Haven’t Got A Clue…..

There is a community of the spirit.

Join in, and feel the delight

Of walking in the noisy street,

And being the noise.

…..close both eyes,

To see with the other eye.

Open your hands,

If you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel

The shepherd’s love filling you.

Excerpt:  A Community Of The Spirit by Rumi

In the quiet of this morning, my second cup of espresso grows cold as I read a page or two out of a collection of poems by the Sufi poet, Rumi.  The words above catch my attention.  I haven’t even finished the poem in its entirety!

I get it:  I need to get out of my current head space which is bogged down with a million and one worries.  Perhaps I should cast all expectations out the window… though that would be damned near impossible at this writing.

I look out at the still-dark sky and reflect on what to do next. I don’t have answers…In fact, I haven’t got a clue.   What is certain though is this: This time, I am not alone as I walk through hot coals yet again. This time there is a life-line of sorts. Sis and family won’t let moss grow under these tired bones, no siree!

So, yesterday officially marked sixty years on this planet. The day began with an exuberant hug by a nine-year-old carrying a bouquet of flowers and a musical birthday card.  Kool & The Gang’s Celebration made me dance a jig across my kitchen floor. The Poodle jumped up in confused delight to the racket of his human love.  Perhaps my nephew thought: What silliness!  I’m not sure.  I do know that a degree of silliness will be the only way to navigate uncharted territory.  What could that be? you might ask.

A thirty-five year old son returning home, indigent.  A train wreck of seemingly limited possibilities, at this moment at least.

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, right?

Sigh.

He needs to sit down in the circle; smack dab in the middle of it I say!  He needs to give it all up to a higher power.  He needs to quiet his mind long enough to truly feel the love (both tough and gentle)  of those who want to help him find a better path in this life.  He needs to be open to the heavy task of change in front of him.

Alas, my man-child appears not to be ready for any of this.    The reality of this cuts deeply.  My heart is heavy and weariness overwhelms.  It significantly impairs any excitement that I can muster for entering a new decade.

I mustn’t lose hope. I must not quit. Not yet anyway!

Never lose hope….never quit.

I must keep the home fires burning one way or the other.

Prayers appreciated.

 

A Year Ago, Today

Yesterday on the yoga mat tears flowed.  They came from out of the blue.  This has happened once before, during savasana at one of my favorite Yoga Works class when I lived in Southern California.  I was mortified then, but likely no one saw me wiping tears because, well…it’s savasana.

I haven’t been on the mat for at least a week now.  So when I found myself on the mat yesterday I was not expecting that a piece from my Spotify playlist would tug at my heart-strings just so.

I may as well have been in that hospital room.  The images of tubes, monitors, tears (gut-wrenching tears), my distraught sister, and the unbelievably kind critical care nurse were strikingly vivid.

In that room, I had placed my iPhone on mom’s pillow as she lay dying after being taken off life support. I selected the first playlist that was a recent play for her to listen to;  it was an album of Albinoni’s Adagios. He was among her many, many classical music favorites.

Pressed back into child’s pose the Adagio for Strings stirred a Colorado memory from over four decades ago. Mom, fresh on the heels of divorce after twenty years of a tumultuous marriage, was driving in a posh Denver neighborhood to begin giving piano lessons to a new student.  The car radio was tuned, as always, to the classical music station.  The beautiful tree-lined avenue with opulent and stately mansions on both sides of the street was in sharp contrast to our modest home in a neighborhood that was on the verge of becoming known as “mont-ghetto.” Why I was tagging along, I don’t recall. But the stress of that time still creates a knot in the pit of my stomach–one that makes me nauseous–whenever those memories bubble to the surface.  But, as much as life with mom was difficult because she was an intense, high-strung, dominating force of nature, I realize too that she was simply fighting to survive, with minimal tools at best, any way she could during a time of great upheaval and uncertainty.   Mom stubbornly marched to her own drummer, refusing even to punch a time clock as in a regular 9 to 5 job.  She did have an amazing gift however and that was teaching piano. Her students, ages 4 to 64 could attest to that.

Tears spilled onto the mat as the dramas of my life came rushing into my present moment.   I had to quell this flood or the day would certainly be a wash, not to mention my fragile yoga practice. I sat up taking a seat on my little red pillow, the one that I am trying to get more use out of for  meditation or prayer. I closed my eyes and focused on slow and rhythmic breathing. With each exhalation I let my mantra be: Let it go.

Let it go. Let it go. LET IT GO.

The tears stopped.  The mantra worked…this time anyway.

