This evening I sat for a spell on my front porch. We are enjoying the last few days of our summer, and today was particularly gorgeous. I see an image of me hanging from the letter r in the word summer, by my fingernails. I can’t let go of summer quite yet, there’s still a bit of juice left.
I was perched on the porch, feeling like I was suspended above myself.
Not a religious or zen thing, but a brief moment of stillness.
Those still moments can feel familiar, and foreign, all at the same time.
The temperature was perfect.
There wasn’t a bit of breeze.
It was absolutely quiet.
Cars weren’t buzzing by on their way to a barbecue.
Kids weren’t chasing dogs in the park.
Lawn mowers weren’t attacking lawns, so as to free up homeowners for Labor Day Weekend.
It was perfectly quiet.
Those moments are too rare.
In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about how I should be walking the hill to relieve stress. I wasn’t being asked to fetch a snack for a child with an empty leg. I wasn’t fretting about the clutter on the dining room table.
No one needed anything. No one was irritated with me for not having done something. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t need anything.
And so I felt suspended.
I completely inhabited this delicious moment.
I felt larger than myself.
I was overflowing my shell.
Parts of me were not allocated to all the other stuff that needed me.
I was completely present.
Those moments are fleeting.
Soon a plane would fly over to take loved ones home.
A weed-eater would fire up to attempt to cross off one more chore on the honey-do list.
A carload of teenagers would race by on their way to celebrating Friday.
But in that moment, I felt peace.
I realize that I’ve been enjoying more peaceful moments lately.
In my marriage to a narcissist, there was never any peace.
In the beginning, I was swept up by the passion, his charm, and the fact that he wanted to be with me. Who cared about peace? I’m not sure I missed it. If I’d been asked, I’d have said, “When this is so perfect, who needs peace?”
Perfect didn’t last.
Picking took the place of perfect. He picked at my cooking. He suggested better ways to keep the house. He preferred to mow the lawn because I couldn’t master the right cutting pattern.
He expected that I would never meet his standards.
I think I met his standards in the beginning, but as time went on, he kept raising the bar. Each time I failed to meet those standards, we got further and further away from establishing any peace in the home.
On workdays, at 4:30, it was time to put away the toys, turn off the music, sweep the floor, start dinner, and make it look like we hadn’t been living in the house all day. I have a vivid memory of seeing his car pull into the drive. I would feel myself holding my breath until I heard the garage door open. He’d walk into the kitchen, take a quick look around to survey the damage, release a heavy sigh and the picking would begin.
Oh sure, he’d greet us first. He’d ask of our day. He’d tell us the high points of his day. But during this superficial exchange, I could see him sizing up the situation. He was looking for something to pick apart.
When the kids and I first moved into our little home, I had some old habits to break. If I knew he was on his way over to see the kids, I’d run around picking things up, sweeping, and stashing toys and books. I still marvel that it took me a couple months to realize, “Hey! This is my place. I have my standards. I don’t have to care what you think anymore.”
Then the pendulum began to swing the other direction. I’d look forward to his coming by when the house was a disaster. Hell, I’d even take off my socks and throw ’em in the middle of the living room floor. I’d leave dirty dishes in the sink. I’d leave eraser shavings on the kitchen table or cat hair on the couch.
The sky didn’t fall. The earth’s rotation didn’t stop. His kids were healthy and much happier than they’d been under his roof.
I look forward to those peaceful moments on my front porch.
If I string enough of those moments together, I might find I’m leading a mostly peaceful life.
I know that it’s up to me to bring about the frequency of those sweet, happy moments.
The gin and tonic doesn’t hurt, either.