So, my masked-bandit daughter came over to visit and we started talking about how the pandemic has thrown all our values into question (not to mention 6 planets then retrograde), because what can else you do while social distancing and washing obsessively except move toward the deep, inner reflection and introspection that this pandemic has inspired?
She said, “We’re taught all sorts of values, but what if they’re wrong? There’s aesthetics, for example, being beautiful (hair, clothing, lips, eyes, body). And then there’s the value of how to enter a room, or make an entrance. You were taught to make an entrance,” she added. “That was a value for you.” And I had to admit that entering a room was taught to my generation the way we were taught waltz or tango steps in dancing school. We were taught which fork to use at a dinner party, and how to make the hostess feel comfortable when her party goes off the road.
“Not to mention,” my daughter continued, speaking as much to herself now as to me, “the value of accomplishments and achievements—and all that stuff we’re judged on, like keeping up with the New York Times, knowing about politics, and art, or theater, and the latest rage: that’s another value.
“And what,” she mused, “if all you had to do was be yourself?”
She lost me there. No accomplishments? No doing? Just being? My whole life has been a search for approval. ( If I write a book, will my father love and notice me? If I’m more tactful, will I belong?)
She said, “Look, you don’t have to do anything to be noticed.” At which I began to preen myself, until she added to my astonishment that she’d be happy just to go away with me for a weekend, where we wouldn’t have to do anything. “Just being with you is enough,” she said. “Why do we have to do something all the time?”
I was stunned. Is that true?
Now I keep wondering—What would it be like just to Be? Certainly, it releases all obligation of accomplishing anything (like vacuuming the living room right now, which it sorely needs).
It had never occurred to me that someone might want to be with me, except perhaps for my quick mind, and the quirky way I see the world. But when I think of those I love, I realize I don’t really care about their achievements or what high-wire act they perform, if they will simply let me bask in their presence. I’m happy watching them (and also my grandchildren, I might add, who are infinitely fascinating, like watching a lovely waterfall, without their having to say or do or perform in any way).
Is that what love is about? Just being? Mindfully. Observing without judgment. Or, put another way, just allowing, accepting, admiring, in the same way that I attend to a tree or to that bird that stopped at the birdbath to dip its beak and drink at my offering.
Can I allow myself to Be?