Frailty

Shaken, I see myself more clearly.
Knowing my imperfections: humbled, and encouraged to practice patience.
Seeing another’s pain: moved to compassion and greater love.
Finding myself weak: finding the will to  fight for strength.
Finding myself broken: seeking to mend.
Seeing my flaws, I see my humanity, and that of others.
Ignorant, I seek the Light.

Flawed, I seek Heaven.

We never know what life is going to hit us with next–or hit someone we care about. A family member recently sustained severe injuries as the result of a freak accident, and the news jolted me so much that I lost myself for a time. Compelled to mend old bridges, I got back in touch, trying to shift my focus to them instead of me. The insights were humbling, especially hearing with what hopefulness and cheerfulness this near-tragedy was being managed. Taken in stride, almost. The way an event such as this can stir a deep, old bond is amazing.The way an event such as this can stir a deep, old bond is a reminder of how connected we are. I found that truly heartening and inspiring.  

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Reflections on Sadness

Before dawn I was woken by a very sad little girl.
Lately I’ve noticed a strange melancholy in both my children that I remember in myself around the same age. I’m not sure if children pick up on sadness from living in a house with chronic illness, or from the depression of the parents (more likely), but it deepens my own sadness that this seems to be a legacy I have passed on. My daughter in particular asks questions such as, “are you and Papa going to die the way your mom and dad did?”
My husband says, “no, of course not. We will always be with you.”
I, unwilling to trust the backhandedness of life, say, “I hope not,” but try to reassure her she will always be taken care of.
And, I think grimly, no wonder she’s sad. I wonder if I should be so forthright and realistic with her, precocious as she is at age five. I wonder which is kinder: the promise we can’t keep, or the certain reality that one day we will die, though metaphysically, of course we will always be with her. We made her precious tiny human self, and so are ever and always connected: inexorably part of each other. Can she be secure in our intangible love when she craves the security of our physical presence?
This morning she huddled next to me in bed, crying that she would miss her brother when he grows up. Her mean older brother, who teases her, picks on her, calls her names, and is subversively jealous of her, in spite of our best efforts to teach and encourage him otherwise. She will miss him, and dreads being parted from him.
Such is the nature of sweet spirits.
I know so many young women who carry a heavy burden of sadness. And so many of them, too, are sweet spirits, undeserving of so much sorrow.
After being disappointed with my efforts to comfort my daughter, I carried a trace of sorrowful miasma with me through the rest of the day. Going on social media deepened it until I could wear it like a coat.
Finally, my ponderings outweighed my personal reserve, and I wrote a post about it. Almost immediately, there was a reaction, with surprised and almost irritated me. Then I realized it was one of the young women I know, one who has more than her own share of sorrow to carry. She was sharing in ours. I was deeply touched by the simple expression of an emoji reaction–though as a rule, I am dismissive, almost scornful of trying to relate through emoji expressions. This was different.
It brought my thoughts back to my recent blog on kindness. It made me think how valuable those small gestures are, especially when we are suffering with our own burdens, fighting our own demons of depression, poverty, frustration…how much we can give each other.
My daughter and I got through our day, and it would have been hard to tell she began it in tears. Both children played–reasonably nicely–together, and went to bed peacefully and happily–after I read them three or four bedtime stories, and completed our evening ritual of evening prayers, kisses, hugs, tucking in, and one last “good night” prayer.
And as the small gesture I received meant so much to me, I try to bring a little more mindfulness to my parenting, of all those little things that mean so much to children. Especially since I won’t be here forever.

It used to worry when when my children expressed sadness, but as I considered it more, I realized several things:

My husband and I both come from melancholy families. It seems a certain amount of pensive melancholia is inescapable.

But more significant is the role of sadness in the human experience. too little acknowledgement of sadness in our lives could be denial. too much, a sign of depression.

But in general, sorrow is merely part of the human experience, rolling over us in waves or cycles much like any other human emotion, coming to go again, to come again, and so on.

I think what is more telling about us is how we use that experience to relate to others. Knowing sadness ourselves, do we hunker down around it, feeling sorry for ourselves, or do we use that point of reference to reach out to others, extending empathy to them in any small way we can?

Thank you, my friend.

 

Zen and Hot Water

I’ve had a long courtship with the Zen mindset, and it’s often seemed rather hopeless. As a teen I was enamored of Eastern Philosophy, and journeyed through Taoism to several different Zen readers, most of which were deeply cryptic. I flattered myself that I was esoteric enough to grasp the concepts, but the woeful fact was, I was far too volatile, busy-minded, and strong-willed to easily school myself to an even-keeled, “no mind” modality.
My struggled with meditation are almost laughable in retrospect. Sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor, fiercely trying to keep my mind free of thought for one brief, peaceful moment. Ah well.
It’s been a long meandering path since then. I had a somewhat rocky experience with New Age religion, and subsequently rejected all but the most basic and scholarly philosophic principles. Unwilling to simply craft my own mishmash of beliefs, I felt spiritually homeless…Until…
Suffice to say, I found an old path cleared of its overgrowth enough to be brought into view. and thankfully, the glimmer of Truth echoed in other beliefs are not taboo. Sigh of relief. Zen mindset is actually encouraged, within certain parameters. Further sigh of gratitude.

contemplating-mamas-cup
That peaceful mindset still eludes me, eight years later, except for a brief ray of clarity here and there. In some ways, childrearing has helped and in some it hasn’t. The exhaustion of motherhood and poor health has eroded much of my volatility, my pendulum-swings of character. I’ve gotten over a lot of my illusions–or delusions–about myself. I’ve become less egocentric. But I still have a helluva temper, and stubborn need to have things my own way. Ah, well. I’m finally learning to recognize and accept my flaws, too. Then work on them. I used to have trouble accepting anything I didn’t like.

Wait, I still do…
Ah, but the moment in question: It had to do with tea, as I recall. medicinal or otherwise is uncertain, but likely medicinal. We have a carafe-style gadget that heats water, and dispenses it at the touch of one button too many. Lately, probably due to mineral deposits, it runs more slowly than it used to. So I stood, watching it drizzle out each brief series of drops, my head tilted rather vacantly to one side. Some rather peaceful Medieval-style music was playing, and the sound of my children was a duller roar than usual.
The amazing thing was that I wasn’t impatient. I wasn’t in a hurry to check on the kids and forestall any apocalypse they might have brewing, or to hurry up the water so I could do this or clean that or get something else ready for tomorrow, or write myself a note so that I didn’t forget something of overarching importance. Not at all. Spurt. Drip. Whirr. I was as peaceful and content as could be. I watched the light roll over each droplet of water. I studied the rhythm of the falling spurts, which was really no rhythm at all. I felt I had nothing better to do, nowhere better to be, only this task to compete. Without worry. Without anxiety. Without over-thinking. It was wonderful.
And now I wonder if I was simply listless because i was getting sick…