Thursday, May 14, 2009

The unemployment boat

My husband and I discovered on our honeymoon (too late, baby!) that we had very different ideas about how to spend vacations. We were in Hawaii at the time -- some 8 months after we'd married, on a belated wedding trip courtesy of my parents' travel agency -- and it quickly became apparent that my idea of vacation (lying in the sun, playing in the surf, reading, eating, occasional shopping and maybe a historic site or two) was not his.

His theory was that vacations should be so busy and stressful that by the end you would be happy to get back to work. Which meant daily excursions, boat rides, and, most memorably, a drive on a winding, unmapped and seemingly endless dirt road through apparently private land in an unreliable rental car with storms threatening to turn the ruts into mud. Twenty minutes into the drive I stopped speaking to him -- probably the only time in our life together I've done that -- but eventually we came out into a rundown neighborhood and found a tiny restaurant that had the best Thai beef salad we've ever had in our lives.

Although that was almost 25 years ago, he still has that restless streak, so it will be interesting to see how he chooses to spend his time over the next few months. It's a bit like this picture, which must be why it called to me this morning: it's like I'm sitting in someone else's boat, in a place I don't know very well, and it's a bit dark at the moment. I can see that there is light ahead, around the corner; a new day is dawning, the colors are warming up... it's all good.

But if I am honest, then I have to admit I am anxious. And then, of course, I get into self-flagellation mode, where I beat myself up for not trusting that whatever happens will work out for the best. I have loved this peaceful phase of my life, loved having the house to myself, loved spending my time in ways that feed the blog and my art and my spiritual life. But I am no longer alone on this vacation, and the specter of that long-ago honeymoon worries me. How will we balance peace and activity in this new life we share together?

I was reading more of John O'Donohue's views on work in Anam Cara this morning, and one of the things he talks about is the fast pace of some environments, where you are so rushed you risk leaving your soul behind. That, I think, has been the job of these last few years: I've been sitting, giving my soul time to catch up after an extremely high-pressured work life. And it's what I love about my life now -- busy though it is -- I can always take a moment to let my soul catch up; it's one of the many reasons I meditate every day, and the meditations, I believe, are what allow me to be as busy as I am.

I find myself very unwilling to rock this particular boat. But of course, life always has a way of rocking our boats. Somehow I will need to find my own internal steadiness for the journey ahead, and trust that something delicious will again be waiting for us at the end. What helps, I think, is a return to the practice of Tonglen: when I feel that anxiety, to breathe in for all the other unemployed families out there that struggle to adjust to new circumstances, and then to breathe out what peace and trust, steadiness and balance I can muster from within for all of us. Because the truth is -- we're all in this boat together, wherever the journey takes us.

No comments: