Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Waffle house

When I was a kid, my family traveled to a barrier island in South Carolina for our annual summer vacation.  One of the things that made the often tedious, seventeen-hour road trip more palatable was a stop at Waffle House for breakfast.   There I could eat what would normally be considered dessert, especially a pecan waffle with lots of whipped cream and extra syrup.  After downing the high-carb plate of sticky sweetness, I usually went into a food coma for a few hours while my father drove on through Kentucky and Tennessee, the dashed lines on the highway blurring together as I stared out the window. 
         Now I can't drive past a Waffle House without remembering my favorite pit stop on the way to the beach, for it was on those vacations that I began to understand my propensity to desire the dichotomy of what a week's vacation would stir up inside of me.  On the one hand, I loved being near the ocean, body surfing, beach combing, and making castles in the sand.  On the other, I knew that school would soon be starting and I looked forward to seeing my friends, settling into a routine that would give my life structure...and the fact that I'd soon have a desk of my own that I didn't have to share with anyone.  During long, lazy walks along the shoreline, I'd count the days left of vacation, the days until I'd head back to the classroom.  Both were bittersweet, for I knew that I'd never be able to have both simultaneously. 
These days I'm looking forward to an August trip to Sedona, Arizona.  It's an excursion my friend and I have been looking forward to since our teaching days, but was made real in January of 2015 when Sandy booked her timeshare during the week I normally enjoy a "stay-cation" at home.
"We're going to celebrate your birthday by going somewhere really special," she smiled, handing me a gorgeous carry-on bag that will one day be filled with hiking poles, Tek Gear, and a bunch of Cliff Bars.  "It's taken nearly two decades, but we're finally going!"
It will be the first trip I've taken in six years -- the last being in 2010 when Sandy and I traveled to Yellowstone and Glacier Park -- and I can't wait.  Once I book the flights in a month or so, it will all become pretty real and like Sandy always says, "It's always good to have something to look forward to."  Isn't that the truth?

Still, there's a lot to be said for the incredibly wonderful, every-day life I've been leading this year.   Even though I have a fairly regular yoga schedule, workout routine, and always-evolving social life, no two days are the same -- probably because I'm never the same day-to-day either.  Yesterday, someone at the gym asked what I did this past weekend and I told her, "I honestly don't remember."   Seriously.  I had to stop and think, What did I do on Saturday?  On Sunday?  I suppose all the yoga and meditation and Rolfing I've practiced over the years are working their magic so I can stay in the present moment more fully. 
Now that I really think about it, that's more like a miracle. 
When I was younger, I used to spend the majority of my days rehashing ancient history or projecting into an uncertain, distant future.  But no more.  In 2010 when I thought I was dying of a heart attack, my whole world changed and I've fully embraced the fact that since I'm still here, there's more work to be done.  More novels to write.  More yoga classes to teach.  More people to love.  Even though I don't have much control over what's coming next, I trust that more will be revealed over time, when I need to know it...and not one moment earlier. 

I've learned I can't have it both ways.  I can't be on a fabulous vacation and be in my peaceful, comfortable home.  I can't dive into a new book when I'm still swimming in edits on the previous one.  I can't open my heart to anything new when I'm still stuck in memories of the past.  I can't waffle between what was and what might be any longer.  For as my friend, Tony, reminded me recently, "The masters teach us:  The mind should not be interfered with by the four sicknesses:  to be surprised, to be afraid, to doubt, and to be indecisive.  The four sicknesses of the mind...that's universal, man."
"No doubt," I laughed.  "Pun intended."
It's a relief really...this ability to be present with whatever is happening in the moment and to consciously choose to experience it, to take it all in, no matter how uncomfortable or incredible or challenging or boring.   Because each time I do, the kaleidoscope of life turns that much more, the colors shift, becoming more brilliant and vibrant, allowing me to be more aware of what's being revealed.  Sure, it's fun to remember all the great times I've spent with Sandy in the past, and even better to anticipate a wonderful week with her come early August.  But the sweetest thing is knowing that the more fully I can live in the here and now, the more fully I'll be able to enjoy every single moment in Sedona. 
I teach my yoga students that the left hand represents our past experiences, and the right hand, our future.  When we bring them together at the center of the chest, the universal gesture for prayer, they represent the present moment.  I'm certain that someday soon I'll be hiking on a vista in Arizona, my heart wide open, my spirit ready to take wing when I'll stop and gently press my hands together in appreciation for a trip that will be the culmination of twenty-three incredibly demanding years that have led me to the gateway of a place I've never been but have been preparing for most of my adult life.
And upon returning home to Ohio, I'm certain there will be no waffling at all when I take another step forward into the incredible unknown.