Tuesday, September 11, 2007

With crisis past, it's time to get back to the water


(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel September 9, 2007 )

I haven't been out on the lake in my boat for more than a week, and I miss it.

Sometimes life gets in the way. When patterns get broken, it's often hard to restart them.

Things come up -- serious issues that take precedence over seemingly less urgent tasks and rituals. Too easily, the truly important matters take a backseat to the moment's crisis.

I miss the lake and my morning rows through still water. I miss watching the mist rise as the sky brightens and watching the birds hunt for food at the water's edge. The turtles that surface alongside me have always been as much a part of my joy as the changing skyscape.

Beautiful views wherever I look -- upward, downward and to every side.

My morning rows enable me to start the day with calmness and pleasure. Time spent alone surrounded by so many natural wonders yields a lightheartedness and ease that linger for hours. For me, rowing has always been a mood-enhancer and confidence-builder. It's a sure shot in my arsenal of weapons for whole body-mind health.

I don't know why I haven't started again. The crisis that caused me to put those much-loved patterns on pause has abated. There is no longer an excuse keeping me inside during those mystical post-dawn hours. Still, I resist jumpstarting the routine. Why is that?

Why deny myself something I so obviously crave and enjoy?

Maybe because it is so much desired. In bygone days, I found it difficult to accept pleasure. Sure, I could dish it out, but allowing myself to receive delight was a whole other matter. A dedicated giver, I was the first to offer a soothing touch, a kind word or a helping hand. But accepting pleasure was untested territory.

"Me . . . worthy of excessive goodness? Goodness, no."

That's how it used to be. Fortunately, I worked through that silly stage and came to appreciate not only my worth, but also my value. I recognized and came to believe that I deserved to feel good as much as the next person.

"Accept pleasure" became my mantra. I even went so far as to post those words as hand-lettered affirmations in places where I was sure to see them. I remember placing one placard right by the kitchen sink during the period when my three oldest children were toddlers. Back then (did I mention this was ancient history?) the dishwashing arena was the center of my domain. If a sign was to be noticed, no real estate was more suitable than the sink backsplash.

Although I eventually outgrew the need for constant visual reminders, I occasionally slip back into old patterns. I forget the importance of pleasure-yielding activities such as taking a walk or working in the garden. Sometimes, the very things that make me feel most fulfilled are the ones I have the most difficulty initiating.

Like going for a row.

My rowboat has been so long unused that water from the few brief downpours we've had has formed a stagnant puddle in the boat's bottom. Before I can push off from shore, it will need to be tipped over and emptied out.

Similarly, my mental state has filled up with stagnating thoughts. Anger, hurt and hard feelings have settled like scum upon my mental floor. They need to be poured out, my thoughts washed clean and refreshed.

When a boat is launched, it's called "casting off."

I can't think of a more appropriate term for what I need to do. The time is ripe for some casting off to happen on these home shores. I'm eager to return to rituals that gave me peace and cast off unwanted feelings of worry and fear.

A new dawn is breaking. I'm eager to welcome it again with the steady beat of two oars being drawn through still water.

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