On Saturday afternoon I burned a pile of branches, old newspapers, and other miscellaneous items. The smell of the ashes and leftover debris lingered in the air the next day. I had forgotten to grab an old wooden rocking chair out of the reading room which also needed to be disposed of. When I noticed it Sunday afternoon I wondered if the smoldering ash would still be hot enough to do anything. I took the chair out, broke it into several pieces and put some under the coals, which were still a faint orange, and put the rest in a pile on top. I checked it after a while and noticed the smoke had increased. About an hour later the wood was ablaze with a good flame. It didn’t take long to consume it once the fire restarted. Not too long afterward the chair was gone.
I wrote last week about the struggles I have when February rolls around. Many years have passed but the layers of hurt, anger, and uncertainty still lay buried, ready to ignite when fuel is added. What I try to do, instead of dwelling on the past, is not feed the flames. When I am aware and notice my mind drifting back to the place of pain I find a place to breathe. I close my eyes and take deep breaths. I remind myself of the truth that I cannot change the past but I can be present in the now. Does it always work? No. Does it work? Yes. Maybe one day I will be healed, maybe not, but I don’t want to give up on living today because of the difficulties of yesterday.
He paced back and forth like a caged tiger. I watched him as he went side to side, back to front. At first, he was on a phone call and then afterwards he continued his anxious pacing. I was sitting, waiting, in a room at our county jail which was mostly glass facing the pacing man. I knew what he was feeling because I was struggling with the same anxiety. My classroom wasn’t ready and I was asked to stay in one room until the other one was available. Inside I felt emotionally restless, ready to go, get the class underway.
However, unlike the man pacing back and forth, I noticed what I was doing and took a breath. I folded my hands together placed them on my knees, inhaled and exhaled again. When I was allowed into the classroom I was no longer anxious but settled. I organized the chairs, wrote my notes on the dry-erase board as the men began to come in and find their seats. A worker from the jail checked in to see if everything was okay and I assured her it was. She apologized for the wait. “That’s okay,’ I replied, ‘sometimes having nothing to do, being forced to wait is exactly what we need.”