Snorkeling

Here I am in the 8th month of recovery from a ruptured aneurysm. Many months ago my family and doctors saw me with only a very flat affect. Doctors and therapists were always careful to state that there was no way of knowing if this lack of emotion would remain or fade.  To my loved ones it seemed a part of me had disappeared. There was no connection to others, not even my family. Survival mode was in full swing. That was all I was able to do: survive.

I’m happy to share that that flat affect has faded and now the concern shifts to my being less inhibited!!! My family seems to think that now I am quite entertaining!

I am not allowed to drive so my sweet husband has the job of driving me to all my various doctor and therapist appointments. I am not sure what happens, but when I ride in a car the world becomes so entertaining to me. Sometimes even down right funny. The smallest thing—-seen, read, witnessed, seems to set off my funny bone and the almost uncontrollable giggling begins. The kind of giggling where it becomes difficult to catch my breath. For awhile my husband mumbled “What is so funny?” Now he simply states “Here we go again.” One time as he was calmly ignoring me and focused on driving, a new source of lightheartedness struck me.  “DO you know what I’m doing?” I asked  with quite a bit of excitement. With a side ways glance he cautiously ventured, “What?”

Before I could even respond another wave of deep laughter wriggled through my body. Tears formed. It took a few minutes before I was able to blurt out “SNORKELING!!!” The expression on his face changed from minor annoyance at the giggling, to one of confusion….”Snorkeling?” he queried. In a car in the middle of winter in New York state, snorkeling seemed a nonsensical topic. I think he may have decided to ignore me again for a few minutes which allowed me to try to gain control of the humor that had taken over my brain. After a big breath and long sigh I innocently asked “What is it when you put a snort together with a chortle?” This of course caused me to again loose control all over again. The poor man had no choice but to simply continue focusing on driving. Occasionally he would glance at me sideways.

It took several minutes for me to pull myself together. Cautiously he glanced over to me. “You get ‘snorkeling’ of course!!” I exclaimed with an immense sense of self satisfaction. What made perfect, and hilarious sense to me seemed to fluster my poor husband. He may have muttered “Oh God.”

By the time we arrived at the physical therapist’s I had found the where with all to control myself. Wiping a tear or two I went in for my appointment.

I know this is really inside humor, but now “snorkeling” is an accepted behavior in our family. Moments of uncontrollable humor that take over the mind and body leaving others dazed and confused. “Snorkeling”.

My birthday followed a few months later and I was handed a gift that was an odd shape and weight.

The initial tearing of wrapping paper revealed no clues but did heighten the curiosity. Finally, success! I was holding a SNORKEL! I bet you can imagine my response!!! What a perfect gift!!!For me it meant first and foremost that I was loved deeply. Even in my wounded state of being, the ups , no matter what they consisted of, were met with gratitude. “Snorkeling ” as defined above made no sense to anyone but me, yet my family embraced and even actively incorporated it into our familial life. Coming from a dark and scary place of not knowing what the extent of my recovering would ultimately be, “snorkeling” seemed fairly promising to them!! And to me!!

snorkel2

 Birthday gift: snorkel!

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Deep Gratitude

“Every moment presence shows me that I am already home
and I am so deeply grateful for this gift of love.” unknown

quote

Some days bring more contentment than others. I find that the feeling is softer and more  flowing if I am able to be internally still and quiet. In this space I do feel as if I am at home within myself and I become filled up with love.

“Home” is where we can take off the cloak of whatever we wear to get through the day, and we can relax into the stillness that wraps us up in a soft blanket of love. As concerns and worry also relax into this warmth we settle in to our “home”. “Home”  in the sense of the place where we can feel nurtured and safe. The place within us where we let everything fall away so that only the essence of our heart’s contents remain.

In this space of stillness and contentment the ups and downs of the day, the swing of emotions, the voices of doubt, fear, desire and worry come into balance with presence, stillness, gratitude, and “enough”.

Personally, I have to decide to go to this place, to let go of whatever I am holding on to and wallowing in. I have to put my trust in to something I can not even explain.  Sometimes it is difficult to trust the step towards gratitude and contentment because it often feels so elusive and unattainable. In fact, once the footing is made, it is not difficult to pause in the stillness of this place and breath deeply and rest there in the internal stillness. The something that fundamentally believes this moment is enough and full, lacking for nothing. It is difficult some days to be able to get there. It is nested within gratitude. Here I find big and little blessings in life and giving them the room they deserve to be powerful and worthy of being the shift in what I see and how I feel in the moment.

This one moment is what is. The memory I have of something different may be sweet and bring a smile to my face, but when the memory is replaced by a current event: the cat throwing up, the kitchen timer going off, the mailman knocking at the door, it may not even linger as a memory.

So today my Sunday day of rest is begun with a deep exhale and finding some stillness where I am able to reflect on the blessings I am gifted every day.  While there is no brightly wrapped box, the emotions are just about the same. Anticipation, discovery and gratitude.

This isn’t always easy for me, but I do have a very organic feeling that the awareness and effort does make a difference. A few moments of gratitude seem to be able to soften any negative thought or feeling as the perspective changes from what is lacking to what is.

