Yesterday the Zen Peacemaker Order did a Reflection on the Rule, and the group of us that met on Zoom, from the US, England, Switzerland, Germany and Brazil, focused on what it means to be stingy. Or, as Bernie used to accuse me often, of having a mind of poverty.
I’ve contemplated this precept often in the past, but this time we focused more on time than money. I realized that I’m way stingier with my time than with money.
I don’t buy expensive things, which is no big sacrifice because I live in a rural area, don’t travel much now or go out. No need for pretty dresses or sandals. I have a rule: I look at my closet and any article of clothing that hasn’t been worn in two years gets recycled. It does wonders for narrowing my wardrobe. For the same reason, I don’t get fancy things for the house. I’m happy with warm and comfortable, not grand and impressive. The only one I spoil is Aussie.
I also tithe, which has been in my bones since I turned 30, mostly due to my Jewish heritage.
But time—there’s the rub. I can be intolerant of people needing my time. Not students or close friends, and certainly not family members, whose lives I love to share.
Recently, a friend wrote me that she finds herself spending considerable time supporting people of her generation who need friendship, advice, and companionship as they age. I’m not that gracious. In the store earlier today, I thought about getting a watch with numbers that are easier to read, which tells you how often I look at my watch:
The woman with dementia who’d like to walk with me for an hour? I look at my watch. Someone who lost a husband recently? I bend my head imperceptibly to see my watch. Talk concerning a failed marriage or children who won’t talk to you? From the corner of my eye, I check my watch.
As for simple social talk, forget about it. I’ve practiced all kinds of subtle motions with my hand and arm so that I can glimpse my watch without anyone noticing.
I wish I could tell you that this only began as I got older; it’s not true. When I lived for 2 years near Woodstock in my early 40s, I loved to nap on the red sofa in the living room in a puddle of light created by the afternoon sun beaming in through a big picture window. But when I awoke, even after just 30 minutes, I’d quickly see how much the sun had moved, setting slowly beyond the trees, and my stomach would clench with anxiety. Time passed! Time passed! I could have done something valuable, could have begun this or finished that. Instead, I slept! I let time pass!
You’re not so important, I tell myself. Nothing you do will change the world! I’m aware of all that, and still, my mind of poverty, the same mind Bernie used to point out to me again and again, continues to obsess over time.
“Move your weight onto your heels,” Kendra Renzoni, my Foundation Training trainer, instructs us. Don’t rush forward, ahead of yourself, don’t sit with your head close to the camera in a Zoom call, none of that’s necessary. Sit and stand back, breathe, be in your body. Be in this moment.
Tomorrow early afternoon I will pick up Aussie and start the drive to Grand Manan, a Canadian island south of New Brunswick, to visit friends who generously invited me to stay at their home for a week. I look forward to it; I’m sure I will enjoy it. And still, there’s the familiar scratching in my stomach: Time will pass! Time will pass! You’ve had difficulties reconnecting with blog subscribers, you believe it’s fixed but you have to monitor it. Isn’t it better to do this close to home? (By the way, if you got an email asking you to resubscribe and then find your email address rejected, please email me: email@example.com).
Ahh, these odd meanderings of sanity! Such a concoction! When I was in the hospital some 3-4 weeks ago (and if you missed those blog posts, which were pretty good, check them out on my website), I noticed that dessert was always referred to as a parfait. There was banana parfait, chocolate parfait, peach parfait, orange parfait, etc. The food was terrible, but dessert was always referred to as a parfait. Each was a mishmash of some dairy with flavoring and occasional canned fruit, not to mention sugar. It felt like they threw in whatever they happened to have in the kitchen and just changed the flavoring.
I thought about the word perfect as I ate my banana parfait. I knew that I’d never be perfect; instead, I would always be a parfait, the Eve parfait, composed of many silly things the world has in supply, only occasionally—almost by accident—making up a decent dessert.
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