People often inquire how I come up with ideas for this blog, and I wish I had a smart, snappy answer. Truth of the matter, at this stage of my life, thoughts just seem to randomly enter my cognitive awareness. Some of them capture my attention. Some hold my attention. Some slip away leaving a vaguely disturbing aftereffect suggesting I may have forgotten something important, like closing the garage door or turning off the oven. Most of the time I am able to remain focused on my task (or at least give the impression I am). Then there are the other times when I find myself staring into the distance, suspended between the task and the daydream.
I once worked for a man who would sit at his desk, leaning back in a chair staring out the window. His arms would be crossed and his head cocked to one side. He could sit there, seemingly for hours, without moving. I, on the other hand, was working energetically with focused intensity, accomplishing mundane secretarial tasks. My judgmental (and admittedly jealous) mind castigated him for “just sitting there.” I suspect he had little awareness of how I felt, nor would his behavior have changed if he had known he was being judged so harshly. He was content to look out his window.
Nowadays, I find myself staring out windows a lot. My need to be productive has undergone a transformation. I now give myself permission to slow down and enjoy some of the tasks I used to dash through. Some of this comes from my practice of mindfulness. A useful skill that serves me well and one that keeps revealing new insights and nuances into my thoughts and behaviors.
Case in point, I found myself swearing out loud after a particularly frustrating experience getting out of a chair. I had sat too long and my muscles and joints had given up sending me SOS messages about their need to move. When I once again became aware of my body and its needs, I attempted to respond and found the negotiations took longer than expected. My hips, knees and assorted tendons were on strike and informed me through the use of sharp pain that immediate engagement was out of the question, and I would need to move more mindfully and with intention, rather than just get up. After the scatological eruption finished, I found myself laughing and gently taking myself to task for not paying more attention to my body.
Another example. I found myself circling the grocery store parking lot looking for a parking space that was optimal, given my limitations in walking. For some reason, everybody in town had decided to show up at the grocery store at that very same moment, and had procured all the parking spots I deemed optimal. So, I circled. Just like a landing pattern at JFK, I circled, and circled, and circled. It finally dawned on me that I could go elsewhere for what I wanted and could stop driving around in circles. But it took me several laps before I was able to disengage from my inner dialogue about how nobody would let an old lady in, how crowded this town was becoming and how things were so much better in the good old days.
Last night I had dinner with two women friends. This was a spur of the moment dinner, and we all brought something. The food was nurturing, delicious, and shared with enthusiasm. The conversation was wide-ranging, covering politics, religion, Michael Jackson, racism, travel adventures, and recipes. There was an ease and flow that comes from genuine interest and enjoyment of each other’s company. I came home feeling full.
As a single, working woman, opportunities for getting together with friends in small intimate gatherings are my preferred ways to socialize. I notice these opportunities tend to be centered around meals. Sometimes it is brunch or dinner out, sometimes it is impromptu evenings in where an elegant table is set and new dishes are shared. I don’t have a lot of stamina for late night party-going, or hanging out at bars. I have no judgments about this, just not my cup of tea.
Today the rain is falling and there are sheep in the vineyards that I am delighted to live next to. The sheep are “working” animals, deployed as natural weed eaters by a local company here called “Wooly Weeders”. The sheep are trucked in, let loose to dine on the mustard, grass, and other consumables growing in the vineyard. They are chaperoned by Border collies who maneuver the flock and two Great Pyrenees who ward off coyotes, mountain lions, and bears. And in our vineyards, jack rabbits, squirrels, hawks, and owls.
The Great Pyrenees are friendly giants who wag their tails as neighborhood dogs make their way with their owners down our “Doggy Path”, but who also bark instructions letting the gawkers (pet owners) and pets know that work is being done and not to get too close or interfere. I have a ringside seat and watch through my kitchen window.
I do lead a charmed life and I gratefully acknowledge the many blessings that are mine at this moment. I have an awareness that my preference for this to always be this way, to stay the same, and to never change, is unrealistic. I try to remember to pay attention and express gratitude for all the bounty. I also have an awareness that others do not have these privileges and experience suffering, fear, and loneliness. I rest in the hope that these experiences will diminish in intensity and frequency, and all beings may be free from suffering.
FIVE PILLARS OF AGING
Integrating gratitude into daily activities as we age is beneficial in a number of ways. There are many methods for doing this. Keeping a gratitude journal is probably one you are already familiar with. It may not always be easy to find something to be grateful for. In cases like this, I am reminded of Meister Eckhart and his instruction to say, “Thank You”, knowing that will suffice.