A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

The weather has turned cold early this year I’m thinking as I walked The Poodle early this morning. Cloudy, somber gray skies greeted the two of us as we stepped out the door for our morning constitutional–The Poodle for his business and me, for more steps to register on my Garmin VivoFit activity tracker. Bundled up against the brisk 35 degrees, I realize our weather is not nearly as ridiculous as in other parts of the U.S. this week. Rocket-man, away on business travel, reports that this morning its minus three degrees in Colorado Springs. That’s not normal for this time of year!  So here goes…you won’t hear me say this often….I’m grateful that I am here and not there!

I walked without listening to music this morning. I was content to listen to the rustle of autumn leaves still stubbornly clinging to their branches. If I would have been plugged-in I would have missed the commotion to my left as I walked down the steep hill. Four or five Deer had caught wind (or sight) of us and were running for cover. It was then that I noticed a lone fawn running back and forth through the thicket of trees and brush. I could hear her crying. I realized she was frantically searching for her family. The deer that had bolted must have heard her cries as they stopped abruptly and turned around. For a moment or two they all stood still, as did I. The Poodle sat at attention. He knew something was going on but from his lower vantage point he couldn’t see the deer. As the deer stood stock still, only their ears were twitching, as if sensing, or perhaps listening. I imagine they were trying to determine the direction to go in to find their lost one. Strangely, I didn’t hear a sound from the group of deer. I would have thought that one of them would call out to the offspring. It didn’t seem to matter though. Perhaps some kind of silent communication took place as in the span of but a couple of minutes the fawn was able to reunite with the family and off, deeper into the brush, they all went.

Witnessing the reunion was a lovely moment and it made me smile for the rest of my morning walk. I’m glad I wasn’t, as I frequently am, buried in my iPhone, either searching through music on my playlist or thumbing through emails as I walk. By unplugging just for a half hour or so I was able to experience everything a bit more….well… mindfully.

Mindfully. Mindfulness. That’s a word that has become more popular in the last couple of years, or so it seems. The Oxford dictionary gives the definition as:

1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something:

2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.

Eat your meals mindfully ….take mindfulness breaks during the course of a day…meditate….and so on. And indeed, this mindfulness approach (even when I didn’t realize it) made those stressful months caring for my mother easier.  I loved those early morning walks in the Sonoran desert.  Sometimes–when I wasn’t venting to a friend about what was happening with my mother–I was able to put everything that was going on aside and just enjoy the beauty around me.

Mindfulness is something that I’m striving to get better at despite the fact that I’ve fallen off a consistent yoga/meditative practice ….or exercise in general. One of the reasons that I’m trying to get better with this mindfulness stuff is that there is still family baggage to sift through. I don’t have to tell you folks….you already know; the approaching holidays brings this stuff out!

So, as I write I’m acknowledging that this imperfect soul is trying to ignore the simmering anger associated with my very own twin brother. Focusing on the present moment is the only “weapon” at my disposal. My battle? Oh, I’ve got a number of them but what comes to mind in this moment is my brother. Do I forgive my brother or….what?

His egregious behavior when our step-father passed, and his subsequent abandonment of family duties during a time of great need has both my sister and I seeing red….blood red….still, after eight months have gone by since Kurt’s death. Most days since the day my brother turned his back on us I have not given him a precious moment of my thoughts. In fact, I find myself telling people I meet, “Oh…I have a sister in Virginia,” consciously making no mention that I have a twin brother too. I may have been estranged from him before Kurt’s passing, but after my brother slammed the door on us in every sense of the word, he may as well have died in my eyes.  Naturally, this feeling does not make my heart feel good which is why I’m struggling here.

As twins go, my brother and I couldn’t be further apart from each other in just about everything. We’ve been estranged for many years although in my heart I have wished him nothing but love and good things. I used to feel guilty about our estrangement but more than anything it was about survival. Our childhood certainly left a lot to be desired in the nurturing department and my brother received far more of the physical blows than I. We’ve got scars to be sure but there are other souls in this world that have suffered far greater brutalities than we have. Still, as his twin sister I did my best to shelter him growing up. Eventually, I gave up. I had to survive too. I played by the rules; he decided not to which is largely why he was always in trouble.

So just yesterday a quote came across my way on the subject of forgiveness.

“If you cannot forgive and forget, pick one.” ~Robert Brault

Hmm.

So does “forget” mean, literally….forget ….as in fail to remember all past terribly boorish and reprehensible behavior? Or does it mean forget entirely that I even have a brother?!   I’m ashamed to admit my feeling at the moment is that it’s much easier to do the latter.

I suppose I should consider more thoughtfully the following excerpt by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh:

If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in people we love as well. Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well.

I honestly think about this for a moment. We have both suffered through life’s ups and downs through the years but it’s how we deal with those challenges that matter. I’m certainly not perfect folks but I do believe that I can honestly say that I’ve come through a lot of it with a certain amount of grace…and I’m still muddling through, trying to get better. But even if we have family baggage to contend with (and who doesn’t?) in times of a family crisis, you throw that bag into a closet, slam the door shut, and take care of what needs to be done. My brother didn’t have the courage to do that.

Sigh.

I take a deep breath and release it.

And then I think….

To hell with all this mindfulness.

Clearly, I’ve got more work to do on this journey but today isn’t going to be the forgive and forget day.

I’m not there yet.

I’m only human.