After being laid off late Monday afternoon, I arrived home, jotted a short list of things I have wanted to do for months but could not find the time for, then stretched across my couch under a warm blanket and slept. Rest, my body was saying. Rest.
The to-do list is not your typical taskmaster, it’s more of a reminder of what I’ve been missing. One of the items: cook nourishing meals and sit down to eat them.
What have I been doing where “sit down to eat” is an item I pen onto a to-do list before falling asleep?
Wanting to find a community here in Asheville, I signed up for classes, joined groups, and formed more friendships in the last five months than I had in the five years I’ve lived in western North Carolina. It was needed, it was necessary at a time when I felt alone and lost and in need of support, but, in my enthusiasm, I found myself caught up in the same too-busy life I’d fled from when I moved away from Boston. The circumstances had changed, but I had once again diminished the time to just be to a barely visible window at the end of a long day. A window that was often closed completely by exhaustion.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 began to impact the world, it was not uncommon for me to leave work late, rush home, and throw together a simple meal made of reheated parts before running out again. If I was lucky, I’d sit at the kitchen table for five minutes while I loaded the mess of food into my mouth. It wasn’t until my cat started jumping up to sit behind me that I realized I was perpetually seated along the edge of the chair, ready to stand up again at any moment, quick to clear my plate. I never sat back, I never relaxed. Food and hunger were obstacles to overcome as quickly as possible so I could rush out again to arrive, late, at whatever weeknight event I was attending.
And then all of that stopped.
No job to occupy the days. All social engagements postponed, canceled, or moved online. Government instituted mandates to remain indoors unless venturing out for essentials. The rapid pace of life slowed to a barely-making-it-out-of-bed crawl. And what a gift to the healthy and sheltered who can sustain a long-term pause to life’s demands.
Today, after a slow and languid morning, I pulled open the windows in my apartment to let in the warm spring air, raised the blinds to give view to the panoply of trees budding and blooming, and I made myself a meal that I set ceremoniously at the kitchen table. And I sat down. And ate.
I had no plans, no where to go, no reason to rush. I tasted the herbs in the soup, savored the runny insides of the egg I’d fried, looked down at the dishes instead of over at my watch. When finished, I felt full, rested, content. I didn’t pull open the refrigerator, hungry for more, I didn’t rush out the door on the way somewhere else. I just sat, in the moment, with the trees and the breeze and a feeling of contentment.
So much has been stripped away over this past week and yet, today, I feel fuller than I have in a long while.
If you too find yourself with more time and less to do, I invite you to rediscover the every day acts that had become obstacles in a too-full life. What small thing can you savor today that you may not have time for tomorrow? The singing of the trees, the smile of your child, the way the mug warms your hands in the damp evening. The feel of your body on seat, cushion, or chair. The movement of breath, in and out.