Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cynthia Doesn't Live Here Anymore.....

When we take a break from the routine duties of our lives, there is first a blessed sense of freedom. No weighty obligations or responsibilities beyond the usual family and self-care. What bliss!

Then comes the challenge of open-ended time and the real hard work of trying NOT to fill the time with other duties, tasks and busy-ness. We almost all say we want a break, but really those of us who are wont to be productive are likely to find "breaks" as hard to handle as work. For example, I have been accused of being a "travel-Nazi," filling every moment of family vacations with what I think are worthwhile and educational pursuits. My father instilled this ethic in me. I would call it compulsive productivity. Something must be cooked, written, mailed, cleaned, paid, arranged, created, fixed, etc. every day... preferably all of the above. He had a steady supply of 3x5 index cards upon which he wrote lists every night, right up until his final months of life, of things to accomplish the following day.

So it is not without effort that I have gotten through three weeks of unstructured time.

It's the same phenomenon that keeps most people from sticking with a meditation practice... when we empty our schedules, our minds, our environments of clutter, we are faced with.. ourselves.

It's fascinating to observe the urge to fill the time. To notice the feelings of discomfort, alienation, loneliness, and sadness as they arrive. To acknowledge that so much of my life has been structured around the needs and identities of others, and so much of my identity is wrapped up in being "mom" and "minister" that I am filled with anxiety and apprehension when I am alone and free.

What comes to the surface is anger, regret, confusion, fear, sadness, and even despair. But having long years of practice and study in mindfulness and presence, I know I have the tools to weather this period. On the other side of emptiness is peace of mind.

We took a family vacation of sorts this week, driving to Western Mass. to visit Marjorie at college. It was Family weekend. So, my mom identity was back in place. I have four children ages 6-29,  and all of them are still  very much in my life at present, so it will take some doing to keep returning to that less comfortable space where I look for me and assess my  needs, desires, and plans. But that is my goal, to stay with the emptiness and not fill the days and my mind with the the needs of others, just for awhile, so I can find me. In time, I'll be ready to return to the greater community and serve others from a place of clarity and strength.