What’s on Your Refrigerator Door?

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” Do not be daunted by the enormity of life. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now.” Creative people don’t have a mess; they have ideas lying around everywhere.” “I can too help myself.” “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

These random thoughts-on-paper adorn my refrigerator door. As do two favorite pictures of my husband who died 6 years ago but who still lives in my heart. And of course, there is the obligatory many-splendored assortment of magnets that affix them, as well as our nameplates, Mayo doctor cards, Christmas art, and Amazon gift cards. A mish-mosh, one might say.

I just noticed it differently the other day. How busy it is. How cluttered. How full. It hadn’t registered in that way before that moment. How many times a day have I looked at that very door and not really seen it? Bits and pieces, yes. But not as its curated-but-chaotic whole.

This refrigerator door reflects a mind that is too often overly-full of thoughts, ideas, questions, fears, responsibilities, analyzing, memories, challenges, inspirations, hopes and random whimsies. This is the outward reflection of a mind that is rarely silent and often overrun by the details of living each day. Sometimes this mind of mine is a busy mess. Sometimes, it does make me smile.

Refrigerator doors have a way of collecting things that are most meaningful to us. Mine has been adorned over the years with pictures of beloved family and places. But in my elderhood, I seem to have morphed into a need to have before me the things that keep me on level ground when the ground keeps shifting in unfamiliar ways. Like the wisdom of others. 

My current 30 days of mindfulness meditation is, among other things, an intention to bring some order into the busy-ness and some calm into the overly-energized head that sits atop my often-tense neck. Slowly, slowly, the time spent from 5:45-6:15 each morning has begun a small but increasingly noticeable shift in where my attention lies at any given moment.

Amazingly, my busy mind has had moments when it’s stopped rushing around with thoughts, moments when I’ve just stopped. Stopped and noticed. Stopped and was aware of something that would have passed me by on any other day.

Stopped and paid attention.

And found wonder in little things that have escaped me.

I feel relief as I am aware that my right arthritic hand, which is mostly painful all day, has taken pity on me in these attentive moments and is quiet for a while. And I am grateful because even a short respite from pain is a gift.

I find greater pleasure in the usually automatic exercise of eating. I taste and smell and feel what I am eating and pay attention to what it feels like as it travels down toward my growling stomach. Eating is not just a “thing” that I do these days. It is a time of gratitude and appreciation and yumminess.

I notice the warmth and weight and the specific texture of my winter bedcovers when my chilled feet meet them as I get into bed under the soft flannel sheets. I pay attention to the feel of the wool blanket over my shoulder as it wraps me in gratitude, in appreciation that again tonight, I shall sleep comfortably against the chill of my room.

I sit for ten minutes or so each morning before the formal meditation group begins. Before another Martha begins our day in a conference call, I now look carefully around my apartment, taking in each detail that comes before my eyes. I’ve lived here for nearly 5 years and I’m only now really noticing specific things, zeroing in on each choice I’ve made to put in my living space, lingering awhile. Not asking myself why I chose each thing, but just appreciating its shape or beauty, the shadows it makes in the lamplight, the memories it brings with it, the delight that just seeing it gives me. And I am grateful all over again.

More than all of those specifics, though, is a growing reminder of the “feel” of my home. My sanctuary. My chosen abode. It comforts me.

I am, for the first time in a long time, aware of my home as sacred space.

It is but one of many sacred spaces that I have too rarely noticed.

Have you ever stood in the midst of a dense forest? (Especially a redwood forest?!!) Stood there in wonder and just taken it all in, as a whole? Have you felt that sense of wonder, of being surrounded by something that you could call “sacred?” It touches your spirit, deep down inside, like few other things do. Nature has its way with us.

Many of us have had the same sense when in the midst of a cathedral. Or standing on a mountaintop, with clouds below obscuring the valley. There it is again: that sense of awe. Nothing else exists but that place where we are standing.

Seeing a newborn baby and sensing the wonder of new life. The baby is all you see in those moments. Noticing everything about it.

Even being in the presence of someone who has just died can be the holiest of moments.

We bind ourselves up with constant thought. With constant “doing.” With rehearsing the past which we cannot change, and dreaming of the future that will turn out so differently from what we imagine.

Learning the power of simply being aware of what is in the now.

Finding the sacred even in the simple, humble things of life.

That is the challenge.

It is the greatest of rewards.

It is all grace.

So what shall I do about my refrigerator door? I’ll leave it as is for now. It may tell the story, in time, of how this new experiment evolves.

If it does, I’ll be sure to let you know.

In the meantime, I’m finding that being aware, paying attention, noticing, feeling are all taking root deep inside somewhere. And that is good. The ground, if it is shifting, is moving me more deeply into where and how I live now.

And I’m very okay with that.