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2 hours I was in that dentist’s chair.

2 hours of gag reflex, 2 hours of the horrid smell of bone being drilled, 2 hours of fingers and instruments and bloodied suction hoses poking and prodding my mouth.

This post is not for the faint of heart. Friends, my molar extraction was an ORDEAL OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

My previous Art of Contentment posts have been warm, fuzzy things like pure wool blankets, charming pottery coffee mugs and my little loves (daschunds).

Tonight, all I can focus on is that little bottle of pills by my bedside which numb the hell my mouth just went through.

Thank you Doctors and researchers and — can I go so far as to say pharmaceuticals? — thank you for pills that ease the pain.

And I have to ask, if you’re one of the people who stoically never take pills (I know you’re out there!) I honestly don’t understand — how do you *survive* these kinds of events?

Photo Credit: EssjayNZ

When I was a kid, my family said a quick grace before every.single.meal – oatmeal breakfasts before kindergarten included. These became (regrettably) perfunctory and rushed over the years but we kept up the tradition.

As an adult the habit fairly quickly faded away. In fact, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with the extent to which I don’t take even a nano-second to take note of the fact that I am engaging in a primal, life-sustaining activity which often required the death of another being. Meals for me have more often than not become woeful in their slap-dash, toss on a plate and eat obliviously while I surf the ‘net or watch TV manner. Or my inhale as I’m walking around getting ready for work in the morning manner. Meal eating has become a purely functional affair.

I don’t think this is good. I don’t think this is good at all. In fact, I think it’s grim. It is anti-contentment.
And assuming (?) I’m in good company with my culture in this, it’s no wonder we are so obsessed with weight loss, and even obsessed with calories, yet out of touch with our own eating habits. In government-speak, perhaps we need a framework for how to approach our meals!

I’m not quite ready to go slow-food. But over lent, and hopefully beyond, I am going to start a new praxis of contentment: I am going to pause for at least 3 seconds before every single meal. Will I always Give Thanks per se? Perhaps, and I probably should. But at a minimum I will take a couple deep breaths, and attend to the fact that I am about to participate in a profound act of being human and participating in the food chain.

Readers – what about you? Did you say grace when you were growing up? Do you now? Do you engage in any quasi-ceremonial act before eating or like me, do you just dive in?

ps: after writing this, I found this gorgeous post How to Eat Like An Italian via twitter. #5 – perfect tip for me!

Photo Credit: Wiedmaier

One of the wonderful aspects of growing older is having friends over an extended time. This is one of my closest friends, of twenty-two (22!) years now. We met as university roomates and hit it off from the start. Countless walks on the beach, conversations ranging from the meaning of life, the relationship of time and space, growing our respective businesses and yes, romance (she’s been married for most of our friendship while I’ve been the serial girlfriend) she is family to me (as her husband and kids to me, and my daschunds to them!).

Anthony, I think this is what you were getting at re: not being *alone* as a single on Valentine’s Day yeah?

Readers – have you had a friendship that’s lasted over the years with whom you’ve maintained close ties?

Yeah, I’ve known some pain. Suffice it to say: You don’t get through your twenties and thirties, boyfriend after boyfriend (in my case) without your fair share of guilt (just not that into him), frustration (why won’t he commit?) and anguish (ohmygod,ohmygod,ohmygod,ohmygod,ican’tbelieveit,ohmygod).

After my second-last relationship, in my late 30s, I was romantically fatigued and had finally crossed the line into Jaded (are there no men left who aren’t gay or screwed up?).

And then almost imperceptibly I fell in love again. This time, with “The One”. He was right for me in every way that I needed and wanted someone to be right for me. He so fully eclipsed all my prior loves that I literally thanked God that the others hadn’t worked out. And imperceptibly doesn’t mean it wasn’t deep and true. Oh, it was. It was.

Some of you know how it ended. I wasn’t right for him.

For 3+ years now, I haven’t so much as dated.

And now on February 14, 2011, Valentine’s day falls on the day of the week I blog about the Art of Contentment.

Here’s the lovely thing. The truly lovely, nearly miraculous, counter-cultural thing: I am deeply contented as a single woman.

I don’t mean in a surface way. I don’t mean in the woman-without-a-man-is-like-a-fish-without-a-bicyle-way. I don’t mean in a it-might-still-happen-when-you-least-expect-it-yadayadayada way.

I mean it this way:

Somehow, after grey,grey days when I seriously could have cared less if a bus struck me and I died, somehow I emerged with an abiding and fierce love of life, its very self. I can’t imagine that will ever go away. If you need a taste of this, watch this film.

And somehow, after weeks and months of focusing entirely on keeping my own body and soul together, somehow I started to enter into the grander scheme of things: that there are really, really, really important things happening in the world – things that were so.very.much bigger than my heartbreaks. And that there are bodies and souls all over the place who could use a friend or a radical to help keep their own body and souls together (sometimes literally. eg. the Congo.)

Important stories like that of Aung San Suu Kyi, who opted to remain under house arrest, a confined, (nearly) silenced vigil of protest for democracy in her country even as her children grew up completely without her and even as her husband died of cancer without her.

Or that a HUGE, VERY HUGE IDEA exists called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And last, I have had enough life experience and enough married friends close to me that I get this primary truth: we are all fundamentally alone. Not lonely, but alone.  Some people go through their alone-ness with a partner. Some of us go through our alone-ness with partner after partner. Some of us simply go through our alone-ness alone.
In all cases, we each have to come to terms with our fundamental aloneness, and learn to settle in to our own individual, unique skin, or risk taking ourselves and our partner(s) down with us.  Just ask anyone married more than 20 years, if you don’t believe me. This is not depressing; it is an acknowledgement of what it is to be human contrary to what most films purport. This is not to say we cannot commune deeply, meaningfully and rest-of-life, with another or with a community (and community is vastly underrated in my opinion).  But always, the fact remains we are our own person, and there will always be a large part of our Soul that stands apart.

About a year ago on a Sunday I was reading cozily in my chair with my two daschshunds snuggled up. All was quiet and yet the air seemed alive with wintery sunshine. It was a perfect, perfect moment. It was full and complete. I was full and complete. As a single woman.

Happy Valentine’s day everyone. Thanks for reading my little blog. Much love to those of you who I know in particular. And strange as sounds: heartbursting love and honour to you, Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela, and yes you, Bono and you Majora Carter and you, Franke James, and you Sandra Lockhart and you, Arlene Hache … you all, who while I was churning through boyfriends, you, you were and are challenging and changing the grander scheme of things.

I’m the only weirdo on the planet who’s not into pottery. Except this. I <3 -ed this mug the moment I saw it in Amberley, a (very posh) quintessential English Village last summer. You can see an interior pic of the pottery shop here.

Every single morning, without fail, it is the vessel of choice for my first latte of the day.

Contentment is a good mug, non?

ps: Melanie’s stuff may convert me to make my second pottery purchase.

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