spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
PictureSerotonin from the liquor store / Alison R.
I needed love, trust and comfort. Without them, I was willing to settle for serotonin. I dashed across the street to the liquor store and grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Dryers, something high in calories but mood altering. Feeling desperate, I didn’t glance at the cost of the pint or consider the almost-certain weight gain.

Clearly there had been but one thing to do. Get ice cream. An act of pure impulse – the body crosses the street, the hands push back the glass case cover over the ice cream and the fingers select coffee ice cream with Heath Bar bits. The wallet comes out, money changes hands, the body retraces its steps, the hands tear open the ice cream carton, and the spoon dips and lifts, dips and lifts. The inner world brightens, pleasure grows and soon the pint container is all but empty and the smile and feeling of wellbeing. Ah, ice cream, that reliable best friend and resource for serotonin.

My downward dip was on Labor Day afternoon when I handed over to her owner, Chloe, the dog I kept in July and then housed for the three-day weekend. It was hard enough letting go of bouncy furry happiness, but her owner handed me a check for less than I thought we had agreed on, and I experienced a double loss. Unleashed were bites of disrespect. I could see the logic of paying for two nights of doggie care rather than three days. In other words the amount made sense except that this was not the amount we had agreed upon. Something must be wrong with me that I could not get what I asked for. And thanks to the ice cream for helping me recover my equanimity

I had cause to think of that mood-altering event on Labor Day weekend after this weekend’s visit to my granddaughter’s sixth birthday party about 240 miles south of San Francisco. Lovely as it was to snag a few hugs from my youngest son’s little girl, I found myself sitting in silence among the other families, despite all the good will I felt for the young people who, with their children, comprise a caring community for my son and his daughter.

My grandson and I were the two lone representatives of daddy’s family whereas mommy’s family was, as always, present en masse. Given the active nature of the women in that family, the party was a blow out affair. The other Grandma had even booked a room in a motel at Avila beach and scooted down at 4:30 a.m. to secure the best party spot. The mermaid theme was unpacked, balloons inflated, and it was nonstop party making.

Because I didn’t help, because, because and so on I was feeling left out and out of sorts. And then I spotted neighbor Matt and his son. Neighbor Matt used to live on the corner of the street my son and I lived on in San Pedro when my son was growing up. About four years younger, Matt was a surfer like my son, and I imagine he admired his older friend. Matt matured to be kind, soft-spoken, and clearly still respectful of my son and because of that, caring and kind to me, the mother responsible for such a splendid son. Instantly, I noticed the contrast between how I had been feeling before connecting with neighbor Matt and the relief and release that came once I felt I mattered. Kindness, that source for serotonin!

Neighbor Matt and his son drove back to San Pedro about the time my grandson and I headed back to San Francisco. As we parted, I smiled at this good feeling that came from time spent with neighbor Matt. I knew that whether or not I saw him again, I could re-imagine at will and with gratitude these moments of having felt I mattered. I had needed love, trust and comfort and because of neighbor Matt the feelings had been mine and they were as good as, if not better than, those that came from ice cream. 

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