[Excerpts 5 & 6. These two essays are from Cycling in the City — How I Got My Confidence Back, Book 2 in the Burnout to Bliss series. (P.S. — The spaces between paragraphs are not in the book; they are created when I copy from the WORD doc. and paste it into the WordPress blog.)]
Tennis, Dinner, and a Movie
I decided to try something even more familiar than attending the same brand of church for my next socialization event.
It was time to connect with the most down-to-earth person I knew, my brother, so I invited his family for dinner!
He accepted and responded with an invitation to play Canadian tennis with him and his wife. Holy Moly! That one phone call generated three opportunities!
These two events, tennis and dinner, would not only give me feedback about “How am I doing now?” emotionally, but would also tell me how my body was doing by playing tennis.
I drove to Raley’s, because I could find it easily. According to my map, it was close by, and I wasn’t after anything special. I figured the garden-variety grocery store would suffice. I needed fresh vegetables, French bread, and bay leaves to make the tomato sauce for the dinner I would be serving to my brother’s family that night.
When I found the spice aisle, I surveyed all bottles and cans, but could find only one jar of bay leaves. As silly as it may seem to buy bay leaves in a state where laurel bay grows wild, I had neither the time nor the energy to track down such a tree. I would pay for them just this once until someone taught me where and how to pick the leaves; we could use the jar to store fresh ones gathered another time.
While I was considering the spices, and wondering why there was only one jar of bay leaves on the shelf, a tiny Italian-sounding woman, probably in her seventies, came over to ask me to reach a jar of bay leaves for her.
I told her I had the last one.
Her disappointed face caused me to offer the last bottle to her.
Her “what’s wrong with it, already” expression caused me to scurry to another aisle for the rest of my business. Thinking that she’d probably put the bottle back, or had at least complained to the manager so that by now there must be ten different bottles on the shelf, I returned, finally, to the spice aisle once again.
She was still there. There was still only one bottle. But now she was questioning whether or not she really needed them. I had the thought, “fixed income.” A confused and frustrated store worker was trying to help her decide.
I suggested a novel idea.
“Let me buy them, and I’ll give you some.”
She loved it. At the cashier, I could see her gesturing to her check-out person that she needed a plastic bag right now. She pointed to me and was obviously letting him in on the deal.
So, I stopped at her check-out counter on my way out and offered her the leaves. She took four and smiled a heart-warming thanks.
That afternoon was the Canadian doubles tennis game with my brother and his wife, who play regularly. Despite my walking to work most days, I discovered how stiff and out of shape my body had gotten. I plugged along scoreless to their two games each until the heat overtook me – even in September.
The part of me that observes everything and always has comments, said mentally, I’m from a higher elevation with low humidity and it never gets this hot. But the experience was so weird that another part of me noted the lack of physical strength and fitness.
I left by 4:30 pm, imagining that I had all kinds of time to prepare the eggplant Parmesan, grilled squashes, and French bread, and to set the table. But I couldn’t find things easily, because it wasn’t my kitchen. It was Catherine’s, and she didn’t have the same kitchen toys I do for culinary practice.
Dinner was delayed by thirty minutes.
In all the years I had prepared elegant and strange dinners for incredibly diverse people, I did not ever recall feeling so rattled about my failure to deliver. My mind ruthlessly explored the possible explanations.
Perhaps it was because I imagined that my guests still regarded me as an old hippie – scatter-brained, unable to do anything right? I don’t know. I do know that I was overly concerned that they would like the food, that it would be ready on time, and that the little girls would like the food enough to eat something.
When they arrived at the back door with their daughter and her best friend, I scarcely heard them over the noise in the house – the din of the air conditioner (which was totally ineffectual), the sizzling of steaming squashes, and the roaring of the range fan.
They were all very pleasant, however, easy-going and totally accepting of the situation as they entered through the garage instead of the front door. They surveyed my new home, and played with the cats. We drank the wine they brought and wolfed down the dinner that had taken hours to prepare. They even agreed to have coffee afterwards so I could clean up the kitchen. Then we loaded up into the bed of “Earl,” my brother’s cherry-red, personally-refurbished ’57 Chevy truck, for the movie.
