Joy over Drudgery

The three of us stared at the idling bus like zombies.

We’d managed to get our children onto it in time, but that – and being upright – were about our only accomplishments this morning.

One didn’t feel well.  One was loopy from the stress of final exams.  I was feeling the effects of a 4:45 wake-up call from my churning stomach.

My husband had already told me to take a nap given my chipper demeanor, but seeing that I wasn’t the only mother not feeling it this morning made me feel a little better.

We all have our reasons, right?

We all walk around on any given day with shit in our eyes, chips on our shoulders, hearts on our sleeves.  The stench of puke in our nostrils.  The laundry pile that threatens to overtake our youngest.  The dirty dishes that make any amount of counter space seem minuscule.  The pile of outgoing Thanksgiving decorations next to the tote of incoming Christmas decorations.

Our worries, our fears, our subconscious thoughts that come out in biting words and bouts of disconnectedness.

We’re all too freaking busy.

And why?

Could we do with less stuff?  Own less clothing?  Schedule less things?

All those must-dos are not things we must have to live – at least not enjoyably.

I think in this season of quiet pinpricks of light amidst a world of darkness, it’s time to take stock of what we really value in our lives – and make time for those people, traditions, ways of being.  We must fan the flames of our hearts and exude joy among the drudgery.

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And if you’ve got any tips on how to do that, let me know 😉

Self-Contained

The days are chock full
but I’m not doing anything.

The pages of the calendar fly by
and yet I’m still waiting.

I’m floating, dragging
running, sleepwalking

There is gratitude
peace
joy

I’ve only to reach out my hand and touch it

But I’m paralyzed.

Ain’t Got Time to Die

Hello, my name is Jennifer.  And I have a problem with mindfulness.

 

In the quest to be mindful, I’m consumed by it.  I’m so busy thinking about it, I don’t think I can achieve it.  Two days ago, I wrote about the miniscule moments that eat up our day; how we don’t live because we’re completing chores and tasks that never end, but we keep trying to complete them anyway.  True.  But people like me never set boundaries, a point when reached, regardless of completion or ‘im’, I stop and begin to relax, enjoy.

 

Julie Metz also offered me another perspective in her book, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

“Henry’s [Metz’ husband] idea of a perfect day was an action-packed race from waking to sleeping.  He was afraid of the tedium of everyday life, with its chores and routines.  Every real day, however, includes a portion of boredom.

I have struggled to resolve my own boredom through frantic mental activity or shoe shopping.  In rare, blessed moments, I have understood that, with patience, boredom can lead to stillness and calm.  And in calm, I can experience a meditation where I connect with my true self.  I can greet myself with kindness, before I return to my work, parenting, and chores.  These uncharted moments, whenever they happen, are as close as I have come to heaven.

Henry fought off every meeting with his true self, with all its flaws, contradictions, and talents.”

 

Am I, by not embracing the boredom and tedium, not meeting with my own true self?  By mocking the replacing of the toilet paper roll, et al, am I missing out on whole chunks of my life?  Mini-mental vacations I can take to realize, wonder, and reflect?

 

I can’t tell you the last time I was bored – unless you count depressive states when nothing is appealing.  I often joke that I’d love to be bored, to have the opportunity to do nothing.  Really, we can’t do something with our lives unless with take time to do nothing periodically. Am I physically and mentally capable of that?

 

The refrain of a song I heard long ago fills my head as I write this [My subconscious speaking or another sign that I can’t focus on one thing at a time ;-)] –  “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” a Negro Spiritual I first heard sung by Terras Irradiant, a Christian acapella group from Amherst College.

 

Lord, I keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Keep so busy praisin’ my Jesus

Ain’t got time to die.

 

I am so busy, but I think I’m filling my time with the wrong sorts of things.  Or at least the balance is off.  Focusing on the spiritual would make the crazy press of days fall away or at least lessen.  The hectic pace would slacken, or wouldn’t bother me so much with moments of mindfulness to bring me back to center.  My center as it relates to the greater world around me, my place in this great sweep of time and humanity called life.

 

How’s that for some high falutin’ thinking?

 

Now enough thinking, just be.

 

(Think I can follow my own advice!?)

 

(Don’t answer that!)

 

Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Too Much Shit to Do

That odd sense of weightlessness, of floating adrift; the feeling that something important, some thought or memory, appointment or task, is there, but hovering somewhere on the periphery, just out of grasp.  Is there something I forgot to do, or should be doing right now?  Some pertinent task that needs to be done or the world as I know it will burst apart from the center outwards?

That was my feeling as I wandered around my garden this evening.

Yes, I needed to put those tomato and cucumber plants I’d bought in the ground before they withered up and died.  Yes, I needed to pull the damned crabgrass out of the ground before it choked all the plants that were supposed to be there.

But wasn’t there something else I should be doing?  Something on that mile-long to-do list I’d been working off for the last two weeks or so?

The end goal in my house lately has been to get said house up on the market.  I had two weeks to do all the things I’d let slide over the last few years, the things that don’t have a fighting chance of ending up on the priority list when you have small children.  Scraping the tiny stray hairs off the bottom of the medicine cabinet.  Ridding the wood in the dining room of dried milk droplets once and for all.  Magic eraser-ing the bejeezus out of my living room walls.

The phone rang, books went unread, writing went undone.

And after one last marathon night stretching into the wee hours of the next morning, my husband and I somehow had the house ready for the real estate agent to take photographs and post the listing.  I took that afternoon and evening to revel in my newfound freedom.  Yeah, the basement could still stand some purging, the garage some cleaning, but for now, we’d earned a respite.

Until the next day.  So used to being on the treadmill (or hamster wheel is more like it), my anxious mind felt like there was something I was missing.  For days on end, everywhere I looked, everything I touched, begged to be fixed, cleaned, put away.  It felt dangerous to shut that off.  Though I know I couldn’t operate at that level much longer.  The systems were breaking down.  Exhaustion – mentally and physically.  Blood-shot eyes.  Cranky.  Irritable.  Snappy.  Emotional (or is that just every time I see the ‘for sale’ sign out front?).

And I suppose that’s the point.  When I get to the point where I feel like I’m at the center of a system – objects, ideas, responsibilities swirling around me in a swiftly moving orbit – it’s time to step back before the whole thing collapses in on itself.  Or I end up in the nuthouse with a nervous breakdown.  Which reminds me of another thing that would help me keep perspective, too.  So what if I miss one of those things that seems supremely important?  Would the world end?  Would I end up checking out?  No and no.  The world doesn’t revolve around me and I can’t possibly control it all.

But I can help those tomato and cucumber plants from kicking the bucket – and if the squirrels don’t get a hold of them, end up with some tasty produce at the end of it.  Digging in the dirt always grounds me (no pun intended).  There’s something soothing about the quiet, the repetitive nature of digging, weeding, deadheading.

Maybe if I’m that present in all I do, I won’t see the ghosts of to-do lists past floating in my periphery.

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