So, It’s been a year ago today since sis and I said good-bye to our mama.

Her fall happened sometime between 10 p.m. last night and early morning today. She fell in the hallway of her “home” hitting her head.  She never woke up.

Since that evening a year ago when we witnessed her last breath there hasn’t been a day that I’ve not thought about my mother. The episode yesterday on the mat is one of many.  Some days something stirs a memory which results in emotions that I am not always proud of: anger, resentment….bitterness for things said and unsaid…things done and not done.

I may as well be a child again.

But there are other days that a smell (like nutmeg) or words (like, good grief!) triggers a smile that warms my heart.

In all sincerity, though my struggle is real, I am striving to not let negative emotions be the focus of my memories of mama.  Time is helping. I am managing to pull happier memories to the surface more often, which honestly, is surprising to me. I didn’t think that would be possible.

Like a shopping moment together at Target in 2014. I was taking care of mom in the aftermath of her husband’s death. Frail and weak from years of self-imposed hibernation in bed as well as some health issues, she agreed to accompanying me to Target.   I was practically doing cartwheels of joy over this.

“I need a new bathing suit,” she said.

“What do you think? How about this Itsy-bitsy bikini”

I was thrilled that mom had gotten out of the house and was participating in the shopping process.  During those last few years of her life, there were not many moments of normalcy and lightheartedness between us.

Mom was perched on the seat of her walker as I lost myself in the racks looking for a bathing suit for her.   I kept her within an easy arm’s reach because I was afraid she would fall.  But, while my back was turned for a moment mom decided to take matters into her own hands.

“I want this one,” she said.  I turned to find her holding up a white fringed bikini. She made the fringes dance as she waved the itsy-bitsy garment with a dramatic flourish.

Mom was smiling from ear to ear as she saw my surprise.  I couldn’t help but dissolve in laughter….and so did mom.

Naturally we did not buy the bikini but we did manage to find a couple of one-piece suits.

“So mama, now you have two new suits.  No excuses; you must get yourself back in your lovely swimming pool before your move.  Then in a month or so you will be in a new place which has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool.  There will be people around assisting you. You won’t be alone anymore.  Promise me you’ll go to the pool mama?

“Oh sure,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

She only went once during the year and a half that she was in that stunningly beautiful continuing care community and that was only when sis and I flew out for an Easter visit.

It breaks my heart to this day that mom had decided life was over long before she ever left her beautiful Villa Paradiso home.  Still, just as in that one shopping moment, there were slivers of hope–and motherly love– that she intentionally offered to sis and me despite her years of depression.  Not many mind you, but enough to know that she was trying in her own way to make her daughters happy and worry less.

Oh mama,  I pray your soul has found peace and joy in your forever home.  I’m thinking you must be enjoying spirited conversations with some of your notable favorites: Krishnamurti, Mozart, Chopin and Orianna Fallaci…to name a few that come to mind.  And even though our relationship was strained since before I left your womb, I miss you.  I really do.

I look out the window and see that the sun is just beginning to peek over the hills in the distance.  It’s time to get on with this day. It’s mighty cold out but when it warms up there will be a walk with The Poodle, a piece of cherry pie and who knows what else the day will bring!

Inhale…exhale….smile.

It Can Happen to Any of Us…..

I’ve been in a sadness-induced sort of funk for most of the week. This time it isn’t mamma-drama-trauma (MDT) related, nor is it the residuals of PTSD from nearly a quarter of a year of my life upended due to family issues.

It’s immense sadness over the death of Robin Williams.

Honestly, I would not have thought I’d have such a visceral reaction upon hearing the news. Perhaps it was the profusion of social media postings and comments that got to my head and heart. Certainly, I’ve enjoyed his comedy and dramatic work for years. Just a month before I had watched “Mrs. Doubtfire” with mom on a quiet evening in Carefree. I’d seen the movie at least a handful of times before and was all too happy to watch it again. Mom enjoyed it too and even seemed like her old self from years ago, I’ve also felt a certain kinship with him when some years ago I learned he was an avid cyclist. And of course, I have a special place in my heart for those who take the time and the energy, like he did, to support our men and women in uniform.

