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Posts Tagged ‘reflection’


Marilyn&Me1My dear friend may have just been given a treasured gift or the worst nightmare of her life – depending on her attitude.   She received the kind of news that none of us ever wants to hear.  The majority of us approach each day with a nonchalant assumption that we have infinite tomorrows.  And she’s certainly no different in that she gets to live her life and someday die.  Marilyn2The difference between her life and mine is that her lifespan now has a calendar attached while I still exist in blissful ignorance of my last day.  Though she doesn’t really know either, she is aware of medical statistics that place the odds of living a long, healthy life in my favor and not hers.

Marilyn has metastatic pancreatic cancer that’s now in her liver too.  With a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs doctors might be able to keep the cancer in check for months, possibly years if she joins the small percentage of people who do.  And time will tell, assuming her tolerance to the drugs goes “reasonably well” (doctor parlance for “manageable side effects”).

While the clock is ticking Marilyn can live each day to its fullest, prioritizing her life in a way that few of us ever do.   I’ve put myself in Marilyn’s shoes, hypothetically, and here are the questions I’m asking myself …

Am I living my life the way I want to?  If not, what do I need to change?

            Who are the important people in my life I need to spend time with?

            Who are the people I need to forgive or ask for their forgiveness?

            What do I obsess about that I need to shed?

            Is there a dream I need to pursue before time is gone?

            Are there places on earth I’ve always wanted to visit?

            What is truly important to me?

            What do I need to stop doing?

What should I start doing?

            How often to I appreciate the specialness of each mundane day?

Where do I find joy?

Marilyn:BobAnswering those questions can be gifts to all of us, including Marilyn.  The key, then, is to change our lives accordingly, if necessary, so we can truly live out our days and not sleep walk through them.  Those of us who live in mystery of the end rarely take time to appreciate the daily spoils of life.

Meanwhile, my answers to those questions are still percolating around my system.  But I’m grateful for the wake-up call and send Marilyn ongoing wishes for healing while she processes those questions too.

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DecemberShell1December’s shell looks like it could have been plucked from Lido Beach on Longboat Key, FL where I spent my last days of December.  Riddled with pin-sized holes, this shell was in its early stages of becoming one with the sandy beach but on a different piece of Florida’s coast, probably Venice where I visited a couple of winters ago.  Beaches are where I get my best thinking done while staring into the rushing waves of the ocean and breathing its salty air.  I love walking a beach; it’s usually where I become most aware of how wonderful my life is and how fortunate I am.

This particular weekend I was in town to attend a close friend’s daughter’s wedding.  This friend has been in my life for decades – as a suite-mate in college and then together as young professionals Marianne&Me2sharing an apartment to begin our early adult lives away from the safety of a college dorm.  We’ve stayed in touch since with some years offering more sporadic attention than others.  Sharing this special celebration with her and her family marked the end of December and another month lived.  It was the perfect way to kiss the month goodbye.

My month opened in NYC with my husband to attend Broadway shows, one of our greatest joys in life.  Sitting close to the stage and being swept up in its theatrics makes my heart swell to almost bursting levels.  We try to get there once a year, usually during Thanksgiving week when we head north to visit family. cropped-once-program-cover_sm.png All we do is feast on theater, taking in as much as we can in just 4 days.  We’re stuffed by the time we head for home and happy for the gorging.  Now that my life is no longer consumed by work I have the great luxury of nurturing my loves.

SunGlowIt’s dizzying to recognize how much and how little can be accomplished within a 24 hour period.  Is accomplishment, though, a valid gauge of a day’s value?  I could give a laundry list of much that happened this month between the two trips – challenges that plagued me, friends I spent time with, movies I saw, stories and books I’ve read or am reading, sorrows and joys I’ve experienced and current events that have angered me.  They all indicate hours and days within a month that I’ll never get back.  So they have been lived and experienced.  In some cases though, time was spent mindlessly and when I became aware it was a week later with minimal recollection of what happened.  Maybe it’s simply the mundaneness of life that should be considered special.

