Problems in Privileged Paradise

Palm porch.JPG

During this quiet spring break I have noticed a deepening internal calm. On our first morning in Southwest Florida, I was sheltered on our condo’s screened porch set high in the palms for the only downpour. All I could do was laugh out loud. The storm swept any humidity and bugs away and we were treated to what locals call a cold event. We settled quickly into the exquisitely pleasant air—sunny, 70’s, with a steady breeze. For us sodden Northwesterners, this was complete comfort.

Even though it’s Holy Week I decided not to pack my Bible or prayer book. Instead I finished the weekly EfM homework before leaving Seattle and checked the upcoming assignments. While on vacation, I found Gideon’s version of the Bible in the nightstands at both lodging sites so was able to read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I like the descriptions of wisdom and notice (with pride), it’s budding in me. Also read a novel cover-to-cover. And added regular PT exercises and meditation. Hummed metta verses. I appreciated Rob too–his driving prowess, dry sense of humor, keen eye for wild birds and creatures, his touch. Near bliss.

One evening of this luscious vacation, we were wand-searched by the secret service for the first time in our lives. Silly us, we thought our 34th wedding anniversary was causing the stir. No, we were dining alongside Vice President Mike Pence. When he left the vicinity, he took the time to shake hands with every youngster in his path while all the adults snapped photos. I was surprised to find myself warming to him and wondering, “Is it calm that creates this miraculous fondness?” I was even more amazed this morning when I saw a photo of Orange 45’s white soiled golf slacks. First time I’ve deleted a Facebook post. Who circulates gastric accidents like that one? Who knew I could conjure up honest empathy for this person too? Even with no agreement on policy, I felt sad, appalled even. I’m an old-enough extroverted glutton myself. I know that could happen to me too, for God’s sake, wise or not.

Slapped me right back to this pitiful human being that is me.  So much for piety. Here’s a better example: the second night in our condo, no A-C was needed. Instead we opened the windows and slider to invite cross-ventilation of the graceful outdoor air. Alas, someone next door was smoking! The nerve. I was pissed. How dare they?! On these no-smoking grounds even! I couldn’t see the culprits but boy did I conjure up overweight red-necked monsters in my mind. All my stereotypes converged. That night we chose to close the slider but I found myself repeatedly imagining what I’d say the next morning to cut that dang smoker off, “Could y’all please refrain from smoking at least while we’re out here?” Would that be direct enough to make them behave and nice enough to not open fire? I wouldn’t even have to look at them, just speak around the opaque barrier between our porches.

Scorpio ire flared again today when we boarded our plane. Rob and I have an elaborate scheme when we travel as a two-some. He’ll take the middle seat if there’s a woman at the window while I get the aisle (and vice versa if there’s a man on the outside.) Instead a late-70-something elderly woman was already plopped right next to the aisle when we got there. She was as nice as she could be, calling us honeys and everything but don’t-you-know couldn’t produce a boarding pass to prove her seat assignment (like I could). Jeez, I was irritated! No fun being stuck beside the window to journey across the country. I don’t care how old she is. Grrr! Best just to go pee and see if peaceful Rob Reid could straighten things out before I returned.

I was definitely brought back to size and sheer baseness—so much for calm peace—as  I thought of my favorite video clip of the week. Hadn’t I remembered anything? Ruth Bader Ginsburg advised me not to fret. Absolute worthless time suck. And what’s more, to turn a deaf ear to ugly statements especially the ones in my mind. After all if I react out loud and in kind, it will be difficult to persuade later. I have a lot to learn on both counts.

Here’s what happened though when I did manage to bite my tongue and cool down:

The morning-after, reading out on the porch in the crisp sweet air, Rob joined me a few minutes before we heard the neighboring slider open. Simultaneously, Rob coughed and I mumbled without thinking, “Ah, fresh air will help.” Who knows if that really was the clear discouragement our smoker needed but next we heard someone leaving. Was that a door slamming? Almost too easy.

And what about when I returned to my seat on the plane? No resolution at first but as I began to climb in Rob noticed three empty rows of seats–18 of them altogether!!–in the back of the coach section. Does this really happen anymore? With a nod from the flight attendant, we grabbed our backpacks and pranced back as the doors were closing.

Later in the flight, I returned to check in with the matron, clearing my own conscience if nothing else. Now I’m just hoping being in the far back won’t jeopardize our chances for catching the second flight after a tight layover. But you can bet I am not wasting time worrying about it. Instead I’m spreading out and enjoying the trek home. Resurrecting a little bit of calm, mellow Florida as I go.


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