Magpie Meditation: Reset

I’ve been in an unmindful hurry in the last few months. rushing to be creative, introspective, helpful, attentive, and healthy.  With the best of intentions I  spread myself too thin. In hindsight I see how, in increments, I knocked myself right out of balance.

I work three days a week.  On those days it is my job to be there for people who are in difficult life situations. I provide a safe, accepting environment in which people can examine their thoughts ad feelings and make the changes they want  to make in their lives. It is an unbelievably  rewarding career. I have learned more from those who have walked through my office door than I could ever express in words.

On the four days I do not work one might think I  had   plenty of time  to break out of professional mode, put on my sweats and….read, write, cook, daydream, garden, blog, ….an organic, rejuvenating flow of energy.  On paper it works nicely. In reality, on my days off I still have to answer work calls, schedule doctor’s appointments, and wait for the cable man.  On some days off I may still be  so tired from the three long days I have  worked that it is a struggle to be as creative as  I would like to be.

Shouldn't you be knitting right now? At the same time that you are painting, writing and relaxing?

Shouldn’t you be knitting right now? At the same time that you are painting, writing and relaxing?

I was juggling it all flexibly enough until  late October 2013 when  I impulsively signed up for  my first NaNoWriMo challenge.  All of November I hunted and I pecked and I came up with the required number of words. I loved, loved, loved, participating in NaNoWriMo. And what do I have now? I have a teeny tiny little novel that needs big editing. I’m convinced that my characters deserve to be brought to life in print, where they will be loved and cherished by all.  With all the pride of a new mother, I think my baby book is  uncommonly beautiful.

Now, on my “off” days I am  trying to teach myself what we do after we write a draft of a novel. Do I know what I am doing? Not at all.  Do I have a writing group? Not at all. I spend my time reading books about writing books, searching on the internet for what to do with a book manuscript, and on the actual editing of the book. Also, for a person with the technical skills of the main character in The Gods Must Be Crazy, being gifted with a new computer for Christmas proved a mixed blessing. I can’t tell you what  all the problems have been because it will cause flashbacks of my having talked to every single Apple support employee, except to say that I did not have Pages ’09, and therefore  for a time could not open up my poor little book on the new laptop. Sigh.

On a more serious note, in  the middle of the frenetic NaNoWriMo month,  I learned that a very close friend, not a blogger, has  a life threatening illness. I spoke with her on a Tuesday while  she was getting ready for work. By Saturday of that same week, after an emergency room visit for severe pain, she had a diagnosis and was meeting with her treatment team. While she wasn’t looking, she left her old life and started a new one. The gods really MUST be crazy.

Even now when I say to myself that she is sick, part of me says, “No she’s not.” But she is. For now she is doing well, but still has a hard uncertain road ahead. Though her illness is not my story, my role as her friend has changed. I need to gather strength in order to be a person who to whom she can  say anything, especially those things she cannot say elsewhere. I need to pay attention in order to be a person who steps in when needed, and out when not. I need to be a person who does not always treat my friend as though she is a sick person.    I need to be honest with myself in order to  accept my powerlessness to change the progression or outcome of her illness.  I am honored to assume these roles, but of necessity I have had to learn them on the fly.

The realities of the last few months  left me feeling frantic on days when I was not working, longing to be alone, and to be needed by no one SO I COULD  GET SOME WORK DONE!!!!  Yet when  alone, I did not experience the peace I and contentment I sought. Fear that I would run out of time on this earth, that I would never be able  to learn and do all I want caused me to try to wring every productive moment out of every day. When was I going to get around to editing my book? Knitting? Working on my new scrapbook? What about that online photography class I needed so sorely? When would I research my trip to Paris? What about my blog post?   I began to feel overwhelmed with that dread that says “You should be _________ right now.”

  I do know better than to try to be a “human doing”. Because of my vulnerability  I must have deluded myself into thinking that because I enjoy learning, making, and doing, that it would be appropriate to do them all at a breakneck pace without savoring the individual moments.  I worked myself into ignoring the part where I was going ninety miles an hour. I’ve been here before.  But apparently  learning to just be is one of those life lessons  I am destined  to learn over and over again.

The funny thing is how I came to notice all of this. I knew I felt  unsettled, not right.  Good  detective work on my part. But guess what my solution was? I TRIED TO ADD SOMETHING ELSE TO MY SCHEDULE WITHOUT ASKING ME!!!!!!! That’s right folks; I decided that just a few minutes of scheduled meditation, along with study of same, would bring me back to a peaceful place. Part of the absurdity of this is that I purely cannot stand for my time to be  taken up, even if it is taken up by me. I want to do what I want to do WHEN I want to do it.

So when I tried to implement my ill conceived  plan, I heard the most distinct voice inside myself saying,”NO. NO. NO. This is the problem. YOU are the problem.” At least that time, if not for the preceding weeks, I did listen. And I knew I had to start back at the beginning. For me, that means with a notebook and pen. That means every day, not just some days. That means asking me what I want to do, and listening to the answer. It means that once I check in with myself, I have accomplished the most important task of the day. Whatever I do afterwards I will do  more mindfully by default. That’s what matters.

