Tag Archives: rest

She Simply Needed to Rest

On the second night of my adventure to the beach, I lay tucked into bed with a book and five pillows. The hotel fan was set on Hi but I left the sliding glass door open to listen to the sound of the ocean.

My rest ended abruptly with an ominous THUNK followed by a frenzy of flapping. I peeked over the edge of the bed in fear that a bird had blundered into my space. But I saw nothing, and the room was quiet again. Had I imagined it in a half dream, like that falling feeling that startles me awake sometimes?

Another flapflapflap led my eye to the source. One large orange butterfly clung to the bright white sheet of the hotel bed. Something gentle that had wandered into a different world.

Gulf Fritillary at Tybee Beach

Gulf Fritillary at Tybee Beach

I scooted my hand under her feet–I decide it’s a female right away for no reasonable reason–but she flees from my touch and hops onto the sofa. I try again to shoo her towards the open door and back out into the dark night. She flies to the curtain, then up to the white coffered ceiling.

Safely out of reach of my helpful blunderings, she folds her wings together to reveal brown and opalescent white patches. As I stand on the sofa below her perch, I witness the moment when the energy of her body stills completely, as if she has flipped a switch to OFF.

After a while, I go back to my book and my bed, but I leave the door open all night so that she can return to the world if she needs to. I leave her unbothered so she can avoid the world if she needs to.



In the morning, the butterfly is still suspended from the ceiling, still folded. As I pack my bags, I make a mental note to carry her out onto the balcony before I leave. I couldn’t stand the thought that a harried hotel maid might swat at her. Someone else, with more on their mind, might see a bug instead of a butterfly.

I slip off my flip flops to stand on the couch but before I can lift myself up to reach her, the butterfly turns the switch to ON. With an orange fluttery flash that startles me from my wobbly perch, we both go tumbling through the air toward the door. She lingers on the railing of the balcony then takes off in circles of flight, off towards the sunrise.

Just like me, that butterfly needed a place to rest, a safe place to be still and turn the switch to OFF.

I’ve been off work this whole week, as a birthday treat to myself. I can’t recommend it highly enough! But even with the prospect of a week to do whatever I needed to do, I burned the first two days with errands and to-do lists. I voted, I donated outgrown clothes, I washed the car, I sold it. The pool project got finished and paid for. I polished that bracelet that has been needing attention. I got my toenails painted for the first time since July 4th. I bought a new car and read the manual to learn how the radio works. I bought the right kind of snacks at the grocery store and made sure the kids would have clean clothes for the week. I busied myself with getting ready to relax.

After two delicious nights on Tybee Island and hour after hour of reading and writing and laughing with old friends and eating shrimp at every opportunity, and taking naps, and sitting in the sun…I got back on someone else’s schedule and got myself to the dock to catch a ride to Ossabaw Island for a writing retreat.

I didn’t think I had a lot of expectations, but apparently I did. The island was still cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew. The air hung thick with mosquitos. There was no breeze. After the lush hotel bed, I was reduced to a bunk bed in a room with nine other women. Our lunch had gotten wet on the trip over. Someone drank one of my Diet Cokes that I had lovingly packed. There were many nice people and a couple who annoyed me right off the dock with incessant chattering. There was no place to hide except behind my rigid smile.

Oh, and that teacher I’ve been excited about working with? He couldn’t make it. There’s someone else and he’s perfectly skilled and kind and here, but I need a moment to adjust. I hit the end of my equanimity and I felt myself begin to flap, to wheel in crazy mental circles.

Like that butterfly, I needed a minute to myself.

I tried to go for a walk in the direction of the old tabby cabins, but the mosquitos threatened to carry me away, one drop of blood at a time. I walked around the corner of the wrap-around porch to find a place to cry but every Brumby rocker might invite a conversation. Finally, I grabbed my pack and walked back down the quarter mile track to the dock, the only stretch of this 24,000 acre island that I had already seen.

Ossabaw Island, 2 p.m.

Ossabaw Island, 2 p.m.

Just like the butterfly, I blundered into exactly the place I needed to be. Out on the dock, there was a cool breeze. No mosquitos. A wide blue sky. Space to breathe. Silence. Except for something big in the water that surfaced, flopped, and disappeared before I could spot it. Peace and quiet, rippling across the water and across my worried mind.

I folded myself and tucked my wings together. I hung there in quiet, as DNR trucks unloaded, a kayaker paddled by, a couple pulled up to the dock and unloaded. The chatter passed and quiet returned, every time.

