It’s Tuesday night as I write this, 11:30 p.m. Mountain time. I turned off the election updates over an hour ago and focused on critiquing a fellow author’s historical mystery. I didn’t listen to news all day, but did my every-three-week grocery run to Natural Grocers in Las Cruces. I did housework and yoga, took a brisk walk after dark, listened briefly to the election results trickling in, and let it go. Not that I don’t care how it turns out. I do. I did everything I could to assist the outcome I believe is best. But I can’t know it yet.
We humans are so attached to prognosticating. Augury has changed from the interpretation of entrails and other enigmatic patterns to a science that originated with 18th century gamblers. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that uncertainty is real, and if I can’t tolerate it, I have a hard time ahead. The questions keep coming. But all I have is the present moment. Within that moment, I’m aware of my home, my physical aliveness, the sensation of touching the keyboard, the tiny clicks and thunks of typing, the hum of the refrigerator, and the greater silence beyond. This is it.
As I walked home under the stars, the silhouettes of small animals appeared up ahead. Four skunks crossing the street. Above them Mars and Venus were bright. I crossed to the other side, just in case.
The dread of being stuck with an inconsiderate neighbor plagued me while I ran, as my mind rehearsed all the ways the problem could get worse and all the steps I might have to take to get it resolved. After all, there was only one good scenario: him moving out. But the bad ones seemed endless, and my mind seemed compelled to explore all of them, including having to move to get away from him. For me, his worst disruption of our previously serene little community in our building has been smoking (and stinking up my apartment!) although smokers are required to go off the property, not even in the courtyard, to light up. Worry clings to the mind in pursuit of a solution, even if there’s none possible at the time. Granted, this can be a preparation for coping, but I don’t go out in nature to worry, so I started counting the negative thoughts. Once I notice a pattern, it’s an effective way to interrupt it and make a particular worry into a practice rather than a torment. It came back eight times in four miles. With each return, I was no further along in solving the problem, but I was more aware of clinging to it and could let it go more quickly, to return to awareness of my movement and my surroundings. After all, if I can focus that intently on a negative, I apparently have the capacity to focus equally on something else if I chose to do so.
It was the day after a big rain, a cool eighty-two degrees, and that brought out the lizards. I saw eight greater earless lizards, evenly distributed along the trail, one about every half mile, and I paused to admire each of them. Their sleek gray heads and necks. Their glowing orange sides with diagonal black stripes. Their orange upper arms and radiant blue-green forearms. Their green hind legs and tail that seem lit from inside like a stained glass lamp. (The pictures don’t do justice to their true colors.) Most of them posed or did push-ups, as if showing off their jewel-like skins. Normally, I feel lucky to see just one, so this was an extraordinary bounty.
When I got home, my landlord let me know he was giving the smoker a thirty-day notice to vacate the premises. I wish the guy would leave sooner, but the point is, I hadn’t needed to keep thinking about it. I’m glad I was able to pop the worry bubble often enough to enjoy the weather and the lizards.