End of the work week. One day off. Feeling anxious about choosing how to spend my time. So many things I haven’t had time to do… self-care, outside of work responsibilities, the desired connection with actual humans! The priorities! Gah! My monkey mind, anxiety, yuck! After a proud-of-myself short contemplation, I decide to grab my board and head to the water. Self-care wins.
Although the wind was kicking up a bit, it had been quite some time since I had been able to paddle. Winter’s gone and May gray has been in full swing this month adding to the weight I had recently been feeling on my soul, but the sun is shining today! So, a paddle it was, even if not the quiet, glassy water I enjoy on those serene days. The sun had come out and I knew this was absolutely what I needed to reset my countenance and jump start my day for the rest of the priorities to fall in line with the number pulled from the ticket line. Those could wait.
The wind made it hard to paddle standing, but a core workout is all part of taking care of myself which checks off another box from the to-do list – exercise! The sun felt SO good on my skin and the smell of the sea is simply a familiar home.
About a mile in, paddling hard, I decided to turn down a docking corridor since the boats on both sides would protect me from some of the wind, giving me a tiny quiet sanctuary for smoother paddling and meditative moments resting on my board.
My mind demands so much of me. It’s full. Full of to-do lists of important things that can’t be ignored. Things that consist of the management of my future security, my big business dreams and wondering if I’m making the right choices. Then there are worries for people I love; things they are going through. And one of the biggest monkey-mind activities lately has been the deep ache of loss of family, friends and community since I moved to a new state after my separation six years ago. Most of the time my focus is truly on gratitude for the sun and sea, but every once in a while, the loss creeps up on me again and seems to hold me relentlessly for wee bits of time, until I put those monkeys in their cage.
The past two weeks I had been feeling like this, compounded by isolation due to the pandemic and the busyness of a stressful full-time job and going to school at the same time. I sat on my board thinking about how haunted I am by the loss in my past, how sometimes I am settled with my new life and don’t feel this so sharply, and how I’m not alone because there are so many others experiencing anxiety from loss, change, transition, and worry. We’re all in it together.
While I floated there, I was reminded that none of us can give up. We must keep doing the things we know work in order to be encouraged onto the next day, sometimes just the next moment. The tools, resources and life experiences that give us truth and hope.
Do you feel like this sometimes? Wonder how you have allowed the tribe of monkeys to be gathering in your mind and swinging all around at the same time? I’m reminded that when I have this sense of anxiety with struggling to know how to spend my time on my day off that it is always a matter of taking a few minutes to gather those monkeys, breathe, and figure out the priorities. The pros vs. cons list is always a welcomed partner to engage with in these moments.
Wind whipped through the masts and tiny flags strung on them, making sounds like ghosts while I floated there in the bright sunshine in my little dock corridor. I thought about the ghosts in my past, the things that haunt me sometimes because that’s just what loss and grief does, but I also thought about how those things in the past are illuminated now. I see them, don’t ignore them, and I’m working through grief. I’m taking steps to move forward, build a new life, and fully love and embrace this life just as much, although vastly different. Just like you, I have to remind myself to
Take steps forward
and breathe again.
When I got home after my paddle, I wrote a long letter to my new daughter-in-law, whom I’ve never spent time with in person because she and my son stared dating and got married (pandemic-style) while I have been living in another state. It was the perfect thing to do next, and was so deeply satisfying to spend time sharing myself with her. This is part of my new life…new family, even if far away, to build relationship and memories with. What priority could be more important than that on my Sunday? Those memories that sometimes pop up as sad are also the beautiful, deeply satisfying memories about a life well-lived. Yes, it is well with my soul, and those occasional sad feelings are just ghosts in the sunshine.