I love having my loved ones near, but hosting company is like putting my inner introvert on a starvation diet. Hunger pangs cause bouts of surliness, which give way to violent fantasies which elbow their way into my mind like party crashers with automatic weapons. Then I know it's time to excuse myself for a cup of coffee.

This morning I biked over to the new Starbucks on Smith Street. I like it because there's never anyone sleeping in the Soft Chairs. It's like the homeless people haven't discovered it yet, or something. I don't get over to Smith Street when I'm with the girls during the week, and I certainly can't ride my bike while they're in my charge, so it's like a triple bonus. I took with me Bird by Bird --always sure to make me laugh--the socks I'm knitting (yes, still) and the iPod.

I start out listening to Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah , which you've certainly heard if you watch any prime time television show. It reminded me of an NPR story I half-way listened to that was, I believe, about the tenth anniversary of his death. I cue up Sarah McLachlan's rendition of River and some Rose Cousins tunes. This proves problematic since I can't listen without wanting to sing along or get my groove on. This launches a fantasy about playing my guitar to a coffee shop crowd much like this one, sending out funky, raw lyrics like looks of seduction with a voice like Rickie Lee Jones. Have I ever mentioned that Folk Singer is one of my secret dream lives?

I think about song lyrics, and how I could write some. Luckily, I saw this coming and left my journal at home. No writing right now, I remind myself. This is rest. This is play.

I read some Anne, and laugh out loud, but I try to keep it quiet for my neighbors. I guess it wasn't so much a laugh as a hmm-hmm-hmm. I imagine reading all the funny parts to my sister, Meg. She'd love this, I think, or at least an edited version. I decide to send her a copy. Then I change my mind.

This is how noisy I get when I start to lose my center.

I replay last week's visit, wondering if I should have said some things out loud, or kept other things to myself (and a few close personal friends with whom I exchange Family Survival Sessions). Then I remember Phyllis saying that I obsess over doing the right thing, or doing things the right way. Could I just let it all be, I wonder.

I think about rice, and how I always try to buy the kind that only takes 25 minutes to make, even though the kind I like to eat is generally of the 45 minute variety. I live like the person who keeps taking the lid off, to stir, to sample, to salt. What if I let my life--all my thoughts and experiences--just simmer? Would I end up with some warm, fluffy wisdom and clarity as my reward? Maybe that's what Phyllis was trying to tell me.

So "sit and simmer" is my assignment to myself this week, with the hopes it lasts longer than the twelve hours of last week's "approve of yourself".