Copyright 2008 Margot Potter
It is easy in the day to day drudgeries of life to fall into a stupor and lose clarity. It’s dulling, the chopping of the wood and the carrying of the water. It is easy to forget what’s real and what’s not, to lose heart, to lose mindfulness, to lose a sense of connection. It’s easy to stop paying attention to the gift that lies in merely getting up every day and being able to chop the wood and carry the water. There is so much to do these days, so much rushing from place to place. We are all so over scheduled. When we’re not doing something, we’re tapping on the computer or talking on the cell phone or sending text messages while racing, racing, racing to the next thing. There’s no down time anymore.
I see it in the faces of the women in the minivans and SUVs with a kid in the front seat looking terrified as they’re riding up my ass because they’re late to the next soccer game or ballet class or doctor’s appointment. I’ve had to turn around and shame them into waking up and realizing they’re endangering their children’s lives and mine by driving this way by pointing a finger at them. "YOU...SLOW DOWN!" So what if you’re late, the world won’t stop spinning on its axis. You aren’t a bad parent if you say...NO. Your kid doesn’t need to be doing something every minute of every day, then collapsing in front of a TV set in a daze because they’re too tired to talk. What kind of a life is that?! What ever happened to mud pies and lazy summer afternoons just chewing on a piece of grass and watching the clouds roll by? We don’t have to fill up every moment with things to do and fill up every empty space with stuff we don’t need...there is value in the empty spaces, there is something there. Maybe something far better than the things to do or the things to buy, definitely something more powerful and resonant and ripe...
No wonder we drive through the parking lots like the spaces aren’t even there, we can’t be bothered with spaces or taking time to drive up and down rows, because we’re late. So what if someone might be letting their toddler out of the car, or putting their baby in a car seat, or walking with a cart full of food, they’d better get the hell out of our way. We’ve got things to do, see, because we wrote a list. No wonder we’ve forgotten the common courtesies. We don’t have time. We are all of us out of time.
I see it in the men who no longer bother to open a door for me when we’re walking into a store, who whip around me on the road giving me the evil eye even when I’m going ten miles faster than the posted speed limit, who butt in front of me in line because they have to get somewhere far more important than anywhere I may have to be. I see it in the cashiers who are overworked and underpaid and no longer bothered to thank me for shopping with them, because truth be told they wish I’d have stood in another line so they could go on break. I see it in the mothers at the day camp who can’t wait to drop their kids off and race away to squeeze in some modicum of alone time in the hopes of maintaining a fragment of their sanity. I see it in the children who are so worried about making the grade and making the team and winning the prize, they can’t be children anymore.
We are more connected now than we’ve ever been in the history of the human race, yet we are more disconnected than we’ve ever been in the history of the human race. It’s a crazy dichotomy isn’t it? We’re all so busy we don’t have time to just be. When was the last time you just sat by a river or the ocean with your kid? Really talked. Really listened. Connected. When was the last time you actually heard an entire story they rattled off to you without your mind drifting off into a litany of things you’re freaking out about not having finished? When was the last time you took an afternoon by yourself and wandered aimlessly down a pathway in the woods? When was the last time you exhaled...fully...and let your shoulders go...and your schedules go...and your need to be doing something every minute of every day go?
When was the last time you reached into your pocket and found *Zuzu’s petals? Took them out and rolled them in your hand, smelled the fragrance as it wafted into your nostrils, realized that you’ve disconnected with the people who love you and fully remembered why we’re here. Why you are here. How fragile and fleeting life is. How easily and violently the fabric of our existence can be ripped apart and never rewoven into the same cloth again. How quickly the days can slip away from us on into another until we get to the end of the journey and realize with total clarity and absolute desolation that the destination wasn’t the point.
Today, for a moment, why not stop spinning your wheels. Take out Zuzu’s petals and don’t shove them back into your pocket right away. Sit with them. Spend a few minutes or an hour or two with the people who matter to you, connecting. Listen to them. Exhale. Breathe them in like oxygen. Touch them, kiss them, hold them close. Reconnect. That’s real. Love is real. It’s the only thing that is real. The world will not stop spinning on its axis if you stop for a moment, I promise.
“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
(*Zuzu's Petals are from the classic Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life)