Saturday morning brain farts

An old, chipped Father’s Day mug from my son when he was too young to choose it. Still my favorite gift.

I love Saturday mornings. Instead of lurching awake at 2:45AM to go to work I come to slowly between 6 and 7 to fix coffee, feed the dogs and then I just sit and think.

Well, sometimes I sit and think. Sometimes I just sit.

Here are some of the thoughts I’ve thunk this Saturday morning:

— I’m hungry but not enough to walk six steps into the kitchen for a banana, a bowl of cereal or to fix eggs, bacon and pancakes. I suppose a lot of people in the world would not think of this as being hungry.

— Why do people say “more and more”? No matter how many “mores” you add it’s still just more.

— We have “pet peeves”. Makes no sense. I like my pets.

— A minor peeve: when people leave trash in the grocery shopping cart. (I refuse to use that cart. I insist on one that’s totally empty.)

Our hearth and home. That’s Amelia sleeping on my footstool in the lower left.

— Speaking of empty, my coffee mug is empty but the dogs are sleeping on my lap and footstool. I’ll just have to suffer.

— There’s something about sitting in front of the TV without turning it on that makes me puff up my chest with pride!

— What’s with people who have the TV on all the time even though nobody is watching it? (My dad used to yell about the waste of expensive electricity. I just think it’s sad that so many people accept constant noise in their lives.)

— And how about when you’re riding in someone’s car and they have the radio on but turn it down so you can talk? It’s not OFF, just down low enough to be background noise. (This is also a serious annoyance for those of us who talk in the radio.)

— I don’t talk ON the radio, I talk IN it.

— Wouldn’t it be funny if our ears were on our hips? We’d have to pull down our pants at concerts.

— Who first came up with the idea of picking berries off a bush, drying them in the sun, crushing them, pouring hot water over them and drinking it? Seems nutty but it was a seriously great idea!

— Who first decided to crush some dried leaves, wrap more leaves around them, light one end and inhale the smoke? This is just stupid. (Ponder this for a moment. It’s an absolutely ridiculous idea and yet is probably the most enduring habit in all of human history!)

My Saturday morning brain wanders from one silly notion to another. But this stuff is important to me because it means I’m still exploring the world and allowing my mind to explore itself.

Do you take time to do this?

 

Perfection in solitude

When I was between marriages some thirty-four years ago I was forced to learn a very hard lesson most people manage to avoid all their lives. I learned to be truly alone for long periods of time and to love it.

the-lonely-man

I had never been alone for more than a couple of hours or an afternoon at most. I grew up in my parents’  home, moved into an apartment with a buddy at 19, was married at 20 and lived with my first wife until I was thirty. Then, the divorce. Reality caved in on me and I found myself living in a small apartment with our newlywed furniture and nothing else that would ever allow me to use the word “our” again. “Our” life was over. My life alone was beginning and I was terrified.

Forced to take a scheduled vacation alone, I rented a house near a beach north of Mendocino and settled in for a week of misery as a newly-single recluse.

There is nothing more lonely than a large, empty, unfamiliar house in which the only thing that is yours is you.

People who have never been married for a long time and have it suddenly collapse can’t know the vacancy of self mourning. I’m not talking about self pity, that’s the easy part, but rather, true self mourning that has nothing to do with missing your specific wife or husband. Missing that particular person is a given, but what I didn’t expect was the sense that half of the whole person I had become over time was suddenly nonexistent and would never return. I think it must feel exactly like being only half alive.

I missed everything about my life: my wife and son, our home, our street and neighbors, our dog, our routines. I was desperate to scar my soul, to stop the pain and repair the trauma to my spirit before it bled away. So, I cried. It’s all I could do. I gave in to my grief completely, nonstop except for brief periods of respite provided by fatigue. Then, exhausted, I would tumble into a restless sleep and eventually awaken still empty, still lonely but refreshed enough to well up with pain once again and resume my suffering.

That’s the key, I think. Wallow in your misery. Be mindful of your physical well-being and force yourself to take care when nothing seems to matter, including self preservation. Eat when you should. Sleep as much as you can. I found writing to be cathartic but nothing heals like embracing pure grief, for that is its purpose.

During a lull in despondency during my lonely vacation, a few days after beginning my self-imposed confinement and getting bored with self pity, I stepped outside my rented home just to take a peek at the world.

The sky and sea were bright blue. The sun and sand were golden, the air crisp, thick and salty. It was one of those perfect winter days on the Northern California coast and that’s when I first heard the voice inside my head:

“This day is a gift.”

Epiphany!

“You’re going to be fine. You’ve survived. You’ll be happy again,” the voice said.

I was not alone, I had me.

As I listened to that calm, reassuring, wiser – perhaps divine – part of myself I suddenly understood that I had always been there and that I knew more than I ever imagined. I had a lot to say but had never been able to hear it because my world had been a cacophony of noise and distractions. And, as I listened to my internal confidante I learned something else amazing:

I like me.

