Thoughts: Pecan Pie, Meditation and Me


I am sitting at the repair shop while they repair the axel bearings on my convertible. Outside the waiting room there are clanks and clunks and whirs. A TV is ranting politics.

I just finished one of the most bazaar pieces of copywriting I’ve ever done, a piece that was written originally in Dutch, then translated into Chinese for the Chinese market, then retranslated from the Chinese to English by a Chinese translator. The results were a mess, and my job was to make it both accurate, and readable for those of us here in the US.

I am pretty proud of the work.  It’s made for a good morning, both challenging and fun.

I’ve got a lot going right these days. Life runs in cycles and I seem to be in a good one just now. It is one of those rare times when most of the key elements in my life are in a good place – work, faith, family, love, creativity and health are, all in all, in a pretty decent place.

I am enjoying it. And I am a little afraid of it.

Like most people who have made it to my age (I am 61), I’ve had my legs cut out from under me a few times. There have been times when I was just cruising along in life and somehow, like someone hit a switch, it all went bad. Mostly, I never saw it coming. Whether that is because of my blindness, or whether that’s just the way it happened, I still am not sure.

I only know I was totally blindsided. And suddenly found myself devastated.

You know what that’s like. You’ve probably been there.

That experience, repeated, has left me with a certain tentativeness that I have to fight against. A feeling that somewhere, there is an anvil hanging over my head with a fraying rope slowly unraveling.

And I have to tell you, I don’t like that feeling. I want to enjoy the times I am in. I want to savor them, and look forward to more of them. I want to wallow in them, soak them in, laugh and love and savor every moment. I don’t want to spend all that good time we have in our lives waiting for that thread to break.

I used to live in that eggshell place a lot. Even as I child, my mother used to comment that I always seemed to be anticipating the next rather than living in the moment. And there is a lot of truth to that.

I am way better at that now, but it took being mostly torn apart, by a divorce, by depression, by a period of lostness and floundering to get past it. It was what I call my dark years, and dark they were.  Even when I remember them, everything I remember seems to be dark, like a film noir movie from the forties.

Everyone has their own path back. Mine included therapy, and eventually meditation. I learned, slowly, to move from living in the past and future, to living in the now. And in doing that, I learned something life changing.

I learned, that even in the dark times, there is generally more good stuff than bad stuff. What happens in the bad times is that our pain, or our fear (or both) keep us from recognizing, feeling and enjoying the good stuff that is still there.

I figured that out because of pecan pie.

I love pecan pie. No, that is too frail a word. I adore pecan pie. I lust for it. It is the food I am sure heaven is full of because that alone would make it heaven. When I was a kid I did not have birthday cakes. My mom made me pecan pies. I generally would eat half of it in one sitting. I have great willpower about food, but wave a pecan pie in front of me and I am lost. If there was such a group as pecan pie anonymous, I probably should join.

And, on the first year of my dark place, I went out to lunch, alone for my birthday, ordered pecan pie, and it was, well, just “meh”.

Understand this. With pecan pie there is no “Meh”. Even a bad pecan pie makes the angels sing. But that day, it was “meh”

I went back to my therapist that next week, and shared that experience with me. And she went to work on me, trying to help me reclaim the moment. Meditation was one of the things she suggested.

Now, understand that I came from a middle America, WASP as WASP can be, Ozzie and Harriet kind of neighborhood. It was the kind of place where anything different was looked on askance. And that whole meditation thing? Foreign and strange. That’s what the Beatles did when they went wired with sitars and Ravi Shankar. That’s what the strange lady down the road did as she burned incense and sat on the front stoop with her twelve cats. It was Bhuddist, for heavens sake!.

No, it was not something I was predisposed to do.

But then, neither was going to a therapist. My father in particular, ranked therapists just under serial killers on the strange-o-meter. And people who went to therapists were one notch below. Going to one made you a loser, a whimp, a whacko.

And I was going to one. It was working. So what the hell, I said. I’ll try it. Assuming Methodists can do it.

It was, for me, life changing. It is still one of my primary tools for sanity preservation. It drags me away from my tendency to overthink and regrounds me in the now.  Once excercise in particular helps me, where I lay down, and do a physical inventory of my body.

“Toes” I ask, “how are you?”  And I work at feeling just my toes. Then I work my way up my body, checking in with most of my muscles, joints and innards. Sounds simple, but that is the idea, to isolate every little thing to that place and time and the exact moment, no more.  Years later, I can not just tell you how my toes are. I can tell you how each toe is, and how each knuckle on each toe. I do a lot of different meditations, but this one, the body scan thing, is the best for putting back to the moment.

What are the results?

Well I wish I could say I never overthink. That’s not the case. I wish I could say that I never worry and I never get overwhelmed. Alas, not so.

The difference is, I have a path out. I can break the cycle, whether I am too angry, sad, overwhelmed, depressed and helps me reclaim the glorious moments that are day to day part of our lives. The wind in the trees. Birds singing. The smell of coffee. The feeling of the woman I love next to me.  Yeah, I’ve gone from a skeptic, to an evangelist. Consider yourself evangelized.

And pecan pie? Well a year and a half ago I was a diagnosed as diabetic. I have not had a piece of pecan pie since. I’ve mostly been good and it’s under control enough that now and again I break bad and have a desert. There is a piece of pecan pie in my future.

And it will be glorious.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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