Because all experiences are valuable.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Today someone called me a catalyst, and it was not a compliment.
The person was saying that while I am not to blame for things that happen in this person's life, that I am a catalyst.

I wasn't at all sure how to take this, or how to interpret it for truth. Just having finished college chemistry and anatomy&physiology, I know well what a catalyst is. From two different directions....those being, biochemistry and inorganic chemistry. Life does not proceed without the presence of catalysts. There are a vast number of things that proceed at such an almost immeasurably slow pace without a catalyst, that essentially they don't happen at all.  Without catalysis, we all die, and quickly.

It is almost like the definition of catalyst has two parts, and people who use the word, only think of the one part, whereas in chemistry, the second part is absolutely paramount to the definition itself. Our chemistry professor challenged us at the end of class to come to the next class able to tell him what is the defining characteristic of a catalyst. Not that this was hard to find out...here is a definition:

cat·a·lyst  (ktl-st)n.
1. Chemistry A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process.
2. One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences.

Well there it is isn't it? Without being consumed in the process, and, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences.  I wonder if this person knew what they were saying. Entirely possible that they did, and equally possible that they did not.

Is that me? Hmmm. Yes, I have always been an agent of change, even in small quantities. I make things happen. I am a big do-er of things, and this rubs off sometimes. I think big thoughts I guess. I attract talented, gifted, special people. I encourage people. I definitely speed things up.

But, you know, this wasn't a compliment. Am I to blame for this person's crises? Do I speed them up?
I'm not sure, really. Maybe. I look at all that goes on in this person's life and I see a thousand catalysts, all operating in their own theatre...things and people that truly play a small role, then are gone on unchanged, as the definition requires. How can one point to just me...just me...and assign me as the ONE thing...?

I've been ruminating on this off and on all day when not busy with other things (like paying 2800 $$ to fix my damn Jaguar yet again FML on that one, 'scuse the language.) I think it is the second part of the definition that gets me...the essential part...because something can be an agent of change, but if it is also changed, then it is not a catalyst.It really is an accusation of just causing things willy-nilly, without a thought for the consequences.
 Because if one is unchanged, indeed even uninvolved in the results, why would one really care? Dr. Greene told us that platinum and palladium are very good catalysts. Being used a lot now for fuel cell purposes, etc.
Very expensive, not that easy for the average person to obtain....I don't know, just musing.

I was also told that I, my opinions, my reactions, my judgments are set in stone...that I am a rock. That word was used, a rock. Hmmm again. In my view of myself, nothing is further from the truth. In the opinions of others, as far as I know, no one thinks this of me. I consider myself extremely malleable (ha- a property of metals like platinum!). But I am aware that no one suspected Jeffrey Dahmer. All thought he was quiet and shy. Look how that turned out. What does it mean to be a rock? A lot of times that is a good thing. People certainly rely on me. I do what I say I will; I don't let others down. I don't go back on promises. I get things done on time and under budget. I am there for everyone in times of crisis, as much as I possibly can be. But do I fail? Sometimes I'm sure I do. I'd bet that I don't always perceive that someone needs or wants even more than I can give, and so I think I have helped fully, when I have only partially helped. Sometimes my schedule just won't permit things. Sometimes someone is so endlessly trapped in the same loop of tragedy that I just can't listen that day.  Sometimes I get exhausted and emotional myself, and am not much use to anyone. I wish I had a rock to lean on. I wish I had one person who I knew would always always have my back. (In fairness, I do have one, but she is young and a newlywed, too, and it would be a travesty for me to ask any more than the support and love she offers already.)

There isn't anyone asking me at the end, or the beginning, or the middle of every day- how I am doing, if I am ok, if I have anything I need to share or get off my chest. Or if anything hurt me today, or if anyone was unkind to me, or if I am disappointed in myself, or if I did anything I regretted, or if I dreamed any good dreams, or saw any good movies, or met anyone new, or read any good articles, or heard any good music, or wanted to throttle one of my children, or how my sandwich was at Schlotzky's that they make special for me even though it isn't on the menu any more. Or any of a hundred and one things that could be asked about someone's day. Just one or two questions and maybe a simple heartfelt goodnight each night. I have become one of the wandering lonely people doing what they can for others and loving their children and friends and looking forward to sleep so that the next day comes.

I had a husband who didn't do any of those good things, from the moment we married. He was very bad to me. It was a short marriage that produced a phenomenal son. I had a husband, then, that did do all of those things, and ask those questions and more...and then he stopped...and then in an effort to demand the love that used to pour from me freely, he became bad to me as well.  He became bad to himself. And not there for our other phenomenal son. I know the mechanics, but really- in a deep fashion, I don't know why. I had a boyfriend before either husband that I loved greatly, maybe unhealthily; again, I try to understand, but maybe a lot of that will remain a mystery as well. What do we really know of other people, even our dearest and most beloved mates? A lot...and nothing.
  I am going to be so bold to declare that I have given everything...everything I had to give. Not that there isn't yet much more, but that I have held nothing back.  I've been as utterly devoted as any person could, I believe...

I don't know. To me, this is not a rock. And this is not an unchanging, uninvolved catalyst. But heat and pressure does produce beautiful diamonds, just as it produces black coal- from the same substance. What am I in the end? Maybe this...platinum and diamonds...     

Maybe this...

Maybe something else entirely, a chimera, a dream, a phantom, a muse, a lover...
that once belonged to someone.


  1. After reading this I just have to sit in silence. There is nothing I can say for I have no experienced enough of life yet and I have have so much to learn. All I can say is with a heavy heart that I am sorry I did not ask such things.

  2. Rocks are ever changing, they melt, they crack, they crumble and recombine...any of us could be worse than rocks. You are much, much better.