A few days later, still sad but at peace, I wandered into a little shop in Mendocino and spotted a poster waiting for me to carry it home. It was a beautifully photographed picture of a tiny, empty rowboat mirrored in a calm sea. The caption beneath it read:

There is perfection in solitude. It is the reflection of serenity.

I returned to the societal circus and made my way back in.

That was many years ago and I can still hear my internal voice wherever I go, whenever I listen. He’s a good guy. He cares about me and would never give me bad advice.

Today, Carolann, and I are gloriously happy in the twenty-eighth year of our honeymoon. As Paul Harvey would say, we are “happily ever-aftering.”

But I still find time to get away by myself for a few days every now and then because I still need to be alone once in awhile, to shut out the noise, to settle down and listen to the brain in my heart. I need days away from familiar people, places and things to talk at leisure with my internal best friend and to frolic together like dogs on a beach until we wear ourselves out with freedom and possibilities and to promise each other we will do this again!

Copyright © 2007, 2015 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Box o’ troubles

I have an odd affinity for wooden boxes.

I have some nice ones, too. Some are old and ornate, some are not so old and plain, but they hold my treasures. I keep all sorts of mementos in a couple of them but most of them are empty.

Well,  not quite. The biggest one holds my hopes and dreams.

Today I’ve decided  to designate one of my beautiful wooden boxes as my troubles box. It’s Saturday morning and I’m going to dump all my troubles in that box for the weekend.

I’ll take them out one at a time next week as I need to deal with them.

Is that silly? I think it’s brilliant.

A chirpy, “Good morning!”

I awoke in an unusually good mood today. I’m really happy.

There’s no particular reason for it and it’s not that I ever wake up grumpy, because I don’t. I just awoke super smiley today, that’s all.

I went to the grocery store at about 9:30 a.m. In the parking lot I approached a woman leaving the store, pushing a basket and apparently in deep concentration. She seemed oblivious to my existence.

“Good morning!” I chirped. This is not like me. This is something new. I don’t talk to strangers, especially strangers who seem to be busy, even if only in their private little worlds. Maybe especially then.

That’s what it is, really. I’m not an unfriendly person. I just don’t want to intrude on your privacy. But, for some reason and for the first time in my life that I can recall I smiled broadly at the concentrating stranger and chirped — yes, I’ll use that verb again because it’s perfect — I chirped “Good morning!”

The woman blinked and look momentarily confused and maybe just a tad defensive. Who are you? What do you want? (I’m sure those were her first thoughts.) Why are you bothering me?

But she forced herself to smile weakly and nod slightly. I think she also picked up her pace just a bit.

Inside the store I decided to experiment. I chirped “Good morning” to almost everybody just to see their reactions.

The people who work in the store responded in kind but they have to. It’s their jobs, so they don’t really count. But, I give them a lot of credit for taking pride in their small, personal part-ownership of Albertsons. How can you not love people who love their jobs?

A man slightly older than me, wearing shorts and a Mexican tourist fishing hat, smiled broadly and returned my greeting as I scooped up baby red potatoes. I think he and I could have sat down at Starbucks, had a cup of coffee and solved all the problems of the world together.

I guess it stands to reason that men about my age or slightly older would be the most likely to find genuine cheer in my greeting than younger men or women of any age.

In the cold and pain relief aisle I met a guy I would guess to be in his late 30s or early 40s. He smiled, nodded and said “Hi!” brightly but rather professionally. For a brief moment I felt like a prospective client but his smile whipped right past me to his watch. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do that. This is the best place I’ve ever written for me to use the word, “perfunctory.”

I encountered a young woman in the pasta sauce section. She had a small girl by the hand and a baby in the basket. (In a baby carrier in the shopping cart, I mean.) She looked pleasantly surprised by my greeting, returned my smile, gave me a little finger wave and cheerfully said, “Hello!” I think I amused her. It struck me that without noticing I have apparently slipped into the age where young women no longer think I’m trying to hit on them. They probably think I’m just a cute, harmless old man now.

Darn.

But, I continued.

A woman about my age glanced at my chirpy intrusion and said nothing. She quickly transformed her glance into one of those panning gazes beyond me as if to appear that was she was looking wistfully for her long-departed love to return from war. Or maybe she was looking for the saltine crackers aisle.

I was careful to not chirp “Good morning!” to any children. Especially not little girls. I didn’t want anybody to become suspicious that I might be a dangerous, dirty old man. That’s sad, isn’t it? It is to me.

By the time I reached the checkstand I felt like Santa Claus.

I had smiled and chirped my way through a supermarket full of people who might mention to their spouses or best friends, in passing, about the weird, strangely happy guy they had met in Albertsons this morning. It might be a revelation to them. They, themselves, might become happier and more outgoing in public.

Or, not.

More likely none of them gave it a second thought once I was at a safe and non-communicative distance.

On the other hand, I learned something vitally important for myself:

Being happy makes me happy.

What you do with it is up to you.