In the Meantime

Last night we walked Leonard in a cold wind. It’s odd how the actual temperature has little to do with how much cold the body perceives. I had to consciously force myself to look for the things I could find delight in. Again (because I’ve written about this before): I’m not looking for gratitude. I’m not going to try force it – whatever “it” is.

I am looking for things to admire. Find delight, as Ross Gay describes it. Hashtag joyspotting on Instagram (except I don’t require nearly as much beauty to spark delight or a flicker of joy).

I hope real gratitude will eventually well up from wherever it wells-up from. The heart, not the head. From the whole-body life, and not an objective, intellectual attitude toward the “other” and what it can do for me: make my life more pleasant.

Last night the sky was pink. My toes were numb, my fingers aching while I stood there looking for the reflection I knew should be there. Was there, pink in the water-logged mess that was part of the playground. If it had been a warm night, it would have not been more delightful moment.

I’m not trying to make any tired statements about how the unpleasant sets the pleasant in relief and makes us appreciate it more. That’s an intellectual exercise.

I am thinking more about letting go of the need to judge each moment according to expectations and stories. To physically be in the moment and notice what I am perceiving, letting go of the illusion that it can or should be anything else.

It’s humbling. All this powerlessness. Even the powerlessness in rejecting the stories that my mind wants to cling to, to make sense of the world. To give myself an illusion of comprehension, of control. If I can’t change things, I can put them in boxes.

Numb toes are “bad”. When I get back to the house, they’ll hurt as the circulation begins again. I should hurry back to the house. Don’t stand here and stare at the pink water.

I’m not an idiot. This animal body of mine will avoid what is unpleasant and will seek what is pleasant when it can. This meaty head will justify it all somehow.

But where I put my attention in the meantime is my choice.

In the meantime. That’s an interesting word: meantime. I looked it up. It means during a time when something else is being done, or during a time before something happens.

My life is a series of meantimes.

I’ve been working now for a while on a manuscript that focuses on time and impermanence. And I have been considering my own relationship with the concept. Like an anorexic with food, I put a lot of attention and effort into controlling the hours of my days. But like an anorexic, the more controlling and precise I become, the less nourishment I am able to take in. I am not using my time well. I want to stop time until I “figure it out”. But time is unavoidable.

And time rushes at me in the meantime. But there is no “there” there. Except for death.

I recently read about complexity as a form of avoidance. Systems, calendars, plans. Over-thinking. This should all be so simple. To stop telling myself the stories. To be here now – and not in a meantime.

a train is passing
and blackbirds are chattering –
a windowpane can’t
stop the day from moving on
taking me with it always

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  1. All this powerlessness. Even the powerlessness in rejecting the stories that my mind wants to cling to, to make sense of the world. To give myself an illusion of comprehension, of control.

    I love how you put that, Ren.

    Yours,
    David

  2. Yes! I, too, live in the meantime. Love your focus on delights. I’ve been doing that since I read Ross Gay, and stumbled into Sharon Salzberg. From you I just understood something about gratitude. I need a lot of physical help. That means a lot of gratitude. Genuine but heavy sometimes. Delights are all mine and freely available. And I need them.
    Thanks, again.
    Katherine

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