Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stress in the name of time

I keep telling myself that every one is busy and that things that are a priority get done even by presidents, but then none of my priorities even make it to the list. By my priorities I am thinking of time to think and write, time to meditate, time to exercise, but mostly I am busy with house and children. I am amazed at how much time they absorb! Maybe the more time you have, the more time they take? And I am not so sure that presidents make obento and hang up all of their laundry on clotheslines every morning. I guess those other priorities will come, but for now I had today.

Today I attended a birthday event at yochien as this is the Moose's birthday month. The encho sensei performed a magic trick pulling a scarf out of a loaf of bread, the other classmates sang songs to the birthday children, and the sensei's put on a skit of "Pinocchio." I sorted out in my mind that everyone has to offer a present to the birthday children. There were lots of games and songs and even praise to keep the children in their seats and to encourage their proper behavior. Tables were set out and placemats placed followed by sembei and some sort of milky drink. I was there over two hours. The time seemed kind of slow as I was a bit uncomfortable, but I kept thinking about how the kids might see this event- when it is your birthday month there is a special assembly and everyone does something special for your entertainment. The homemade unsophisticated version of fun is what I saw- so good and yet there I squirmed. I think you have to start going to these two hour assemblies at age four to become a grown up that can tolerate them.

I felt selfish for begrudging a birthday party requiring my attendance. There is some idea in my head that I should be able to appreciate the chance to show up and be there. It made me think of a passage in "Eat, Pray, Love" (I have not seen the movie) when the character tells herself she will meditate no matter what and has to endure being chomped by mosquitoes. She learned a lot from that moment. I keep trying to learn from these moments. Getting past uncomfortable is a big part of it. Giving up the grandiose thoughts that if I had stayed home I would have done fifty super useful things also helped. Focusing on the joy kids have in singing, in laughing, and in being with their mom made it worth while. I am glad I got that moment to sit quietly and watch. It always makes me squirm to sit still- I really do have ants in my pants as my grandmother used to say- or maybe it is just growing pains. "Love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self-forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow." So writes John O'Donohue in "Anam Cara." Or so I hope that is what it is.

I am not one to enjoy parties or large gatherings generally. I prefer small groups and chances to talk. I like to talk and hear stories from others. One of the limitations of living in a Japanese community is that my lack of language skills often leaves me out of small talk and stories. I have lamented to my husband that he doesn't understand as he works all day in English. He gladly reminds me that just because someone speaks your language, doesn't mean they are going to talk about things you want to talk about. I don't even know what I want to talk about half the time, but I feel like the only place anyone ever talks about stuff I really want to talk about is in books. I heard a quote about books the other day on a pod cast, something to the effect that books are where the good stuff is. Maybe I just have terrible social skills as I rarely get to more soulful stories or maybe I just don't have the time to get there at this point in my life with young children.

Recently, I have been trying to cultivate a less pressured assessment of time. It is not going so well. One moment I am fine and the next I am stressed- not enough time! I am late! Hurry! I feel like a mad woman, but I refuse to give up. I noticed a delivery man running down the street. I see him from time to time as his route includes my neighborhood. He is always running. It dawned on me one day that I too am always hurrying if not running. That delivery man made me realize how crazy I must look and how stressed I must seem if that is the way I approach everything or so that was how he struck me. I wanted to say, slow down! Instead I said it to myself. A few days later at cooking class, my cooking teacher said that in the new year we should try to do one thing at a time. I thought that was a great tip for slowing down- just do one thing at a time. Staying right here where you are and being present! I think there are spiritual ramifications to that idea.