In our family we have established a rhythm. Every week day I am like a goalie from 5-7am. Thorsten has his quiet time. If the girls are up, I snuggle with them or let them play until 7. At 7 we get everyone ready for school–dressed, fed, hair and teeth brushed. I pack their snacks and he drives them. Getting them out of the house on time is a bit of a circus so I always breath a sigh of relief when they are gone and then get on with my own morning routine.
Yesterday Thorsten had something to do so I drove them. It was really no problem. But when I got home I decided against my normal morning routine. I skipped my walk and my exercises and just got to work.
It might not have been the best choice because after a while the story I was working on just wasn’t writing itself. (Not that it should but sometimes it feels like it does.) I was hungry and kind of crabby, so I decided to stop for lunch. Then Thorsten came down and right in front of me ate the very last brownie–A brownie that I had already thought of eating and was actually planning to share with him instead. He claimed he didn’t know it was the last one…
Then I got a note from Little Bean’s kiddie gymnastics’ that the class would be outside tomorrow because the hall where it is normally held is not available. Really? After a few minutes I found myself in a funk. I started thinking about all the things that are not exactly how I’d like them to be. Things that I’m pretty powerless to change. And I went down that rabbit hole of irritation and dissatisfaction to a very bad mood that I couldn’t shake. Out of the blue all these things about my expat-motherhood-life that hadn’t bothered me in months–all things that aren’t really important–things that had disappeared into the background of our life–suddenly lit up like little beacons of worry and dissatisfaction in my mind.
So I decided a walk was in order. Once I got out there I stopped and really listened to the miraculous sound of the bees buzzing around my favourite coloured flowers. For a second I felt connected to everything. But then I came back down to earth and kept walking. I heard the wind in the high branches of the trees, the song of the grasshoppers. It was all lovely. I sort of waited for a bunch of grateful thoughts to come, to feel refreshed and new, to forget whatever was bothering me. I expected to float back up to my normal place in things. But the grateful thoughts did not come, I did not forget the things that were bothering me. The bad mood did not lift.
So I walked home.
When I got in the car to pick the girls up from school it dawned on me that I had not felt this irritated about life in a long time. More than a year, I thought. And as I drove I realised, Ugh I used to feel this way all the time– Just frustrated and powerless and exhausted. It dawned on me that for quite some time I have felt relatively satisfied. Wow, I thought, an entire year I’ve felt mostly satisfaction. Seriously though–satisfaction? Well, yes. Satisfaction is how you feel when you don’t really desire anything because you feel fulfilled. You have all that you need.
As I drove toward the school, it was as if the sun came out. A hundred pandemic days writing, a year of meditation and morning walks and basking in the energy of the now– a million small exchanges of love. It all added up to something.
When I started that journey in January of 2020 I didn’t have a goal in mind. I didn’t think I was unsatisfied, I didn’t think I was having a crisis. I started meditating just because I wanted to see what it did. And wow. It did something! It gave me space to process, to observe, to feel present, to smile and cherish things that I didn’t recognise before. Contentment came, satisfaction came and then I was even able to feel joy and gratitude and clarity in the face of great loss.
During this year I’ve suspected that it wasn’t really the circumstances or the people in my life who had changed. Things didn’t change or fall into place and then I felt satisfied. No, I’ve been pretty sure that it’s my mind and my focus that have changed. I had a feeling it was my outlook that had changed, my actions that had changed. And now, I’m sure.
It was then that the lights went out on the critical thoughts. In their darkness, they dropped like flies and with their heaviness floated down to the bottom and disappeared. Then the quiet awareness rolled in. Like a dam had been opened, I felt the pool fill with fresh water, I floated to the top. The blue sky shined through.
It was in this spirit that I picked up the maniacs from school. The mood had lifted. I had time and space again to see them. I had patience enough to wait for them the million years it generally takes to get from the school door to buckled in their car seats.
On the way home we stopped by a nearby farm to pick up eggs. (This farm actually has an egg vending machine and they happened to have some strawberries for sale as well (honor’s system). We looked at the horses and then we headed home to, you guessed it–eat ice cream.
If you’re into routine, Don’t underestimate the power it has to keep you well. Those meditative moments, those few lines in a book and those morning walks get me in a head space to be open, creative and energized. The bad moods will come. What did Holly Golightly call them? The mean reds. But routines and rituals arm us with the tools we need to see the bad mood and let it pass.