He backed it into the spot he’d selected at the drive-in. His daughter took a chaise and occupied one entire lane by herself, dead center, next to the truck. Her friend took the tailgate and the adults sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the back, against the cab. They had covered the bed with air mattresses and sleeping bags and kindly brought popcorn and sodas. We wanted for nothing.
Tom Hanks starred in Turner and Hooch, a delightful love story about a detective who inherits a junkyard dog (Hooch) while investigating the murder of his friend.
It was a perfect outing with a great family. When they took me home, I thanked them for a fun evening.
But alone again, I had to face the fact that I had cried! A lot! And those tears shed in the movie didn’t feel sad, like the kind of empathy we experience for a good character who dies in fiction.
Instead, they felt pitiful, like I was crying for myself!
Crying at the movie alerted me to the fact that I really was as sick emotionally as the psychiatrist had told me I was. I never cry.
Feeling so uptight about preparing a simple vegetarian meal for family told me I was nowhere near being the woman who chaired the faculty and wrote federal grant proposals while twirling ten other job-related batons as a professor in a small college.
And the tennis game, despite the difference in altitude and humidity, let me know just how out of shape my body was.
I knew I needed to do something, but wasn’t sure what it was.
A public gym was totally out, because I was way too emotionally fragile for that environment.
Walking was something I did regularly at home, but the tennis games convinced me that walking wasn’t enough. Besides that, I felt I’d be too vulnerable walking by myself in an unknown city.
I’d just have to turn it over, let my subconscious work on the problem for a while.
Meanwhile, I was so ready to get back on my spiritual path, to seek help for solving the mystery of how and why my experience of the past year had happened.
Instead of acting on “I need to do something to get my physical strength back,” I chose to do something a little less complicated, more familiar. I chose to study.
Because the little bit I already knew about it had helped me cope with my nemesis in that last academic year, I chose to study A Course in Miracles (ACiM). I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through the three-book set that I bought before leaving Purgatory.
But the house was too hot for me to concentrate; I would have to find someplace cooler. In that moment, the image of my own garage came to mind, possibly because in Purgatory, when it got too hot in my attic apartment, I would move the yard furniture into the garage and hang out there with a book. Why not here?
The next evening, when Catherine came home, I listened to her tales from work and then offered her my story about the bay leaves and the grocery store. In the telling, I suddenly realized how horrible it must be for some housewives who try to share their seemingly mundane day with their busy husbands.
Unlike Catherine, who listened with rapt attention, I imagined myself as a housewife with a traditional husband and flinched. He probably wouldn’t be so accepting. Yet, telling that silly story about sharing bay leaves with an elderly woman was of paramount importance to me.
It was the only totally positive, somewhat interesting thing I could report.
Despite the previous “good day” I’d experienced with my brother’s family, most of it seemed to be a test for feedback about “How am I doing now?” The test included the phone call, the supermarket, the tennis game, the dinner, and the drive-in with my brother’s family. And I had flunked the test.
By comparison, the supermarket story was me being healthy and strong and loving. In other words, normal!
I silently vowed in that moment, when I felt my tears welling up in thankfulness for my friend’s understanding, that I would always give such attention to the stories other people related to me – in the grocery store, at the post office, wherever they happened. Who knows? Maybe I could help someone have a good day, as she had done for me.
Cycling in the City is $.99 for a limited time. Buy it here.
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi
Update: Weird Indy Publishing Project
Being a writer is still “on the shelf” until the second vacancy, the Studio apartment, is “walked through” for possible maintenance, paperwork/deposit handled from precious tenant who left only today, the apartment is rented, and the new tenant is “settled.”
But I think about it constantly! I am so looking forward to writing Book 3, working title “Surrender.” It’s about my leap of faith — a journey that took me first to a totally safe environment (living with an amazingly supportive friend for a few months in California), then plunging into the unknown for almost two years with what I had left from my last paycheck ($850).
Re’ the California story (CYCLING in the CITY), I’m thinking Spirit knew I needed to “wade into the unknown first,” because the adventure in Book 3 was … different.
Till then, know that you are safe and that your life is truly in Divine Order. ~Pam