I’m a nail biter. So opening things like oranges are difficult, nay, impossible for me without some sort of instrument of citrus negotiation – the corner of a credit card, house keys, pencil, even the plug for my headphones has done double duty as peel starter. But once started, I am like a panda on a bamboo shoot – stripping, peeling, pulling, teeth all bared in gentle mashing.
I mention the orange because that is pretty much my only treat in the non-sugar (or heavily-reduced sugar) path I have been on for a few months now. I go through bags of mandarins and clementines these days. They’re like Kleenex, or breath mints, for me – found in miscellaneous pockets, and in my knapsack, locker, work drawer, etc. They’re everywhere.
When I am not eating fruit, I am quite busy. I work, I read and write, I have two young boys to rough house and bathe, I have chores, I have meetings to go to, sponsees to work with, a sponsor, and newcomers to talk to. I have my blog. I am active in recovery sites. I play the lute (I made that last one up…but it does sound interesting). When things seem to get a little hectic, when I find the squirrels in my head getting a little hyper, when I start to feel a little overwhelmed, there is something that I can do that takes that all away.
I peel an orange.
I stop what I am doing, sit down, and peel an orange.
And this is how I do it:
1) Using a citrus negotiating utensil (see above), I break the peel.
2) I smell the oils and aromatics that come from the peel.
3) I feel the weight of the orange in my hand.
4) I slowly peel from top to bottom. Or bottom to top. Or side to side. Or try to get it all in one piece. Or litter my lap with dozens of fragments.
5) I then slowly remove the bitter white pith. I feel the weight lessened in my hand.
6) I gently break open the roundness of the orange, and smell the freshness of the fruit.
7) I remove any other pith.
8) I break the orange into segments. I look at each segment, admire it’s shape, try to see all the little individual sacs on each segment.
9) Pop those babies like they were Pez, enjoying the sweetness, the juiciness, the life that comes to me with each segment.
10) Sit in silent contemplation.
You see, this is my meditation at times. This is what removes me from the inner white noise, the emotional yanking and yakking, the steel cage of outside obligations and contracts. It allows me to focus on one small piece at a time, to open a door of fresh air to my mind, to relieve and focus my senses to a small and wonderful art…of peeling an orange.
When I was drinking, I couldn’t focus on anything other than my wants. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stay in the present. My life, my sleep, my spirit was fractured in so many ways. There was no stillness, other than the dull, throbbing stillness of alcohol-induced numbness. And even in that so-called quiet, I could still feel the tom-tom drums of uneasiness fill me ears. I was never at peace. And who could be? Crushing guilt, shame and remorse coursing through me, waves of panic and anxiety washing over me, webs of deception and lies spread out over me like wash lines, the physical pain and suffering from alcohol intake or withdrawal. Sitting still was never an option for me. Like a shark, I had to keep moving, or die.
So in my sobriety, I have found peace in many ways. Through support, my program, my meetings, my family and work, I have found that life certainly could even out, that I didn’t have to feel that I was strapped onto the grill of a monster truck, up and down, over hill and over dale. There was a sense of anchoring. And yet, this alcoholic still needs to find a focal point, a place of being present. And I have learned to find these spots in my life – little moments in my day where I just can be – focused on nothing but the now-ness of that time and space.
I find it when I stand waiting in the early morning snow, waiting for the bus…the buzzing of a neon sign my mantra, I find it in the stillness in the empty elevator at work, I sense it when I sit on a park bench after walking the dog, watching the kids play hockey on the ice. These segments of my day are cocoons of peace that I carry into the rest of my day. They relieve the swarming hornets of thoughts past and future. They swell the tide of emotional backlash of my panicked thinking.
So sometimes I need to peel an orange.
To sit and contemplate…piece of segment…segment of peace.
It’s all in the peeling.