Beginner's Heart

tea & macarons I should be working on the presentation I’m giving in…oh, 3 hours. 🙂 I should be figuring out what to fix for dinner before I go. I should… I should.

Instead, tea break.

A cup of good ol’ house tea — Panyang Congou from Harney’s, And plain vanilla macarons from the Whole Foods bakery. Bliss.

And a lovely distraction from the mouse the cat released into the kitchen (now residing in mouse heaven (the pantry! 🙁 ). Or my husband’s ankle. Or any of the things that pile up in everyday living.

via google

via google

Sometimes, you just need to stop and breathe. Life feels complicated, and most of us don’t — despite the fact that we know better! — meditate daily. Or even regularly. But everyday life can have rituals, which are a kind of contemplative practice. I don’t know what I’d do w/out the soothing rituals of my day-to-day life. Even making the bed (but not changing it!) can be a kind of making peace.

So —  take a break. Sit down, inhale deeply, and have a looong stretch. A cup of tea wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. And the cookies are just what this doctor ordered.  Feed your beginner’s heart a healthy dose of peace & quiet.

photo the author's

photo the author’s

I am NOT good at the boredom of keeping healthy. I blew my knees running. My joint replacement put paid to treadmilling. I hate my recumbent bike (and no, I don’t know why, except that it’s boring). So cardio is HARD.

But despite my whining about it, I actually quite enjoy much of technology (well, except when it doesn’t work, obviously!).

So a Fitbit seemed a way to get me back on track w/ walking and keeping a food log. (I’m trying to frame the whole logging food as a new journal, and/or a new kind of mindfulness… 😉 ).

The Fitbit came Saturday, and I’ve spent the past couple of days playing with it, trying to figure out how to best work it in to my everyday activities. My younger son says it’s all part of the new ‘Quantified Body’ movement. Wow! I’m on trend!

via google

via google

For me, it’s just a way to make work feel more like play, a strategy I’ve learned to employ when I don’t want to do something. So, I have a new toy! And I’ve logged my food for two days now! Which was always a huge pain when I tried it before.

Watching my beloved struggle just to get around on his knee scooter has made me painfully aware that we are aging. It’s a topic I successfully avoid considering most of the time. But here it is, sitting down at the table w/ me for meals. I probably should pay attention to what it has to say.

One of the best things about being a writer — especially a poet — is that I think metaphorically. This means (as my beloved will attest) that sometimes my analogies are… well, off the wall. At least to others. And sometimes I realise things new & fresh that other folks got years ago.

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via google

Like the recent clip on the spiralling solar system. I was mesmerised, to see the sun pulling that beautiful chain of planets in its wake, into the darkness of the galaxy. WOW! Until my husband said, well, yeah. That’s how it works. HELLO! Did I not just say I JUST GOT IT? Sigh…

The point to this is that I’m reframing aging. It’s  hard for any of us to look in the mirror, and not see who we think we still are. It feels like… well, un petit morte, a small death. Not fun, in other words.

red leaf

via google

Instead? I’m thinking… autumn. Possibly my favourite season, as the sun drops on the horizon, flooding the sky w/ that honey light. And the trees, their leaves aging, put on this incredible art show. Scarlet, incandescent chartreuse, vivid saffron and even purple. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m heading in to autumn, and that’s somehow more okay.

With the help of gadgets to play with (technology!), and my own nature (metaphor lover & poet), and some creative positivity, I can make this new journey. And even get healthier as I go. That’s pretty cool beginner’s heart, I figure.

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via google

We’re big on adventures in my family. My beloved enlisted in the Marines during Việt Nam because he wanted to see what it was like. (My mother-in-law — loopy about many things — STILL goes ballistic if you mention this.)

We left for Algiers a week after marrying. Went to Saudi Arabia when my elder son was 7 months old. And my own mother followed my peripatetic father to the Philippines, to Việt Nam, to Thailand. That’s just what we do — travel.

So it came as no surprise when my younger son told us he’d decided to take time from work — a work sabbatical, of sorts, although he will work remote part-time — to travel. All of this makes his departure today no easier.

Part of being a mother is love. But love is kind of like fire: it can burn even as it warms you. And motherlove — that subject of lullaby and art — is a blaze of a fire. I’d like to pretend that I have my motherlove under control, managed, as it were. But I really don’t.

I love my sons, and my DIL, and the nieces & nephews that feel half my own, fiercely. Also tenderly, and w/ a sense of humour, quite often. But not when my beloved younger son is  going on a trip where I won’t see him for months. Maybe even a year or more…image

We’re also not the family who doesn’t see each other. Holidays — at least Yule, as my younger son would call it — are spent together. By choice, not fiat. 🙂 I am fortunate to be part of a family that likes each other.

Luckily, both my sons are well aware of my besottedness. Noah – -the younger, heading off to Sweden & Goa & Thailand, oh my! — test ran our Skype connection yesterday — He was wearing this same Tshirt (see? who but a mom would even NOTICE??).

My elder son, Nathan, tries hard, too, to find time in a schedule that’s as crazy as his father’s was. As crazy as mine was during grad school. But he still makes time. Time to FaceTime me w/ my adorable grandson. Time to remind me we’re trying to meditate parallel, if not actually together.

It’s just not the same as living within hollering distance (I love that old Southernism!). But when your own life is full of adventures still happening (Yellowstone!), you have to anticipate that the once-ducklings will follow their own compasses. To the west coast, to the east coast. To Sweden & Goa and parts unknown.

And that’s GREAT. But it’s a long way home. Which is the burn part of that fire…..

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via google

I believe in signs. I believe that the universe — some might say god, I probably wouldn’t 🙂 — talks to you.

Where I last worked FT, the joke on the 4th floor (where I officed) was Britton believes the universe talks to you. And I do. But you have to pay attention, and listen.

So when I’m pretty stressed, and my online horoscope — which I don’t check all the time, not even every week — says:

There are some deep, messy, beautiful mysteries you need to talk about. At least for now, the only listener capable of drawing them out of you in the proper spirit might be a compassionate inanimate object that won’t judge you or interrupt you. (Freewill Astrology)

breathe journal

journal by the author

I pay attention. 🙂 And I try to figure out what my inanimate confidante might be.

Yesterday it was a mug of tea. Today? It might be a sketch book, or the Miles Davis I put on Spotify. But more likely? It’s a screen, a blank page, a sketch book. It’s something I can write or draw or even paste. It’s a creative moment alone, time to figure out what I think through writing about it. Time to be.

I keep telling folks I’m an introvert who likes people, but they don’t seem to believe me. So here it is again, for others who may not have self-diagnosed ( 🙂 ): I need PILES of down time. Time to putter w/ my chores — I don’t do well when I’m hurried. Time to watch the birds fluttering around the various feeders. Time just to breathe, as the journal I made reminds me.

I am happiest when there is nothing on my calendar. Really. I’m okay teaching — that feeds me. And the occasional meeting to help a project I believe in? I can do that, too. But days of things expected of me, and I shrivel. Hence the need of an inanimate confidante, I guess.

So I’m going to cruise the house and yard, allowing a laxer meaning of ‘inanimate’ to include the trees I love, the roses and the various plants in the walled garden. And maybe a journal, too.

Every beginner’s heart needs a confidante. Inanimate has real advantages, especially if it feeds your creativity. I recommend it — it always heals what ails me.


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