Friday, May 21, 2010

I've got nothing to do today but smile

Today was a freebie, an unexpected little gift. Normally I would have woken early for the hour-long cycle to school, worked until 3, cycled up to Brentwood to pick up the boys, undergone that one impossible moment when I somehow have to simultaneously fish correct bus fare out of my pocket, load the bike onto the bus rack, and keep the baby from toddling into the street while preventing the 5-year-old from sprinting off to the appealing little frozen yogurt store nearby. It usually takes the coming and going of three (exasperated) buses to get it all right. Then that unenviable Friday-evening transition, the letdown from the workweek being over but the real work just beginning, the knowledge that I will never, never, never, get a morning just to sleep in.

Except I did. I didn't have to go to work today. And by the simple expedient of keeping that fact to myself (an omission of truth isn't exactly a lie, is it?) I gained a full, childless, lazy day all to myself.

The fact that I spent it racing up and down the climbing stairs at the park and jogging to the library to return overdue books and practicing kung fu sets in the yard is beside the point. Just because I am a crazy woman does not mean that I do not deserve time in which I could have been relaxing. And then there was lunch.

I have a theory about comfort. I don't think you can save it up for uncomfortable times. I find that a morning spent lounging in a tea shop, rather than enabling me to bear the endless mornings of fantasizing about lounging in tea shops, just makes me want MORE. I want EVERY morning to be a tea shop morning. Hot showers, ditto. I find I am actually happier when I have nearly nothing, because then my appetite for comfort dwindles. Sort of like your stomach shrinking when you don't eat for a while.

But today was different. I may need to revise my theory. Because this gift of a day, a day spent following my own whims, accountable to nothing but my own delight, was transformative. Happiness seeped in and erased the soreness in my neck, the brusqueness of my voice, the niggling dissatisfactions that too often blossom outward into unkindness.

Oh, but I was going to write about lunch. Everything came together at around 1:00. I had returned home from my morning o' excessive exercise, showered, put on a cute little outfit (because I do that these days, Deepwater Horizon be damned) and strolled out to purchase groceries and do some banking (i.e. take money out of the bank so that I could buy groceries. But doesn't it sound elegant the other way?). Midway from bank to grocery store my feet veered and I found myself saying "yes" when a shadowy man at my elbow asked if I was here for lunch.

And then I was seated under a fountain in an arboreal patio, a square of sunlight illuminating and warming my table, alone. Except for a distant pair of Italian men who have had, I suspect, a little too much comfort altogether. Magically, I had brought along a book and I sat there, dreamily reading, occasionally eavesdropping, eating the most mind-bogglingly perfect lunch in all creation. Little squares of cheese, round slices of spiced salami, olives, garlicky roasted cubes of eggplant, tomatoes that were so real they were actually warm and musky. All with an overflowing basket of warm, crusty/soft bread. I don't think this place is real. I think I fell through one of those wormholes the geniuses in first grade are always talking about. Because after hours of drifting there in bliss, reading the entire book and eating the entire bread basket (no mean feat! there were loaves and loaves in there, I'm telling you), I found that my bill was just $5 and the time was just 2:00. So I went home and took a nap.

The book I read was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book that has been making the circuit of the New Age/ Personal Improvement set for years now. I had scorned to read it for just that reason, but it found its way into my hands again recently and I caved.

What common sense it contains! The basic lesson proffered is to enjoy your life, don't take anything personally, try not to make assumptions, and try not to speak negatively about anyone. Including yourself. (I have some amends to make to Gwyneth Paltrow.)

But how lovely to find that a day of kindness to yourself--true kindness, the sort that addresses the true, deep needs of every part of yourself--has the potential to become kindness to others. This was the best afternoon I can remember with my boys. I did not begrudge them my time and energy, and what a difference that made. Or perhaps it was the simple fact that I had time and energy, having been replenished.

I feel as though something has woken again recently, something vital that was missing for years and impoverished me by its absence. It has woken, and life makes sense again. I don't know what initiated the change, but now that it has begun I can feel it gaining momentum and carrying me forward. It will be interesting to see what comes next.


  1. Wow, Dweller, the bike to Brentwood to the bus... you are really amazing! Every time I read you read your blog I feel inspired and in awe! I need to know where this cafe is!

  2. Something has woken recently, and you don't know what it is? Could it be connected to needlepoint, or people who save baby hawks?
    With your life to read, no wonder I don't need fiction.

  3. I declare Lunch Date Day. You are both invited. I can hold forth about the Hawk Rescuer and you can both enlighten me about how to not look gross and how to integrate children gracefully into one's life. And it can last hours and hours and hours because it will take place in the wormhole. Also we will have band practice. (The world is going to eh-eh-end! But it's all right my freh-eh end! We are all brunett -ett-ettes! So everything's no swe-eh-eat!)

  4. This is wonderful work, full of everything that is true.