My wife and I normally have quiet weekends with lots of time to relax, read, do some projects around the house, or watch a little television. This past weekend was an exception.
We live in a small, two bedroom house in suburban Dallas. It’s just the right amount of space for us and our dogs and cat. Over the past weekend, however, we had my sister-in-law and two of her grandchildren, both of whom are teenagers, accustomed to a much busier life. We enjoyed having them here, and we miss them a lot.
I normally have a lot of quiet time at home, so my tendency is to get a little flustered when I can’t find some quiet, peaceful place to get away. But, I wanted to make sure our guests knew how happy I was that they were here. It was an honor to share our home with them. I know, however, that my need for privacy sometimes gets me a little edgy and impatient, so I was on guard with my attitude all weekend.
My job was to manage the grocery shopping and meals…and to wear a smile as much as possible.
I spent some time with my great-nephew on Friday night and had a great time. He wanted me to know about his five tattoos and how he had found this perfect tattoo artist, until suddenly the guy started charging him more, so my great-nephew was going to change to another artist. Of course, my thoughts were, “you mean, five isn’t enough?…is it essential to have another one already lined up for the next tattoo you want?…do you conduct interviews with tattoo artists and rank them in order of preference before making a decision?” I’m really not knocking the idea…I grew up in the 60’s, and we were a tad on the odd side according to most of our parents and relatives, too. It’s just that when I think of professional services that I would want on a retainer, of sorts, I would think of things like “my accountant”, “my doctor”, “my lawyer”, “my contractor”. I just never thought about “my tattoo artist.” But, I’m good with that…it’s just new, that’s all.
Anyway, by Saturday morning, I was glad to get away for a couple of hours for my yoga class. When I got home, it was time to get serious about meals. I love the kitchen, and unfortunately, I’ve become quite possessive about it being “mine.” My wife and sister were playing some card games in the kitchen, so I was getting regular advice on how to do things, though my wife doesn’t cook (she can, but she doesn’t enjoy it like I do). I thanked them profusely for all their help, but I went ahead and added as much turmeric and other spices as I wanted…things they had never heard of. They were exuberant in their accolades about the meals, and of course, this brought a smile to my face. Even the tatted one said he had especially enjoyed the healthy food. Music to my ears!
Later, on Sunday, my sister-in-law and I were at a table eating alone. She said she had watched me in the kitchen and realized how much I enjoyed what I was doing, and that I had gone through all the meal preps, the serving, the dishwashing and cleanup, without ever becoming frustrated or stressed over it. She reminded me that stress had always been their family’s way of getting through family gatherings…multiple trips to the grocery store to pick up last minute items, two hours late serving, etc…. She was right! I had enjoyed myself very much, and here’s why.
Sometime before I came home from work on Friday night, I decided I was not going to get stressed. I was going to enjoy the family time, and I was going to take on all the responsibilities of the food so that my wife and sister could spend some quality time together. During my shift from early morning yoga on Saturday to food prep later on Saturday morning, I found my peaceful place in my mind. It was a place of health, service, food, laughter, pleasure, and immense peace. It was quiet in my mind, though there was noise all around, loud and relentless. It was a refuge.
After they packed their bags on Sunday afternoon, I was really a little sad that they were leaving because we had had such a great time, and they had enjoyed their time with us.
This was a great lesson for me. Peace comes from within, from mindfulness about what I am doing. It is intentional, volitional. It is contentment with the circumstances, knowing that there are challenges all the time, but that the essential refuge is a quiet mind, not the quiet household.
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