Cape May, NJ
Some mornings after the kids have gone their way and I am in the car to work, I think that I need to find a quote or an affirmation for my day. Much like holding tightly to a balloon string, I hope that it will keep me steady and aloft during what could be a turbulent day or one that is slightly off-kilter.
I forget often that I am my own balloon and string. Sure, the words I would eventually find might offer solace and comfort or be a momentary guide but essentially, I am the only one who can glide above the crap.
Having said that, some things I have read have stuck and are helpful. One phrase (which I shall paraphrase because the exact wordage has faded) goes along the lines of “Whatever knocks at the door of your soul, be it anger, fear, disappointment, happiness, joy, whatever…open the door and welcome it. Whatever it is will not stay but while it is there, be a most welcome and gracious host.” I take it to mean that it is up to me to observe and feel and to avoid being carried away by undercurrent to a place where I am no longer in control.
I’m not quite sure why I feel a faded shade of blue today. It’s possible in part to my son’s expected reaction to starting a new school and subsequent sickness on day two. It’s also possible in part to the attachment I have to my car which will be an unattachment very soon, I discovered yesterday.
It’s silly to feel the sting of an impending cheerio for an inanimate object but my car has many memories attached to it. Since I got her in 2010, I have run the gamut of situations and emotions. She has been there for me through every time capsule of anger, guilt, rage, fear, love, passion, wonder, confusion, worry, joy, hope. Like a soothing blue angel, she wrapped herself around me, comforted me and allowed me room to express. She opened up and gave me space to be lifted when I felt at my most happy. To feel this strongly is trivial and natural at the same time and I will miss her for a while when she is gone.
Also, I am, as the English part of me would say, gutted, that I may be unable to accept a sudden opportunity. This, due to the new Autumn schedule for our kids. On one hand, I am delighted that we are finally able fund extra-curricular activities and yet the timing puts a crimp on my own loves. And so, a feeling of ambiguity has stepped across my threshold and I am breathing deeply to allow it room.
How fickle the human nature. How wondrous. To be able to feel happy and lithe only to tumble down to feel the opposite. Up and down we go, and around and around.
All the while I continue to learn and grow. I open the door every day to whatever is knocking. Some days the balloon stands no chance against my guest and I do get swept up. For some time there is no way for my feet to touch the floor but I am so grateful when they finally do, because they always do…eventually.
And there I am again, at my front door, holding my own balloon and string, taking a deep breath.
I guess I have a lot bubbling up this week. See what happens when my back is turned? The scab is peeled away, leaving the wound open for me to inspect. For once I welcome it. After too long a time of pushing down the ugliness that struggled to see the light, I am conscious of an opening up to everything that I have refused to acknowledge.
Anger. And lots of it. Hatred, too. And resentment. Boiling and roiling and really pissed off on its own that I’ve allowed it to fester; covered up with ineffectual platitudes and verbiage of love and forgiveness and kindness in the hopes that it would seep away in its own time.
In my practice of mindfulness, I led myself to believe that these emotions and thoughts were ‘bad’. Even though truly I knew that they are part and parcel of the spirit, they are not who I AM, who I really AM. But I was scared of them. Frightened by the ferocity, by the lack of grace they represented that I was trying so hard to maintain.
Now I crack open my heart and let the grungy, brown toilet water pour forth. Let it all out. Feel it all. Know it’s okay to feel angry. Know that it’s okay to think “I really fucking hate you,” because in so saying and in so admitting, I am freeing myself of these things that have held me down for so long.
It must be said also that even though I do what is needed, none of it is destined to remain. On the contrary, they are thought and said and released. Gone, like tainted butterflies crumbling into wispy bits out in the Universe.
No fear now for the words or the emotions. New space is being created; an empty mass vacated by truth; replaced with love and light. This was a task no affirmation nor positive quote could accomplish. Only until I quit with the sidelong glances and stares away to find the strength to turn inside and face it fully, could I feel this freedom and move closer to my truth.
