Friday, February 4, 2011

Ice and quiet solitude

I love a lot of ice in all my cold drinks.  Love the sound of ice cubes tinkling in a glass.  Love a drink full of crushed ice that you can sip through a straw.  Love that kind of "hotel"  ice with the hole in the middle that you can stick on the end of your tongue.   Don't like an inch+ of ice on the roads and coating all my plants in the garden!  Yes, we woke up to temperatures in the 20's and lots of ice everywhere.  In Houston!  Imagine!  I heard on the news tonight that there were more than 900 accidents today, two of which had fatalities.   I got off easy in that I got to work with only a minimal amount of trouble, the worst of which was a small slip getting down my back steps.

Unfortunately today I was supposed to travel to Miami Beach for a conference with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN).  I should be looking at something like this:
Instead I am home, wondering what to do with the weekend.  My flight was canceled yesterday before we even had a flake of snow or the tiniest piece of ice.  I could not get re-booked in time for the conference so I opted to stay home.

Tom is away at a school in UT until April so the weekend looms ahead with nothing much to fill it up. I am trying to think of the unexpected time at home as a gift.  I know there are many people who have children who have to do the soccer games-birthday party-play date routine and would long for two days of nothing.  I struggle with not having "plans."  Being single (with the boyfriend away) means unless I make a conscious effort to meet up with someone, I am left alone.  I have had many weekends where I had an unplanned silent retreat, not speaking a word all weekend unless I spoke to the clerk at the grocery store or called my mom.  A single friend once told me that the only thing he said out loud all weekend was "tall Americano please."  I know the feeling.  That is often the single life.

What is it that can turn time alone into a good thing, rather than a lonely 48 hours?  I have yet to figure that out, except I know it all has to do with attitude and perspective.  I think to truly take care of oneself and to live a full life you should be really comfortable being alone.  To have a silent retreat, not lost in mindless TV but a time for introspection.  A time to clean out not only a closet but the crevices in your mind, where you can harbor resentment, sadness, anger...any number of unexpressed emotions.  While you cook a soothing meal, work on a needlepoint or other craft project, slowly iron a stack of clothes, you can evaluate, speculate, plan....In this hectic society where we rush to work, wait an hour for a table at a popular restaurant, drive through parking lots looking for a place to leave your car so you can finish errands or buy more things, and get bombarded with advertisements everywhere you look (even on the back of the door in a bathroom stall!), it is easy to miss out on just being.  When are we supposed to find the time to just sit still and listen?  The Buddha says "All that we are is the result of what we have thought."   Yet many of us never take time to quiet the racing mind.  It jumps from one thing to the next, a constant rushing stream of shoulds, and have-to's and lists of things to do, people to call, bills to pay.  Is that who we are?

Alexandra Stoddard writes in her book Gracious Living in a New World: "When we slow down we have a chance to enjoy the experience of living rather than trying to race the clock. We need to take off our watches periodically and spend a day, or even a part of a day, with absolutely nothing to do on our agenda.  Only then can we truly follow our spirit and be spontaneous....We have a horror of having nothing to do, so we eagerly take up doing more only to discover that we're too rushed to enjoy doing anything.  In this frenzy we may often have a sense that life is passing us by and we will never get what we are looking for. In our hearts I think we know that by rushing and overproducing we are running away from any real hope of happiness.  The truth is that nowhere in our lives in there a richer potential for gracious living that in the present moment."

So this weekend I will try to bask in the solitude.  I hope that you all find the same quiet stillness.

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