After a while, with my wings recharged by rest, I went back up the dirt road to join my people. Good people, curious people, brave people who crossed the water to find a community of writers. We each stretched our wings and began to see where they might take us.

My neighbor on the dock.

My neighbor on the dock.

The Space Between Things

Last weekend, the Cool Kids were hanging out in the deep end of my pool. Floating there on foam noodles and drinking wine out of plastic cups with girlfriends–a little hour in heaven. Wise Heather shared the news that her new job was pretty much a done deal. Good for her, but sad for us who were hoping that she would work someplace close enough to meet for lunch.

I asked, “Is the drive going to bother you?” and she dropped a truth bomb: “It’s nice to have 30 minutes in between BAM and BA BOOM to think my own thoughts.” Ain’t that the truth?

She got me to thinking about the space between things, the moment when we’re going from Point A to Point B (and if you’re like me, using that time to anticipate out all possible problems that might arise between Points C – ZZ). I think my days have left me short of breath lately because I’ve shoved more and more work and worry into the space between things.

This little gem floated into my Facebook feed last week: tumblr_n74fyou6W81r0sn0fo1_1280

Well, hell. I haven’t observed Items 1-4 since my kids were born. Trying to, but…damn. I pride myself on answering emails while I’m on the phone and checking Facebook while I’m walking the long way to a meeting so that my Fitbit will approve of me. Multitasking is supposed to be a good thing, right?

Not so much. Not when it’s ALL THE TIME.

Today at 4:55 p.m., while I adjusted user permissions on a site and posted news stories and sent an optimization idea to the developer and questioned the life choices that have led me to use words like “optimization,” I also texted G to see who was picking up Vivi from day camp. Ding! He was already on the way. OK, I could get a feeeeeeew more things done before fetching Carlos.

But I made the mistake of glancing at my desk calendar and seeing BLOGHER in big yellow letters next week. NEXT WEEK? Shit, I need business cards. So I flip over to a website to design and order something fresh and amazing that’s going to be The Ticket To Next….but the logo I want to use isn’t the right dimension and the website warns me that my design will have “possible white space.” No worries. I can fix it with some clever cropping in this other application over here…

Next thing I knew, I looked up and it was 5:25 p.m. and the Mom Guilt kicked in. “Please don’t let my baby be the last one waiting in the room, sitting over in the book corner while the teacher mops the floor.” I grabbed phone off the charger, chugged down the last of my 100 oz of filtered water, slapped the Fitbit to see how many blinky dots I racked up, sighed in disappointment, shoved the stack of bills that I meant to pay on my lunch break back in my purse for another day, I turned to the whiteboard behind my desk and crossed of ONE DAMN THING from the long list, even though I kept the hammer down for the last seven hours, since I got to work after my early morning dentist appointment for a filling.

I turned out the lights and locked up the office, Mom Guilt squeezing my chest until there’s no room for breath. Turned left to take the stairs and walked past the scale that stands in the hall. Checked the Fitbit again. In the stairwell, I held on to the railing because no one would find me there if I slipped and fell. Last one leaving. Then the “You’re going to die alone!” fears stop in to say hello because why not? All my kids will remember is that they were the last ones picked up from daycare and the smell of mop water will trigger depression for the rest of their lives. As I stepped out into the sunlight, I tallied all the phone calls I need to make…that I never seem to have time to do. Like to check on my own parents.

Two minute walk to the car. Just enough time to catalog all the things I meant to achieve between last year’s BlogHer and this year’s. And I forgot to lose fifty pounds. AGAIN.

Got in the car and the gas light came on. I need to find a way tomorrow to drive across town to the place where I can save 50 cents a gallon on gas with my fuel points. That’s like eight bucks. That matters.

It’s a three minute drive to get Carlos. The first thing I see is a note taped on his cubby, and it’s not just a note, it’s a note with a STAPLE in the corner, a multi-page record of his transgressions. He’s been fine for months…now this shit AGAIN in the last month before he starts Pre-K.


He beams to see me and gives me a gigantic hug. Four other kids line up to get hugs, because I make time for that. As we make our way to the car, the weight of the note makes me think that I should start the “Good Choice/Bad Choice” speech and break it to Carlos that he’s not going to have screen time tonight, but part of me just wants to have a few minutes of happy with my happy kid while he’s actually happy instead of immediately talking about that time six hours ago when he was angry.

