Mind Over Matter

Taking a position in a small Trust Company years ago, after a successful year at a major Canadian Bank, seemed foolhardy to my fellow bank employees.  Little did I know I would begin my most rewarding and fun career.

Pride and arrogance doesn’t sit well in the craw of fellow workers, but, housed in the enthusiasm of  a young woman who walked in and found a serious error that had eluded staff for weeks, the defects turned into virtue.  I was considered diligent, attentive and welcome.

The only problem with being a fast track hero, the position has to be maintained.  The pressure for continuous excellence led to uncharted, I thought, mental aerobics.  My small department was in excellent shape so the next obvious challenge was to improve client service.

Our small city was home to a number of characters, with no known address,  who came in monthly to cash their government cheques.  Their familiarity allowed us, at that time, to confidently cash these cheques without asking for identification.  They didn’t have accounts with us so we only saw their names on their monthly cheques.

One such gentleman decided I was the only one to serve him.  If I was busy with another client, he’d sit quietly until I was free.  The minute the chair across from my desk was available, an armoured car could not have re-routed him.

Once settled in the chair, this elderly gent laid his pension cheque on the desk.  Fingers bent and twisted from arthritis pushed it toward me.  He sniffed repeated in the absence of a handkerchief.  I brought out my box of tissues and placed it casually on the desk.  While we discussed the weather, he unzipped his parka with one hand and fumbled for a handful of tissues with the other.

This quiet man with eyes that could make Santa’s smile seem harsh wiped his nose.  He wiped his most unattractive, veined, bulbous, overgrown and lumpy proboscis.  He fumbled with embarrassment as he snorted, huffed and wiped his way through drips and sniffles.  The large mass on his face offered no opportunity for disguise or grace.

I pretended I needed to use the electric calculator.  I swirled around in my chair and faked a column of numbers on the paper I grabbed.  The stream of electrical ka-chung, ka-chungs almost overrode the sounds of his ablutions.

‘I will not look at his nose.’ I silently chanted several times.  ‘I will look only at his grandfather eyes.’

"Old Man With A Young Boy" - painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio (Florence, 1449 – 1494) (Thank you, Cindy at http://theonlycin.wordpress.com/ for this Art History information.

I turned around and apologized for keeping him waiting.  I smiled into his sparkling blue eyes and treated him as though he was CEO of this very Trust Company.  I reached for his cheque and asked what denominations he preferred.

“Oh…just small bills, please.  I have such trouble getting people to accept the bigger ones,” he said.

I forced my eyes to move casually over his face and back to his eyes, “I know what you mean.”

I counted out small bills and slid the cash over to him.

“Thank you,” he said.  “I really appreciate you cashing my cheques without fuss.  That means a lot.”

A lump formed in my throat.  Tears stung my eyes.  The urge to wrap my arms around this dear man was almost unstoppable.

As he rose, I swallowed the lump, swelled with pride and said, “You are so very welcome, Mr. Nose.”

78 thoughts on “Mind Over Matter

  1. Giggle. Oops. How could you not? The word was in your head, nudging you like his big nose into your ribcage. You were very kind to him. I’m sure he knows about his nose. A large, bumpy nose is just too difficult to ignore.

    • I wanted to die, RW. Then, I had to live a whole month knowing I’d see him again. That was agony. You know, I think his loyal and dignified return, month after month, was one of the greatest, unspoken acts of forgiveness I’ve experienced in my life.

  2. Laughed so loud I had to share it with David. Fun story, I’m glad you shared. It’s been a long day with a horrible wild fire and 20+ destroyed homes, high winds within a couple of miles of us. Needed the laugh but feel fortunate to be safe. Life is so uncertain.

  3. Great story Amy. That poor man must’ve been called many worse names.

    Synchronicity here. There’s a new art book with that painting on the cover. I don’t know what the book is called or what it’s about, but I looked at the painting all day yesterday, because it was displayed opposite my cash register. At the end of the day one of my co-workers told us a story about a man at her satellite store who had the biggest ugliest nose she’d ever seen, “just like the painting in the book”.