A New and Deeper Truth
by Kaveri Patel
the old truth made you
run a thousand miles
inside an arid desert
desperate for an oasis
sit and close your eyes
inhale the breeze of kindness
exhale the toxic judgments
dehydrating you like a prune
feel the pain of old patterns
trapped in tense muscles
it’s ok to cry, to taste
the salt of possibility
just be, just breathe
let waves break against
the silence, returning you
to a new and deeper truth
During the recent spell of distraction, I failed to notice the dog named Ego covertly slip a collar around my neck and take me off for a little trip down memory lane, up angry road, through the woods of confusion and on across the meadow sea of resentment.
Old patterns restitched themselves into familiar places and I bounced around in their quilty arms, thinking thoughts which fed the feelings which led to tears. And on and on. And all the while, Ego panted happily beside my floppy, unseeing Self.
I began yoga a week or so ago. I never thought I could be that kind of person; I’ve tried classes and apps and DVD’s over the years but it felt too strenuous; not enough movement for my restless spirit. I used to find solace on the crossramp with my legs going a million miles an hour to thumping club music. These days I have found a peace in running too which admittedly is more like Phoebe-running. Although I do not enjoy getting out of bed at the obscene hour that I do (thanks to husband for that), I do love the misty morning feel, the dark, the cool, the solitude. No music. Just me, just my feet, just breathing. On the days I don’t run, I do yoga.
During my session this morning, I came into an awareness that I had been dragged along of late. I had been preoccupied with the film I was helping with and instead of living with my heart open and being conscious of thought and of love and space, I had retreated to my old ways. Certain situations that I know will take years to sit comfortably with, rose up and roared. I did not fight them, I didn’t observe and let them be. I ignored them. And in that rejection, they bred.
Ego yelped when I opened my eyes this morning and stopped; he was still galloping with destinations dark and thorny for me but I took off the collar, wagged my finger at him and turned away.
Ego, exasperated, would say, “how many times do I have to do this? This back and forth with awareness?” and the answer, with an equal amount of displeasure, would be “who the hell knows?” but that would get me nowhere.
I understand fully that this is what the journey is about.
It’s about the opening and closing of the heart, the learning and learning, the turning away and being sucked into old mental pathways followed by the returning to the self. The loving openness of each return which holds no judgement or harsh feelings. And, of being able to sit with whatever is going on, be it joyful or painful.
Tara Brach has said that there is beauty in a heart that is ready for everything.
A visit to my beautiful home state of Virginia approaches and I’m part nervous, part warmly excited, part dreading the trip. To friends, I make light of it with conspiratorial jokes about the five hour car ride alone with my children or the prospect of sleeping in a small room with both of them. In truth, what should be a lovely trip is usually preceded by melancholia. Whilst there I am the epitome of false light and bravado and upon leaving, I feel relieved and guilty.
It has nothing to do with my parents and yet, everything to do with them. Even though I’m married with my own family, the three of us (my parents and I) are all we have and all we’ve ever been. Even as a kid, as far apart as we could possibly be from each other, we were always a unit. The unit is tremulous these days; things unspoken, fears go unreleased. We live in the day by day, hoping to make it through okay.
Four years ago I entered a hospital ICU room with my Dad and saw my mother like I’d never seen her before. Her body purposely swelled with liquid during surgery and covered in long plastic tubes of warm air to keep her at an optimum temperature. She wasn’t breathing except for the ventilator that was doing so for her. She looked like my grandmother; her face puffy yet drained and old. Tubes and wires spiraled from her chest, stomach and arms like a sacrificial bloodletting. She had been a snatch away from death.
A cry tried to escape but became stuck in my throat. My Dad looked so dismayed. We stood on either side of her bed, holding a cold knuckled hand not knowing what to say, or think, or do. Stunned and silently weeping, were grateful just to still have her.
