Thursday, July 12, 2007

My wedding ring must come off. And, then I eventually put it back on. This is not a mind trip, or an indication of a failing marriage. In fact, it’s oddly about my exercise routine, which includes getting in the pool to swim laps a couple times per week.

What I have come to realize, however, is that the act of removing the ring (and then putting it back on my finger) has become a ritual of sorts. I say, “of sorts” because I am – unfortunately - not the type of person who exercises with the regularity I ought. Thus, the act is only as ritualistic as my actual time spent in the pool. Still, over the course of the last two years of swimming, I have gone through this act enough times to think about what the ring means to me.

Coming out of the pool, I am usually invigorated. Whether it’s the middle of a hot summer, or the third Thursday of shitty snowfall in March when I can barely stand the sight of snow, a swim will completely alter my psyche… and only in the best of ways. I am almost always invigorated after a swim. Even if it’s nearly impossible to get to the pool, I feel better once I’m done with my swim. That is simply the effect water has on me. So when I emerge from the pool, with more energy than when I arrived, I am in an altered state. This place, or state of mind, is what contributes to the energy I feel when putting my wedding ring back on to my ring finger.

I am, in that moment, a better version of me. My heart beats strong. My lungs feel expanded. Since I have taken a warm shower, followed by an application of Lavender lotion (applied in the sauna during the winter months), I also feel that “ready to start my day” feeling that typically accompanies such a routine. I also feel like giving myself a little pat on the back for having gotten myself into the pool in the first place; I suppose there is some sense of pride in the completion of my swimming routine.

At some point, I began to associate all of these feelings with not only the completion of a swim, but with the placement of that ring on my finger. And of course, it wasn’t long before the ritual of putting on my ring reminded me of how good it is to be alive – not only after a swim, but in general.

And so, it is in all of the acts which are part of a seemingly mundane swimming routine, that I have adopted a ritual – one that renews my physical self, and that also renews my spiritual self. I never realized that stripping away such a beautiful symbol would actually come to reify its symbology in my life, and to ultimately make me the (better) person I am becoming.


There's no doubt about it. When presented with the choice of "being" or "doing," I know deep down I want to choose "being." I want to be (there's that word again!) the sort of person who "be"s naturally. (How's that for a twist of grammar?) Truth-telling now, though. I'm a doer, through and through. I'm the sort of person who hears the story of Mary and Martha--of Mary celebrated for sitting attentively at Jesus' side while Martha hustled her way through dinner preparations--and gets angry that Jesus reinforces Mary for "doing nothing." While I know how good it is to sit with a Mary at my side, I am still consumed with the question of how all the tasks at hand were completed to allow her to be there. As I said recently to my counselor/spiritual director, "How can I relax and still get the vacuuming done?" It seems I only imagine myself effective when there's a cloud of activity and stress surrounding me. Oh Martha, Martha, Martha--I hear you, sister.

This morning I woke early when Matt left for his morning basketball league. I've been working long days Monday-Thursday in hopes of having a bonus day with the kids on Friday. My hat is off to the many women and men who work hard labor jobs with long shifts or, more difficult still, work more than one job. A few ten hour days in a row and I'm ready to crash. By this morning, my body was craving an extra few minutes of sleep--but my spirit was craving something more. I crawled out of bed, raised the blinds, and climbed back into bed to sit and meditate. Silence. Birds calling and singing. No children's footsteps. No spouse's grunts and groans at too much early-morning sunlight. I kept resetting the alarm, imagining I might still squeeze in those few minutes on the snooze bar. But my spirit continued to ask for time.

I dressed, made a cup of coffee (to counteract the lack of added sleep!), filled my cereal bowl and headed for our back deck. With travels to Boston for our anniversary (last week) and to New York for the funeral of my oldest friend's father (this week), I feel distant at best from my yard. With long days at work, I'm contributing little to the woodchuck/weed hunting consuming Matt's days as he struggles to feed us, rather than the animals, with the garden. Sitting in the midst of the stunningly tall trees, following the flight patterns of the birds from branch to branch, I felt truly home. I was rewarded instantly for showing up, staying silent, and being attentive. I glanced at our clothesline, and there was our hummingbird flying in for a visit. She looked like a Martha, of course--all business, buzzing up to that feeder as though there was no time to waste with a visit or attention to me. But I, for once, felt like Mary--laundry still in the washer, kids still sound asleep in their beds, fully present for the moment before me.