Where the rubber meets the road. Source: caps.umich.edy

Where the rubber meets the road.
Source: caps.umich.edy

I am a few days into my reset now. Once I attend to myself through my journal I find I am quite ready and willing to meditate. Though everyone’s experience is individual, I can report feeling less rushed and less anxious.  When I breathe I am aware of more  inner space. I am also aware of a deep weariness in my shoulders. What better way could my body tell me I need to let go?

I am still busy, but I am busy differently. Busy noticing. Busy being. Busy starting over and feeling more balanced.  I will never have time to do everything that interests me. I will never be able to control the passing of time.  But however I do spend my time, I want to feel alive and present in that moment, for it will never come again. It is comforting to know that if from time to time I veer off of the  course I  want to follow that I can simply reset.

What about you? Do you ever need a reset? And if so, what works for you?

Eighty Two Dollars and Fifty Cents.

It has been almost six years since my Mother departed this earth. All of us knew she was not going to live, yet her death was a complete surprise. So quick. So final. One morning I was leaving the house to walk around the block, and fifteen minutes later I was in my Mother’s kitchen with Martha the caregiver and my sister, gazing at my Mother, still in her pink satin pajamas, slumped sideways in her kitchen chair. She had entered  a new space for all eternity, and so had I.

One part of my brain functioned as a fact keeper, recording  the feel of the breeze on the front porch where I sat in a wrought iron chair to call my husband and say, “Please come.” I watched myself call the hospice, or the paramedics or whoever I called. Though every fact was catalogued so that I would never, never forget this surreal world, I have no idea which agencies  I called that day.  I think I may have tried to move some of her breakfast things  out of the way in the kitchen, so we would not have to see them, so that our Mother would not be dead.

The fact keeper came with me a few days later when I volunteered to go alone to her house to  clean out her closet. I don’t know what I was trying to prove, unless I thought that by facing this heartrending  task I would be getting past some dreadful obstacle I would never have to face again. It was helpful in terms of being able to freely wail and sob as I yanked down her little sports shirts and robes, sniffed their heady cigarette/perfume aroma and crammed them into hefty bags. There was little in her closet, for in her last few weeks, after her Doctor told her over the phone that she only had weeks to live, she had culled her personal items to a minimum.

Her rust colored summer  straw purse, though, I could not relinquish. After a lifetime of detesting her cigarette smell, I found myself wanting to  keep her essence   close to me for as long as possible. I sniffed her leather key ring, full of jangling keys she would never need again and actually deeply inhaled a partially full pack of Merits the purse still contained.  I opened her  brocade lipstick holder.  I felt the handle and the nubbed straw exterior of the bag.  I had my Mother’s purse, so she could not be dead.

I am sure my story is no different from anyone else’s. We expect to lose our parents, but we cannot believe we have lost our parents. We prepare to lose our parents, but  find that the losing is an entire package of feelings and events  for which we cannot prepare. We try to remember everything, because we know we are living in an altered reality where we do unthinkable things like go to the funeral home. Humans must be in a trance to perform the duties of death.

About two weeks ago my siblings and I received word that we were the beneficiaries of a burial policy we were unaware my Mother had had. Documents had to be gathered: death certificates, funeral home statements.  As I rummaged through all her  old papers I have still not been able to make myself organize, I willed the fact keeper to watch and remember while the trance part of me looked for the required information. Finally all the documentation was complete and duly submitted.

And guess what? I went through two weeks of reliving my Mother’s life and death only to find that my portion of the insurance policy comes  to  eighty two dollars and fifty cents.  None of my siblings   need money, nor did we have any grand expectations. But there was hysterical laughter among us at this outcome, followed, I am sure, by moments of private sadness.

But seriously? For eighty two dollars and fifty cents I had to see my Mother’s checkbook with all our names on it?  Because she was blind and couldn’t write checks anymore?  And remember in my gut  the sight of her lonely  red Keds beside the bed the morning she died? To have the fact keeper play back for me the scenes of my self  wandering through the rooms of my Mother’s house, expecting to find her around the next corner?

But  that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that it turns out that  after all these years my Mother is   still dead After a comprehensive review of my Mother’s last months , from biopsy to diagnosis, from chemo to hospice, from her believing she was fighting her  illness to her urging dishes and crystal on us every time we left her house, from the caregiver’s call to the funeral home, from the funeral to the dividing of her estate,  the fact keeper concludes  without a doubt that my Mother  remains  dead.DSC_0709

I found my Mother’s  little straw purse today and went back through it. I  think I can still detect some of her smell. There is  only one broken cigarette inside , not a pack as I had recalled.  Here are   her wallet and  her  small black rosary beads.  A handful of  loose change covers  the bottom of the bag. Somehow my Mother is still dead, and I am still surprised. I would have given a lot more than eighty two dollars and fifty cents not to find that out.IMG_5011                                                       Rest In Peace.