My driving work years were consumed by pop culture and current events for entertainment development.  Time was devoured by my jobs and I invested no effort in developing a personal life and other areas of interest.  Those years were thrilling, stimulating and exhausting and while caught up in that whirlwind it was unfathomable that there could be any other kind of life that could offer as much personal reward.

beach3Walking the beach and recognizing the joy it conjured made me realize how rich life can actually be and how broad its potential.  Instead of this life’s chapter concentrating on growing “the next big thing” why not allow it to nurture all the things I love, the elements I forfeited during those laser focus years.  Over the past three years that list has grown quite robust:  books, theater, music, hikes, mountains, beaches, biking, friends, family, animals, volunteer work, discussion groups, movies, food, woods, travel.  To engage in life doesn’t mean I have to accomplish something, it could mean relishing the magic of being human and all that entails.

What a wonderful opening thought for 2013.  Though December can be a heavy, dark month I feel lighter with that thought.  Happy New Year to me.  And to you!

It’s the forest through the trees.

 

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We say yes, he insists no.  What’s a child to do?

Right now my 89 year old father is in a rehab unit hoping to re-gain the strength of his body.  His legs don’t work that well anymore, particularly his left leg that’s grown weaker in the 20 years following his stroke.  The same is true of his arms; the right does the lion’s share of work while the left hangs limp at his side.  He desperately wants to return home where he was about a month ago before this current crisis took place.  There he was able to move ever so slowly using his walker and also to perform the daily rituals of living.  Now he can’t get in or out of bed by himself, bathing and dressing himself is impossible and he requires the help of an aid to move even more slowly and unsteadily in his walker for yet shorter distances than before.  And yet he’s convinced himself that he’ll get strong enough to go home and continue life as before.  It doesn’t look promising, though he is improving.

The food there is good; we’ve tasted a bit of all his meals as they’re delivered.  He’s receiving excellent care, has a private room and is in a very cheerful, bright community of people with a similar cultural background as his.  He’s been accepted into their long term care household which is where we want him to live.  He refuses, complaining about the regimented lifestyle and business-like attitude of some of the nurses and aids.  They have schedules to adhere to regardless of whether he agrees.  He likens it to life in the military some 70 years ago and says he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.

We’re in a stalemate.  Once his physical therapy is finished we’ll have to make a decision.  What do we use as our guide?  Our judgement, as his children, about what’s best for him?  Or his emotional insistence on the way he wants to live out the rest of his life?

Based on history, we think that if he goes home he’ll “fire” the aids after a short period of time because he thinks they’re no longer necessary.  It’s happened before.  He hates spending the money; he considers it wasteful.  He wants to die with his money intact “just in case.”  “Just in case” what?  we probe.  “I don’t know” is the answer.  He can’t grasp the idea that NOW is the” just in case” he’s been saving for.

Life at home consists of sitting solitary in a room and watching TV all day.  His only company is my sister when she returns from work and my other sister when she visits.  On many Thursdays he hobbles to his car and drives to meet his buddies for lunch at the nearby deli.  He shouldn’t, but he does.  I doubt he’ll be cleared by a doctor to continue driving.  He’s convinced we’re wrong.  He must keep his car.

When I was a kid I went to hebrew school and took piano lessons because my parents insisted they were beneficial.  I disagreed.  It didn’t matter.  I went and I practiced — for years.  And years.  And years.  Now, as an adult, I’m a richer person for the experiences.

He doesn’t see the analogy.  He sees himself as the parent who knows best.  We disagree.  Who wins?  And at what cost?

What do you say?  What would you do?

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Woods hold a secret

and whisper heartfelt whimsy

while I walk her path.

Trees line her walkway

while fallen needles cushion

steps that leave no trace.

 As winds blow  her leaves

 light teases through canopy

 creating shadows.

 There’s something about

 the smell of greens in nature

that beckons spirit.

It’s fresh yet musty

a paradox in action

the very nature of life.

It’s the woods alone

that breathe life into my soul

it’s my heart, my need.

Breathe deep, sit silent

as the secret whistles through

the sounds are revealed.


