Have I been Left Behind by Life?

Photo: Left Behind 1Do you ever feel like the speed of life is just a passing blur, and you’re still sitting on the hall bench where everybody and everything left you? I don’t, often, but when the schedule and events get just a hair crazier than usual, it can happen. When I was in my spouse’s school office yesterday, filing last semester’s leftovers and collecting the recycling and tidying up the various heaps and stacks no longer in use, I went to take the recycling basket down the hall and saw a lone object propped up on the bench near his door, unclaimed and not in the hands of whoever brought it there anymore.Photo: Left Behind 2

Well, of course. I can’t say whether the person who’d been reading it was actually raptured away or some happy prankster just had a moment of hipster meta-irony, but either way, I felt a certain kinship with the piece of flotsam lying there thus disconnected, for just a second. Then, naturally, I collected my thoughts and the escaped, trailing pieces of recyclable paperwork, hitched up my pants, and went along my way to finish the task, and that was that. Life goes on, yes, but mostly (when it matters) I just catch my breath and catch up with it again. It may not be as drama-filled as being raptured off to heaven, but it’s good enough for me.

Holding My Breath

When things get crazy, it’s time to stop. I’ve said it many times before, and I will surely have endless occasions to say it again, but more important is that I do it.

Being immobilized by the lack of internet access for a while is perhaps a good start, but given the current schedule of overlapping work, travel, home relocation tasks, and a fair number of surprise interjections, I know that I will need to take every little momentary jot of rest and refreshment I can get. It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’ve just sat down after the evening’s part of the work that started in earnest about 12 hours ago. I know that there will be longer days ahead, many of them. I know that other people do intensely hard work for much longer days on a regular basis, and for less reward. And I also know my own limits.

My brain is abuzz, my muscles flagging, and most of all, I am reduced to a fuzzy and quite unfocused state that prevents much more productive work before bedtime. Since there’s an appraiser coming to inspect the house at 8 tomorrow morning (and you all know full well that I am among the least morning-friendly of creatures), I know it’s time to accept the state of the house as tidy and dolled up enough for his or her inspection—or else. Can’t make Neuschwanstein out of El Rancho Ordinario, nor should I. False advertising aside, it’s not the right character for a simple and happy family home. (Ask Mad Ludwig’s ghost, if you like.) So I’ll get up in the morning, however reluctantly, and get out of the inspector’s way, believing I’ve done as much as I can and should, and I’ll let the results of the day’s efforts speak for themselves. And then come back and undo all of them for the next inspection, the arrival of the estate sale manager at 10 a.m.

But right now, I am preparing my mind and body for as restful a night as I can conjure, and it begins, yes, ironically enough, it starts with stopping. Letting go of all the undone, poorly done, or yet-to-be-done stuff and silencing my mind. Letting myself drift toward peace and calm as though I’d dived into deep, clear, soothing seas and the water buoys me and shuts out the visual and voluble wildness of the day just past and those yet to come. I’ll sing myself to sleep with a little whale song, perhaps, but mostly, I will gladly let go of the need to rant and pant and wrestle, and I will return to life as refreshed as if I had a good long soar through the depths, if I can manage it, because that will make the next day’s work survivable in so many more ways.Photo: It's Not a Fluke

Lounging Around

There’s nothing like a long stretch with a too-busy schedule to remind me how important it is to slow down and do some meaningful Nothing once in a while, even if it makes me miss one or two seemingly crucial other things. Every time I remember to take that kind of break, I notice that no matter how much I think I was letting go of, leaving undone, and missing out on doing, the world has not once ceased to turn. Civilization has not only not ended while I was ‘off duty’ in a moment of relaxation, but has very likely been somewhat improved by having a little break from my ignorant interference in its progress.
Photo: Laid Back Loveliness

Sometimes it’s really useful to deliberately put my head in the clouds. Or to stare at the floor, for that matter. When I stop gazing exclusively at the stack of paperwork in front of me, thinking only of the next three items on my to-do list, or listening merely to the rattling of the voices on TV, telephone and in email correspondence that are all demanding my attention, I can notice that I’m walking across incredibly worn but still vibrant Majorcan tile in a room full of paneled walls and acres of ancestral portrait paintings, and that’s just en route to some other thing entirely. I might get to that Other Thing and find that it’s only a small courtyard, but one full of sunlight split into dazzling rays by a fretwork of wrought iron artistry that may very well have been behind deadline in its production because the artisan thought it was more important the work be done well and beautifully than that it arrive on time.
Photo: A Gathering Place

Why do we persist in making little things mean so little when they can make a great change in our perspective? Don’t we fuss enough when we think the universe is treating us so neglectfully and with such unwarranted disdain? I think it’s only fair that if I want to be treated with any sort of respect by the universe, perhaps I ought to give it some of the same attention and admiration as well. Far better than wasting my precious life resources on endless effortful chores that will only wait for my return anyway, is to spend a bit of that time instead on admiring the goodness of a threadbare Turkish rug and relishing the thrum of steady conversation about unimportant yet interesting details of the day’s quiet events, talk between real people who stand on that very same carpet at the very same moment and, amazingly enough, listen when I reply.

