Best of 2009: Moment(s) of Peace

Prompt: Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

This summer was the first summer in about eight years that I wasn't taking or teaching classes or under some kind of insane writing deadline. I filled my time with family, friends, colleagues, books, music and movies. I even finished the bulk of a project, which I'm currently revising. There was a significant moment when I was walking on the beach in Florida (I'd been away from M and from Illinois for almost a month) when I felt so relaxed it was overwhelming. I write about it in detail here. But there other moments, too, in my daily life where I find myself relaxed and fulfilled.

I don't meditate or do yoga; I know for people who do it changes their lives. I think it's great that it's helpful for those people. It isn't for me. My mind is always moving; I've never been able to quiet it down in the right way for meditation because when I do, I fall asleep. I'm not kidding.

Something I learned about myself a long time ago is that sometimes my calm comes in the midst of the chaos. I was talking to a relative recently who commented that I always take on too much. It's "how you operate," she told me, "it's who you are." The more I thought about that conversation, the more I realized how right she was. I tease M about taking on two jobs, about the constant need to stay busy and yet, I do the same thing in a different way. I suppose I'm always looking for an intellectual challenge. What I know I could do better on, however, is prioritizing the things I take on.

In the push and pull of my daily life, there isn't a lot of quiet. I actually focus better with noise around me. It's why i wrote my dissertation in coffee shops and restaurants. Many of my moments of peace come inside the everyday, busy, chaotic moments of my life. When I'm standing in line in the grocery store and a song I haven't heard in a while plays and I start thinking about the last time I heard it or how it makes me feel. Music is a huge part of my life and it often grounds me and gives me moments of peace.

For me, a moment of peace is not necessarily about solitude, rather it's any time you can focus on your own thoughts and feelings in a deeply reflective way. As I mention, many of my moments are when I'm surrounded by others.

Of course, there are times when I'm alone, usually when I'm cooking, when I feel so calm and at ease and happy. (Music will be playing in the background). I have found that cooking, concentrating on measurements and tastes and the actions of preparing a meal really bring me out of my head and into the joy of the moment.