Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mono no aware

Mono no aware (物の哀れ?), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing.

A gentle sadness. This is how I feel this week. A gentle sadness. For a niece, a brother, a brother-in-law, a sister, a friend.

An awareness of impermanence.

An awareness of mortality.

An awareness that life does not always unfold as we would like it to.

But it is unfolding.

As it should.

And through it all I am struck by the tenacity, the courage, the valiant will of the human heart.

The heart that can find healing in the laughter of children, in a rainbow shining through a tree, in the company of family, in the solace of a church pew.

There was a book I read a long time ago entitled: When bad things happen to good people. A few years ago another book: The Blessing of a skinned knee.

It is not about bad things, or good things, happening to bad, or good, people. It is just that things happen. They just happen. Sometimes there is a reason, sometimes there is not. Things happen.

This is what it is to be human. Things happen, and we have to deal with them, cope with them, overcome them, and carry on.

We have to carry on.

But first, perhaps, we have to cry, wail, get angry, become despondent, or succumb to that gentle sadness.

A gentle sadness.

That is how I feel today. That will have to be ok for today.

Mono no aware.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I would do it if I could

A death, an illness (or three), a family struggle and here I sit in the sun on the back porch unable to do anything.

"Can I do anything?", I ask. "You could take the treatment for me, and I would be the one to get better", he replied.

I would, if I could.

A few years ago my younger brother put together a dvd of family photographs - a slide show - with the soundtrack of ColdPlay's 'Fix You' playing in the background.

I sobbed uncontrollably the first time I watched it. Pictures of my mother and father and siblings from a time long ago. A time when, in my mind, we were the quintessential happy family.

I still weep when I see it - I weep out of poignancy, out of regret, out of feelings of missing my father so profoundly, out of realizing that in those photos there was still possibility.

The possibility that cancer wouldn't strike, a virus wouldn't strike, estrangement wouldn't strike.

I think, as the proverbial middle child, I have just wanted to fix everything for everyone. I think in the process I broke things, especially myself.

Lately the phrase "Depression is anger turned inward" has been rattling around inside my brain. I don't like this phrase; I never had. The first time I heard it a fourteen year old boy I know was struggling with anxiety and sadness. I blamed myself for not being able to fix it. I blamed myself for perhaps being the cause.

Recently I remarked to my husband that I was trying to protect him from something that brings him frustration. The content doesn't matter. What he told me does. "You are not responsible for my issues around this. You don't have to fix it for me."

I don't have to fix it. Now, there's a thought.

Last night I remember feeling 'Why won't anyone let me help them?" Because, dear one, it is not your job to fix everything. Sometimes in the midst of family struggles and health issues, and angst it is your job to be there, to listen, to help if asked, to not burden them with your anxiety, to let go and let god.

And sometimes, as a stanger told be yesterday, you have to give it time. Time for wounds to heal, and memories to fade.

And, dear one, that time is not a day, or a week, but perhaps months or years.

So listen up - you don't have to fix everything. You have to remember "It will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end".

I have to trust that if someone needs my help they will ask. If someone wants to see me they will call. If someone has something to say they will say it.

Meanwhile I have prayer, compassion, and a shoulder to cry on. I thank god for that shoulder, that companionship, that often silent support.

So I am praying the chemo will work, the move will unfold smoothly, and that time will, in fact, heal all wounds. I am not sure about the last one - for some wounds to heal there has to be forgiveness, and I know I am not there yet.

I don't know if I believe there can be forgiveness without an apology, or explanation having been given. I am told there can be, but I don't know if that is true for me.

As I said at the beginning: I would if I could.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birth and Death

Today I received an email informing me that a student of mine from 8 years ago had died. In a crosswalk. He was 22.

Within 30 minutes I received a phone call from a midwife inviting me to a blessing ceremony for a friend who is due to deliver her first child in August.

30 minutes. Death and Birth.

And so it goes this circle of life. Illness, healing, sadness, comfort, tears, laughter, silence, reconciliation, rain, sun, good news and then not so much. And so it goes.

