pros and cons

Last week I was so relentlessly exhausted that I couldn't show up here, though I had all sorts of things rattling around in my head. At one point, though, I did write some things on a cocktail napkin, which was what people used to do when they wanted to tell themselves things before the internet. (In other news of a bygone era, yesterday I logged on to Facebook and had the disorienting experience of seeing my own handwriting looking back at me.  It took me a moment to recognize the envelope I'd addressed a few weeks ago. It had reached its distant Swiss destination and my friend found it sufficiently rare as to be worthy of documentation. He wrote "for the younger generation, this is called a letter." Don't worry, everybody. I am doing my very best to keep the 20th Century alive.)

In preparing to launch into yet another school year, we had many meetings last week, mostly about things like health insurance and room reservation forms and the like (I also learned that if you are administering first aid to someone who has lost an extremity, you should find it, not vomit [this was not specified, but I think it's important and probably the most difficult bit], and keep it dry and cool--not cold--for transport to the hospital where one hopes it might be reattached. Apparently this cool/dry thing involves several zip-lock bags of various sizes, something I expect is in short supply at the site of most horrible accidents).

In the midst of all this business, one day was dedicated to the concept of well-being-- not the well-being that comes of having all your limbs and digits intact, more along the lines of inner calm. This seems fairly easy to achieve during the summer, but typically goes all to hell once the galloping pace of the school year sets in. To remind us that we don't have to give in to that, a pleasant man came to speak to us about mindfulness. The moral is that people who meditate will probably outlive the rest of us by many years, but even the occasional posture readjustment and conscious breath might keep the unenlightened among us afloat for a bit longer. He asked us to ponder a couple of things. One was to think about what we're grateful for. Another was to think about something that, at the time, had been a disappointment or failure that we were later glad of.

We were dismissed early and as I drove down the road from the conference site, twisting past sparkling vistas of the bay in the bright Marin sunlight of late summer, I thought about gratitude.  I drove into my hometown to drop off my niece's 15th birthday present. I went to the cheapest gas station in two counties and when the line was too long, I went to the second cheapest gas station. I drove across an iconic bridge and then, on a whim, thought I'd go to a movie.

And here's what I wrote on the cocktail napkin.  I'm deeply grateful to live in such a beautiful place, and grateful to be from here and have my family so near. I quite like knowing where the cheap gas station is and what movie theatre to swing by when, unexpectedly, I'm free for the matinee. And I like knowing where to get a good gin and tonic while killing 45 minutes before that matinee starts. I'm grateful for all that. But. (And I believe the mindfulness man would not condone this "but".)  What if I didn't know any of those things?  What if I were in a place where i had to figure all those things out?  Would that just be scary and exhausting or might that not be a bit exhilarating? Is it good to take your life out of auto-pilot even when you don't have to? 

Maybe not.

But probably so.

I'm thinking about that.

If you're wondering about a thing that didn't work out, but left me grateful, I was once besotted by a fascinating but freakishly distant man. The whole thing was VERY confusing, frankly. But that man drank Hendrick's gin, which, until meeting him, I had never heard of.  And Hendrick's gin is delicious.  Thanks for that, man.