Whenever I’m in a state of transition or change, I go on a spiritual quest of sorts. I might buy a copy of Real Simple magazine, its cover photo of an organized linen closet promising me everlasting peace and happiness.
Or I’ll go to Target to wander the aisles. Sniff candles with names like “calm.” Wonder if this or that would look pretty in my house, and then not buy anything. The experience of Target being all that I needed to feel bright and sparkly again.
I also start cooking, which is significant because I generally avoid making dinner (or anything for that matter) unless absolutely necessary. And even then, it might be a grilled cheese sandwich. I onced served that with a side of mini-carrots and my husband asked if “cafeteria food” was a new type of cuisine.
But when I’m in a state of transition or change, I suddenly want to make soup from scratch and bake an apple pie. Or I’ll decide that I am going to start canning homemade jam, even though I have no idea how to do it.
The prevailing theme for all of these mini-spiritual quests is around homemaking and caregiving. And while I engage in both to some degree, I’ve set them aside out of choice and necessity to engage in the world of work.
I’m too old to feel guilty about this. Like many working women, I almost died on that hill of “having it all,” so I have a well-deserved aversion to these traditional pursuits. Which makes it all the more perplexing that I move towards them during times of transition and change.
What is it about homemaking and caregiving that are so compelling when my world feels unstable?
I imagine some would say that I am getting back in touch with my true purpose in life, which is to be home with my kids. But I know better.
I am a horrible stay-at-home mother, having tried it during maternity leave. It took me all of two months to determine that people with degrees in early childhood development could, indeed, raise my children better than me.
I also only like to cook when I feel like it. As with most things, once it’s required and expected (and taken for granted), it becomes a chore. Especially at the end of the day when all I want to do is rest and reconnect with my family.
So it must be deeper than that. Something beyond the task itself or its meaning of home and family.
There’s a feeling of peace when I do these things. My mind stops chattering as much, my senses are engaged. It’s probably as close as I get to mindfulness, which is something I am just starting to explore.
My first foray into mindfulness was a disaster. My therapist at the time suggested I try taking a “non-purposeful walk” over my lunch hour.
Confused, I asked if I could do this while talking on my cellphone. (Nope.)
Then I asked if I could just walk realllly slowlllly to my next meeting. (Again, denied.)
Finally, I asked if I could at least drink a Starbucks while walking non-purposefully. In exasperation, she acquiesced.
I actually got a headache on my non-purposeful walk. I felt extremely self-conscious just wandering around randomly with a Starbucks in my hand.
And I wasn’t multitasking in my typical way, so I was acutely aware of my surroundings. All of which I found profoundly boring.
At my next session, she suggested I try drawing something without judgment. To just see an everyday object, sketch it on a piece of paper, and be done with it.
Five attempts at drawing a Kleenex box left me feeling frustrated and inept. How hard could it be to draw a box? (Apparently, very.) In exasperation, I crumpled up the paper and threw it away. I didn’t even recycle it, I was so mad at it.
So much for mindfulness.
Some years later, I’m a bit more evolved on my path. I can pull my mind back into the present moment when it starts spinning. I breathe deeply when I want to scream. I even meditate on occasion.
Even though it may seem strange to suggest that reading Real Simple magazine or walking through Target or cooking dinner are acts in mindfulness, they are for me.
Because when I am doing these things, I am more centered and present. I feel connected to myself and others. And I am at peace.
It’s as close to spiritual nirvana as I get.
What is it that makes you feel centered and present? Connected to yourself and others? Peaceful?
Maybe it’s watching a movie with your kids. Or walking your dog. Even organizing a linen closet with color-coded labels like Real Simple magazine can be a mindfulness practice.
Find those things and do them more.
As for me, I’ll be wandering the aisles of Target. Purposefully.