A rush of chilled air hit my face as I walked through the automatic doors of Walmart. The relentless and undiminished sunlight of the Carolina summer day felt unbearable. A trickle of sweat ran down my back. I breathed a sigh of relief, the store's coolness acting as a giant parasol. Walmart's familiarity felt comforting too. I knew exactly where to find the dental floss sticks I like and the shade of fingernail polish I wear. I knew where the bottles of organic cinnamon would be, the wild-caught tuna and the flaxseed. The comfort of sameness.
I need protection from life's incessant heat and list here a few portals of refuge I create for myself...
Nature and movement. I rose early to avoid the worst heat. I did not want to get up, but knew I could stave off feelings of low mood and negative thoughts if I went outside and moved. The storm-rinsed clouds and swatch of blue sky above me felt like inhaling an intoxicating blend of hope and expectation of good. A lone bird perched on a wire assuaged my loneliness, its presence acting as a companion, encouraging me to trust in the creator who says, "Look at the birds. If I care for them, won't I care much more for you?"
Art and passions. I have thought about giving up on publishing the latest book I wrote. Everything has changed about self-publishing. I've had to start over with this manuscript and don't know what I'm doing. I've avoided finishing the project. Yet I sense it's pretty good. I want to finish it more than I want to give up. What is one small act I can do toward looking at it again? One thing that feels realistic? That will propel me forward? I find the Word document on my computer and update the author bio. There doesn't seem a lot to say. I have not been submitting much lately, and what I've submitted has been rejected. I say to myself, "Go ahead. Write what you've done so far." One of my books received an award and I've been featured in several anthologies. I get it written down. I feel better. Writing is a refuge for me. I cannot afford to let writing go. If I let it go, I let go of part of myself. "Quick," I say in my mind. "Email those few sentences to the artist working on the cover." Completion of this small action felt as if I'd lifted a parasol over myself, self-doubt as relentless as the Carolina heat.
People who understand. My job entails a lot of listening. I honestly love listening to people, attempting to know them, to reflect back what they are saying and feeling, to perhaps hear what may be under the surface. I, too, need listeners in my life, people to hear my story, to offer understanding and reflection. To ask me questions. I am blessed, truly blessed, to have several intimates in my life who listen without judgment. These persons, too, are portals of refuge, parasols of love and protection.
Gratefulness. This word gets a lot of press these days, and when I hear it, I can sometimes wax cynical. Yet when I declare the things I am grateful for, this action acts as a vault of stars over the dark places in my mind. I can drift toward depression, but when I stop and utter a few statesments of gratefulness, I can change my direction. "I am grateful for energy today; I am grateful for a sound mind. I am grateful that I have free will. I am grateful for Walmart and its coolness, that I know where the free-range eggs are, that I don't have to use one of those electric carts, that I can walk around in this huge store. I am grateful that it is cool and I am out of the heat." Thanksgiving like a parasol over my heart.