an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation

Yesterday within one half hour or so my entire world was thrown into chaos. I am trying to think about it and decide if it is accurate: the worst news I’ve ever heard. I will have to tell you later. Right now my thinking isn’t working at its best.

Details are not forthcoming as for one thing, I am not the principal character involved, here. If you’re looking for those, they may come in time.

I vacillate between absolute disassociation and, then, almost, glimpses of normalcy. I think I look normal on the outside to many people (I am good at this!). During these two days I am able to do many tasks on autopilot. Then suddenly I become almost non-functioning. My daughter asks me something in the checkout line about the change jar, and I begin to cry (silently; without her notice). Only a few minutes later I can’t remember what she said about the change jar.

In the evening I sit in a candlelit room with several other women and I talk about my weakness. I begin to cry. I talk a little more and then I say from the depths of my heart, “I am so grateful I am sober.” I am broken down pretty good, but the gratitude is so plain and so strong is almost the greatest bliss I’ve known.

Soon this ecstasy is re-swallowed by the darkness. I am back wandering in the desert. It is cold and dark. I am in no-man’s land where no one can help. No one can save me now. I am beyond human aid. There is a comfort in this because I know it is the truth. I stand in the grocery aisle with my children, trying to select frozen pizzas for our dinner. Frozen pizzas because I have not been able to eat since yesterday morning; one reprieve today where real hunger was with me. But since this usually isn’t happening, I eat when I can make myself, just a little bit, just a little bit of food and a little effort. So now: dinner for myself, the children. Pizzas. What else? Juice. A cucumber to slice. This will be good enough. This takes all my concentration.

Meanwhile, I search my heart for my own causes of suffering. Where have I failed to have compassion? Where have I not accepted the truth of suffering? Perhaps I have not failed particularly. I certainly believe no one is immune from catastrophe. My job now is to suffer, and suffer. It has become my time to do so.

But I have other jobs too. My children, my husband, my family and friends, and my community benefit from my survival. These people, the very Universe itself, all will benefit from me finding meaning in this abyss. I am ready to find it because I know it is there… I know it is there. Even if it is hidden from me as of yet. I am patient. I am persistent.

I am here.

connected relationships

Tonight I was honored to be invited to the home of a grieving family. A little past midnight, and I’ve just returned to my own home, husband, and children. I am tired. But I am grateful for the wisdom not to run from death, and not to leave alone those who need our presence, our prayers, our practice, and our practical assistance.

Tonight I am also grateful for spiritual traditions which give me more dividends every day. I am considering a ceremony of some small sort  to commemorate taking refuge in the Three Jewels. I have some more study to do and a few people to talk to.

Today my son brought me two gifts he purchased with his own money. I am daily reminded that through many mistakes I have done surprisingly little damage to my children; or perhaps, even in these last ten years I repeatedly saw fit to change and undo the damage I could. Our connectedness is really quite profound.Perhaps their health is mostly credited to their own strengths. At home, living then going out and returning, I receive much respectful and loving speech and the kindness and kisses and hugs of children very much alive in their own skin. I reflected tonight that perhaps even from their infancy, when I was determined to set aside an income and material possessions to nurture them as best I could, that this was a wise decision. This decision seemed to come from something deep within myself and separate from my Ego, a decision separate from my own greed, fear, insecurity, and worldly desires.

I am very tired tonight. It was my intention to write a bit here, as I like to write best, things that some said to me and events that happened. Some of these involve other lives and I therefore am anxious to keep private what others may need private. I am also very weary and individual instances that might be shared without hurting others, are not flowing easily from my fingertips.

