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Thursday, June 26, 2008

20 minutes

It's been a long, hot summer so far. Lots of 90+ degree days, cranky colleagues, poor climate control in old University buildings, and sunburned children. Everyone seems overheated, a little too sweaty, and ready for a vacation, even if they just came back from one.

Last night, however, the sky opened and it rained here- long and hard. The kind of rain that leaves everything smelling new and green when moments before there was dust and radiating heat. Everyone's mood in my house improved significantly, and this morning we all awoke a bit earlier, ready to enjoy the morning.

For me, the early cool mornings are always my best time; I get caught up on overnight emails, work on a paper or part of a proposal, grade papers, or get caught up on journals. This morning, however, I spent a good 20 minutes in my office, drinking a cup of coffee and breathing in the damp, dewy air coming in through my open window from the morning darkness. I don;t make time like that very often, and I realized that spending time like that every day, ideally, would do a lot to ward off the heat of the summer, the heat of unhappy students and faculty, the heat of pending deadlines, and the heat of oppressive committee meetings.

Adding that moment of solitude into my day is a goal I've had for a long time. Whether it's quite time in the car, sitting on a bench in the park with the dog, or inhaling the morning's promise, today I made a commitment to myself that I will make the time to do this small thing. Not for the hippy-trippy reasons of renewing my soul or getting in touch with the earth or some such things (happy side effects, for me, anyway), but for me, this snippet of quiet seems to fill my "patience tank" for the day. Many therapists will advise clients to visualize a "safe place" or a "happy place" for themselves that they can mentally go to when they are stressed or angry. Although I have that place in my head (laying in the tall grass near a trout stream, listening to the water working its way downstream and watching the white, mountain-sky clouds crossing the sky), it's gotten a little dusty and dry, like the Colorado landscape before yesterday's storm.

Making space for silence and cognitive quiet this morning seemed to wash off that image for me, and when the day took hold of me, starting off with an angry, ALL CAPITAL LETTER email from a student, I dipped a cup of this morning's 20 minutes up and sipped it for a minute before responding. The response would have been metered and even regardless, but using a bit of that 20 minutes made sure that after I hit "send", I was really done with the exchange, instead of stewing or spreading the dust of the email into other parts of my day.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning.

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