My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.

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I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes ┬áby, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.

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Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

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OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…

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buddha standard time

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I’ve been in Eastern Standard Time most of the last 10 months, except for one brief interlude back to Belgium (Central European Time) last August. Today I’m in Boston, and we had to set the clocks 1 hour ahead, and as usual, I got confused, until Joanie told me that we always Fall Back before we can Spring Forward. Nice, but who knows why we do that anyway?

Time has been weighing on me regardless, and I have been wondering how to get back into the elusive zone of Peaceful Presence. It’s not a specific place on earth, and it can be found everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes it seems to just come, and takes me by surprise, but more often it seems to go, leaving me with thoughts of the burdensome past or a worrisome future. Either way, my time, though I know it’s precious, often feels oppressive, and I feel like I’m wasting it, and running from place to place doesn’t necessarily help.

So, what do I do? Asking what’s wrong with me might not really be the right question. It’s normal that I’d be feeling less than happy about my life, when marriage hasn’t been working out very well and church hasn’t either. At 63, shouldn’t we have built something more?

While washing the linens on my daughter’s bed I spied a basket full of books on the floor. Books always find me when I need them. The Canon~ A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier. Sounds interesting. Maybe later. Life in a Shell ~ A Physiologist’s View of a Turtle, by Donald Jackson. Must be interesting for Emilie. Oh, what’s this blue book here… buddha standard time~ awakening to the infinite possibilities of now, by my old friend Lama Surya Das. He’s not old, he’s just been helping me for so long. That was the one! I picked it up and carried it out into the kitchen where Felix was meowing at the door. He’s an outdoor cat, or used to be, and he always wants to go out. I feel sorry for him. Somehow I know the feeling. Being stuck inside can feel like being in a tomb. At least it does for me. It may be warm, but there’s no life around. Everything is man-made. Everything seems dead. And I always eat too much.

I followed him down the stairs, and outside. The sun was momentarily blinding. Wow!! Felix hesitated on the doorsill, and stepped gingerly down onto the sidewalk outside the door. It was wet in places. The sun has been melting the snow all day today. Peering closely at the edge of the drift and how it’s a few centimeters from the ground, I wondered if glaciers melt in the same way. I’m sure they do. Drops of water were falling here and there from the roof above. In front of us, a few blades of last fall’s grass were showing along the edge of the brick path. Felix saw them, and bent down to nibble. I thought he would. Cats like grass, especially if they have something wrong with their digestion. He threw up yesterday morning, and I had it on my list to go find him a cat grass plant to eat. I wonder if this is the right kind of grass. Is it the chlorophyll that attracts them? Would any green grass work? In any case, he likes it.

Outside, it’s a different world. Everything is alive. The sun shining, the snow melting, birds chirping, and people moving around in their cars on the street. And that’s just the big stuff. Even the air is alive. Everything is in motion. My heart feels like it just got home, and my body and mind just got freed.

I opened the lawn chair leaning up against the house, chuckling about how I can enjoy the sun no matter where I am, and opened up the book. Felix jumped into my lap, and I felt a rush of love. Any cat that voluntarily sits on my lap gets millions of points with me. I told him so while I hugged him close. Felix doesn’t seem to purr, or show much emotion, but I had the feeling that I had won a million points with him too, just by taking him out.
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I noticed that as soon as we stepped out of the house, my spirit lifted. Like a wilted flower that gets a drink. I think Felix’s did as well. He looked like a different cat to me, moving slowly and cautiously along the edge of a 2 foot high drift, ears catching every tiny sound, body completely focused and alert. Now that looks more like a cat. Yes, and I feel more like a human too. Ahhh. The sun is warm, the air is cool, and there’s something about being surrounded by all this living stuff that’s really exhilarating. It’s waking us both up.

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I opened the book.

“Awaken to Natural Time,” it said. Exactly!
“Rediscover the multiple cycles of growth, change and decay in the natural world around you. Learn a mini-meditation or breath break to refresh yourself.”

I closed my eyes, and thought, yes, that’s exactly right. I’m outside, where the natural cycles of life are going on all around, right here outside my door. It’s all doing what it’s supposed to do. I took a breath, and felt time slow down. I’m right here, right now. The world is here with me. I don’t have to rush anywhere to catch up. Past problems are gone, future worries don’t matter. Time seems to have disappeared.

I felt the breath on my nostrils. I’m alive, thank you! This is buddha standard time.