  4. The painting is by Domenico Ghirlandaio (Florence, 1449 – 1494). Glad my four years of Art History studies could be of service 🙂 It is called ‘Old man with a young boy’. “An old man seated by a window holds in his arms a child whose delicate features are framed by blond ringlets. The man’s gentle, benevolent smile and the child’s trusting gaze convey their mutual affection. At the same time there is a striking difference in the way each is portrayed: shown in three-quarter view, the old man, recognizable as a Florentine patrician by the cappuccio on his shoulder, is shown with uncompromising realism, the light coming from the right enabling the painter to detail the gray hair, the wart on the forehead, the wrinkles around the eyes, and, especially, the nose deformed by rhinophyma. This image of age and the unsightliness induced by disease is in total contrast with the unsullied profile of the child, with his narrow nose and dainty mouth …”

      • Thanks for copying it all out for us Cindy! I guess I must’ve known the painting from my History of Art classes but it was much too long ago and I don’t even recognize the artist’s name.

        I will still let you know the name of the book Amy.

  5. Precious story, Amy! I wanted to share with you – I returned yesterday from a retreat in Ojai, California. I spent several days with 45 women; most of these endearing, courageous and empowered women were from Canada! By the end of hours of sharing over laughter and tears, I was adopted by several as an honorary Canadian, and I adopted them as honorary “Southern belles!” One of them was identified as part of my Soul Family ~~ 😀

    • Wow, Becca, that sounds like an incredible closeness transpired. I hope you told them there was already a Canadian who would strong support such a citizenship! 😀 I do know that most of us Canadians have a bit of a stretch knowing how to be a Southern Belle…but then, perhaps I ought to speak for myself!

      The Soul Family concept is very interesting, Becca. Do you have a contract with her? Or…did you get into that?

      • Amy – I did not completely understand this concept … until I agreed to do a regression to learn more and perhaps identify. I know throughout my life, certain connections with individuals were immediately strong and familiar … So part of the explanation – included individuals who you just can’t help but feel that you are brother or sister to, some people in your life that you can’t help but love with all of your heart and soul … individuals and groups of souls that absolutely adore you (or you them), who think that you are one of the most magical people on this planet, and who truly know your soul. “Mutual admiration society”… It is like you are one of them. The heart that is within your soul beats the same as their heart. There is a sameness of energy, a sameness of spirit, a sameness of purpose.

        In my regression – I was able to identify a circle of 12 around me (like positions on a clock), with outer circles layers-deep in the perimeter. I was able to identify 4 of the 12 … and remaining 8 people were unclear, and figured I had not met them yet … now I feel I have identified a 5th!

        Are you familiar with these?

        • When I had readings from Ainslie MacLeod (The Instruction), I first really looked at the concept of soul family and mates. Ainslie spoke of this frequently while we were on our Soul Safari in 2009. 23 of us traveled with Ainslie MacLeod to South Africa. Once there, he explainedd that his Guides told him that all of us had been together in past lives AND we were all old souls. Apparently we all had agreements with each other. That meant that our responses and reactions to one another may mean we had some unfinished business to take care of – or that we were blessed with being connected with a deep, abiding love again.

          He also taught us how to do past-life regressions to “view” past lives. We practiced this with a view to understanding how that life may be causing challenges for us in this lifetime. For example, when I am attracted to a man, it is impossible for me to let him know. I’m an extrovert and would counsel a friend to “go for it” while I cannot do that myself. If we are ever going to be together, the gentleman has to approach me. In a past life regression, I learned that, in my life before this one, I wrote a letter to a rather famous man, stating my undying love and he stood up and read my letter aloud to a group of partying people. Everyone laughed and made horrible remarks in their half-drunkenness. I felt terribly hurt, ridiculed and rejected. I withdrew as a gorgeous young woman from a well established society and drank myself to death only a few years later.

          That understanding has freed me from the debilitating state I’ve lived with, but I’m still very reluctant.

          Ainslie told us that to a large extent, we go through lives with soul “mates” time and time again. Apparently, many of the people in our lives today have been with us in other lives. We are here to help one another work through our agreements so as to achieve what we set out to do when we took this particular incarnation.

          Supposedly my soul mate who I am to be with now is “right under my nose”. Well, I must have my radar turned off… Ainslie’s guides insist that I am to be with this man. Of course, they won’t give a clue who it is! They don’t want to meddle…???

          I can certainly accept that my close friends – who teach me lots about myself – are those souls with whom I’ve traveled before.

          I hope that answers your question, Becca. Enjoy the concepts you are comfortable with! In end, we’ll probably learn that we were all a little bit right, but that the truth is magnificent beyond our humanly description! 😀

        • You could start with “The Instruction”. It is important to understand one’s own soul type, age, etc. From there, I had readings from Ainslie MacLeod, the author. He does them over the phone. It’s helpful to look at a key past life that may be influencing the now. In those readings, Ainslie often lets people know about past lives with current loved ones. He also often shares the soul type and age of a spouse or a family member – that understanding answers many questions. It’s a way to have much more love, compassion and understanding for our loved ones.