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I walk along the beach where the vast Atlantic ocean slaps the shoreline with cresting waves whose spent power trickles under my feet and tickles my toes with each step.  Ocean sovereignty untamed by humans ends at this boundary.  Perhaps that’s the magnetism that draws the land species to the edge of two worlds both vibrant with life, neither can subsist in the other.

I hear the ocean yell with roars louder than my thoughts.  Its domination drowns any quiet solitude simmering within.

It demands to be noticed,

to be admired,

to be respected,

to be awed.

And we land people yield to that force.

Why do you come? it booms in my ears, penetrating every cell in my body. You land people flock to my shores.  Stare at my waves for hours on end.  Walk along my borders where children dig into my sand and dogs romp through my swells.  Some of you try to ride me but never succeed in conquering me.  Some of you hunt my people to eat and become the occasional hunted for our sustenance. You explore my depths but can’t penetrate my soul.  You can’t live here but continually need to explore here.  You need me. You need us. You are me.  You are us.

We land people go to the ocean to be swept up beyond ourselves where thoughts don’t reside.  The roar is too loud for problems.  Too mighty for anything but complete submission.  Quietude comes later.

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oh christmas tree, oh christmas treeThrough the front door there’s a great view of a decked out Christmas tree basking in  white lights, covered with snow and dripping with big sparkly white round ornaments.  A white Christmas is definitely being celebrated in this house.  But the mood is somewhat blue.

My hospice patient and her caregiver husband live here.  They’re both seniors and have spent most of their lives together –  working their family business and traveling in the RV in which they expected a multitude of road trips during their retirement years.

NEW MEXICO 2006 RECREATIONAL VEHICLE plate

Image by woody1778a via Flickr

Four years ago husband sold the RV; wife could no longer negotiate the steps to assume her role as navigator in chief.  That act signified an admission of his wife’s fatal disease and the death of dreams that had been years in the planning.  That was also the last year she spoke; she hasn’t uttered a word since.  Not because she was disappointed, but because her Alzheimer’s had advanced enough to rob her of voice.  Now husband spends his days taking care of her.

Decorating the Christmas tree is something they always did together.  In fact, she bought this very tree and the ornaments.  It came adorned with white lights and snow. This year they decorated together again.  He set it up, he added the balls, covered the tree base, wrapped the presents and carefully arranged them at the bottom.  Wife slumped in her chair, sucked her lower lip, wrung her hands and nodded off.  That’s this year’s Christmas, at least until his children join them in a couple of weeks.

Husband cherishes wife.  She’s the love of his life and when she was diagnosed 8 years ago he promised he’d care for her until the end of her days.  He meant it, despite the sacrifice it entails.

Being housebound is one of those sacrifices, except for my weekly visits to socialize with him and sit with her during the couple of hours he goes where he wants.  His spirits are high, he laughs easily, he loves big.  He embodies the true spirit of giving.  And when he allows himself to think of how things were supposed to be, the twinkle in his eye grows dimmer.

He inspires me.  He fills me with admiration.  What inspires you this season?

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During meditation this morning I started to focus on what it feels like to meditate.  How the process starts, progresses up to that point where I’ve quieted down enough to lessen my loss of focus and just be there.  Then, where is there?

As I start the process of slowing down I notice my mind racing with a million images and thoughts that accompany them, as though I’m in the middle of a collage as it’s being constructed.  It takes effort to focus on the breath – starting with my nose and then migrating to the abdomen where I can feel breathing in and breathing out.  Immediately, an image catches my attention and steals focus until I’m aware of gently re-guiding awareness back to the breath.  Then to hearing.  Then to breath and hearing as those two senses start to dominate.

Notice the blood coursing through my hands and now my feet.  Listen to my heartbeat while I become comfortable residing inside the body and not out.

Outside starts to drift away while the world inside looms large, growing more peaceful with each breath.  I notice a slight smile on my face while my tongue hugs the roof of my mouth.  Distraction comes and goes, more going than coming.  Peace settles within and my body rests contentedly.

And then I’m there.  Here.  Aware of the quiet.  Aware of sounds.  Aware of breath.  Aware of spaciousness.  Inside.  Not at all outside.

And your meditation experience?

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