Show Me The Way To Go Home

 

(Eagle River, WI, 2012) The Peace Center in Eagle River does walking meditation every week; I’m trying it out. This new philosophy makes me wonder about how this place, my latest, newest home feels both foreign and familiar at the same time.

Walking meditation helps practitioners from every spiritual tradition rediscover  their home in the here and now, as the long road we all must walk turns to quiet joy……………………Thich Nhat Hanh

The sun is sliding down through the trees as dusk approaches. The gravel road leading out from my wooded respite is perfect for walking. I stride silently, focused only on my breathing, the swishing of the wind, the clouds above me.

The amount of concentration needed is startling. How can something that looks so simple be so complex? I pace myself slowly, cautiously, breathe in, step my left foot forward. “I am.” I breathe out, step my right foot forward. “Home.” “I am home.“ “Breathe in. Breathe out.”

Mindfulness, awareness, being in the present, is described as a state of active, open attention. I hoped these ideas would help me make the adjustment to my new life. Most days, I look around and can’t believe I’m here. More accurately, I say “what the hell am I doing here!“

I’d moved to this northern Wisconsin area with a husband who’d dreamed of living here since he was a young boy, camping with his dad. I was willing to meet him half way and said I’d move if I found a job in my field. That happened. Then five years later got divorced. Now, I’m hundreds of miles from any family and old friends, a single woman living in the land of the married. I see a parallel of my life. Or maybe it’s just that compulsion to repeat.

Back in the 1970’s I’d moved far away from family and friends when my first husband wanted that. We’d moved to a rural, isolated area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We were young and he wanted to be a builder, thought going to a winter resort area would further his career. I was only too happy to go along for the ride. I see that I’ve spent large portions of my life doing what others wanted me to do. Eleven years the first time. Then after twelve years alone, seventeen years with my second husband. Now alone again.

Many people think excitement is happiness, but when you are excited, you are not peaceful. True happiness is based in peace……Thich Nhat Hahn

On one hand, I was happy to be on my own, almost excited that I could decorate my new home as I wanted to. No need to check with anyone. It was great how I’d arrive home from work and slowly walk through my entire house. Everything was exactly where I’d left it. No one was waiting with five projects that had to be done now.

Instead, I could decide how to fill my time. I could sit for hours and read that almost over-due library book. Or watch that Netflix movie that came in the mail today. Play whatever music I wanted as loud as I wanted on the car radio. Have nothing more than a bowl of cereal for supper. Leave the dishes in the sink for a day or two.

But there was another side. For the first six months after this divorce I’d been in a disbelieving fog. How could this be happening? I’d stopped writing, never got the things done that were on my many to-do lists. I was thankful to go to work each day. At least there, I was the same person I’d always been.

As time passed, I’s appreciated how I was free to spend more time with friends and try new activities that seemed fun and interesting. When I took short trips down state, I noticed how I couldn’t wait to get back to my little house in the woods. Each day, I’d drive for seven minutes on a country road to get to work. No freeways, no crowds. What a delight. Though I had few real roots in this place, I was pretty content.

Something inside urged me to go slow. I developed a lack of urgency, patience in waiting to see what would happen and watched with interest the phases or stages I seemed to be going through. I didn’t want to make a mistake. Be mindful I said. Look at what you have and know there’s no rush to change anything or make a decision.

Now a year and a half has passed and I wonder if the worst is over. I’ve built a solo life that’s satisfying. The people in my old life say come back home, move back home. This sounds strange. Aren’t I home right here? I like small town life where I’m running into at least one person I know each time I go to the grocery store. I relish the comfortable times I have with the groups I belong to. When I get lonely I know who to call and what to do.

Though I didn’t think I could see myself as a single woman, I find I’m okay with who I am. Maybe this contentment is far better than happiness. I’ve found comfort in the day to day small pleasures. Though there was an initial gap in my life without a relationship, over time I came to know I could get along just fine alone. It’s better than trying to be the impossibly perfect wife and failing miserably each day.

The fact that there’s no man in my life is inconsequential. I was the caregiver of both husbands. Now I’ll take care of myself. Any future relationship will be with someone who takes care of himself. A true partnership with another adult. Not a mother/child caretaking thing.

Life is available only in the present moment…….Thich Nhat Hanh

This change has taught me there are no guarantees and I can’t predict anything about what path my life will take. I just know that I’m ready to follow what works for me today. And then to change my mind and adjust as new things happen. Today, I’m close to saying that getting divorced was good for me. That seems a paradox. But that’s life. And I try hard to live in the present. At least once each day, I stop and look around, appreciate what I have and know the importance of being at home, feeling at home wherever it is that I’m living. “Breathe in, breathe out, I am home.”

 

 

 

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