It’s Monday afternoon here in Denmark. We’ve spent the weekend at with my stepdaughter’s family outside Copenhagen. It’s been noisy and chaotic, as life with small children so often is. I play Ninja Legos and tag and watch a video with the 4-year-old and learn how to say, “I chase you” and “I cheer for Bernard…” in Danish. I eat pork roast and let the fatty, salted rind disintegrate slowly on my tongue.
Whenever we visit in-laws, there’s a way in which we give up control, and all the more so in another country. Life happens on their timeline (which, given the time difference from the U.S. west coast, has nothing at all to do with my timeline). The kids have their own patterns that we try to fit into. The family keeps the house much warmer than we’re accustomed to. Add onto that my limited Danish, so I’m part of some conversations but completely out of it for others. (The adults speak good English, luckily for me.) Half the time the day’s plan was discussed in Danish, so I missed out on the discussion. This is never a deliberate attempt to leave me out, but just evolves accidentally in the midst of the household busy-ness.
And so I reduce all my expectations, detach from any particular outcomes, and just exist. If I see a way to be helpful, by washing dishes or picking up toys, I do it. I sing to the baby in English while the others make a meal. I go to the grocery store with my stepdaughter.
We’ve been to Denmark many times of course, since all of my husband’s family lives here. On some trips I play tourist part of the time, dragging family members with me to the amusement park at Tivoli or finding someone to accompany me to the National Museum or to Kronberg Castle in Helsingør, where Hamlet supposedly lived. This trip, however, is all about the new baby and my stepson’s transition to fatherhood. It’s driven by the baby’s timetable and the parents’ impulses to rest or to socialize.
This is a good opportunity, then, for me to practice carrying my meditative self into real life. I just breathe. I notice what goes on around me, but I don’t actively chase after any particular agenda. Sometimes something comes up for me, and I observe it, but I can let it go. What I find is that this relaxed state provides me a way to slowly transition out of the deep depression I have been inhabiting for the last couple of months. I am not ready to plunge straight into life yet. But I also don’t need to plan my escape from it. I start to see how life can be tolerable. Through the baby’s smiles, I’m reminded of sweetness and hope.
My medication transition isn’t over. I’ve still got a long way to go to get off the Effexor, but I’m going to stay at the same level while on this trip. My sleeping hasn’t quite stabilized, but if I need a nap in the afternoon, everyone just attributes it to jet lag. I don’t have quite the energy I should, but I have just enough to appear functional. I can chat with my in-laws and take a little walk in the park, where tiny white flowers peek up between the trees. Little Kristian, the 4-year-old, demands I chase him over the bridge; after that, we can go and throw bread crusts to the swans.
It’s all quite uneventful, and that seems to be just what I need right now.