Saturday, October 24, 2009
When women my age get together, it's inevitable. The conversation will eventually gravitate toward bodily functions - in particular night sweats. Sometimes it's almost competitive: who's got the worst case of them?
But the thing is, they're not really that bad when you think about it. Your husband gives you a whole lot more room in bed, and you can turn down the thermostat in the winter and save on those harsh energy bills, and your cat will get a bonus salt supplement when she licks your arm in the morning, and you eliminate way more toxins in one night than in a week's worth of working out, and, because you're awake most of the night, you're tuned into the comings and goings of your teenagers and other strangers all night long.
As long as there aren't too many of us living north of the 45th parallel at any one point in time, thereby avoiding any adverse impact on polar bear habitat and floods of biblical proportions, it can really be pretty cool to be so hot.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I've been looking for peace.
For years, I thought peace was an environmental condition, like clear skies and quiet rooms, and I figured that living in a household with a husband and three rambunctious boys meant that peace was way beyond my reach. I found lots of other things: smashed Cheerios, dirty underwear, ABC gum, and other stuff in all kinds of dark, dusty places, but I never found one scrap of peace.
More recently, probably because I keep getting older, I've decided to look for inner peace. But it, too, is a slippery and elusive sort of beast. It disguises itself as dreams and ambitions and some form of spirituality, and I find myself running off in one direction or another, thinking I'm chasing peace...but then discovering the path I'm on has steered me off course from what I'm most in search of.
But then peace drops little hints along the way like ET and his Reese's pieces. Like reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love which was interminably long but started niggling at me anyway about smiling meditation. Or a nugget from a woman in one of my workshops who shared a quote from Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor's book Traveling with Pomegranites, about how the soul represents "the deepest impulse [of the psyche] to create wholeness." And a comment from a woman I interviewed today, in which she distinguished between peace of mind and peace of heart.
I know all sorts of people who are looking for wholeness and peace through diet and exercise and religion and acupuncture. And some who look for peace in their big paychecks and houses. Some find peace when their kids make the honor roll or win college scholarships. Some define peace as resting at the end of the day with a clean house and an extra gallon of milk in the fridge. Some think peace means having a loving family and friends, or giving back to the community. Some would say God's love is peace.
All that's good stuff, don't get me wrong. But something's still missing. None of those qualify as peace, at least for me. Peace, I've come to think, is that feeling on the inside, that feeling of absolute wholeness in the mind, and yes also in the heart, but maybe most of all in the gut, where one no longer needs to understand anything but at the same time understands everything, at least everything that matters, which as it turns out is quite simple. So simple that kids get it, and dogs get it, but is usually too hard for us grownups to get. What matters, and therefore what opens us up to peace, is pure, unselfishish love.
That is peace. Love. Love is peace.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I spend a lot of time asking why.
Why does my cat act the way she does?
Why do my kids do what they do?
Why can't I stop doing the things I shouldn't?
People tell me to stop asking. It doesn't matter why, they say. What matters is what comes next. Focus on the future, they say.
I get that. No sense dwelling in the past, for sure. But there are some very good reasons to ask why.
One is sheer curiousity about the world. If you stop wondering, then either you've ascended to a divine omnisicient state of being, or you've shriveled into vegetative dormancy. What's wrong with wondering what goes on in the mind of a feline behind those dilated pupils?
Another reason is more of a scientific, theory of causality, sort of thing. A get-your-head-out-of-the-sand sort of thing. If you understand what caused a problem in the past you might be able to avoid the recurrence. In other words, what parenting mistakes did I make with Number One that I can avoid or rectify with Numbers Two and Three?
And third, asking why is part of the process of retelling your story and ultimately having a deeper self-understanding. Reinekke Lengelle and Frans Meijers' article in the June 2009 edition of Journal of Poetry Therapy suggests four cognitive stages in retelling your story: sensing, sifting, focusing, and understanding. I like this.
I sense there are several reasons for choices I make or reactions I have. By asking why, I begin to sift through the layers of reasons until I find one that strikes a chord. I focus on that, spend some time with it, and eventually understand better why I made the choice I did. Why I lashed out at a loved one. Why I ate all that popcorn. Why I keep avoiding the novel I am supposedly writing.
Does understanding then lead to changed behavior? Maybe, maybe not. Does it lead to a heightened state of inner peace? I believe that sometimes it does.
Or does it drive you deeper into the pit of insanity? In other words, does asking why heal the wound or does it actually intensify the pain? I guess it could go either way.
And why, I wonder, might that be?
PS (One more why: why I can't get this blogpost to show breaks between my paragraphs?)