It’s a Monday morning. It’s a slow, somewhat sluggish, rather disorganized Monday morning. I’ve been up for nearly an hour and only now sitting down with coffee in hand, and somehow having managed to show and meditate, and even get the dishes started, but… my consciousness is foggy, and I am not at my best. I woke during the night more than once with a stuffy head and dry throat. The dry throat from snoring, which is likely what actually woke me, but also probably worsened by the stuffy head. It doesn’t feel like a head-cold, yet, and I muddle through the morning.

I’m okay with the slow morning; I have all the time I need to appreciate the excellent weekend that just finished. End to end it was just an exceptional weekend of extraordinary contentment and joy. More than enough, and built on basics like ‘perspective’, ’emotional self-sufficiency’, ‘good self-care’, ‘awareness’, ‘listening deeply’ – and all the verbs that each of those implies.

I had not been here before, but it was not an uncommon experience to have.

I had not been here before, but it was not an uncommon experience to have.

My walk yesterday lead me through the neighborhood down unfamiliar streets, past houses and yards and families. I found it interesting to see differences in the qualities of order and chaos from home to home. There were homes with untidy winter gardens awaiting spring, the elaborate trellises, supports, and remains of summer past telling a tale of sunshine, labor, and good food. Other homes had only a fierce green expanse of utterly perfect lawn from curb to stoop – artificial lawn. Still others with the disordered arrangement of various unfinished projects communicating lost momentum, despair, lack of funds, lack of will, lack of hope… It isn’t always easy to finish what we begin. Beginnings often come in a moment of hope, embraced change, or good fortune; impermanence quickly ends them unfinished without commitment – and verbs. We seem to have taught ourselves too well how ‘hard’ things can be, and it has become an easy excuse to move on from one project to another, without completion. Me, too. Still human.

Impermanence - a blackberry hedge that will be removed when the road goes through.

Impermanence – a blackberry hedge that will be removed when the road goes through.

I arrived home from my walk feeling uplifted (fresh air, sunshine, and arriving home ahead of the rain) and the first thing my eyes landed on was the assortment of paintings yet to hang. My errands Saturday afternoon included getting the remaining pieces I plan to hang in the dining space framed. I had been on the edge of allowing the desire to see more of the work I love best well-framed stop me from hanging unframed work ‘in the meantime’ (‘meantimes’ can grow very long left unattended, speaking from experience). I reconsidered and hung work in my bedroom that is not intended to be framed; the two canvases I’d selected for either side of the bed were just waiting to be hung, and no reason to delay. My comfort and delight at the more finished feel of the space encouraged me further, and I hung work in the hallway for consideration, enjoying some leisurely minutes swapping this for that, moving one here, or there, until the hallway also felt ‘finished’ – although these works will need to come down one-by-one over the course of the year for their own turn at the framer’s. I thought no more of it, yesterday, once I’d done with it.

I woke this morning, sluggish to be sure, and when I stepped from my bedroom into the hallway my smile tore across my face unexpectedly in a moment of unreserved childlike joy – “home!” is what the smile says, without words. It matters that much to see my work hanging in my space. I listen to the rain fall, sip my coffee, and feel wrapped in comfort and contentment – and some portion of that is built on these small choices to make this space visually comfortable, based on what I enjoy myself. “Home” and comfort go so far beyond a thermostat setting. Self-knowledge and awareness are important character qualities to cultivate; tubes of paint willy-nilly in apparent disorder on the drop cloth at the foot of my easel don’t disturb or distress me, and there’s no reason to fuss with them. A tissue carelessly dropped next to a trash can is a very different thing; I pick it up in passing and return order. Dishes in the sink are annoying to wake up to, and I generally load the dishwasher before bed to ensure I don’t wake up to dirty dishes; good self-care suggests I start the dishwasher in the morning before I leave for work, to avoid having to listen to the machine run (which can aggravate my tinnitus and make me more noise sensitive). Small details that ‘don’t matter’ are often the details that matter most [to me].

One peculiar thing about being a human primate is how difficult it is to share ‘what works’ – because there’s no reason, really, to suppose it will work universally, at all. We are each having our own experience. On the other hand… we’re the same species, living on just this one planet (so far, and as far as we know), and we have so much in common that we have a word for it: ‘common’. Funny how commonly we feel so all alone in our experience, isn’t it? Reason suggests it is rarely the ‘true truth’ about our circumstances – or even how those circumstances feel to us as an individual in the moment. Odd that. I am learning the value of listening deeply for closing that gap in mutual understanding, and it is currently the most important relatively new practice I am practicing. I find the best simple descriptions for practices associated with listening deeply in Thich Nhat Hanh’s “How to Love” and in “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris – they’re both linked on my reading list. 🙂 It often seems as though the heart and soul of much of the strife in the world is a lack of real listening to one another, with a lack of compassion for our fellows nipping at it’s heels for first place in the race to be the most insensitive human being possible. We could so easily choose to care, instead. I wonder what that would be like for the world – to be cared for, I mean.

The morning moves on, so do I. Monday. A rainy Monday, and one on which I will come home to a space that has had strangers in it, making changes; I moved into the unit before the new closet doors were hung, and those have arrived and will be installed today while I am at work. I feel a little queasy thinking about stray humans without supervision moving through my space with paintings on the walls, and stacked here and there, and breakables out… where they could so easily be broken. I take a deep breath and let the fear fall away. It’s not always easy to trust. Another breath, and a reminder to myself how careful the landlady has been with such, thus far. Another breath, and I recall how many more times – seriously – someone living with me, meaning well, and knowing the value of the things around us, has broken something, damaged something, or very nearly so; it is far far more often than any workman has ever put my breakables or art at risk. and sometimes actually done willfully in anger. I feel myself relax; workers on the premises are not a legitimate cause for concern, they are being paid, and can be relied upon to behave as paid professionals in my space.

Today is a good day to be present in this moment, doing what I am doing right now – whatever that is. Today is a good day to be appreciative for what works, and taking advantage of the learning opportunity when something doesn’t work as well. Today is a good day to take care of me, with the tenderness and compassion with which I would care for anyone dear to me. Today is a good day to listen deeply.