On Monday, I called my parents as I do every single Monday. First I talked to my Dad, then I spent the next 45 minutes repeating to my Mom, what I’d already told my Dad in the first 15 minutes. It’s the same every Monday; our routine. I try very hard not to complain when I talk to my parents. They are not in the best financial situation, or health situation for that matter, and I often feel unjustified talking to them about my worries or fears. But this Monday I just felt terrible about everything and I couldn’t help myself when I started vomiting complaints uncontrollably all over the place.
Mom listened sympathetically. She doesn’t always. But this day my hippie Mom, the one who lived on a commune, and then in The Haight next door to Janis Joplin, was empathetic. The woman who went to love-ins, saw Jimi Hendrix play in the park, wore her hair to her waist and dressed in velvet pants, listened to my feelings and then proceeded to tell me something hippie-esque, yet surprisingly profound.
I’ve gone through many stages in my life in regards to Mom’s beliefs: awe, fascination, amusement, disbelief, ambivalence, and perhaps even disregard. I remember her meditating in the afternoons when I was a kid and knowing, even then, that other people’s parents didn’t do this kind of thing. But I still respected her enough to not only never disturb her, but to never make fun of this to anyone else. I understood it was important to her. I knew she’d had a meditation teacher, and this teacher had been someone very special to her; a woman who taught her many things that Mom would have been glad to share with me if I’d ever had the interest. Mom did try to teach me to meditate a few times but I never learned the knack of turning off your thoughts to achieve peace. My meditating mind sounded more like this: My foot itches…I wonder what’s for dinner….This is boring….I can’t concentrate….Stop thinking!…O.k. being peaceful now…. Quiet….I wish I had a cat….Do fish sleep?….Quiet!! … Stop thinking!!…. And so on.
But even if I never mastered the skill of meditation, or benefited from the calm it can bring you (modern studies have shown!), Mom was still able to give me a gift that her teacher had given her, the act of something I’m calling The Peaceful Potato. Last night, while many in this world were out in their holiday finery, drinking it up, I took a small red potato from my kitchen and held it in my hands. Closing my eyes, I filled that humble tuber with all my worries, all my fears, my doubts and my sadness. Poor little potato. Then I took it and buried it in our yard. When it grows, it will take all the weight I carry and turn it into something new, something positive. Though I don’t know if there’s truth in this act, I do know that it can’t possibly hurt. And if it brings me peace, even for a moment, then any of the silliness I felt standing in the yard, burying a potato, will be far outweighed by what I have gained. And you know what? Today, I do feel peaceful.
Here’s to hoping your New Year brings you peace and joy, whether or not you choose the way of the Peaceful Potato.