The Potomac sparkled, reflecting the early afternoon light. Crisp Autumn wind flipped my hair straight up, above my head. I silently walked the labyrinth at the Georgetown waterfront towards Neil who broke all the rules and just walked directly to the center. Belly full and content with comfort, I thought about my current life.
The last time I walked a labyrinth, my best friend was in surgery and there was a high school couple making out on a park bench close by. It was just two days after I read an article about the benefits of walking a labyrinth that I found this one out of mere coincidence at the hospital. Labyrinths were used in ancient times from Greece to Rome. It is said that walking a labyrinth allows your body to have a relaxation response instead of the “flight or fight” stress response. That Thursday after lunch, I couldn’t sit still any longer and so I took a walk and ran into the Labyrinth. I walked and walked trying to find that relaxation response. My breathing did slow, my heart beat too, but the tightness in my shoulders wouldn’t let go. My heart was heavy. I needed everything to be okay. I needed her to be okay. The alternative was too intense to even consider. That day I received minimal benefits from the Labyrinth.
Today, however, was the opposite story. Every third step I felt my jaw relax; my breath steady. Lucky was the first word that came to mind. I have everything I want. Easy was the next word that came to mind. I may complain about how hard my life is or my job is, but if I were being completely honest…my life is easy. I have a job. I get paid. I spend every day with my love who makes me laugh all the time. We get go where ever we want, whenever we want. Grateful was the third word that popped into mind.
N and I started our tradition of Autumn Mini Holiday in 2012. The first time we did this we went to a wedding in Fort Lauderdale, FL. (You can read about that trip here.) Last year we went to Vermont. This year we scheduled to go to Vermont again, but chose to stay home and enjoy the thrills of a true staycation. The day before our Mini Holiday began, N started listing all the errands he wanted to run. I immediately stopped him and said: “If you are going to run errands, I’m going to go to Vermont! I’m only staying if we treat this like a real vacation.” So it began, my rules: 1. We are allowed to do one errand/chore per day. 2. We have to do something special and different every day. This has to be something that we normally would do on vacation. 3. We are not allowed to decided exactly what we are going to do until the day of to leave room to be completely lazy, if needed.
Day 1’s Agenda: Brunch and Movie. Day 2’s Agenda: Linger in bed till lunch and then go to Good Stuff Eatery for burgers and shakes. Here we were: bellies full of the best burgers in town, standing under the early afternoon sun. Free and grateful.
The past two days, I have been able to rest, adjust to the time change, and reflect on the importance of rest in my life. When I am working, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the drama and the urgency of it all. Days like today, I finally get to see that none of that matters! No one is going to die because one lesson was not perfect or because I didn’t grade one assignment in a timely manner. My job although important is not a life or death matter.
What matters is that I live my life doing things that make me happy. What matters is that I allow my body to relax. What matters is my relationship with N. What matters is showing my students that I am living a happy life instead of a resentful one.
Walking the pattern of a labyrinth may not always bring me to relaxation, but it did bring me to what matters in my life.