Sometimes, sanctuary comes in the form of a perfectly hot cup of coffee. Silky, roasty mahogany whirling with dairy to cut the bitter, and a modest heap of sugar. Raw sugar, because a little extra caramelization warm note never hurt anything. A fleeting, perfect happiness can exist within the heady aroma that precedes that first healing, tentative sip.

Or…or…fuzzy blankets. A substantial pile of them, upon which rest a weighty hardcover. The dry rustle of pages turning, punctuating companionable silence. The kind of animated conversation that involves flying ideas…and laughter.  Puppies (that’s Aurora the Great Dane/cat, by the way).

But of course, there are as many versions of serene contentment as there are people in the world. I’ve seen women smile contentedly in kitchens crowded by generations of their family, chaotic noise embraced and celebrated, as they tend to their loved ones like matronly hens. Walking in the woods, listening to music, finding a killer sale at the mall, painting, gaming, base jumping…we all have our particular poison when it comes to satisfaction.

I have been reminded in recent days about the importance of allowing for whatever it is that incites feelings of pleasure. Wholeness. Rightness with the world. These cues have come in the form of exceedingly thoughtful missives from friends, concerned about my state of mind, and from my own reflections regarding the difficult situations of loved ones. It is nearly impossible to avoid overwhelming anguish, after all, when even home doesn’t serve as a place conducive to relaxing and tossing aside tension.

Speak at any length with someone who has been without their brand of escape, and a certain level of desperation becomes readily apparent. Subjected to the trials of everyday life, we exist in cages of our own design. As I’ve rambled about at length, (see my post on freedom) we have created a world for ourselves that is little more than a series of impositions and responsibilities. Absent a place of retreat, we are reduced to ensnared creatures, gnawing at limbs to escape the unrelenting pressure.

I don’t know that many of us have stopped to consider exactly what this need looks like on a personal level. We’re so busy going about the business of existing, that self-awareness is continually shuffled to the bottom level of priority. So, anxiety quietly builds upon itself, providing an uneven base for a wobbling tower of life. Inferior coffee is procured, hastily gulped. The aroma ignored, which is just as well, because it’s a crappy gas station brew.

As per the usual, I’m left with, (and I leave you) more borderline-incoherent questions than answers. Because in many situations, there isn’t an easy fix. If there was a simple solution, this would not be such a lamentably common phenomenon. How can we, at least temporarily, escape the inescapable? Does a compromise, which is perhaps in some cases more achievable than an ideal, suffice? Is it possible to overhaul your very existence to more closely resemble that state of contentment that makes the wailing and gnashing of teeth ultimately worth it?

The very first nudge toward self-value and the maintenance of our limbs is perhaps some introspection about what contentment looks like. After all, how can you find the strength to pry open the jaws that bind you if the goal remains blurry and distant? Conjure up a place of blissful happiness, be it a steaming mug of freshly brewed arabica or a collapse into the arms of your beloved. Because even the idea, ephemeral and intangible as it may be, can offer some sense of safety, some reprieve, from the crucible of life.

2 thoughts on “Retreat

  1. “We’re so busy going about the business of existing, that self-awareness is continually shuffled to the bottom level of priority.”

    That hit me. It’s my new year “resolution” if you want to call it that, to “become more self-aware”.
    Enjoyed reading this.


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