My mother has always been a fighter and two days later when we walked in, she was sitting upright although heavily propped with pillows and cushions. The ventilator was still operating but the doctors were determined to have her begin breathing on her own. She recognized me then and I could sense her embarrassment that I’d come all this way. I don’t think she understood the enormity of the event that had just played out. I stayed a while with her and suppressed so much in her presence that my heart was sore. I watched and encouraged her to try to catch her breath, learning to find the life force that was continually out of reach. Her eyes bulged with the effort of gasping. I cracked jokes, listened to the doctors, and had quiet asides with my Dad. But all through the time, I wanted to scream and cry and pound cushions. Why did this happen? Why her? What the fucking fuck? And, oh my god, I know this is hereditary and will it happen to me or my children? It was as if someone hit my heart with a crowbar and it wouldn’t stop reverberating.
She has been a paraplegic since that day. The doctors told us it came down to life or limb, and limb it was.
My visits are once-yearly with the kids and once a year, my parents make the five hour drive North to us. A couple of days away isn’t so bad for an able-bodied person but for a paraplegic there is back pain, skin sores, urine pouches, appropriate bed height, hotels that are equipped with adapted showers and ramps and doors wide enough. There are medicines, medical supplies, towels, bowel training (which a trip will completely interfere with), and a host of other needs and necessities. My Dad has become my mother’s caregiver, and at 68 I am concerned about his ability to continue beyond five, even ten years.
When I visit, I do what I can to help; I cook, I clean. I make small talk with my Mum as if nothing ever happened. We don’t talk about the depth of the situation. We gloss over physical therapy, the trip to Mexico for stem cell treatment that seems to have made no difference. My mum is eager to please the kids and I let her…she wants to buy them things to show her love. They are nervous around the wheelchair so need some quiet explanation and encouragement alone. My Dad, who has no-one else to talk to, sits down and vents to me in the evenings. And I let him. I sit and listen and nod and take it all in because everything not said during the day comes out in the night with him.
My heart aches for him the most.
And so I sit here with four days to go, pre-anguishing. I’m preparing with food and money and supplies and things to occupy the kids with. And I’m preparing myself emotionally and mentally for the onslaught of hidden emotions that always surface from now until the day we leave.
Word count: 98
Nelson cradled the hose, allowing water to trickle over the begonias. He thumbed sweat from his forehead and felt gratitude swell in his heart for old Mr. Bidwell. Without him, Nelson wouldn’t have this job, which he sorely needed; together with the pay from his nighttime shift at the seven-eleven, he could keep a roof over his and Coreen’s heads. Presently, Bidwell’s granddaughter appeared, casually resolute. She was accompanied by Todd, her simp of a boyfriend. Day after day Nelson ignored her temptations, fully aware that if the pair succeeded, he and the Old Man would be finished.
I was very young. Young enough to be wearing a white plastic bib that curved upward at the bottom to catch stray bits of food. My parents and I were seated at a small round table at breakfast in the dining room of our house in Rochester, Kent. My Mum to my right and my Dad, opposite. He was a Naval officer and wore shiny, black shoes. The memory resurfaces in monotone, not sure why. Our carpet had a seventies feel with wild swirly patterns and the wallpaper matched in its garishness. I remember distinctly bending over to the right to peer under the table at my Dad’s shoes. He polished them every night, you see. Spit and polish he called it even though he always used proper Kiwi black shoe polish and brushes for the first go-round. When he was satisfied with the quality of his work, he would pull from his polishing kit bag, a tan colored cloth with red edging. It was the softest material and he’d wrap it around his index and middle fingers, spit on his shoes and polish once more. He was not the most emotionally available father but he knew I was watching with veiled curiosity so when he was absolutely done, he would show me the last little bits of polish that the brush had not removed.
He was going to work that morning dressed in his black jumper with the gold stripes on the shoulders, a white shirt, black tie and black, perfectly ironed trousers. My Mum and I were new to the country and I believe these were stay-at-home days for she and I. My Dad was probably eating fried eggs, bacon and toast. When I leaned over to check out his shoes, I think I smiled: confirmation that I’d have my Mum alone to myself for the day instead of sharing her with a stranger.