Where is the space between things for a working mother? In music, it’s called a rest. In painting, it’s the negative space. In graphic design, white space. Where is the space between things that gives me room to breathe? That, in its emptiness, gives the heart a place to stand in order to see the life as I’m living it?

Sometimes when I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator, foraging for junk, I realize that what I’m really hungry for is a big gulp of breath. A heaping plate of rest. A space. A pause.

Know what I’m saying? What do you do to maintain the space between things?

IRONIC POST SCRIPT: I looked up the principle of “the space between things” in art. The Japanese have a word for it, and that word is…………..”Ma.” I guess my kids have been yelling at me about theories of Japanese spatial design for all these years.

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

When it’s time to go to bed, I can’t walk past my children’s bedrooms without stopping in to check on them while they sleep.  Tonight, I took an extra moment to sit still beside them.  I rested my hand on Vivi’s chest and felt her heart tapping along beneath my palm.  Peace.  In Carlos’ room, I pushed the sweaty curls off his brow.  He stirred then sighed.  I put my hand over his heart and breathed in the quiet in his dark little haven.

There is no faster path to the present moment than feeling my child’s heart beating.

Léon Bazille Perrault [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Léon Bazille Perrault “A Mother With Her Sleeping Child,” via Wikimedia Commons

The Next Right Thing

I have been stretching myself pretty thin for about a month and tonight, it caught up with me and bit me in the tail.  Between launching projects at the new job, the fundraising for Leukemia Society, the mothering, the blogging, the board presiding, the pool vacuuming, the home construction projects, the feeding of the children and the balancing of budgets and setting up play dates and remembering to wash my hair…I am OUT.

Tomorrow at 11:ish, I get to don academic regalia in the Burden Parlor at Wesleyan College, along with the President of the College, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Provost, the college Chaplain, the President of the senior class and the President of Student Government.  I am the President of the Alumnae Association.  I love it.  I love love love love love this convocation.  Fall convocation, the formal beginning of the school year at the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women.  We started in 1836 and haven’t missed a year since.

Wesleyan College 2012

Wesleyan College Fall Convocation 2012

We will line up in a double column according to the instructions pinned to either side of the wide doors.  A Junior Marshall will nervously guide us out the lobby and down the steps of the Porter Building, where we will link up with the grander procession.  We will fall in with the faculty, who walk draped in the velvet and satin they have earned through decades of study.  We will walk between the senior class in their new black robes and plain mortar boards.  We will be led by 30 students from 30 different countries who carry the flags of their homelands.

The Candler organ will make the air shake with joy.  We will march down the aisles, through the crowds of first years, sophomores, juniors.  We will take the stage and stand as the seniors file in and take their seats.  A fanfare from the organ and the ceremony will begin.

And in those first few minutes, I’m supposed to stand up and say a few words–bring greetings on behalf of the 8000 alumnae who have gone before this senior class.  And I.  Got.  Nuthin.

Last year, I realized during my drive down there that I had written a speech with lots of references to the WRONG class.  The seniors were Red Pirates and I thought they were Golden Hearts (I can’t even begin to explain right now).  So I improvised a little talk about “ships” like scholarships and internships and fellowship.  It was PERFECT.  This year’s senior class is a Purple Knight class–my own class!  I know their traditions inside and out.  I know the words to the song, the rowdiest of cheers, the hand signals.  

But inspiring words?  Nuthin.

So tonight I was in a swivet.  A tizzy.  A kerfuffle.  And it was just making my panic worse.

Then I remembered a piece of advice from my friend, Jean.  “Do the next right thing.”

I don’t have to figure it all out at once.  Just do the next right thing.  I can’t sit here and know that everything will go perfectly tomorrow.  I can’t nail it down.  But I can do the next right thing.

And that right thing is going to bed.

I’m going to bed with that phrase in my head, and I’ll think of something to tell those young women tomorrow morning.  I’ll see my friend, Virginia, in her professor robes.  I’ll see my friend, Auburn, at her first formal convocation.  I’ll see Annabel and Parrish and Lauren and Cathy and Ruth and Vivia and Susan and I will remember that I am one of them.  I am a Wesleyanne.

Wesleyan College 2011

Wesleyan Women, 2011

College didn’t teach me how to do everything.  It taught me how to discern the right thing.  It taught me how to dare.  It taught me how to improvise.  Wesleyan taught me to believe in myself back then and it reminds me to believe in myself now every time I step on the campus.

So I’m going to rest and tomorrow I will do the next right thing.