“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I woke up this morning with a great sense of urgency to write. I have not felt this way of late; too many other changes swirled my life about, which made it difficult to go within to write something meaningful.
Last night I joined my fellow yoga practitioners for an evening about living with intention. Essencia started “Third Saturday Social” a few months ago and topics have varied, from books discussions to keeping a journal. I had yet to attend one, which I even thought was odd. I’m typically first in line to support anything new at Essencia, but some evenings I had conflicts and other evenings I just didn’t feel called. Until last month, when I happened upon this month’s topic of “intention”. I marked my calendar.
Yesterday, my whole Saturday was intentional. I woke up early, then purposefully fell back to sleep, soon after my self-awoke me just in time to make it to an 8 a.m. flow at Essencia, just five minutes late. I stopped on the way home, quenched the empty gas tank, washed the car, and ran home to shower and change. As I headed to the DuPage Democratic Party office for precinct committee person training, I spoke with my own committeewoman and agreed to be an election judge. I enjoyed the training, hopped in the car, returned a call from my Mom, listened as she shared some frustration with her health insurance company denying a test that she needs to properly diagnose some spots on her spine, I agreed to check in early next week and arrived at the Wheaton French Market. I bought produce for the week and thought about what I would make for the Saturday social that evening. I handpicked two identical rose bouquets – one for a friend who recently had hip surgery and one for myself. Soon after I stopped at the friend’s house, checked in on her, and then arrived home. I quickly arranged my own flowers, then proceeded to focus on what I would make for that evening. I assessed my purchases and the refrigerator’s contents and decided on some form of bruschetta and a fruit salad. I turned the oven to 425, then sliced the baguette. I poured some olive oil into a small pan, warmed the oil and pressed garlic cloves into it. I dressed both sides of the slices with the warm olive oil and garlic, then placed each slice onto the baking sheet, and popped that in the oven. I set the timer for 12 minutes. I grabbed the Lodge, poured avocado oil inside its black cast iron belly, absorbed the excess oil with a paper towel and turned the heat to medium. I peeled back the skin of the shallot, threw it in the trash, sliced the shallot, and threw it in the skillet. I washed and dried and sliced the shiitake and crimini mushrooms. They joined the shallot, at which time I grabbed some dried thyme from the cabinet and sprinkled it atop the mixture. I folded the herbs in, enjoyed its fragrance, and then chopped the asparagus. I removed the mushrooms and shallot mixture to cool, then threw the asparagus into the skillet, poured some more olive oil atop the vegetable which started to turn a rich green. I made a mental note to buy more olive oil, then looked at the timer with 90 seconds left on the clock I opened the oven just in time to save the baguette slices from a char. I returned to the skillet and rescued the asparagus before it became slimy. I rinsed the miniature heirloom tomatoes, gently sliced them while I made a mental note to take the knives to the sharpener, and then gently placed the tomatoes with the asparagus. I grabbed some kosher salt, sprinkled it over that mixture, then walked to the side of the house and cut some fresh thyme, oregano, and mint. I placed the herbs in a lettuce spinner to soak and later be rinsed. I found the baller in the utensil drawer and scooped out the watermelon, followed by the cantaloupe, skinned the peaches, sliced and diced them, sprinkled them atop the melon balls, rinsed the blueberries, and placed them on top, found a half of a lemon in the refrigerator, squeezed that all over the fruit, rolled up the large mint leaves, and scissored ribbons of the mint across the fruit salad. I returned my attention to the vegetables, found a large platter in the pantry, rinsed off the pantry crumbs that settled on it, then created an assembly line. I grabbed a tablespoon, spooned the mushrooms onto the toasted baguette slices, pinched the stems of the thyme and slid my fingers up or down, whichever direction yielded its tiny leaves atop the spoonfuls of the mushroom mixture. I then opened the top utensil drawer, removed the vegetable peeler, picked up the rind with the balled out cantaloupe, moved the peeler across its peaks and valley, carefully removed its juicy and erratically formed ribbons, placed each ribbon atop the mushroom mixture, tasted my invention, approved, then repeated the last step of that assembly. I grabbed the oregano, plucked off its leaves, chopped them up, placed them into the tomato and asparagus, massaged them into the mixture, tasted a spoonful, glad I didn’t use pepper, then spooned the proceeds onto the remaining baguette slices. I went to the foil drawer and grabbed the box containing the plastic wrap, I hoped I had enough, then covered the platter with two pieces of plastic. I followed with two more for the fruit salad, grateful the last piece was just enough to cover it. I made a mental note to buy more plastic wrap, carried the bowl and platter downstairs to the basement refrigerator, rearranged the contents inside to afford them room, cleaned up the kitchen, ran the generic rhoomba across main level, swept up strings and chewed up stuffed animal fillings strewn about the basement floor, vacuumed up the dirt and dog hair throughout the basement, threw in a load of laundry, checked the time, grabbed my journal and reflected on my prior intentions, then wrote about some things that I was unsure if I would share later, and squeezed in a 45-minute power nap. I awoke refreshed and fed the dogs, let them out, got dressed, put on a dress and some makeup, slid into my flip-flops, grabbed the bowl and platter, filled up a glass of water, and left for Essencia. (Note: I do believe this is the longest paragraph I ever wrote.)
