Besides, going anywhere would have required us to plan our time around the needs of Otto, my son’s aging pitbull. For one thing, the dog needs help getting up and down stairs and if Otto doesn’t have his walks, he whimpers during the night.
I went to Connecticut to be with my oldest son and his new family. Naturally, I wanted all of us to spend time in meaningful conversation. And we did, but we could have just so many conversations.
Without a car, or any place I really wanted to go alone, I was limited to the living room, or the room with the big bed in it. I did spend time in the kitchen Christmas day when the cooking was going on. I assigned myself to stripping herbs from their twigs in the amounts called for in the recipe my son was using to prepare Christmas dinner. I liked doing that.
All in all despite the pleasure of talking with this family, and the beauty of the snow, I got in touch with flurries of my own unease. From experience I knew how scared I feel away from my customary diversions. I worried about how I would fill time cut off from my usual time fillers. I was aware that many of these are meant to divert me from the discomfort of feeling groundless.
As I prepared for this trip, I promised myself that I would practice living with moments of uncertainty and groundlessness. To help me, I downloaded Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Chance. I committed to experiencing any unease I might feel away from my diversions.
It isn’t only travel that brings up discomfort. Even in familiar surroundings, I fight what feels like a loss of ego. Of course, in my own territory with a car, I can escape to the supermarket or to the nearby Starbucks. I can play computer games or visit the refrigerator.
According to Pema, I was in the midst of what she calls “fundamental uncertainty.” She says people don’t want the uneasy discomfort of feeling groundless in any form. Addiction, overeating, television, any excess is a way of avoiding the pain of feeling unsubstantiated and foundationless.
I had mixed results living with my uncertainty during my visit to Connecticut. Despite my resolve to be with my feelings of groundlessness, I did escape into 21 episodes of Friday Night Lights on Netflix. On the other hand, although a day of baking had left the kitchen table laden with freshly baked cookies and breads, I did a good job of avoiding the sweets no matter how restless I felt. When I sat at the table to meditate, my son asked me if I was praying to the god of baked goods.
My hope was to sit with my restless energy and underlying uneasiness and not seek distractions and diversions. I wanted to experience some of the unpleasant aspects of being me those diversions have helped me avoid. The trip to Connecticut was a good first go at being open to the less comfortable parts of myself.
So, bless the snowplows which scrape their way through town before dawn and clear the dark roadways winding through the white landscape. Bless my feelings of uncertainty, boredom, and discomfort. And bless my son and his new family, who opened their home to me for Christmas.