Why Are You Here?

In bed Sunday morning at quarter to eight I felt anxious that I was late. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, but the feeling rose in me nonetheless. I closed my eyes tight but darkness made the anxiety stronger. Then I asked it a question:

        Why are you here?

Yeah, I talked to my anxiety. Usually I battle it, push against it, try to tamp it down. I try to stop anxiety, kick it in the knees. What else is there to do with something I fear? These things rarely work but are the habits I've developed. Today I took a different tack. I talked with it the way I want people to talk with me.

        Why are you here?

In case you're worried, my anxiety doesn't reply. There is however a child-like voice in me that said, I don't know. And with that my anxiety began to drain away. It didn't disappear in a flash but I felt it ebbing. Having asked the question, gotten something of an answer, I opened my eyes and felt ready to get out of bed. I had writing to do.

One Last Stocking Stuffer

Dad used to do my brother's and my Christmas stocking stuffers. He shopped at hardware and dollar stores, often duplicating gifts year to year. Duct tape and black electrical tape. Utility razor blades, glue, picture hooks, and Velcro. Almost every year I opened a scraper and a tire pressure gauge. A can of WD-40 filled the top of my stocking nearly every year.

My brother and fill each other's stockings with Dad gone the last three Christmases. This year I asked for duct tape, glue, razor blades, and pads for chair legs. No scrapers and pressure gauges, but I needed WD-40. I filled my brother's stocking with Crazy Glue, a pocket tape measure, chrome polish and other things Dad would have bought including a tiny can of WD-40 but he forgot mine. He apologized. I told him not to worry.

Yesterday I took Mom for coffee. I sipped my Americano while updating her phone and showing her how to read notifications. Mom is better than all her friends with her iPhone but needs occasional tutorials and phone maintenance. We chatted while working that through, stopped at the liquor store to get bourbon cream for her afternoon cocktails, and went back to her house where I helped put away some boxes, emptied dehumidifiers, and replaced the battery of a chirping smoke detector in her basement. (Mom worried the chirp was a mouse. A very regular and electronic mouse. Those are the worst kind.)

She had a fresh battery upstairs. I took it down to the basement and snapped it in. After testing the smoke detector I took a moment in Dad's workshop looking around to feel his presence. Mostly I felt absence. On the workbench was a can of WD-40. It was full like it had never been used. I held it for a moment maybe a minute then took it upstairs where I said goodbye to Mom, went out to my car, and drove home.

Before starting to make dinner, I texted a picture of the can to my brother: "Dad got me one last stocking stuffer." I hit send and stared at the message smiling with my eyes fogging over, my breath catching. I sniffed and set the phone down on the kitchen table, its screen still on. I cut vegetables for soup. The onions had me crying.

Practice Makes Better

I'm an irregular meditation student. Years ago two pros came to my school to meditate with my students and me. That was good. I took a six-week meditation class that ended in a half-day silent retreat. That was very good. But I haven't maintained a regular practice. I've written Morning Pages every single morning since July 5, 2014, but have yet to string together ten straight days of meditation even for five minutes a day.

In the last two weeks I've come back to meditation. After Morning Pages I set a timer and sit for five minutes. This morning I returned after a couple days away. Thoughts came to me, mostly plans or things I feel obligated to consider right away. I work to gently set them aside saying, You can wait. The thoughts are like my children when they were young wanting immediate attention as I was occupied. I asked my girls to wait, rarely more than a few seconds, then gave them my attention. They've grown up just fine. Perhaps my mind can grow in the same way.

After today's brief meditation I wrote:

To care for the mind is to care for the whole self.
To care for the body is to care for the mind and thus the whole self.
To care for others is to care for the self and the whole world.

Sitting meditation for five minutes this morning has enlightened me that tiny bit. It's like sunlight after the Winter Solstice coming sooner and lasting just a little longer. Change comes slowly and is sometimes difficult to notice.

I don't promise I'll keep up with the meditation. I know I haven't yet decided this thing. I'll have decided if it becomes as automatic as my Morning Pages. This note is just a reminder to myself that I feel better having sat for five minutes. It's a reminder that I need these ways to feel better in order to make my way forward and through to where I'm still not sure.