Of course, there are a few things missing, from turning on the radio to peeing and trips out to the trash, but that is pretty close to what I expected and intended my Saturday to be.
And then last night, I went to Essencia, without expectation. I’d never been to the Saturday Social. I didn’t know what to expect. Then I saw Reuben, Jeannine’s son and was thrilled I’d get to spend the evening with him. Then Chloe appeared in the window, she, faithfully looked after her brother who ran to the pizza place next door for drinking cups. As Reuben held the door for me, I went inside, and I was greeted by Chloe’s warm toothy grin.
Having spent my morning there, Essencia was transformed. No one wore yoga pants. We were there to move our minds our thoughts, to share food and stories, to nurture old friendships and to make new ones. This gathering was the offspring of the gifts that Jeannine gave so many of us, as she unselfishly built the Essencia community.
We discussed what the definition of intention, how we each of us incorporates living intentionally into our daily lives, how some of us are faithful list makers, intending to check off boxes for the sake of accomplishment and also to stay focused, we reminded one another that sometimes our lives require that we give instead of receiving, yet giving of one’s self-produces its own bounty.
We have and found there were no right or wrong answers, no irrelevant experiences. There was thoughtfulness. There was serenity in the space of friends and persons who would soon no longer be strangers or acquaintances. It was similar to what happens when we show up to our mat. Our practice is our own, we get what we want from it. Last evening was my own, and I intended to share it. Being in the company of my fellow practitioners, understanding their journeys and sharing my own, I left with my cup filled.
As I walked out the door, Jeannine told the other women about my kitchen window. She said it was beautiful, and I laughed out loud in disagreement. Then she described the space, with the plants framing each side of it. And then I agreed with her and I said yes, it is beautiful. I told the story of my childhood home. My mom had two little pots with a Philodendron in each one. The pots hung on the cabinets, the space between them was the kitchen sink and the window that faced west. Doing the dishes was a little more enjoyable abutted by the green plants. When we bought our house in Oak Lawn in 2006, I had these two metal hangars that once housed candles. The glass holders that once sat inside them broke in the move. I found a new purpose for the holders. I nailed them into the cabinets that framed the window, I found a spider-plant, some pots, and planted them into some dirt. I now had what my mother had. I had the outside on the inside, in every season I would have greenery.
This morning I looked at my window, the purple willowy vines hanging from the pots on cabinets, the Barbie teacup repurposed as a planter, the wine bottles nurturing more vines that some rainy Sunday will find a home in a planter, and I realized that yes, this window, is exactly what I intended it to be. The outside on the inside, reminding me that our lives, our windows, our perspectives, are constantly iterating, and we can grow and flourish if we so choose that intention.
If I was looking at me, standing outside my window, I wonder what would I see? I would like to believe that I would see someone who lives an intentional life. Someone who chooses to be kind and compassionate, and regrets when she is not. Someone who not only hears but truly listens to others. Someone who tries really hard to be present. I would hope that the goodness inside of me, projects outward, making this world a little less harsh of a place. I would hope that I would see someone who is faithful to her intention of making the world a better place for her daughter and for everyone whose path she will cross.