I realise that this is not the first of the month, but it seemed like a Friday afternoon topic to me. Enjoy!
As I’m writing this, I’m on a lounger by the pool along the southwest coast of Bali. I am working on the first ‘official’ tan in my life (which may end up being dark beige, but I suppose it’s the effort that counts). I am relaxing. Or trying to (yes, the words of Yoda are ringing in my head – “Do, or do not, there is no try.”) It is about half-past ten in the morning and the minutes are passing like hours – how equally wonderful and awkward at the same time.
It has been a while since the sole goals of my day included sleeping, swimming, and flipping periodically to roast evenly. It is taking some energy to do so. However, it’s a good reminder about practicing what I ‘preach’, to take the lessons of the mind and move them in to every activity (and lack thereof) in my life.
So armed with my thirty sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat and a big bottle of water, I’ll explore what doing a whole lot of nothing means to me.
Being in the now.
This is paradise – the sound of the surf crashing against the shore is majestic, the scent of frangipani intoxicating… In spite of the perfection, my mind shifts to how many emails I’ll have to catch up on… I can recognise when my thoughts go forwards or backwards in time to issues at the office, questions or concerns about relationships with people… it is, at times, quite physical – my chest tightens, my breathing becomes more shallow – and it’s all for nought.
It’s not as though I can solve the issues that may await me at home, not while I’m poolside. Not only does this thought pattern frustrate, but it also takes away from the attention I could be placing on what’s going on around me. Some frolicking children in the shallow end, the palpable happiness of the newlyweds under the next umbrella, or the warm and confident smile of the woman who just walked passed me. Small, yes, but completely relevant, right now.
If the saying is true “wherever you go, there you are” then you can choose where you want to be wherever you go – on vacation, in an important meeting, doing the laundry… adding to the moment by being in the moment. Take a deep breath (or the 7th Path Self-Hypnosis class – it really helps!) and come back to where you are.
Looking at my ‘failure’ in keeping myself constantly in the now, I could reprimand myself harshly for lacking presence durability. Or I can just let it go. For me, that means a few things. First, to forgive myself for ‘falling off the NOW wagon’ and refocus to stay where I am, in body and mind. Second, use any means to free myself from going back over the same ground. Write it down, leave myself a phone message at home for when I get back, or if it is a small but gnawing item, do what I need to do to deflate it – contact someone, distil and delegate…
Or put it in a box. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and imagine that you’re putting your issue in a box – lock it and put it on a shelf – it’s still there and you can give yourself permission to leave it there for a short while to take it back once you’ve returned to the situation again. Or use the wonderful metaphor of the mind by putting it on ‘back burner’ – take the seething pot of questions and concerns, and for the time being, set it rear-burner. Just like a fabulous stew that only needs time and little or no interference, many of our ideas find solutions when we’re not focusing and worrying about them.
What does ‘time off’ mean to you? For some it is catching up on work or reading, for others exploring other places and cultures, and for others it is doing absolutely nothing. The latter is what I thought I was aiming for, but really it was not what I expected. In the past, vacations usually had a ‘to do’ list, so not having one put me in a space I wasn’t used to. I know that we are ‘human beings’ not ‘human doings’ but putting ‘being’ as the only thing on my list wasn’t natural for me – the expectations that I’d been holding, loosely, over the years, of being a producer, a mover and shaker (in my own way) created this disparity. It’s exciting and scary to be placed in a position where there are no labels to prove, like a business card with no ‘letters’ or designation – very liberating. I have the capabilities to be all those other ‘doing’ things, but just stepping back and trusting that they’re there with no need to demonstrate them is a leap of personal faith. Well worth it, too.
The Saga Continues…
I’m back in Singapore, proudly toting what I (and my cousin) thought to be a stunning amber radiance. I was in for a rude awakening – “Well, you don’t glow in the dark anymore” and “I haven’t been out in the sun for months and I’m still darker than you” were not what I was expecting. And taught me a couple more lessons, on life and tanning.
Start where you are.
I’d never be mistaken for olive-skinned. That’s a fact. And not having spent much time in the sun (without total block or long-sleeves) over the past few years has not helped in deepened my light shading. I can live with that. My cousin was amazed that I got any colour with the amount of sunscreen that was reapplied – while I support pushing past the comfort zone in many aspects of life, baby oil is not one of them, and I’ll take the calculated risk of 30+ when starting at off-white. I can relate it to other things as well – when you start in a sport, or job, or new avenue of adventure or challenge, you may not be an Olympian, and expert or a forerunner instantly, or right at the beginning. But at least you start – and it’s only when you begin that you open the door to possible excellence.
It’s all relative.
I know that I’m probably not bound to be on a Coppertone ad. But looking through photos of my past, I’d play a perfect role in the tanning ad – for me. Competition with others can help us create points of references and challenge us in areas that we may not have tried on our own, but keeping in mind your own progress and challenging yourself can often be the most relevant measure, and the most satisfying. The goalposts can be shifted with others – compared to the beautiful creamy-white skin of my mother, I’m a bronzed goddess, but to my sporting and beaching friends, a ghost. Keeping track of others is great for the big picture sometimes, but keeping it real with yourself helps put it all back into perspective. It’s just a tan, but it works for most things in life.