I dropped the paring knife before hitting rag doll pose in the kitchen. Noise of this and that banged on as my mind raced.
Fear, disappointment, and anxieties have a tendency to amp me. And every seven years I go through this cycle of a volcano-like eruption of self-doubt and self-criticism.
In years past I would have visited a therapist for a check-in/check-up. However, the answer has always been the same: the answer is already within you. This time I decided to save money and work it out with techniques of my own devising.
While still in rag doll pose the sunlight created a bokeh effect inside my eyelids. I left the countertop littered with my kids’ school lunch ingredients—cinnamon, chia seed pudding, coconut, agave, and banana slices—to find inner silence, as if to say: Mommy has left the universe. Be back in five minutes.
The good yogis of this world can punch out quiet meditation while sitting on a bench, cushion, Burmese position, and any variation of lotus. I like the practice of meditation in theory but am terrible at sitting and pretending to be at peace. Silvers of vast consciousness, those split seconds when I can drop into an abysmal openness, come when I least expect it: zoning out while cleaning dishes or gazing at a shaft of light across the meadow’s long grasses.
Multitasking and scheduling a family’s life haven’t mixed so well with sitting and meditating for me at this stage of my life, even when I rise before dawn. To arrest normalcy, I needed to flounder with intention. The intention was to find a quieter mental space, so elusive even though I live in a rural pine forest overlooking the Cascade Range.
First, I stopped reaching for the in-ear headphones. Music is the ultimate escapist act. Being in the world—to observe, to partake, and to hear yourself—is easily overcome by a bombardment of beats, rhythms, and lyrics. When I did this small act, the magic began to present itself.
I went to the athletic club six hours earlier than usual sans headphones. I slowed down the Hindu push-ups and worked through the resistance of each exercise and its sets. While lifting weights I heard an internal whisper about why my neck had been giving me troubles for weeks. I’d been tensing my neck muscles to a permanent clinch on the overhead cable triceps’ extension instead of releasing to resistance. With each lift and exhale the ball of tension in my neck chipped away. If only I had started doing this weeks earlier and I’d have saved my kidneys from downing a bottle of Advil.
The gym’s room energy changed, too. The strapping trainer led his client’s session coated in optimism and grace. Three men stopped their own separate workouts to spot an elderly man trying to master stepping on a Bosu ball. By mid-morning I went for a three-mile walk on a gravel road not in sneakers but in flip-flops. I tossed around a yogi friend’s advice regarding my restless mind: “Just look at it. Don’t get all wound up about it.” Every few feet I stopped and picked out the rocks lodged between shoe and skin. Rocks are a great resource for putting you in your place. More presence awakened.
At lunchtime, I decided I needed to eat in company. So I went to my daughter’s school and bought hot lunch. My daughter ate her homemade vegan lunch. I chose the school’s salad bar (offered every day!) and sautéed diced sweet potatoes. Little busy bodies scuttled around my hips and looked at me with great interest. Gratitude swirled in my chest for being a mother. A brief moment of self-love resulted. I kissed my daughter’s forehead. Hugged other children. Smiled at ones I didn’t know. Heard their giggles and stories. They murmured about Chinese class had been moved before library time. Small changes offered big stirrings.
Before picking up my children from school I roamed the vintage store for inspiration. The touch of the old and a smell of its past life carried me into a temperate zone of zest and readiness to revitalize creative projects. The trip reminded me that creativity is a direct line to your authentic spirit and purpose. Om shanti shanti.
After snacks, my daughter’s ukulele lesson, dinner, and dishes, I sat down with her. “Teach me to play the uke,” I asked.
Mirroring her teacher’s compassionate voice and patient spirit, my seven year old arranged my fingers around frets and advised on strumming. Soon my son, her brother, our resident Woody Guthrie, joined us to play and sing “This Land Is Your Land.” We played past their bedtime, passing the ukulele back and forth, as if sharing a fancy dessert with one fork.
After their tuck-in rituals I stepped outside on the deck, swayed in the hammock under the silhouetted pines to practice chords. Our old dog sat nearby. From the chords came my own rhythm. Serenading myself did not have to sound that good when it was the nightcap to finding a thimble of bliss. The stars didn’t judge, right?
More personal essays in Voices: The Road Back – A Story of Recovery
Photo: Tricia Louvar