I have often thought of a random woman I met in 1992. I couldn’t remember her name or even the actual year until I recently found my little cycling book where I had noted the date and her name.
Joan ran the Root Seller Inn on Mayne Island. I had reserved the place for one night for our all-woman annual bike trip. I don’t remember any real details about her or the place except that she was so happy for us. Pleased that we were taking the time and doing this trip. She had even found a movie that she thought would be ideal for a group of women.
We watched it that night. I remember little of the movie, but what I remember is the kindness and the joy with which she offered it to us. I’m guessing that since it was 1992, it was probably a VHS video.
Two seemingly innocuous things have embedded themselves in my mind ever since I first experienced them on that little island.
The first was this. Joan showed us around the place and what I recall is her bathroom. Maybe we were to share it? I don’t recall. There was a stack of cassette tapes on the counter and a little radio/tape deck. When asked, she told us that she liked to listen to classical music while she soaked in the tub. I might be making up this next part, but I’m sure there was candles and incense on that counter as well. I thought it all sounded so wonderful and amazing. Classical music and a tub. Wow.
The second thing that struck me about Joan was when she explained that there would be all sorts of breakfast things laid out for our morning. Coffee, teas, yogurt, fruit, granola and the other usual suspects. “But,” she told us, “I won’t be here when you first get up. Every morning I take my coffee and I go down and sit on the dock. I love to start my mornings by greeting the day while sitting by the ocean.”
This woman did not talk about how busy she was. She didn’t tell us all the things we should learn to do for our own self-care. Instead, she simply lived her life well. And because she did, and whether she intended it or not, she was giving me permission to do the same.
In 1992, I was still working as B.C.’s only female log broker. I wore a mouth guard to save my grinding teeth. My neck would often seize into stiffness, and in the morning, my fingernails left imprints on my palms from the fists I clenched at night. I regularly had week-long headaches and, here’s the best part, I thought it was all normal. In fact, I kind of thrived on the adrenalin and loved that when our morning alarm rang, my first thought was the phrase, ‘hit the ground running’.
Fool that I was.
Back then I loved to talk about working hard and playing hard. Our bike trips were the playing hard part. My God we had fun as we sweated and worked our bikes up and down hills. At night we drank and danced and woke up to do it all again. Over the years, our trips morphed. We stayed in so many inns, B&B’s, hotels, motels and endless campgrounds. But it is these two memories of Joan that have lodged in my brain, like pebbles tumbling over and over on that long ago seaside shore.
Because it was Joan who gave me permission to think there might be another way to live.
Because of her I realized that it is not selfish to take care of ourselves. If anything, by living well, we are granting others to do the same.
Over the years I have become very good at taking time to play in my art studio, to meditate and walk, to read my books (during the day!) and to generally go at a much slower pace. I certainly never think of ‘hitting the ground running’ unless it is with a keen sense of irony.
I dug up that little cycling book and looked up the name of the movie. And then you know what I did? In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon? I threw the headphones on, wrapped myself in a blanket and watched the movie on my laptop. Yes. I. Did.
Did I feel a little bit scandalous? Well, yes.
But when Kevin tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Are you actually watching a movie??” I lifted my headphones only long enough to say, “Yes, but it’s research…” snapped them back on and kept going. “Don’t work too hard,” he said. But he was smiling.
As I write this, I’m smiling too, because I think Joan’s long-ago example has finally reached complete fruition. It’s funny, because this was my fear when we first retired. I was terrified that I’d lay around watching daytime TV and drinking margaritas by noon. But none of that happened – although today might have been the start of that slippery slope.
If you’re tempted to follow suit, I recommend going full-tilt with the experience. Indulge yourself. Eat a cookie or two while you take in the show. Think of it as expanding the joy in the world. You never know who might be learning from you.
I no longer make apologies for my lovely life. Like this past Sunday morning when I sat on the sun-warmed bench by the marsh sipping my morning coffee and greeting the morning.
If someone wants to come along and tell me I’m lucky, well…I will have to wholeheartedly agree.
But if I’m really pushed about it?
I can always blame Joan.
And just in case you too, would like to watch a lovely little movie…
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson