She releases a nervous sigh. “I hope I remembered to pack everything.”
I’m driving my daughter to her marine science summer camp. The kids have an overnight experience aboard a ship. Her words rattle my own anxiety for her comfort and safety. Instead of adding my own baggage to what she’s already packed, I choose to stay quiet and let the apprehension hang between us. Sometimes space is a good thing.
As the car slows to a crawl and we approach the camp counselors, she’s not the same person she was ten miles and fifteen minutes back. With composure, she announces that she can carry the backpack and two bags on her own. I’m not sure if it’s genuine confidence or embarrassment at having her mom help carry the bags that drives her statement. I choose to carry one bag and give her a quick hug. “Have fun!”
Driving home, I watch thought bubbles threaten to cloud a sunny day. “Should I have let her carry her own bags? Should I have given her a kiss? Maybe she doesn’t need me.” Trying my best not to ruminate so much, I’m home before I know it.
I walk into the bedroom to change into shorts and a sports top. My husband is just finishing a work call in the office. He tells me he has another call in sixteen minutes. Great! Maybe I can get on the elliptical machine (also in the office) before his next call. My elliptical routine runs for twenty minutes, but who’s going to notice four minutes of whirring from a fairly quiet machine?
Ten minutes into my routine, his phone rings. He gives me his best serious look and says I’ll have to get off. Stepping off the pedals, I inquire in my best even tone, “Why didn’t you just ask me to wait?” Inside I’m boiling with rage and burning with hurt. I want to say something else, but once again choose to use breath and space to diffuse a ticking time bomb.
I sit down at my computer and send some ecards for upcoming birthdays, wondering if I should wait for him to finish his call and try the elliptical again, or change the scene completely. I choose the latter. Cell phone, head phones, keys, and sunglasses in hand, I leave the house for walking meditation. Space is a good thing.
As Tara Brach’s soothing voice fills the headphones invoking loving presence in the face of difficulty, I notice that I’m caught between noticing thoughts of past miscommunications and power struggles, sensing the feelings in my body (the burning lump in my throat, the heavy eyes with tears), and how my husband and I will reconnect lovingly when all is said and done. It’s so tempting to skip the pages of distress in this story and turn to a happy ending. But I know that’s a spiritual bypass.
I look at the lotus tattoo on my left forearm. It’s pretty – full fuchsia petals sitting on a streak of green lily pad, undisturbed, as if nothing can ruffle its petals. Who wouldn’t want this elegance, this equanimity all the time?
What I can’t see on my forearm is real life – messiness, confusion, tangled relationships, especially with those closest to me. Lotuses don’t just spring from clear pools of ease. They grow from thick mud and muck surrounded by insects, fish. Hardly the vision of beauty!
Now, I’m interested in the place where mud and lotus meet, the interface between difficulty and clarity. I must notice all the crazy thoughts, feel all the challenging emotions, use breath and space within and around the body, and trust the timeline for lotus birth. The process cannot be rushed. Sometimes life will feel sticky and dark. Other times it will feel joyous, ethereal.
May I live at the border, and deepen my understanding of both places.