Low Energy? Who, Me?

photoNo no no no, not really. It’s just old age. Just kidding! It’s a too-busy schedule. Well, maybe it’s inefficiency. Or….

The truth is, it’s probably all of the above. Time, life and busyness always conspire to make me think I’m losing ground. I get those little spurts of activity from time to time and what do I do with them? I want to sleep. Chores and tasks can wait for another day, can’t they? I tell myself that life is short and I can sleep when I’m dead, but no matter how much I work to convince myself that Getting Things Done and being an accomplished, lively person is useful and maybe even important, I would still rather do that seemingly wasteful thing of sleeping long and deeply.

So if it looks like there’s a power shortage around when I’m in the room, you’re probably not mistaken. Whether it’s my advancing age, overbooked calendar, impractical approach to my schedule, or just that I’m a lazy beast doesn’t really matter. You can be as busy as you like and get all of that Important Stuff done at your own pace.

Please remember to turn out the lights when you leave the room!

Saving My Reverence

photoI sat by the river. We were visiting town for a conference, and my spouse was going to some sessions I didn’t choose to attend. The weather was very warm, an overcast early spring day with a mild-mannered breeze, and being indoors in even a perfectly nice hotel room is a waste on such a day, so I walked down to a spot nearby and sat by the river.

As daily life passes in its ordinary ways, I so rarely pause and think deeply about what’s happening in my orbit. It’s so very easy to forget to look around to stop and let go of all forms of busyness and buzz, and simply Be. To sit by a river for an hour doing nothing can become everything.

In that hour I was silenced, stilled. I felt a deep repose settle in me, a sense of quiet peace that I hadn’t realized had been absent, banished to memory by the constant chasing and chatter of ordinary things for so long. Even the soft conversation of passersby and the rush of traffic on the road so few paces away were hushed to a sussurant tide washing the shores of my peripheral perception. Closed in an invisible veil of calm, I felt my reverence for simply being alive well up, awaken in me, renew.

The light scent of cut grass overlaid the ambient dust of a dry week; the crunch of passing footsteps was so soft that even the river’s low whisper beyond could be heard, punctuated by the distant fluting of some bird tucked under the trusses of a bridge. The hazy overcast hid the face of the sun, but its warmth suffused my skin until I thought I, too, might radiate light and heat. My usual inner litany of things demanding my efforts and attentions slowed, and slowed again, until my state of rest was such that I let go of nearly everything, even that sense so common in those rare moments of pause, that I should sleep. This was the rare kind of rest in which I would far rather be awake.

Action and angst and haste and harriedness always return soon enough. But in a moment of genuine and grateful repose, I found refreshment that can underlay it all and remind me to embrace all that is peaceful and contented within. If I am wise, it’s to this power I will assent to bend.digitally painted photo

I Love Cities

Those who visit here with some frequency know that I am mighty fond of the rural landscape and its many, many charms, but it might not be quite as obvious that I am equally smitten, often enough, with the joys of urban life. Some of my happiest times and most exciting and meaningful adventures are attached to various wonderful and fabulous cities where I’ve been privileged to live or spend time.photo + text

Whenever anyone asks me to name my favorite cities where I’ve visited or spent any little amount of time, the first places that come to mind are truly lively, astoundingly adventure-filled places. I’m not big on bravery or constant busyness or the unknown, as you may well know by now, but I always manage to find myself energized and passionate about what these fabulous environs have to offer at every turn. It turns out that there is no shortage of urban places that fill me with dazzling delight. In addition to my hometown of Seattle, there are so many other magnificent cities for me to love wildly, places like Stockholm, Boston, Vienna, San Francisco, Munich, Cincinnati, Oslo, San Antonio, Vancouver, New York, Prague, Chicago, and London—for starters.photo + text

I will always crave my quiet time, and often that’s best found in the sweet, laid-back grace of the countryside, removed from cities’ bustling pace. But besides that it is possible to find moments of peace right in the middle of any major metropolis, if one only knows how and where to look, there is the inherent buzz and boisterous beauty of urban life to enjoy as well, and I am not at all immune to that kind of happiness when I can bask in it. I suppose the root of the whole equation is always, quite simply, to seek my well-being wherever I happen to find myself.

Oh, ReLAAAAAX, Dude!

I’ve said it time and again: my natural state is static. I love Doing Nothing. I avoid work and difficulty whenever I can.text + image

And I’m not exceedingly sorry about that. It’s clearly not perfect behavior; that’s a truth I will readily confess any old day. But I remain unrepentant. Inaction in and of itself generally has no inherent moral value. Leisure has been good to me.text + photo

You people who want to get all up in busyness’s business and do all sorts of things all the time, have at it. Feel free! Me, I mostly feel free when I avoid doing things. Goodnight, now. I’ll get back to you later. Maybe. If you really think it’s urgent, you can come over and slouch alongside me until I wake up again. Happy afternoon!