I will say I learned a few things today. One is that I will not practice resentments or judgments against other living beings. The second is that my past is my greatest asset, and must be understood to the best of my ability in order to help myself and others. The final, a more practical manner, is that sitting on a cold surface may bring the onset of hemorrhoids, and that at the very least one should place a magazine between our posterior and cold cement.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. – Mother Teresa

burn it as fuel for our journey

This summer while waiting for a friend I sat in a sunny living room and talked with a young man and his mother. The young man was a little more interested in my conversation than his mother seemed. He was watching a documentary I’d seen not two weeks before and had really enjoyed. He and I had a brief but interesting discussion and I thought how pleasant it was to talk with someone who had such a spark and such an intelligent mind.

Today that young man committed suicide in that same home I sat in a few months ago.

I know the family. They are friends. If I sit here and feel stunned and think maybe there could have been something, some clue, something I could have done, I can only imagine what his close friends and family must feel. As a mother it is painful to consider the implications of today.

We are all, each of us, such crystal-clear and breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon. The idea that someone can suffer so much as to end such a living breathing unique manifestation is quite sobering to comprehend.

Today, the 27th, is the monthly date anniversary for sobriety. I had forgotten until I saw the date in a book. My friend gave me a little gift. Afterwards I took my children to the Y to go swimming and, while they cavorted, attended a Board meeting for the local Buddhist group where I was indoctrinated into service. I picked up lunch for the children and met another friend back at the Y and we ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

Today is a day for holding tight that which we value.

pt. 1 of how many?

Last night when I was caring for my father as everyone slept I felt this cynical laughter in my mind when I thought, I am on as many drugs as he is right now! Of course this was not at all accurate. It was true I had taken some of his oxycodone because I’d been feeling terrible, terrible, almost panicky terrible, and I’d taken some of my cough medicine because my cough was getting worse and worse as the night progressed. I got through last night in the best way I could, and I was a damn good nurse to him, and at 5:30 AM I was ragged and felt I wasn’t serving him best so I woke my mother.

Tonight, though, despite a pharmacopoeia no longer needed by our patient, and wine in the kitchen, I’m coping au naturel. It is terribly hard but I would be kidding myself to think it would in any way be easier to attempt to deaden myself. I am alone and awake. My daughter, son, and mother are sleeping (my mother and daughter, in the same bed, sweetly). My husband is gone, vanished, I don’t know where he is but I will assume he is taking care of himself for the night. My brother is on his way from Portland.

Am I trying to grieve at 1 AM in some noble, lone wolf way or is it my worry for loved ones, my incredible ability to caretake for others, that I won’t sleep until I know my brother is safe in the house? Based of what I’ve seen over the last few days I’d vote a thousand to one Yes. Caretaking makes me laugh because even when I find I am skilled at it, I can’t truly do more than be present and loving. The pain is up to them.

So many images from today I wish I could write them all out as much as possible, let them loose in a torrent. Indeed I am glad that my writings here are my journal and it is my right to do so. I can remember the gratitude I felt seeing the mortician and his assistant, or helper, or whatever he was, when they arrived. They were in suits with ties and the whole kit and had a very swanky bag to transport my father’s remains (the stretcher was a bit short, though). Here’s what I liked about them: they were so present, calm, not at all condescending, they were unafraid.

The little dog Tuck, his silhouette at the open front door as his companion is taken away.

When my father died… well, I can remember every detail but I won’t write about it. Something happened later that I can write about. See, apparently I’m a washer, cleaner, tidying and making beds and doing dishes. This afternoon I had washed my father’s clothes and bedding and when I opened the dryer I found the shirt just last night in the wee hours I’d helped him into, and the shirt before that I spent time with him on Thursday when he ate his last bit of food, a plum. The washcloth I’d used on his forehead, I’d found that on my own last night, and it gave him comfort. The shirt was hard for me. Just minutes ago I held it against a beating heart. I was hurt to see it again, inconsiderate, mute. I miss him so much it feels unbearable in a way so very uncommunicable to others.

After he was out of the house I wrote his obituary. What pressure, especially since I consider myself a writer! I had to laugh I hadn’t started it sooner; but I didn’t let myself worry too very much about it either.