“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Part II, Day 15: For Friends, Caretakers, and Over-Extended Kind Souls Here and Everywhere

Today one of the busiest people I know--someone who rises at 4 AM to begin her work, which doesn't end until she goes to bed--enlisted my support to do a good turn for someone else we both know.  When in her day did she find the time to think of others?

This same person sent me a Facebook message the other day just to make me laugh.  It was Jon Stewart inveighing against his fellow Jews to tart up Passover, because Team Easter has super action figures in costume on the Whitehouse lawn, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, and Passover gets Elijah's empty chair, bitter horseradish, and real eggs.  I laughed so loud I snorted and was glad I wasn't in public.

She sent this message to cheer me up when I was recovering from nothing more dramatic than a migraine.

This same friend came over to my house the day after I got Zoe's dire diagnosis last August and sat with me on the deck, fell into my arms, and cried with me.  Some friends make time to do a good deed on our behalf.  Some are good at listening.  Some know how to make us laugh.  And some rare people can locate our moods--our joy, but also our sorrow--and, when we need it the most, join us there.  This is a woman who never cries in public, ever.  But she looked at me that morning and wept, and when we cried together I felt so much less alone.

Another friend decided when Zoe had to lose her leg that I couldn't go through that experience alone.  She took the day off from work and came to my house at 6:30 AM to drive us both to Canada for the operation.  My only job was to be her wake-up call at 5:30--this is someone who doesn't wake before 7 unless there's a plane to catch--and she not only drove us there, and kept me sane in the hospital, and made sure we took a walk through a pretty park and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, but she also documented the day and presented me with a photo album afterwards.  "I had some pictures of you in there too," she said gently.  "But you looked a little worried."

This week I got a facebook message from a kind and loving woman I've never met who sometimes thinks she's going crazy because of all the caretaking she has to juggle.  She's a busy mom and her own mother has some kind of mental illness.  Her mother-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer's.  She just wants to go through her days with some modicum of grace, but sometimes it's all a bit too much.  She wanted to know what to do.  My lame-o answer was to meditate and to not judge herself for feeling like a basket case.  In my experience, it only makes matters worse to judge our own reactions to tough times, which is like getting beaten up twice, and if we can accept what is and breathe it in, the difficulty becomes just a titch lighter.  But when I read her message I wished, once again, that I possessed a magic wand.

Another friend just spent three weeks finding her mother a home health care worker, and finally flew home, to her life, to all her much-delayed projects, only to find out that her mother had broken her foot a day or so later, vomited up the Tylenol codeine her orthopedist gave her, and had to spend the night in the hospital.  Oy.

Some of us are part of the sandwich generation.  We have parents we are caring for, and children who need us.  Some of us just have one or the other, the parents or the kids, but juggling them with our busy lives is hard enough.  Me, I just have a very lovely, soulful dog with a very serious disease who happens to have a strong constitution and a joie de vivre she was born with, that may or may not have been augmented during her seven festive months in France.  My parents and grandparents once brought memoir-worthy catastrophes into their own lives and mine, but they're all dead now, along with my in-laws, and my talented step-sons are in a low maintenance phase, although that doesn't mean they don't need and deserve frequent doses of support and praise.  My students won't need much from me until I'm back on the beat in the fall.  But even I still have those days now and then when I feel pulled in too many directions.  I still wake up some mornings in a panic, feeling like I'm failing everyone, including myself.

So today, I've pulled up another quote from my go-to guru, Thich Nhat Hanh.  If you are one of the people above, or know you are in their club, or know you will be there soon or eventually because of your caring ways, I have two things to say to you.  One, thank you for being such a good person.  The world is a kinder place because you are in it.  It is because of you that the world has not yet gone up in flames. Would you just acknowledge your awesomeness now, for a second?  Two, I would like to give you a hug, or a lot of money, or a free vacation, or a juicy prize, like a lifelong subscription to your favorite guilty pleasure: your own wine/fruit/book/smoked meats/spa of the month club, but since that is not possible, today's meditation is for you:
You are a Positive factor.

Cultivate solidity.

You are somebody; you are something.  You are a positive factor for your family, for society, for the world.

You have to recover yourself, to be yourself.  You have to become solid again.

You can practice solidity in everyday life.  Every step, every breath you take should help you become more solid. When you have solidity, freedom is there too.

Namaste, kind souls and dear friends everywhere.  And if you can, do take a walk in the woods near a brook like the one below, which I found with Zoe and her saucy cousin, Sadie, when I was at my sister's last month.