I had the day marked on my calendar. Sunday the 4th of March. Mimm Day. My first day of freedom. No teacher training. No dog sitting. No private clients. I was commitment free for the first time in months. Come hell or high water I was going to celebrate and it was going to be perfect.
The day I planned included an early morning drive to Santa Cruz with a friend.
After a few hours of Dance Church at the 418 Project we take a leisurely stroll downtown until we find the perfect café where we enjoy a quiet brunch. A table is waiting for us under the shade of a tree with the sunlight filtered to shield our eyes but not so much that it can’t keep us warm. My friend reaches down and pulls a book from his grey backpack and with our second cup of tea we take turns reading to one another. We’re generous with our tip – a compensation for keeping the café table too long. We continue our stroll and find an old record shop around the corner or maybe a shop full of bric-a-brac to bury ourselves in for a bit before making our way to a pristine beach that, miraculously, is empty except for an older couple and their two Golden Retrievers. The sound of the gulls, the crashing waves and the solar warmth of the sand lulls us to sleep just long enough to refresh but not so long as to make us cranky when we wake.
Another bite to eat and then a drive home along Highway 1 with a few stops to enjoy the view of a setting sun as the credits roll…
Mimm Day. My perfect day.
But on designated Mimm Day I opened my eyes and discovered the alarm clock had never been set and we were already two hours too late to attend Dance Church. I cried like a ten-year-old who had slept through Christmas. It was only 9:30 but the day, as far as I was concerned, was ruined. And if I was wrong – if the day wasn’t really ruined – I was still going to nurture my disappointment and bad temper. I didn’t get what I wanted and I was too swept up into the movie I had written in my head about what Mimm Day was supposed to be that I couldn’t see that the day was still perfect. It was sunny and warm, it was a gorgeous morning – there was plenty of day left. And I was still free to do whatever I wanted.
But I couldn’t see it. I was blind to what I had right in front of me: my best friend, a blue sky and eight more hours of sunlight.
How many times are we guilty of placing emotional importance on an unpredictable future? How often do we trip over ourselves reaching for paper tigers and ghosts that we can never hold and that never live up to the movies we make in our mind?
I’ve been reading to my students from Sharon Salzberg’s book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. She writes:
When we become lost in desire, we are put firmly into the framework of linear time. We become focused on getting what we do not yet have or on keeping what we do have. We become oriented toward the future. To be caught in this concept of linear time brings us to what in Buddhist teachings is called bhava, or becoming, always falling into the next moment. It is as if before each breath ends, we are leaning forward to grasp at the next breath.
On March 4th I leaned so far forward I fell flat on my face.
Thinking about the future is not a bad thing. But clinging to an ideal of what I believe the future should be does not allow room for change or perspective. It leaves no room for living.
And isn’t it time to live a little?