I think I’m finally on vacation. I slept in till 9 am. Woke to the smell of fresh coffee. Sweetie made it for me before taking himself off to the golf course. Drank it lounging on the patio, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the birdsong in the grapefruit tree. Called to wish my mother a happy 88th birthday. Baby Sister and I are taking her to the Land of the Midnight Sun in June, a place she’s always wanted to see. It feels good to be able to do that.
Amy showed up at 10 and began the laborious process of pounding my tight muscles into submission. Amy has been part of my Arizona holiday for the past several years. She’s a strong, no-nonsense woman who wrestles a portable massage table and roller chair up two flights of stairs the way I carry a purse and ultra-light laptop. Amy is a miracle worker. And she’s coming back on Monday! And Wednesday! And Friday! And…. By the time she’s done with me I expect to be at least an inch taller with my arms swinging freely by my side from shoulders that no longer hover next to my ears. Every year I try to convince Amy to come home with us but for some reason her husband and family aren’t keen.
Shortly after Amy worked her magic, Chris showed up with a shiny new microwave. He and his wife own the condo complex we rent each March. He’s looking for a new sofa to replace one that requires the strong arm of Sweetie to get me out. It really belongs in the Hotel California. (Once you’re in, you can never leave?) Chris also fixed the door lock. Measured for a new blind. The phone works. So does the internet. I’ll be heading to the pool soon. And we have plans to see a live show with Elvis impersonators this evening! Does life get any better?
I’m beginning to feel the rhythm.
It hasn’t been easy. We began our vacation six days ago. Started off with a high degree of frustration. Late flights, bumpy landings, overdue luggage, cold rainy days, stuff that didn’t work. Now Arizona is what it’s supposed to be. Warm temperatures, lots of sun, a pool that hovers between 88 and 90 degrees.
We are so fortunate to have five full weeks of doing nothing.
Well, almost nothing. Turns out there is some stuff that can’t wait till I’m home. Prepping for a new week-long course I’m teaching the week after I’m back. Selecting participants for two other courses so that the office can begin travel and work arrangements. Answering emails about stuff that needs quick answers.
Sweetie is much better at turning off his phone, ignoring the call of email and worrying about what’s going on while he’s away. Right now he’s out on the golf course, taking pleasure in whacking little white balls around, laughing with and at his friends, telling stories and generally reconnecting. I’m fairly certain there isn’t a single work-related thought passing through his otherwise smart, strategic, and infinitely curious mind. He’s already succeeded in shifting rhythms.
I, on the other hand, can’t keep stray thoughts of work at bay. I struggle with the notion of wasting time. Despite starting to slow down. Starting to accept that I don’t need a plan for the day or a schedule that needs checking. Today’s the first day that I’m not feeling the pressure of needing to be doing something usefu.l Or worthwhile. Or meaningful.
I’ve been thinking for some time that Sweetie and I need to find ways to slow down. We race from project to project, problem to problem, spend too much time on the road and work too many weekends. What to do, what to do.
You’d think it would be simple. Take on fewer projects. Stop taking responsibility for solving quite so many problems for others. Spend less time away. Stop working weekends. If only…
A few years ago, Baby Sister and I took Poppet to Montreal for her birthday. We went to an exhibition titled, “Speed”. It was all about the impact of speed on society, on how work and even cities were designed for maximum speed. It was driven by economics and bottom lines, with little to no attention to the impact on human beings. It was a stark and stunning exhibit.
Since then, it seems articles about the value of slowing down and how to do it are constantly catching my eye. Don’t know if it’s because more people are recognizing that the insanely busy North American lifestyle is stupid. Or I’m just more attuned to the idea. There’s even a Slow Movement, something that began in Italy in the 1990s. It was all about food then but has evolved into an effort to create a cultural shift. A shift in rhythms. And it feels like somebody’s trying to tell me something.
I keep reminding myself of my primary purpose for this holiday. Rest. Recharging. Clearing my head. Of course, to do that I had planned a busy schedule of yoga, tai chi and meditation. Scheduling places to go, people to see, things to do!
Meditation in particular was high on the agenda. Except I get bored. I can’t keep the stray thoughts away. Then I get annoyed because I can’t keep the stray thoughts away. Then I get annoyed because I’m annoyed because I can’t keep the stray thoughts away. Then I get annoyed because I can’t get it right! And can’t I do this meditation just a little faster so I can get on to something else?
The Dalai Lama says it’s okay to have the stray thoughts. Just acknowledge them and then gently move them aside. I’m thinking if I try really hard and practice every day, I just might succeed. Schedule it. Write it down. Make a commitment.
Instead I’ve decided to try to do, well, pretty much nothing. Except when the spirit moves me.
Tomorrow should be another good day. We have tickets to an evening music show by a group of Tibetan monks, masters of meditation and mindfulness.
When we purchased our tickets I watched as one of the monks worked on a sand mandala. I was struck by the patience the artistry required. There was a second mandala for visitors to try. For ten minutes I carefully applied coloured sand to block in shapes of an intricate design. It required stillness and concentration and shutting things out. A kind of meditation in itself. The monks’ mandala will take four days to complete.
We are thinking about going to a wine-tasting festival in the afternoon. Or maybe Sunday. Or maybe we’ll just froust around the pool with a good hat, number 90 sun block and a stash of trashy novels.
But only after I’ve checked the calendar I’ve put on the fridge, held up with a fridge magnet that says, “All I ask is that treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
- Carl Honore ” In Praise of Slowness (carlhonore.com)