I love to write, but it can create a false impression on the reader. My writings can suggest a calmer and more ordered internal state than really exists. Similarly, as I don’t break down in tears or wail at the universe in very obvious ways, I seem to have it altogether; I don’t know how many times I’ve been told I’m very Zen, mature, sage-like, or some other such thing. I’m not aiming to be a saint; you can blame my paternal grandmother; she was never a fan of letting folks see you sweat. Still, I’m just as human as the next woman, so my internal life is as myopic, chaotic, and topsy-turvy as anyone else’s. I’m a work in progress, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t get down or I can’t feel trapped. However, just as I’m liable to wonder what lies beyond the horizon when I’m happy, I also tend to do the same when I’m sad. Thus, you don’t tend to see me down for long; my wandering spirit simply can’t abide it.
I mentioned in last week’s post that life has not been a bed of roses of late. Even my sister remarked that she felt like she had to have her ducks in order whenever I came home for fear that I would give her the evil judging eye. I admit I have been guilty of entering the apartment like some 1950s hubby, expecting everything to be pristine just because I am slaving away at some 9-5 throwback. But my sister’s comments were a wake-up call; I have no desire to rob her of her day and her own struggles, to even suggest that I have it harder simply because I leave the house! Such thinking is for Neanderthals. I think Betty Friedan might have tackled that in The Feminine Mystique. Can you believe I’ve never read that book? Gotta get that done!
Anyway, in the interest of being fair and not a self-righteous bitch, I decided to practice that oft-repeated advice of sages like the Buddha and Christ: being mindful, staying present. Rather than wishing I was in Madrid watching Federer get back his legs on clay, I stayed focused on the tasks at hand each day. I actively sought out and maintained joyful moments instead of longing for what is not present. The initial upswing is that I was extremely efficient and effective at work. I also felt available to learn and uncovered some new knowledge that might come in handy someday or not! A few mornings ago I woke up with a thought reverberating in my brain: the present is my life, not my past nor my future, but these moments strung together into minutes, hours, days, months and years. Shifting my focus to the now rather than some imagined brighter future didn’t alleviate my wish or desire to be in Madrid but it certainly helped me to enjoy what I was doing, which in turn made me feel strangely content. So, for the last few mornings, I have woken up without an alarm clock and have been watching the Tennis Channel’s coverage of the Madrid tourney while snuggled up in my cozy bed (made even cozier when I read live reports of how cold and drafty the Madrid stadiums were in person!)
I thought it would be useful practice to learn how to be more mindful and present when my life circumstances are less than ideal, thereby reaping the benefits when this moment shifts into a more pleasing time. Yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that learning how to accept and even revel in the moment to moment of life may bear more fruit than I could have conceived.
Look what I was reminded of this week –
Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.It’s had tacks in it,And splinters,And boards torn up,And places with no carpet on the floor—Bare.But all the timeI’se been a-climbin’ on,And reachin’ landin’s,And turnin’ corners,And sometimes goin’ in the darkWhere there ain’t been no light.So, boy, don’t you turn back.Don’t you set down on the steps.‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.Don’t you fall now—For I’se still goin’, honey,I’se still climbin’,And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.Langston Hughes