In less than a week I leave for a ten day meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC). Opal will stay home with daddy, dear grammy and the cat. The trip has been months-off on the distance for a good stretch of time until, suddenly, the months became weeks and, now, days.
It all started with a fateful evening drinking wine early in the year with Ulrike Halpern, Boulder Shambhala Center Director and close friend. She spoke honestly about how there would never be a "good" time to do a long retreat. Period. She said next summer I'd have a toddler AND be pregnant, perhaps. The following summer, there may be TWO Opals to deal with. And so on.
Essentially, the logic of waiting until a better time is inherently flawed.
(Frankly, even before Opal was born, there was still never a "good" time. There is always life and obligation and hustle-bustle keeping you tied down. And breaking away to plop on a beach or prop oneself up against a roulette table in Vegas may come easier than staying in a tent in the mountain to do mindfulness practice. For approximately the same cost!)
I agreed with her, even when the influence of the wine had dissolved the next morning. I auspiciously found that I had a good chunk of work credit for SMC that is good until the end of the summer. So, taking that as a nod in the right direction, I filled out a few papers, got a recommendation from my MI (meditation instructor) and the rest is, as they say, history.
Changing the calendar page to the month of July, however, came with some serious trepidation about leaving for so long. I recall on July 4th during a garden party, when someone asked me how I felt about leaving for retreat, all I could think was I just want to get it over-with.
The next day, serendipitously, a friend asked me over to talk out her plans for the rest of the summer which had been causing her a great deal of anxiety. She plans to visit her ailing mother for the month of August and cannot bring her daughter (who is exactly Opal's age) along because of her mother's compromised immune system. She and her husband were in the process of deciding, should she try and fly her husband and daughter out to stay in a nearby hotel? Should they simply stay in Colorado, where her daughter's familiar things and people remain?
As we sat (her husband joined in) and sipped Ginger tea on the couch, I found that what flowed from my lips was the very council that I also needed to hear.
Ultimately, it will all be ok, as long as mom and dad remain relaxed and confident in their choices. Changes may not be comfortable for any of them, but this is life. And the little-one is learning that although life may not always look the way she wants it to look at times, she can TRUST that she is safe and cared for and can get through all sorts of situations and changes even when things feel a bit different.
We all agreed, too, that it's a good idea to keep up with her routine and continue to have people around her that she is familiar with, as much as possible.
When I got home that night, I said to Jesse, we can totally do this.
I certainly want to show Opal that, while most of her life is rooted in the comfort of well-established routine, she is also adaptable to any situation mommy and daddy choose for her.
In this case, I want her to learn that mommy may go away sometimes for short periods but she (Opal) will always be completely and uber-lovingly cared for and mommy will always come back. I want her to learn—throughout her life—that it doesn't do any good for she or mommy to put a pause on self-growth and restoration in the sideways attempts to protect others from discomfort. Taking care of oneself is ever an imperfect work in progress, but the effort of such restorative ventures as this bold and heartful retreat is duly noted and appreciated when there are days when I forget to brush my teeth until dinner!
What's more, at least on this occasion, my vacation will take me to a meditation cushion rather than to a roulette table in Vegas. Stated simply, I'm giving it my best shot to work with my mind in order to be a more helpful human being out there. And not just to my daughter.
And Opal gets to see that. She sees and gathers it all like a bottomless, open-mouthed basket at the market. She's seen mommy continuously support daddy as he pours his heart and soul into supporting the Shambhala Vision. Now she gets to see daddy support mommy in doing the very same thing.
And so it goes... Ki Ki So So!
Last night it occurred to me that I will be gone for 12 days, not 10. The extra two days gave me pause and puts the number from just-over-a-week to almost-two. I suddenly became quite nervous that she would grow up—shed her baby-skin, just like that— in those almost-two weeks and that I'd come home to an unrecognizable Little Girl! I then became concerned that this window of her development would go undocumented and simply dissolve into the ethers.
To cope, I grabbed her baby journal and scribbled down every detail I could come up with to put us in the present tense. Then I made Jesse promise to document every significant living second of our daughter's life during the time I am away. I went to sleep feeling such sadness and longing for us to all be on a walk in the open space—daddy popping wheelies with Opal in the stroller, me in my new hat and the sun setting in translucent sediments over the mountains—after the 3rd of August.