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time alone


A couple weeks ago I was standing in line at Costco. There were at least four people in front of me, so I settled in for a bit of a wait. When I am by myself, as I was this time, I don't mind waiting. I enjoy letting my mind wander over the sights in front of me, taking its time to savor the colors, the sounds, the expressions on everyone's faces. These days I don't often get time to delight in my random thoughts. Or even silence, for that matter.

My life feels like it is all about rushing. I am in a hurry in the morning to get some time to myself. I get up at 5:15 knowing my kids will be up by 7:00 for school. Initially, as the computer boots up and I smell the aroma of fresh coffee brewing it feels as though I have time to be leisurely. That hour or so before the clock strikes 6:30 am feels like a wide expanse of freedom.

However, at 6:30 I feel the sands slipping through the hour glass. Just 30 minutes until I have to make my kids' hot chocolate, turn on Cartoon Network, make lunch, jump in the shower, find uniforms, etc. The morning routine is a jumble of activity.

All day long I am surrounded by small children who want to talk, talk, talk. Sometimes the conversation is circular logic; sometimes it's a question of relativity (What's gravity? Why can't I fly by just flapping my arms?) Sometimes it's just trying out the voice God gave them and all of its octaves.

When I am at the YMCA I am rushing because I don't know if or when the Child Watch worker is going to come through the door to tell me one of my kids is flipping out and thus endeth my workout on the elliptical. This is one of the main reasons I do not engage in mindless chit chat at the Y. I barely have time for my own thoughts, I don't feel like making nice with Buzz Cut Military Man on the next elliptical.

At the grocery store, or running errands, I am in a hurry as I don't know when the baby will hit the wall and start protesting about being in a car seat, a grocery cart or a stroller. It's a bit like running from the law, I suppose. I don't know when the friendly officer down the street is going to see through my dime store wig, recognize my mug shot and execute the warrant for my arrest. I live on borrowed time trying to get to the task at hand.

This morning my husband was avoiding doing his physical therapy exercises. Since we don't have a lot of opportunity to talk, we do discuss stuff in the early morning. However, today he was extra chatty. I didn't get a chance to write like I normally do. But when I gave up the expectation of meeting my own agenda, I found I wasn't nearly as frustrated.

This is true of my children as well. When I am trying to do something else and they want my attention it's a lose/lose situation. But when I readjust my expectations, I find we are all happier. I am not thinking about the tasks I want to accomplish, I am trying to live in the moment and enjoy the time I have with my kids or my husband.

Back to this morning: By 6:45 am I had to jump in the shower. I told him I had to get going and that he had to start doing the exercises he was carefully avoiding. As the warm water ran down my back I started to let my mind wander only to be interrupted by a "knock, knock" on the shower door. My husband had one last thing he wanted to tell me. I just had to laugh. Our time alone together (and alone) is at such a premium lately that we have to grab at any shred we can get.

So when I have the somewhat rare occasion to stand in line by myself, I enjoy the silence and the time unaccompanied with my own thoughts. I am not a great philosopher and I don't pretend to have grand ideas. I am a Midwestern gal who likes to observe. Lately I am thinking I would do well in a monastery. I could pretty easily do a vow of silence -- as long as I could write.

Do you think once in a while a monk who has entered into a vow of silence utters a very quiet "aah" under the cover of night just to know his voice is still there and in working order?


2007-03-07 at 9:21 a.m.

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