What little obsessive-compulsion I have, and some would argue about little, is usually assuaged in ameliorating something, taking care to see that whatever it may be lives to see the light of another day, or another mile, or another swim. One of my favorite reads, and only because it has something to do with motorcycles, is what I’ve knocked off for this post, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
I’ve knocked down dozens of Saturdays sitting legs crossed till numb at the rear of my Blackbird while I dialed in chain tension and inspected the rubber that carried me along at speeds too incriminating to admit. There’s something about working on a machine the result of which your very well-being depends.
Not so true of a swimming pool, though a case could be made that leisure and well-being can be somewhat co-dependant. It’s become a ritual, tasks performed in a certain order in the cleaning and filtering of things foreign in the water where I swim. Do the order right and you don’t have to redo a task, the longest of which is vacuuming. Long, slow strokes show an immediate cleanse, nothing like you’d experience on your family room carpet. And while it takes awhile and its precision is directly related to the efficacy of the task, there’s a payoff for me, something besides the sunshine and that olfactory time machine of chlorine.
And I wonder, even while I circumnavigated my pool this afternoon, why the hell I can’t do that for myself.
Zen for me used to be at speed or put in on an ocean. Either on motorcycle or kayak, the contexts of both put me in a state of centerdness; only one thing matters at one hundred forty five or when the shore disappears. This hyper-vigilance rests easy when I’m at risk. Such irony in this zen. But I haven’t felt that in a long time, even if ever, I wonder.
I have no payoff in self-maintenance. Aftershave falls short of feeling centered, clipping nails pales to risks on roads and sea. I can spend hours shopping and assembling ingredients, preparing and cooking them in a consonant meal that satisfies all but me. I work out, and need to do it more, and push myself and concentrate, but in the end, no zen. I can leave a classroom full of college students having rocked their understanding of how we treat people, and instead of basking in the satisfaction, I’ve never allowed it. Instead, I discount myself.
Even now. I just looked out at my pool and noticed a spot.