How often do you savor things?
No, I mean it. How often do you really stop and savor anything? Did you gulp down your dinner as you glued your eyes to the television, ready to jump up at the slightest provocation? Or did you sit in a comfortable chair, fork (or spoon) hovering in the air as you contemplated the harmonious intermingling of delicious mastication going on in your mouth?
I am guilty of the former.
I am making up for it right now though by savoring my relaxing chamomile and lavender tea sweetened by fresh, wildflower honey in a deep blue and white ocean wave mug.
I may be new to feng shui, the ancient art of precise placement, however I have always been aware and inspired by having things that are meaningful and symbolic. Hence my mug collection. You might think, “Really? Mugs?” but I enjoy having a variety of mugs to fit my different moods and whims. For example, my wave mug helps me relax by thinking of the ocean and all the pleasant vacations I have taken in which I enjoyed the wild waves in all their watery glory. I also think of the Starbucks on Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia in which I worked when I purchased this mug. That summer I met many pleasant people and went jet-skiing on many wonderful waves. I was also challenged by a co-worker to be a better worker and better person; the advice in which she gave is still precious to me to this day.
Savoring this tea in this mug in this present moment.
Life should be lived like this.
Not that I do. I live in an all or nothing mentality most of the time. I am sitting and watching TV for hours on end or cleaning like it is nobody’s business (usually when company is on its way over). I read books cover to cover skipping sleep (and sometimes food) because I am enraptured by the journey. If I have to stop mid-project to do something else, the project usually lays forgotten until it is eaten by dust bunnies or the vacuous dark in my closet. With school papers, I used to put things off and do nothing but ruminate until the very end when I would sit down and write the whole paper until it was finished. Procrastination is the quintessence of this state of mind. No matter how I fight it the chaos of life sucks me from one thing to another, never finishing, always distracted, eschewing routine and quickening my days. My head is somewhere in 2010, my heart in 2020 but I need to wake up to January 2013 so that I can live.
Really live. Savoring life.
I have done this before so I know that it is possible. Usually it happens when I travel. Something about being in a new place for a short amount of time makes you appreciate it and therefore savor it more. My last trip was taking my sister to New York City. Though I’ve been to NYC several times before, the magic of big cities is that there is always something new to experience; you’ve never really “seen it all.” This trip, I spent time savoring the wet stones of Washington Park and the gritty underground paths of the Subway, discovering surprising mosaics in the random walls of Greenwich village, dancing clumsily with new acquaintances, filling my belly (and soul) with rich, delectable food…
Is it actually possible to savor all life like this?
I thought this an interesting question so I experimented this evening with the mundane task of cleaning the kitchen. Now, there are some people- like my mother- who absolutely love to clean. Good for them. I’m not one of them. I despise cyclical chores; once you clean dishes or laundry they get dirty once again. Once you sweep or vacuum your floor the dog and cat walk on it, shedding fur ad naseum. I am the type of person who will order takeout after cleaning the kitchen just so I don’t have to get my spotless pans dirty. Loving to cook, you can see where the problem lies in my kitchen. It is a room I can never keep clean but where I spend many enjoyable hours creating dishes and making messes. Rather paradoxical: I love the look of a clean kitchen even though I hate keeping it clean.
Tonight was different. I really tried to be “in the moment” while cleaning, focusing on the sensory sensations of the task rather than on my dislike. I felt the warmth of the water running over my hands and trickling down my arms. I watched the tiny, white soap bubbles gathering, multiplying on the sides of my pans and sliding easily into the sink when rinsed. I handled the smooth, silver steel of my utensils and took cathartic pleasure in wiping them to gleaming splendor. I joyfully shined my countertops and swept the terror-stricken dust bunnies across the tiles into their new prison. Most importantly, I looked at each item and remembered. Remembered the wine last held by my wine topper, the first apartment I lived in when I first used my skillet, the day after my wedding when I received multiple collections of the exact same knife set (sending me a message?) and returning them to the store to get my toaster oven, the hefty tax return used to purchase our nice coffee maker (replacing the disgusting and cheap old one) in our brand new house. My kitchen is filled with memories of me actually living and my cleaning of these items is honoring those memories. When I think of cleaning in that aspect, it doesn’t seem quite so tedious.
Maybe there is something to this. You hear cliche sayings like, “Carpe diem” (seize the day), “live life to the fullest,” “life is your oyster,” but get exhausted trying to live grandly. Maybe those people just mean to take time to really see what you’re looking at and really listen to what you’re hearing. Maybe it’s the tiny or mundane things that need to be viewed with fresh eyes. Savoring life takes effort and seems rather exhausting sometimes, however once you start to acknowledge this new type of sensation, changes follow bit by bit until you sense everything in this way. It’s like my random onion plant. One day I have an onion in a wooden bowl with other onions to be used for cooking. The next day an unexpected shoot pops up out of that onion. I leave it alone in that wooden bowl and each day it grows a little higher and a little fuller until I have a full fledged onion plant next to the TV that needs to be planted.
Random onion plant, thank you. Your presence fills me with surprise, curiosity, amusement and clarity. You thrive despite being left alone and teach me that little changes every day turn into big accomplishments.