ON SITTING ALONE
June 18, 2018
Today I am home alone. The house is completely still. The last time I was home alone was months ago when Andrea took the girls away for a day. Even then, I could hear my mother-in-law’s movements and television from the connecting door of our two homes, the guy playing his music over my head, my sister-in-law shouting out something about homework to my 8 year old nephew. The phone rang a half a dozen times, the UPS guy delivered a box, the dog next door found lots of reasons to bark furiously. The last time I was home alone I couldn’t hear the SILENCE… not like today, not like in this moment. I don’t know when the last time was that I was able to sit calmly in my own mind and well, just sit. Can you?
After months on the road with my family for pleasure and then for work, I was in deep need of a day like today, even if it would be just half a day. Before it even started I could hear my mind wondering if I would actually remember how?
What would I do or not do? What would I think about? Would I be able to not think at all? Would I find some of the answers I have been looking for, or would I at least be able to accept that not being able to find the answers is a fundamental part of the process?
Here I am alone… in Central Florida… in my parents’ house… me and my free half day. Grandma and Poppy took Kenia and Havana to the pool. Andrea, my husband, is way up North, in Ithaca, New York, where he will remain for the next 4 weeks.
As the girls shuffled out the door to meet my stepdad in the car, as I kissed my mom goodbye, as I heard the car drive off, I thought, “Now, what am I going to do? Should I work on my patience and compassion or should I do nothing at all?“.
As I sat at the computer and then got up, went to the bathroom and then made a cup of coffee, returned to the computer and then went into the bedroom to search for something… as I peeled and cut an apple, opened the refrigerator and re-closed it – empty handed – a half a dozen times … as I tied up my hair and then let it loose, Googled a thing or two, put on a sweatshirt, pulled off a pair of socks…
I listened to the silence throughout the house and thought, ‘So, this is what being alone feels like, or is it?’
I thought, ‘How long would it take me to just be?’.
It was if I had forgotten how to stay alone, be in the moment, enjoy the peace and silence that I had been longing for. It felt strange and yet, I was determined to get there by the time my time was over.
Rachel Stafford’s words, “Be here now. Let your heart lead“, came to mind. And so, as she wrote so honestly about herself, I too mentally recited “Be Here Now“.
Be here now, Be here now, Be here now…
No need to figure things out. No need to sit behind the computer, text, google or email. No need to be productive. No need to listen to anyone, not even myself. And yet, when I attempted to lie on my mat and just sit with myself, I found myself only minutes later back in the kitchen preparing a second cup of coffee. As I read about Jillian Michael’s breakup with Heidi while sipping the hot brew, I knew that something was desperately needed if I was going to accomplish my goal… get there, that is HERE, by the time my family returned home.
In moments like these, Taoists would look to three great treasures:
“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu,
When I left Andrea at the airport less than a week ago, after spending the last hour together bickering over him having to talk about what the girls shouldn’t be doing in Florida and me wanting to just enjoy the anticipation of hugging my parents after a year of absence, these three treasures were on the top of my ‘improving myself in 5 weeks‘ to do list. They were going to get me back on track (once again), guide me back to my happy place, help me settle all the sand that was shaking around in my mind and making me feel confused and displaced the last months.
Simplicity, patience, compassion… my very own spiritual, emergency kit to fix what was chipped in my life. I wasn’t thinking that I would need to return to them just to be able to sit alone.
I started Day One, during my morning yoga routine. I continued Day Two, with my early morning run. I persisted day after day. By Day Five I realized that sitting calmly with my mind would be more than just a small challenge.
The half day passed me by. Needless to say, I did very little sitting.
Almost a week later.
I am sitting behind my dad’s computer. I open the file of the children’s book that I am currently working on. I read the first pages until I come to these words, my character’s words, my words…
words that I need and own, but often forget every time that I am annoyed with Kenia for not clearing the table or not wanting to take a walk after dinner… every time that I complain about Havana being too talkative or having too many requests after the strike of 9 pm… every time that either one of them respond to a question with their ‘I know it all – obnoxious, Disney channel‘ tones… every time that I feel that I am not doing enough… that I am not enough:
“…In the moment that we are capable of feeling grateful and in peace, we are capable of transmitting this gratitude and serenity to others.”, Nalani explains to her.
These are the words that I truly believe in. These words are my treasures and they have saved me innumerable times in the past.
Every day is a lesson on learning to love ourselves first. Every day is a reminder that when you do, you are able to sprinkle this love onto the world like fairy dust. It is truly magical and… simple. Fairy dust made of love and patience and compassion.
When my 13 year old daughter leaves her brush full of hair in the bathroom cabinet, I sprinkle fairy dust on the matter. I no longer get angry. I place the brush where she can see it. She cleans it and puts it away. When she leaves the hairy monster there the next day, I do the same thing. I am patient and in time she learns without resisting.
When my husband leaves the toilet seat up I am no longer irritated. I remember why I love him as I kindly remind him…
When Havi is grumpy because she stayed up half the night having too much fun I can refrain from saying, ‘You should have gone to bed earlier‘ or ‘You are acting as if you were forced to do strenuous work‘. Instead, I show her compassion. I hug her and close her eyes so that she can rest…
When a friend is complaining about what seems to be nothing, when my sister-in-law is nasty because she is having a bad day, when my neighbor plays the piano when I would prefer that he not, when I forget to be kind, when I lose it, when I make a mistake, when I didn’t get everything I needed to do done…
Fairy dust, fairy dust, fairy dust and more fairy dust…
This is the same fairy dust that will eventually lead me back to being able to sit alone, or rather, to being here now because being here now is very much about simplicity, patience and compassion and often it is about not saying a thing and remaining perfectly silent… especially when you realize that you no longer remember how…
The next day I roll out my mat. At a quarter to 7, the Florida air was already thick and muggy, but the sky was powder blue and I was being mesmerized by the innate calmness of the single egret that elegantly stood by the small pond in the back of my dad’s house…
I was at work, serious work. I was working on my three great treasures.
Simplicity. Patience. Compassion.
The momentary stillness is replaced by a variety of ordinary sounds…
I hear the birds chirping outside. I hear my stepmom’s water boiling from the electric kettle. I hear my dad puttering around the garden outside… I feel grateful for being where I am…
then, I hear the first words of my daughters floating towards me. They sounded as if they were arguing viciously about the glitter glue they purchased the day before.
I breathe. I smile. I remember.
Simplicity, patience, compassion…
As I stretch into my first upward dog of the day, I feel the fairy dust flowing out of my heart and onto the pond. I feel it spreading out to the birds, into my stepmom’s hot water, to my dad’s busy hands and to my squabbling daughters. I feel it in the wind, sweeping high up over the clouds and landing on my husband, covering him from head to toe, wherever he may be… I feel it gently powdering and protecting the entire world.
I am still unable to truly sit alone, but I know that I am on my way.
Today may start off extremely difficult or truly amazing. You may succeed in sitting alone, or maybe not. Whatever the situation, I assure you that if you close your eyes, listen to your heart, sprinkle a bit of fairy dust… you too will feel the magic!
Can’t you already?
leaving you with a heart filled with extraordinary gratitude,