April 13, 2008

Discipline

The summer I turned 12, I discovered plums. I'm sure I had eaten them before that time, but that summer is when I really just fell in love with that particular fruit. I have this dream-like memory of the exact moment of discovery and delight. We were at an outdoors event, camping with a group of friends, and my mom had brought along a variety of snacks and nibbles. Sitting there in the sun, stretched out on a plaid blanket with the warm breeze on my skin, I picked up a plum.

Over the course of the next hour or so, without thinking about it, I slowly and deliberately polished the skin of the fruit with a napkin, buffing it in small circles up to a glassy shine. I was so intent on this process, so focused, the memory is still clear and small in my mind; the light and warmth and breeze, the feeling of the blanket under my legs, the coolness of the small fruit turning against my hand.

The moment I was finally ready to eat was full of anticipation. I even recall turning to my mom and trying to impress her with the shiny results of all my care, (though now, as a mom myself, her bored response of, "Yes, dear, how nice," is completely fitting. I mean, come on, I was holding up a piece of FRUIT, y'all.) That first bite, for me, crystallized all the good sensations of summer and family and carefree days.

I cannot remember the last time I took an hour to soak in to something so small and mundane and inconsequential. Most of my time seems to be spent in planning or reacting and, more recently, recovering. What focus I have now is directed to stay on top of all the things that must be done, all the tasks and roles that must be fulfilled.

However, this overwhelming sense of responsibility must have been learned. That 12-year-old girl of a summer long past wasn't bothered by what else she should be doing. I was completely encased inside that one sun-filled moment, lacking intention, guilt or anxiety. Watching my children now, I can see the same instinctive ability to simply live inside of a moment. It is a skill that I must have unlearned as I grew older.

The idea of discipline has always meant, to me, being able to buckle down and accomplish set goals and tasks. But I think what I need to remember is that sometimes, discipline needs to be focused, not on doing, but instead on NOT doing. On letting go of all the frenetic energy and minutiae of daily life and simply existing in one moment, however small.



On stillness.

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