Weekend Reading

My husband is becoming a therapist. Until last month, he would drive north once every four weeks for an intensive weekend, classes from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm for three days straight. Now and for the foreseeable future, he will sit for the same amount of time each month in our home office, learning over zoom. We like to joke that our cat, Isabel, who loves sitting with him is earning her master’s in counseling psychology, too.

Before the quarantine conditions shifted everything, Jack looked forward to his weekends in Santa Barbara. He loved being nestled in the foothills, on the campus that used to be a Jesuit monastery. It was his monthly retreat.

Retreat, of course, means to withdraw to a quiet or secluded place. Retreats bear reflection, new insight – set apart from normal life. In this quarantine, we are all in new circumstances that could seem like retreat. We are more isolated from one another. For those of us without children, our homes are undoubtedly quieter…but in another way, our lives are much noisier. While we remain in one place, inner noise – panic, anxiety, dread, sadness, anger, frustration – is understandably much louder. There is a lot to fear, grieve, and process… things we could not have anticipated having to emotionally metabolize.

My quarantine partner will be occupied this weekend, learning about attachment theory and the subconscious. Save for the three 20-minute breaks he gets per day, where he will excitedly tell me about what he’s learned, I will be by myself, and this weekend, I am going to use this as a personal retreat. Time set apart to reflect, to read, to do restorative yoga, and drink ginger tea.

If you are able, I would suggest you find even one hour to “retreat.” One hour or several hours or one day where you pull away from the chaos of the news to fill your inner well.

And finally, an offering for your weekend reading…

Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.