Every morning when my brain begins to realize I’m awake and that yet another day of quarantine is beginning with its seemingly endless hours to fill, I try to think of how I will stretch simple tasks to bridge the gaps. How I will find ways to feel calm, to experience some small meaningful moments when all of time has begun to feel like one super long uninterrupted and lackluster moment. To keep anxiety, depression, and fear at bay.
My mother often cautioned me to be careful not to ask for patience, because life does not GIFT you patience. Life gifts you opportunities to LEARN patience and to PRACTICE patience. And who wants to learn and practice THAT??
This also goes for self control, strength, inner peace, you name it. Everything requires us to actually and actively invest in its pursuit. Not super high on my wish list if you get me. I’d much rather actively pursue foolishness and other such delights.
Be that as it may I’ve clearly asked for patience and inner peace an awful lot in life without meaning to, and been gifted a crap ton of opportunities to try to learn them.
Try being the operative word here. Try. This latest and rather massively global moment has rather uniquely bound us all together in common pursuit. I am trying. You are trying. We are each of us trying and sometimes succeeding and sometimes stumbling.
Like life itself, this experience is both terrible and beautiful. I feel alternately lonely and worried, and then comforted and elevated by the sights and the sounds and even the mess of my family all crowded together.
Tonight for dinner I planned fettuccine, marinara and meatballs. Usually a quick crowd pleaser. Throw it together, let it cook while I tackle other things. But there were no other things to do, and the kids online classes would be going on for a while.
I stood in my kitchen feeling like I was walking under water. No where to go, to be, not much to do. I decided to lean into the feeling. Instead of sinking, I decided to use the preparation of dinner as one long mindfulness practice.
Yes. Practice. It’s the best I can do since I’m no where near pro status.
I slowly and deliberately selected spices, only one at a time. I walked back and forth grabbing one, using it, and returning it before selecting another.
I slowed the twisting of the can opener breathing in and out with each rotation. I cut the onion so damn slow my eyes were faucets and my nose ran like it was at a track meet.
I started rolling the meatballs. Usually the more rushed I am, the more gigantic my meatballs become as I hurry to throw them in and be done with it. Halfway through the very large tray, I decided to roll the tiniest meatballs possible, like marbles, to top a pizza I had going on the side.
If you’ve ever rolled marble sized meatballs you’ll know it’s a maddeningly slow and tedious process. Except for tonight. Tonight I just leaned all the way into the tedium, let forming each tiny ball be the end in itself. I breathed slowly and deeply. I watched my hands as I rolled each ridiculously small morsel. I tried to keep my mind empty. God knows my mind could use the rest. I stretched it to an hour until I had a whole pile of mindfully miniature meatballs.
A few things came of this exercise. The first obviously was a delicious dinner shared with my family. The second was the surprising level of zen I enjoyed throughout despite my prickly and initially reluctant start. The third, and for me, where I am right now inside this journey, for me the most important part was that I had managed to bridge what felt like an insurmountable chasm of time and come through it feeling ok. Really really ok.
And nice and full of mindfully miniature meatballs.