Monday, December 9, 2013

I can imagine loving-kindness.

I’ve been navel-gazing.

It started with a yoga/movement/writing/visioning retreat that was to be an early birthday present to myself. I really have no words to describe this experience. But if I did I probably wouldn’t share them here. And, in fact, sharing words at all was verboten for the second half of this two-day workshop. Which wasn’t easy for me.

I talk. I question. I prompt. Incessantly. That’s why I became I journalist. That’s why I like mingling at parties full of people I barely know and why I often strike up conversations on playgrounds, in lines, airplanes. Or at least, I don’t shut them down.

But my yoga/writing workshop experience proved not only that being quiet has its benefits (which I know) but also that I was capable of staying silent and, if forced encouraged to keep my observations and opinions and inquiries to myself for a somewhat extended length of time, I might be rewarded with realizations. Important ones.  After all, that’s what happened at the transformative (there’s a word but it’s an insufficient one so it doesn’t count) yoga/writing workshop.

Maybe I won’t be rewarded with profound realizations. Maybe, in these moments of quiet, I’ll just come up with stories, fictional shorts that serve to entertain me—and in some cases even inspire compassion, loving-kindness.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been traveling a lot in the last week. Uncharacteristically, solo. No kids. No Jon. Just me. And, to strangers, I’ve remained mostly silent. Which, as it turns out, that makes me more observant.  And imaginative.

As an eavesdropping voyeur, it’s been fascinating to listen to the dynamics of couples in stressful travel situations—mostly caused by snow and sleet but in one case, by a passport-verifying machine that forced one half of a two-person family unit to back down, cancel out and join her other half, two spots down, in finishing  his half-completed customs declaration screen. She. Was. Pissed. Her wrath was directed at Brian—that was his name—but we all got to hear it too. Brian and his domestic partner continued bickering. Like children. Did Jon and I sound like this? In public? I thought back to the man sitting in the Burlington terminal a few days earlier: so optimistically relating his (unfortunate) travel situation to the woman on the other end, the one who kept asking the same questions over and over again, in a kind yet-totally-annoying way. (Amazing as it may seem, I was eavesdropping on BOTH sides of this telephone conversation.) He seemed to be so happy to keep repeating his answers. I marveled at their considerate conversation—it seemed so nice.  Again, I wondered: where were Jon and I this Brian-and-his-angry wife/remarkably-kind-couple spectrum.

Twenty minutes later I came across a 50-something woman with strewn-about suitcases, bright makeup and big hair. She was in the process of combing her hot-rolled tresses in wide strokes while a growing line of stall-exiters waited in line to wash their hands. Who is this woman and why is she hogging up the counter with her vain primping? And – ew, gross – surely those strands are going to land all over the sinks. Then the story started forming… she was off to meet a guy she’d fallen in love with online. For the first time. Of course she wanted to look nice. Now I was rooting for her.

And then, tonight, just minutes after takeoff, the guy in 15D slumps over, his sleepy head falling over the invisible line dividing his side from mine and starts snoring. I feel an almost irrepressible urge to poke him. I want to tell him to SHUT UP. But my mind starts reeling: he’s a very anxious flyer. He’s medicated to get through. I pull out my iPhone and the headphones I’m grateful to have remembered and I start listening to “Marathon2012”—one of the few playlists I’ve synced to this device. When I tire of that, I turn to “Relaxing,” which consists of one 7:45 minute song that was supposed to be the soundtrack to Kai’s birth—till I requested that the doula switch to a running mix. The 15D Dude’s snorts sound over the ambient chimes. I feel twitchy. I want out of this seat. I remember how 15D slammed down our shared armrest and occupied all of it without even asking. Surely, he’s just a big jerk. I have no feelings of loving-kindness toward this character in the next seat. 

Maybe I should wake him up and ask him where he’s going? Did he have any delays? Did he wake up at the crack of dawn and that’s why he’s so sleepy and must snore so close to my shoulder.  I wonder. Maybe I should ask. But he's sleeping so I don't. I just sit and wonder. 


  1. I like the idea of stopping when you are irritated with a stranger (or hey, even a loved one) and coming up with a background story that makes their behavior more palatable. As someone who is easily irritated, I need all the strategies I can get to behave as if I were a patient, kind sole.
    But that dude snoring near my shoulder would have driven me crazy, no question. No background story would have made that better for me!

  2. "As someone who is easily irritated, I need all the strategies I can get to behave as if I were a patient, kind sole."..... Yes, Teal!! Me, too!