma by Healthy Place

 

confident black career woman

Sources:  World Mental Health Organization; Mental Health Foundation; Healthy Place;

Too Much Sitting

Some time ago there was a story on CTV about people sitting too long at their desks.  In fact, some co-workers and I were interviewed.  I am guilty of sitting at my desk and hardly getting up.  There were times when I would sit there not even taking a bathroom break.  And I would have late lunches–a couple times as late as 4pm.  One of my co-workers would scold me for sitting so long at my desk and would try unsuccessfully to encourage me to join her and others for lunch. 

When the reporter came to our department, I agreed to be interviewed because I knew I was guilty of too much sitting.   I told her that I would get so caught up in my work that I would remain glued to my chair.  That day I promised myself that I would change my behavior and start taking breaks. 

I must admit that I didn’t think that too much sitting was bad for people’s health.  There was a recent study in the European Heart Journal which examined the links of the total amount of time spent sitting down and breaks in sedentary time, with various indicators of risk for heart disease, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and inflammatory processes that can play a role in atherosclerosis (blocked arteries).

It found that prolonged periods of sedentary time, even in people who also spent some time in moderate-to-vigorous exercise, were associated with worse indicators of cardio-metabolic function and inflammation, such as larger waist circumferences, lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, higher levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation) and triglycerides (blood fats).

However, the study also found that, even in people who spent a long time sitting down, the more breaks they took during this time, the smaller their waists and the lower the levels of C-reactive protein (http://www.news-medical.net/news/20110112/Plenty-of-breaks-from-sitting-at-the-desk-are-good-for-hearts-and-waistlines-Study.aspx)

What can we do to help ourselves?  Simple.  Take plenty of breaks.  This will be good for our hearts and waistlines.  I was advised to stand, stretch and walk around.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Get on your feet.  Take action now to reduce your risk of getting the “sitting disease”.