This summer, I sit contemplating the sparkle of the pool. There is nothing quite like the color of swimming pool water. Ridiculous, since water has no color. But somehow this does, and it is chlorine incarnate.
How pleasant to sit here. Pleasant to drink a Diet Coke (one of two or three I consume each year) and eat Smartfood popcorn (stupid: it’s no better for you than chips) and catch up on my New Yorkers. How perfect this afternoon seems, reminding me of other perfect times, like
- Being 22 and crewing a schooner off the coast of Maine for a week in September
- Deciding to marry the love of my life on a steamy Boston evening
- Inhaling a Safeway tuna sub the night after I gave birth for the first time
- Watching my first born accept his high school diploma on a recent May afternoon
- Drinking Tab (remember Tab?) and getting stoned with my best friend the summer I lived away from home for the first time
This too shall pass
Everything is perfect until
- The kids turn on the water jets and you realize why the poolside chair you picked was vacant as you scurry to dry ground
- The family whose towels occupy the chairs near your new location returns, raucous and whiny
- Fanatics hijack your democracy
- The kid you have brought along as a companion for your son at bike camp takes a spill and needs to go to the ER to get his wrist checked out
- You and the love of your life find it hard to share a bed because you keep each other awake with your respective bad habits
- A baby poops and they close the pool for 24 hours
- Your boyfriend leaves you (note: this occurs prior to meeting the love of your life, so it’s a net positive)
- The body you once displayed thoughtlessly in a bikini comes to resemble the brow of a Shar-Pei
- Your once-trustworthy mind begins playing tricks on you
But really, who cares about damp notebooks, noisy kids, wrinkled flesh, or even trips to the ER or the compromises of a long marriage? Mindfulness tells us to experience what is. My mother, no mindfulness practitioner but surprisingly wise in such things, counseled this too shall pass. Zen teaches non-attachment, because all is impermanent. Do not judge; simply be. Laughing and crying are the same. On vacation or at home. Wrist intact or broken. Shine or rain. Life or death.
I want to believe it’s possible to reach a state where I actually believe that.
My half-full cup runneth over
I watch a shrieking child race through the sprinkler. A woman presses ice to her arm where a bee stung her. My phone buzzes to tell me my husband is bringing my son’s friend to the local hospital.
I take a sip of Diet Coke and stare into the abyss.
I wonder whether I am a can-half-empty or can-half-full kind of gal. I realize they are the same thing. The universe outside the can is cold and dark and cares nothing about the contents of the can or my contemplation of it. So I might as well color my world with a few blinding sparkles of reflected pool light, a bit of warmth from the smoldering heat of a long-tended love, the largely meaningless but somehow comforting knowledge that my genes live and walk outside of me, incarnate in my two sons.
I take a last sip of Diet Coke and toss the less-than-half-full can in the bear-proof recycling bin.
Before I could post this, I had to stare into the abyss again.
He’s okay and so is his friend, though no sports for a few weeks.
How has your summer vacation been, if you’ve taken one?