The Loudmouth Protestant

August 19, 2010

Learning to Let My Guard Down: An Intro to Southern Living

Filed under: life — nickisym @ 8:17 pm
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If you have kept up with this blog in the last few months you know that I have moved from the Big Apple to partake in the consumption of “millions of Peaches.” In other words, I’ve gone from living in New York to living in Georgia while I pursue my higher theological education at Emory University. I’ve only been down here in Atlanta for a week and school hasn’t even started yet but I’m already learning a few lessons, the first of which is, “Let Your Guard Down.”

Having lived in New York almost eight years, I have learned to have my guard up for many reasons. First I had to have it up while I rode public transportation because I didn’t know who was going to rob me. Then I had to have it up for the apartment landlords because I didn’t know if they were going to rob me. Then I had to have it up for the people in New York because I didn’t know if they were going to rob me. Essentially in New York I learned to have my guard up at all times because I never knew when I would get got, bamboozled, boondoggled, swindled, hoodwinked, jooksied, ganked, or hosed. But now that I am back in the south, I am not sure how advantageous it is to walk around with an invisible bulletproof vest and uzi at all times. I realized that this afternoon…

As I walked up the stairs to my second floor apartment and put the key in my door I heard a voice on the other side say, “It’s open!” I thought to myself, “That must be coming from the apartment across from me. Maybe the guy is calling out for his wife to close the frigerator door because she left it open.” Again I jiggled the key in the door and the voice says, “It’s open.” I turn the nob and it is indeed open. I walked in my apartment to find the maintenance man on the kitchen floor fixing the garbage disposal. I am shocked at the sight of him though I know that the garbage disposal in my apartment is broken. I ask him, “Don’t tenants get a warning before you come into their apartment? It’s a little jarring for me to walk in my apartment to see you here.” He says, “I am here at your request.” I say, “Ok…well thank you.” I retired to my room trying to think of when I made the request and I realized that when I turned in the “Move In Condition Form” I said that the garbage disposal was broken along with the draw in my bathroom so that must have been my “request.” I can be quite the legalistic person so, in my mind, I felt that a request would be an actual paper that I filled out requesting for the work to be done. But apparently that is not the way they do things. I sat in my room working while the man was in my kitchen fixing the garbage disposal and in about five minutes he was done. I said thank you but then I asked about the broken bathroom drawer which he told me he already fixed and he slammed the door in front of me.

It was after that moment that I knew this wasn’t about him as much as it was about me and needing to learn to let down my guard because everyone isn’t out to get me. I thought about the things that I want out of this life including the opportunity to love and how I’m sure that my hardened ways have prohibited me from getting what I want because I’m always giving someone the side eye when I should be giving myself the side eye. I talked to my roommate who has yet to move into the apartment and I let her know that I might have made an enemy with our maintenance man to which she told me in her very pastoral way–she is a second-year MDiv student–that I should be careful about how I respond to people, I should understand that this is the South and things are different and that most men here are ready, willing, and able to help a woman without wanting anything from them. I agreed with her wise words and I told her that I planned on apologizing to the maintenance man because I really think that I could have handled the situation better.

No sooner than I hung up the phone and looked out my window, I saw the maintenance man’s truck rounding the corner. I jumped up and took the work order papers that he left in my apartment–it was someone else’s work order, not mine (look at God providing opportunities for reconciliation!)–and quickly ran out of my apartment. By time I got to the street he had just stepped out of his truck and I walked toward him saying, “Two things, the first of which is I want to apologize to you for my behavior earlier. I am new here, new in the neighborhood and new to this city and I don’t know how not to be on guard. But I know you were just doing your job and I am truly sorry if my words and actions offended you.” I also handed him the work order papers. He accepted my apology and actually said that he didn’t take offense because he thought maybe I was having a bad day. He was actually standing rather close to me which I don’t take very well from people I barely know, but I knew it was a moment to apply the wisdom I had received. So I stood there, looked into his eyes which were the tired eyes of an honest, hard-working man who has seen it all and been through it all and I listened to him accept my apology, I apologized to him again and he extended his arms not for a handshake, but for a hug. He said, “We hug down south.” Normally I would have side-eyed a comment like this, but I decided to live in the moment and let our reconciliation be sealed with a hug. He said he understood all too well my Northern disposition because he has dealt with many people who have moved to the area from up North. He told me that I’d get the hang of things and to let him know if there is anything I need and then we went our separate ways.

I was humbled and I promised myself in that moment that I would learn how to let my guard down. To not see every person as a potential robber baron of my tangible or intangible goods. I even thought about some other people who I probably need to make amends with because I’ve made my time of knowing them about having my guard up more than making it easy for them to know me. At almost 30 it seems high time to learn how to work the synergy of guarding my heart and letting my guard down simultaneously to see if I might come closer to the things I desire.

And so, one week into my stay here in Atlanta and I think I have learned a precious lesson that could possibly open me up to a lot of great experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of letting my guard down.


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