Avid cyclist, Robin Williams

Avid cyclist, Robin Williams

So as I cycled the other day, my thoughts weren’t on the road or the beautiful country scenery. My thoughts were consumed with this comedic genius who took his own life.  ‘Why?’  played over and over in my head as I cycled.    At 63, I’d thought he had made peace with his troubled side. That gave me a great deal of hope for those (e.g. family members) who struggle with depression and substance abuse, especially in their younger years.  Robin Williams was a hard-working man and, by all accounts, a gentle, loving and thoroughly giving spirit. It pains me that his cycling (his “moving meditation”) didn’t save him. It pains me that the love and support of his family and friends didn’t lift him to a brighter place. Even his successful career and the accolades from people from all around the world weren’t able to quell the demons that apparently darkened every inch of his soul. There was something inside of him that he could not come to terms with and in the end, this was, I can only suppose, his way of freeing himself from that very dark place. The choice was his and he alone was responsible for it.

I’ve always been very sensitive to the subject of suicide. Admittedly I do not know enough about suicide in the academic sense to hold an intelligent –that is to say–UN-emotional conversation. My “experience’” if you will, is rooted mostly (though not entirely) in emotion. It started decades ago, admittedly, colored in a certain negative bias that I’ve long since moved past. The bias was based on childhood memories. My father so often threaten suicide to, in my mind, gain attention. He went so far as to lock himself in his study with a shot-gun, scaring the hell out of everyone in the house, including my sis who was barely six at the time.  My father died years later and not by suicide.  My feelings are also rooted in motherhood, agonizing over my estranged son who often says things like “life is not worth living” in response to his self-induced isolation from family and his abysmal financial situation. My experience is also moved by my wonderful but weary Gramps who did take his own life because health problems severely wore him down in his later years, and it is also deeply shaken by a friend whose husband threw himself off a seven story building to end his life and the fairytale of their five years of togetherness.

Honestly,  I have a strong fear of the subject. It’s like the feeling of an approaching storm that is simply waiting for the perfect alignment of events to start a downward death spiral. It’s a fear that lurks in the background of my life.  I attribute this to depression, of course. Not necessarily mine.  Like most people, I have great and not so great days.  But depression in its clinical form has a mighty tenacious hold on both sides of my family tree. I cannot remember my father ever being particularly happy, and certainly not my mother.   Indeed,  part of all the MDT over the last months is deeply rooted in decades of depression. It has, in my view, ravaged my mother and her choice has been to succumb to it rather than seek help. It has done much the same to my twin brother.

Until a few years ago, I was of the mindset that a combination of physical activity and professional help (even the ‘better-living- through-chemistry approach”) would prevent suicide. A naive approach, certainly, but it’s what helped me during extremely rocky points in my life (well…except for the chemistry approach; I never took pills/drugs of any kind).

Yes, full disclosure here. I had my own “moment” years ago while going through an acrimonious and painful divorce. I remember it vividly, as if it were yesterday. I was out for a run on a gravel path in Northern Virginia crying my eyes out. I felt like a complete failure in life and the guilt of a broken family for my kids as well as the overwhelming fear of starting all over again at the age of forty with nothing in the bank came crushing down on me like a ton of bricks. Everything seemed insurmountable and the utter desolation I felt was enormous. I felt like I was being swallowed into a massive black hole and I didn’t want to continue a minute more on this earth. A fire-engine red Mack truck was heading down the road in my direction and in an instant, I thought about stepping quietly into its path to end it all. I’m not sure what kept me on my running path that morning. Perhaps in that instant a surge of endorphins smacked me upside of the head, stopping that negative thought in its track or maybe it was the image of my children’s faces….or perhaps it was the greater fear of not dying instantaneously and living in a vegetative state or worst yet, for the runner I was, being paralyzed from the neck down.

I’ve experienced countless low points since that particular morning run; luckily I’ve never returned to the thought of ending my life. I kept running, putting one foot in front of the other. And, during the worst of those years following the divorce, I was fortunate to have the unconditional love of three beautiful souls that never, for one moment, stopped listening to the good, bad and the ugly of my life. Their friendship, support, loving presence and unwavering empathy got me through my darkest hours. And then, there was Rocket-man, who stood by the stranger that I was to him on my darkest day one December morning in 1997 and that act set the foundation for a life together.

So I am trying to put this week into perspective and make sense out of what seems senseless. In so doing, I think of the words of my California friend who lost her husband to suicide and who now volunteers at a suicide prevention hotline: “In the note he left he told me that it was his loved ones that kept him alive for so long and if it wasn’t for us, he would have done it earlier.’‘ And, then there are the words from comedian and political commentator Dennis Miller. He stated it best during a recent commentary on losing his good friend Robin Williams:

“If Robin Williams, who was a locus of joy, can get to that dark of a place so can any of the billions of people on this planet. And if you are ever in that corner, you have to round that corner off by getting a hold of another human being. You know how quickly life can flip. You know two days later the sun can be out. It’s that moment. Anybody can get to it. If he could get to it, anybody can get to it. Never not make the call to somebody. Never.”

