As I sit on my cranberry colored meditation pillow, legs crossed, shoulders relaxed, back perfectly erect (at least in my mind), palms facing up, eyes gently closed –I breathe in silence. I move into child’s pose and envision myself on a cloud. My mind calms down as I picture myself above the birds and rainbows and glimmering stars… and as I look down I see US. Clearly, nakedly – an image of a distant, but way too familiar chattering, too many words – our family and our complaints, our impatience and our nastiness. For now, the kindness in my heart is able to overpower the confusion. I smile as my thoughts wander off to an episode of Seinfeld entitled THE SERENITY NOW*. I begin repeating the words in my own head: Serenity Now, Serenity Now, Serenity Now as I ask myself how long I will be able to hold on to the peaceful moment? What happens when I once again open my eyes? Where will this Serenity Now lead me in the very end?
On most mornings, my daily yoga is interrupted by little girl voices, little girl steps and little girl requests. It is a major reason why I practice yoga. Besides elongating me in every sense of the word, yoga teaches me to have patience with myself, my family and the world. It prepares me for the rest of the day. However, these days when the walls of our hotel room are closing in on us, when the room is filling itself more and more with clutter and a vast variety of ‘junk’ collected from my daughters’ adventures on the outside world, when there is literally no space, no privacy and no break, when everyone of us from the littlest to the biggest is often on edge, and at times just downright uptight, when it seems as if everyone is looking out for his own and has forgotten the family’s golden rule: total respect and compassion, an hour of yoga just isn’t enough. 20 minutes of meditation in the morning, 10 minutes of stillness at night – what use is it all if I break at the slightest bump?
Our free lifestyle doesn’t always feel so free. Sometimes it feels as if we voluntarily locked ourselves behind prison bars and threw away the key. Who in their right mind would decide- on their own free will– to stay in a minuscule room for months at a time in a 2-star hotel? On good days, I remind myself that we have our reasons and that it is all part of the challenge. It teaches us the art of compromise and cooperation. It teaches us how to be tolerant enough not to kill one another, to problem solve as a family, to accept each other and respect each other’s needs. I remind myself that we will come out of this experience stronger as so many times in the past. And, if we don’t kill each other, we will achieve a new level of freedom knowing that we can live with less – less comfort, less room, less toys, less clothes, less alone time, less tidiness. We also will have gained more us, more intimacy, more growth and more adventure!
Then there are the other days….
Journal Entry, April 19 2015
Today was a family outing day. Although the sky was uncertain -a mix of sun and clouds and an occasional drop here and there – I was thrilled to be out of the room and away from town. We packed a quick lunch, grabbed our swimsuits and towels and followed the amazing view along a bumpy road to Rio Chiquito, a beautiful spot where only Ticos go to barbeque, picnic and swim. As soon as we arrived we chose a shady place to set up camp and kick off our shoes. Everything felt just right. Everyone was calm and smiling. Silence and peace emanated from the motionless air. The start of one of those perfect days… until that ant came along…
Five minutes into a game of Rummy 500, Kenia, who has never been afraid of bugs before, went absolutely berserk at the sight of an ant crawling up her foot and towards her ankle. Our 10 year old daughter who has hiked for miles in the woods, has worked in a banana plantation in the middle of the jungle, has curiously observed salamanders, butterflies and all sorts of BUGS in the forest… who loves to garden, suddenly became hysterical from an innocent ant. Kenia, daughter of a man who could not be shaken by the sight of anything, snakes, wolves, or ghosts in his closet; a man who attempts to instill fearlessness and courage in his daughters (and wife) and teach them that nature is nothing to fear: ‘Be afraid of cars. Be afraid of Wi-Fi, nail polish and white sugar. Be afraid of cellphones, but definitely not snakes.’, as he frequently ‘lectures’. My daughter, the brave girl who taught me how to sleep soundly in a room visited by a real live SCORPION! Could this be the same little girl who watched BINDI The Jungle Girl and wanted to read and reread the Dr. Seuss book ‘BERENSTAINS’ A BOOK’ where ‘Ants are amazing!’?…
My first reaction was: ‘Where did she learn this from?’ ‘Who conditioned her?’. After which, I absurdly thought: ‘Why did that ant have to come and mess up our day?!!!!’
This single scene, as trivial as it was, was enough to break the tranquility. Break the day. Break us. Kenia was agitated. Andrea was plain angry. Havana was cautiously silent. And I… I was disappointed. Another day gone. Another opportunity in a long line of opportunities lost forever…. or at least, it seemed like this at the time.
These days, when we crack on the sight of an ant, an unfolded towel or crumbs in the car. These days, when we are rude for no reason and fight for bathroom time and evening silence. These days when we are cranky, and the fun times seem few and far between, I ask myself: Are we cracked? Are we broken? These are the days that I doubt everything. These are the days that I hear a call out for Family SOS, or rather a place Somewhere Over the Serenity.
The true problem obviously wasn’t the ant. Kenia probably wasn’t even scared of the busy critter. Any parent knows that the true problem lies in all the stuff happening behind the scenes – need for attention, unsettled feelings, a reaction to our family’s nervousness and constant bickering, a 10 year old’s normal desire for personal space, other seemingly insignificant incidents left untold or unresolved.
The true problem regarded what was going on with US in this precise moment. Someone needed to respond to the SOS signs that were popping out from every corner… see the big picute. That someone needed to be me. Not disappointed. Not desperate. Fearless and calm. But, would I be resilient enough this time?… Would I be able to maintain the serenity now?
To be continued….
With gratitude and insanity,
*To see this Seinfeld episode, The Serenity Now (Oct. 9, 1997) Season 9, Episode 3 visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0697773/
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