By Autumn Vandiver
I went to Janak’s home. Her dog Dudley wasn’t so sure of me, so he crawled under the sofa and watched me from there. Janak and I sat in her living room, the cool afternoon breeze blowing the curtains, and we chatted about psychology, her life in India, books, her sister, my job as a preschool teacher, loneliness, Harvard University, cooking, my sister, farmer’s markets, our children, and coffee. It was late in the afternoon, so I had to decline her offer of a cup of coffee of my own. We laughed and shared peaceful moments together.
I left and thought of sitting at my grandmother’s feet, listening to her tell stories about growing up in Hawaii and eating mangos with her brother under the mango tree. My heart was full and I sent love to my beloved grandma, wherever she may be.
I went to learn Bhangra dance from Nikita. Just before I left for the class, I received an email that my son’s best friend would be moving to London in a month’s time. I was devastated and thought about not going to dance class after all. Then I wondered, what else will I do with my heartache? Perhaps dancing is just the thing right now. So I picked up my sad feet and I went. I danced with a heavy heart, but I danced. I connected with my body through movement, and I felt the sadness moving through me. I even felt myself smile and heard myself laugh. I let the music and other dancers inspire me. I left feeling tired but strong, and prepared to hold the space for my son’s sadness when it arises.
Louella came to provide my garden with some much needed TLC. She was kind and patient with my slow-to-warm up dog. We sat on my patio, chatting and watering and repotting. We laughed over mutually agreed upon absurdities, like getting annoyed when people have more than ten items in the ten item or less lane, wanting to get better at a new skill without practicing, and rushing the tortilla making process. After an hour and a half or so, Louella left me with a gardening to-do list and we hugged good-bye and agreed that we should set up another exchange soon. Then I spent some time lounging in my beautiful rejuvenated garden reading and soaking up the sunshine.
Christina and I made smoothies this evening. First we made a tropical green one with kale, pineapple, mango, banana, orange juice, coconut water, and spirulina. Then we sampled a berry smoothie with spinach and parsley, orange juice, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and chia seeds. We both liked the tropical one best. We talked about Arizona, making friends, books, introversion and extroversion, and vegan food. I found Christina’s energy and enthusiasm infectious. After she left with a to-go smoothie of her own, I couldn’t help but notice that I was all smiles for the rest of the evening.
Well, wouldn’t you know it? My last exchange of the week fell through. We neglected to exchange phone numbers and switched our meeting location a few days prior to our getting together at a local coffee shop. My best guess is that we were both sitting at different coffee shops wondering where the other person was.
And such is the way of it.
Fortunately, I had brought my book with me. I had pen and paper in hand. The hour was not at all lost. Rather, Friday’s scheduling snafu became a surprise gift of solitude that I gave myself. I sat upstairs at Red Rock café, eating a delicious apricot oat bar, and watched the passersby on the street below. I sipped on my tea and relished the unexpected gift of time to enjoy my own company and spending some time reading and writing in my notebook.
As I reflect back on the week, it feels rich and simple and full. I talked, I listened, I danced, I gardened, I created, I nourished, and I sat. Each day I carved out time to be with another human being, sharing and connecting. Each day was a different, new adventure and I only needed to show up and be open.
I consider the inquiries of others who are attempting to understand timebanking and how it might fit into their lives. Their questions usually amount to variations of How could I possibly fit it in?” Where would I find the time? Isn’t it hard? It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, the likes of which I have hanging up on my bathroom mirror: “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it.”
Timebanking, particularly the way that I have engaged with it this past week, has required my attention, my energy, and my patience. And of course, my time. In return, the connections made during my exchanges have renewed my spirit, increased my energy, and given me a sense of being valued in the world, while I valued those around me.
As I complete my week of five exchanges in five days, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences I’ve had and joyful anticipation for the ones to come.