  6. What an anecdote!
    I don’t think the old man was in the least offended by the comment… especially if he had dealings with you on numerous occasions before… he had already formed an opinion about you and trusted you… 🙂

  7. I so did not expect the ending. The white elephant in the room? I know you must have felt like you were going to die when you said that.

  8. ROFL, Amy: I love this! You reminde me of Steve Martin’s Roxanne, where the new fire recruit is unable to avoid describing the Chief’s nose in anything other than the most colourful language. Looking for it on YouTube I can’t find it….Thanks for a laugh!

  9. That last line has to be one of the greatest I have seen in half a lifetime. Do you mind if I use it?

    What’s that you say? It was true? That makes it all the better.

    Thanks for the story.

    Thanks even more for the story-telling.

    michael j

    • Unfortunately, Michael J. it really happened. My boss became a little concerned because I was building quite a stable of homeless pensioners! But know what? One ended up being a multi-millionaire! When he died, 2 men from our Trust Company found stock certificates tucked into the lining of his great coat! (He had our company named, in a letter, as the agents to take care of his business should he die.) That led to a deeper search in the shack where he slept that had no mod cons. Guess what he used to insulate the shack. Family members, who previously had nothing to do with him, came out of the woodwork. One never knows…

    • Yes, Lorna, thankfully he came back…not that I looked forward to the next encounter. 🙂 In his demeanor, however, I found forgiveness. Either that or he never heard me in the first place – which I doubt!

  10. This one really gave me an unexpected chuckle at the end.I cannot even imagine you saying that Amy, so you know it was truly one of those slip of the tongue oooops moments that you never want to have. He admired and trusted you, so I am sure there was forgiveness in his heart. Finally got phone and internet here in New Mexico today, so at least I feel like I am part of the universe again. It was pretty peaceful though, with nothing.

    • Thank you, Dee, for your great vote of confidence. My fellow employees nearly laughed themselves to tears when I fessed up. I expected them to be horrified.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the good weather of New Mexico. I bet you are out on the links shooting up a storm, ever under par. Or is that just in your visualizations? 😀

      We had a power outage on 11.11.11 from 3 pm to about 9:30 pm. It was l-o-v-e-l-y. Sat in front of the fire with a friend – eating delicious pears and chatting. Peaceful.

  11. Oh no! You had me teary eyed, Amy. Even when you ended it, I thought what a terrible fate to have the last name, “Nose”. …then I read the comments and had a bigger laugh than all of you! …on myself. Do you see? 🙂

    • Oh, Leslie…what a clever and unique way to read the story! Oh that is cute! That’s the sort of thing I used to do so often as a kid. Adults used to laugh so hard at my confusion that it was easy to overcome my fear of asking questions.

      That is such an endearing confession, Leslie! 😀

  12. I must admit I had the same thought about the name and it was a distressing thought…this was probably because I found it hard to think it was a slip of the tongue on your part…but I am sure the gentleman knew you never meant it unkindly which is why he always waited to be helped by you 🙂
    God bless Amy…

    • Oh Shama, you also thought that was his name. No, I’m afraid I slipped right into the very hole I wanted to stay away from. Now that Leslie and you pointed that out, I can see how easy it would be to think that – which does make an entirely different story. No I was far too fixed on his nose – mind over matter.

  13. Hi Amy .. that’s just one of those stories – and one that continues to live with us through time – they don’t go away do they .. keep coming back to remind us of the error of our ways – unintentional usually … not thinking before we speak, or that awful law of unintended consequences that seems to appear so often … Loved the story ..thank you and your time at the bank .. and the story of the multi-millionaire .. cheers Hilary

  14. What’s best about this story is that you can see that at that moment, it was mind over matter. I’d have done the same, I guess, but am not sure I’d be able to come out of the embarrassment and see where the address Mr. Nose actually came from. As always, a post that teaches, Amy.

    • Hi Priya. I’m afraid it provided proof that we do have to watch where we put our attention! Excuse me…I have to dash – I’m going to concentrate on my laundry being done! 😀

  15. Oh fun and sweetness. This reminds me of the short story by Gogol called “The Nose,” except that the man in that story wakes up one morning without a nose on his face.

    You are such a delightful writer. I like peeking into your mind and heart.

  16. This painting, Amy, and the story that accompanies it is so powerful. I first saw the painting as a child and it has haunted me ever since. I always thought of the child as a girl, those long golden tresses. I’ve come here through Ruthie’s wonderful blog.

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