We had the builders here rebuilding the steps to the back garden which meant they had to constantly walk through the house carrying bags of sand and piles of bricks. It was only after they left and I relaxed that I realised what a meerkat state I had been in. I had liked the builders, happy to make them endless cups of tea and coffee and I was content that my beautiful wooden floor was covered with adequate sheeting – but I had remained alert, watching and listening to everything that was going on.
You could argue that this was a state of mindfulness, being completely in the present, but it was too alert, too intense and too much like self-protection. True mindfulness just observes the here and now, without judgement.
Taking it slowly
So what was going on? I’m interested to see I’ve neatly side-stepped doing any self-reflection by deciding what wasn’t happening. I concluded that it wasn’t mindfulness. To reflect, I need to return to my original description of the experience and ask myself a question like, “Is it true?” My answer is that it’s true but not the whole truth. They were charming and I liked them, but I didn’t trust them. They were all rogues, from the Irish boss down to the eastern European labourers who couldn’t speak any English. They borrowed our equipment rather than use their own; and when they’d finished our yard brush and several other things were missing. The bottom step was a slightly different coloured paving slab.
Looking at my own behaviour through the eyes of the unprejudiced observer, I can see that I knew that they were rogues from the very beginning. Something had alerted me when the boss first called round to make an estimate; but theirs was the best price, and I would be at home all day. So I put myself in a position where I would have to be alert and watchful.
So far, so straightforward. If I want to learn more from this incident, I need to take it deeper and ask myself more reflective questions, such as, “has this happened to me before?” My answer is a reluctant yes, I have been here before, holding the balance between recklessness and caution. It would have been sensible to have chosen a more reputable firm, even if they cost more. Instead I chose the rogues, paid less but had to be the overseer.
Then I ask myself: “what do I get out of it?” I sit with this question for a while, and to my surprise the answer spontaneously comes, “because it’s fun!” It’s like setting off on a little adventure every time, it’s like racing to catch the train and getting on it just in time, excited and breathless with laughter.
Memo to self: before embarking on these little adventures make sure I have the time and the energy. Take the safer option if it looks as if fun might become stressful.