Wide, gold feline eyes peered up at me from where the cat hunkered down between the bed and the nightstand. I paused, making the bed, and stared at the cat staring at me. We had two cats. This was not one of them.
It took me only a second to realize that the intruder had sneaked into our house through the basement door, left open the previous night as my son and his set crew worked late preparing backdrops and props for an indy film. No problem, I thought. I’d just carry the cat out of the house. But as I reached for the creature, it hissed. Having experience with angry cats’ claws, I moved to Plan B: coax him (her?) out with cat food. That didn’t work either. So I called for backup. My son blocked all exits except the one that would make for a quick and easy escape: bedroom door to stairs leading down and out the now-wide-open front door. Then, with a broom, I tried to herd the cat toward the escape route. Of course, the cat didn’t know I was trying to help. A frantic ball of fur shot from one closed window to another in the bedroom and even tried a vertical climb up one of the shades (which still bears two slits from panicked claws.)
So. There I stood, broom in hand, wondering what now? Common sense said that if the cat wants a window, give it an open one. The only windows that didn’t lead to a two-story drop were in the nook with my writing desk. Those windows, side by side, looked out on a roof that sloped toward our deck and a porch swing. I opened one of those windows and its screen and again took up my post as cat herder.
I was able to herd the cat to the side by side windows (one wide open, the other closed). But instead of going to the open window, the cat hit the closed window, frantically climbing and scratching to get out. It was crazy. Not two feet away stood an open window, a ready escape, but the cat was so panicked he couldn’t see it. I don’t know what clued him in, but he finally realized there was a way to get out, and he took it.
Sometimes I think we’re like that cat, pressured and frantic and panicked, not realizing that the way out is only a glance away, a breath away, a thought away. A recent blog post from media strategist Dan Blank tells about artist Eric Wert, who admits that he confronts anxiety all the time and that staying positive “is an everyday struggle.” Dan goes on to talk about “managing anxiety.” I don’t know about you, but that’s something I deal with myself. And I assume you’re not much different from me.
Life is full of uncertainties. Plus there’s so much stuff grabbing for our attention – or at-tension, as agent Donald Maass says it. And that’s the operative word: tension. Have you ever seen a billboard along the highway that says, “Made you look!” Smart phones and tablets often function as pocket and pouch size billboards. Everyone wants us to pay attention. And we pay at tension. I sense a national, maybe a universal, anxiety and irritation, a simmering aggravation. We’re like snapping dogs. “The pace of life crowds out the soft, still voices,” David Brooks said in an On Point interview.
None of us is ever immune to anxiety. But I believe we can cultivate an inner of peace that we carry with us, a core of calm we can access, an inner sacred space in the midst of the profane, an island of peace in the turbulent sea of talk/posturing/see-me/info-voices – some of which are created by our own brains. I’m in the process of creating and nurturing that place of peace within myself, and my purpose in this blog is to help you do the same, to take care of yourself. As Frederich Buechner says, “A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death.” So I hope to help you to find your soul’s balance point, your center of gravity. To help you establish calm as your default position so that no matter how the road curves in your life journey, you have some tools to help you recover to calm.
Here’s my plan: At the beginning of each week – which, to me, is Sunday – I’ll post a thoughtful, calming quote that you can reflect on during the week. Sometimes you’ll sink into a place of serenity even as you read it. Or you can tuck it into your spirit to recall at a time-out during your busy week. Sometimes you may want to simply let the thought kiss your soul and flit on, leaving you with a smile or sense of comfort. Every other week, I’ll add a deeper, longer post like this one. And as we go along, I’ll give you suggestions for practices you can easily incorporate into your life to help you carry the calm.
If you’d like to receive these posts and weekly peace-thoughts in your inbox each Sunday, you can sign up for them on the right side of this page. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time. Or if it suits you better, you can check back in here at my blog any time you want a bit of inspiration toward personal peace.
Meanwhile, nourish peace, cultivate lovingkindness, and carry the calm.
P.S. I find that shadows and nature often nuture my soul. Here’s my Shadow of the Week.
And here’s my Nature photo of the week – autumn rain.
Text and photos © 2014 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.