Sunday Morning ~ Being In The Moment
Kunja kuli kutali. ~ Outside is far away.
~ Chewa proverb
When I was twenty years old my future husband borrowed a boat and took me out sailing in Boston Harbor. He’d brought a bottle of wine (drinking age was eighteen back then), and packed a picnic. It was a beautiful late summer day. He’d asked me to marry him a few weeks before and I’d refused. I’d been completely blindsided by the proposal, not even thinking we were in a serious relationship. I’d panicked and suggested we make a clean break as he was way more serious than I was. He didn’t want that and asked if we could be friends. I agreed, emphasizing I was not ready to get serious. I loved him but had places to go and people to see and the last thing on my agenda was being tied down by marriage. We were too young. I had too much to do.
When he asked me to go sailing I agreed and the day on the water was beautiful and romantic. I felt safe with him in the boat. At twenty, he was already an experienced sailor and watching him get us out into the harbor was admirable. I could follow simple instructions but was not much help. I trusted him. I felt safe, which is saying a lot since I rarely feel safe in a boat. I should have been completely content. It was the perfect temperature. The sky was bright blue. I had the day off from work and was out on the water with a great guy. He was smart and funny, handsome and competent. He loved me. I took a lot of that for granted. I had one more year left in school and could not stop thinking about the possibilities.
I think my yearning started with the family subscription to National Geographic. As a kid, I read little of the text, but pored over every photo and caption. I wanted to travel to every single one of the exotic locations. I wanted to wear safari outfits and sleep in primitive tents. I skimmed the underwater stuff, ruling that out as a destination, but flipped those pages until I got to the jungles, mountains, lakes, and savannah. I imagined myself as one of the healthy-looking explorers. I spent hours daydreaming about sitting around an open fire in the evening, tin cup of something delicious in our hands, discussing the findings of the day. How convenient that the Peace Corps commercials coincided with my youthful longing. I was going there. Nothing would stop me. I hadn’t imagined a marriage proposal from someone who mostly stuck to home. He didn’t wax poetic about distant lands. True, he’d tracked whales around Labrador on a sailing scholarship as a teenager; that was noteworthy. That, however, involved a boat so was instantly off my list of enviable experiences. But I did think it was pretty cool that he did it. I just never saw myself marrying until later in my life. Say, twenty-five or so, time to be single and carefree, flirty, flingy, but with plenty of childbearing potential left in me. I imagined meeting Mr. Right on one of my adventures, not in a bar on Charles Street, a street not nearly as elite in the 70’s as it is now. Students could afford apartments on Beacon Hill back then for God’s sake.
There are many times over the years I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. I’ve said many hurtful things in my life; most were out of anger but many were unintentionally insensitive. Some stand out more than others and that day sailing in Boston Harbor was one of them. I didn’t mean it to be hurtful. I meant it to convey my desire for adventure, something he said he admired. He was proud of himself having organized the whole day, and it was incredible. I don’t think I said that enough that day. What I did say I wish I could have reeled back in as it was coming out of my mouth. A plane ascended from Logan airport and we watched it pass over us, heading east. “Europe”, I thought. “That plane is going to Europe.” And all I could think of was strange lands and foreign languages, cheap hostels and interesting people, trains taking backpackers to remote locations, alps, experience. I had another whole year of nursing school. I had weekends to work yet, angry father to placate, exams to pass, and papers to write. It seemed it would be a year of stress and toil. That’s what I was thinking when I said, “I wish I were on that plane.”
The look on his face is branded into my brain. In all the fights we had in our twenty five years together, all the mean and nasty things we said to each other in anger, that sentence is the one I regret the most. He’d worked so hard to put the day together. I don’t even know where he got this big boat. He might have had to pay a week’s wages for it. And I said something that stupid because I wasn’t living in the moment. I was always looking ahead for something more exciting.
There’s a balance between having future goals and being content with the present and I’ve struggled to achieve that. Much later in life did the idea of mindfulness come in to my consciousness. I’m always itchy to move, anxious for the seedling to come up so I can start planting, then anxious for the harvest, then to eat. When I’m home I’m always thinking about where I can go, when I’m traveling, I’m thinking about where I can go next. I thought of this when I looked for the meaning of this proverb about things being far away, to stop complaining about not having them, to use what I have, and stay present. This year has been a good lesson for me. I feel the agitation diminishing. I’m looking at every leaf and bud with a new appreciation. I’m grateful for my warm dry home when it rains. I’m less apt to fill my calendar. I understand more those who don’t crave adventure, relish what they have, grateful for where they are.
Love to all,