I have been ok through it all. Just ok. Kind of flat, actually, but that could be protection because, well, it has been that kind of month.

I am glad I have my faith through it all. I am glad that I can light a candle while someone is in surgery, or listen to that voice that tells me to make a phone call. I am glad that I believe there are angels everywhere and they are helping us through it all one step at a time. One breath at a time. One death at a time.

We reach out. We cry. We don't know what to say, but we try to speak anyways.

This is what it is to be human.

This has been a very human day.

I am glad that I am here - for them, for myself, for it all.

There is a design more perfect than human mind.

I have to believe that. If I didn't it just wouldn't make any sense.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maybe it doesn't matter

Funny title for a blog, no? I am not even sure what it means, but I think it has to do with my future. I want to do something important with the next fifty years of my life - and what does that look like?

So, yes, I am retired, and no, I don't know what I am doing. I do know that I want to contribute to this world of ours. Is that writing? Is that being a mentor?

Or is it just being there for others: husband, son, daughter, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends....well, you get the idea. Sometimes a cup of tea, chili around a campfire, wine at the bar, or lunch in the village is not just something frivolous, or entertaining. Sometimes, often, it is a connection of one soul to another. Sometimes it is being there for someone, sometimes it is being brave enough to allow another to be there for me.

And sometimes, it is ok to just have that glass of wine, or ice-cream, or lunch and laugh and feel companionship.

I don't ever want to live alone. If that should ever be in my future I hope I have the courage to form a community of others to live together, companionably, sometimes in silence, sometimes in noisy enthusiasm.

I have so many friends - maybe that is what matters. Maybe that is what it is all about. Because I believe it does matter. We all matter. All the lives we touch in those fleeting moments, days, or years matter.

A friend recently posted the question "What is Faith?" For me, today, faith is that things matter. People matter. My existence matters. Faith is that even though I don't know why it matters, I just know it does.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Knitting and Reading, Reading and Knitting

This is how I spend my days, with the occasional crossword puzzle thrown in. If I was just on 'summer holidays', this would be perfect. I would be content. The weird thing is that since I am technically not on 'summer holidays', but in fact 'retired', I feel like I should be 'doing' something more meaningful.

I remember when my husband retired over two years ago a retired friend of his told me that he would spend much of the next six months sleeping. He also told me not to worry it would sort itself out. I didn't, and it did.

For me, I am not sleeping that much. Maybe seven hours a night, with the odd nap thrown in for good measure.

I think much of the 'problem' is that the plantar fasciitis I suffered from ten years ago is back. With a vengence. It is in both feet, and so things like walking are out of the question. Even walking from the back deck to the kitchen is very, very painful.

Interesting that I am forced to slow down, get off my feet and relax against my will. I even tried gardening yesterday using a stool, but within 20 minutes I was in tears and back on the porch reading. Frustrating.

Even so, I don't know if I would feel any different if my feet were good to go. I have been investigating the Camino, checking out new patterns on Ravelry, running short errands using my husband as the delivery person, and playing on facebook.

My new orthotics will be ready next Wednesday, so I am hoping that will give me some relief. I really want to get walking again. Of course, I realized that I could be swimming......hmmmmm, I have to get on that.

Maybe really this is all a way to avoid the looming questions: to stay in this house, or to sell, to stay in this area, or move to the island, where to go on holidays? Most days when my husband asks me what I want for dinner I panic, which for me looks like an ostrich putting her head in the sand, or under the covers. I don't care. Don't ask me. Don't make me make a decision. Just feed me!

Perhaps this is a result of making decisions and being in charge as a teacher, as a mother for so many years. One of the things I hate the most about this foot thing is having to ask my husband to do things for me. I am not used to asking for help, and I hate it. He is more than willing to help, but I am less than willing to ask.

I guess I am in transition. So, don't talk about me. I am figuring it out.

Knitting and Reading. Reading and Knitting.