Folks, It could happen to any of us. That’s the scary part of all of this. So never not make the call. Never not reach out to someone.  Never give up….life can flip in an instant. It seems so simple a concept; If we could all just remember that if today is dark, the sun will come out tomorrow.

RIP Robin.

Old Fogey Kind of Day

I am getting old.

How do I know?  (I am just positive you’re asking!).

I just cancelled my spot in a group exercise class today.

I could post it on Facebook, adding my status there, along with the gazillion other banal status updates that people post–you know….the ones that cause readers to roll their eyes towards the heavens and mutter something like “Who cares” except it probably contains an expletive…or two.

I am well aware that this is not earth-shattering news; and, I’m absolutely sure that no one cares a whit.  But for me, skipping out on daily exercise almost never happens!

Full disclosure:  this is not the first time in the last couple of months I’ve been lazy, which is why I am mighty perplexed with myself.   After all,  I did Jazzercise (Aerobics) classes up to a week before my daughter was born.  I ran a 50-mile race, after falling during the treacherous trail portion, on a swollen knee and without eating anything during the ten-plus hours it took me to complete the race.  I’ve run in 19-degree weather, through ice, sleet, and snow.  I was nearly forcefully restrained by two grown men trying to prevent me from continuing a cycle ride while cycling in the Canadian Rockies  (I had no idea that I was completely blue and dangerously close to Stage 2 hypothermia).  It took passing out from heat exhaustion, literally near the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to get me to stop and rest my body.  I woke to water being thrown on my face at the hands of one of my dearest friends.  My reward to him for “saving me?”  Shamefully, I yelled at him.  “No, No…not our water!  We need the water.”  It was June people!  I was clearly delirious from heat exhaustion.   We were in the bottom of the Grand Canyon and, as God is my witness, it had to have been hotter than Hell itself…in fact, I believe He, God himself, told me so while I was close to seeing THE white light!

All kidding aside…the point is….I am not predisposed to “giving up” when it comes to physical activity.    I muscle through…onward and up.  I’m not bragging, mind you.  Many folks think (and they have voiced as much) that I’m nuts.  Truthfully, sometimes I’ll admit to over-doing it…but just a wee bit.  And yet, looking back on the last thirty years of my life I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.  Through all these years of many physical trials I’ve learned a great deal about myself and I’ve discovered what I am made of…not just physically…but more importantly, mentally as well.

Except now…or more specifically, during the last year.  The physical and mental toughness that has been part of my identity, is waning….considerably… and I am not too pleased about this turn of events.  I‘m not sure if my malady is owed to a mild form of depression because of failing knees (and chronic pain) or a result from moving from the paradise of Southern California to insect-infested “middle earth” Alabama.    It also could be  that I’ve got too much time on my hands now that I am not gainfully employed!

Still….whatever it is….

I skipped an exercise class because it is 15 degrees outside with a windchill of 2-degrees and there is a whisper of snow flurries on the ground. 

For a moment after I called to cancel, I felt pathetic.  Why am I letting cold–OK, FRIGID–temperatures and a dusting of snow affect my psyche?  I’ve pushed myself through far worst weather days and through days when every free moment was a precious commodity (while working full-time and taking college courses or looking after children and a myriad of household chores).  And yet, today…as I looked out the window at the dusting of snow all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa with a book and a cup of tea and call it a day….at 9 o’clock in the morning!

My brain…or the “central governor” as  Dr. Tim Noakes terms in his book, The Lore of Running, is growing mushy and weak-minded.  Quite simply, at the risk of offending anyone, I’m perilously close to becoming an old fogey.

There is no bliss in that.

OK.  I need to get my head out of this old-fogey brain and smile (which is the whole point of this blog, right?!) because I am starting to look like an old fogey too!  That makes sense….think old…feel old!

Tomorrow is another day.  Let’s hope for a ray or two of sunshine and with it, a flip of the switch in this old-fogey brain.  I’ll take comfort in a quote that I happened upon while reading an on-line article today:

quote “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown

Lord knows, I’ve got many imperfections…too many to count. So in that spirit….the explanation of today’s lethargy is simply because it was a FRIGIDLY cold day and smart folks stay inside and cuddle with poodles…significant others, or in the absence of either… a good book and a very good glass of red wine.

Salute!