Even within the challenges of recovering from an aneurysm there are places where it is possible to pause and change the perspective. Yes, recovery is hard work, sometimes even challenging.  Yet, it is possible to find the one spot where there is balance, even if it is fleeting. That sweet spot where gratitude tames restlessness and desire. Where the longing for being or doing something different detours to the scenic overlook where the simple act of being in this one spot allows for a wider panoramic view.

We may look back and longingly wish we could return to what we believe to be the most beautiful thing that ever happened to us, but in looking behind us we may miss the most most beautiful thing right in front of us. Maybe? I believe so.

Spring is in the air here in the Northeast. The light is different. The birds are singing more. The deer and other wildlife are scouting for food. I am recovering and experiencing deep gratitude that I am stronger than I know, and have more opportunities to hug those I love so dearly.

Enjoy your Sunday.

 

 

 

They Have Enough Love

A few years back and posted on a previous blog I wrote about an article in Process Theology Here is the link to that entry: What kind of food….

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and starting thinking about what I was going to write about for today’s post. I had been thinking about a letter my son wrote to me during the touch and go days at the beginning of my aneurysm odyssey.

 

As I recuperate there is seemingly endless time to contemplate all kinds of things. At times these thoughts rest softly on remembering and thinking about significant people in my life. People who molded and shaped the pudgy infant and toddler edges into the more defined softer shape of an emerging “adult”. People who guided me, picked me up, looked me in the eye, believed in me. In the above article there is reference to how the people who “fed” me the “food” of their love and care allowed me to grow into the adult person I was to become. I am the product of the “food” I was “fed”.

As I moved into adulthood I married and had children. As my children grew the reality of them moving away from home for college set in. Sharing feelings about this with friends getting ready for the same, we all knew we would miss our children deeply. On occasion one friend or another would express how hard it was, for the “selfish” reason of missing their child, to worry and concern about how their child would fare without the watchful eyes of parents. I would try to express that yes, I would miss them, but I also believed in the young adults who were ready for this part of life. I believed my husband and I had raised our children in ways that had prepared them well for this chapter in their lives. The “selfish sadness” I did have was tempered by excitement for them, confidence in them, and curiosity as to what the future would gift to them.

So here we are, a couple of decades later. Children grown, successfully educated and employed, living their own lives in other cities and towns. Parental pride is an understatement. I am in awe of who these two adults are and what they offer to our world and to others.

Then, world seemingly crashed around us when I experienced a ruptured aneurysm and many things became not only unknown, but also uncertain. My family: husband and children, as well as siblings and extended family, found themselves in the precarious and sometimes dark space of just not knowing how things would play out. Each day became a balancing act……The “unknown” and “hope” performed together in an unsure juggling act. I was nestled in a foggy, drug induced sleep state and remained unaware of the of the goings on and the falling tears.

Months later, here I sit trying to come to terms with the missing months of my life and at the same time experiencing a new sweetness in my life as if I am being wrapped cozily in a soft blanket of grace and love. There were some instances when I felt giddy, as if I was falling in love with my husband and children all over again. As I become aware of time again, and the days turn from weeks to months my family and friends help me continue to process what happened. Tears of joy as well as tears from past fear fall and we take turns wiping each other’s cheeks dry.

My siblings and children ventured back to their lives, friends headed home and everyone just hoped we/I had gotten through the worst of it all and that the days might become softer for us all. Eventually I was cautiously allowed to go home under the protective wings of several therapists and the loving, patient care of my husband.

As everyone’s days slowly became more focused on healing, time allowed us all the chance to process the past weeks and months. Slowly I think we all began to believe I had made it through the toughest part of recovery and began to look forward to continued progress.

A few weeks ago my son emailed me a letter he had written to me when he had become stranded in Pittsburgh and couldn’t get home in time for one of my earliest surgeries. Prognosis was unclear and the uncertainty weighed on him heavily.  His heart felt, emotionally full words, while hard for me to read, have helped me in my coming to terms with some parts of this experience. First and foremost, his words let me know that while he had been in a dark and scary place bordered by walls of uncertainty, fear/worry, those walls were coming down and perhaps there were even some openings that led to a clearer view of the horizon.

Rewind to the link at the beginning and how we are nourished by others in our lives. As my son was explaining what was happening and how sad he was feeling, he wrote : “I keep realizing so much of me is you. Big stuff and small stuff. Good stuff and not-so-good stuff. But I have so much of you in me.” As I read this I of course cried, but at the same time knew the truth of what he wrote, we are made of parts of important people in our lives. In his heart the pain of not being able to be with me, not knowing the outcome of the surgery was almost unbearable, yet he also knew the power of love : ” But dad and Caitlin will be there and they have enough love to make it work. It will work. It has to work. I’m not ready for the alternative.”

They have enough love.

love with all your heart

They did. And here I am. Each day I rest and walk in the embrace of love that was more than enough to carry me through.

It’s very hard to think about all this, but the point I am trying to make is that we all do matter to each other, and we have a responsibility to each other becasue of that. Also, sometimes important lessons and insight come through turbulent times.

a morning offering

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Finding Beauty

“The most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder.
This empowers us to find beauty in places others have not dared to look.
Including inside ourselves.”
~~Salma Hayek

It is easy to become bogged down in negativity and disillusionment. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming and we become lost in the ever looping cycle of disappointment, desire, longing, comparison, worry and maybe fear.

Winter is thinking about giving up it’s hold on Nature. It still is in the teasing phase of backing off for a day only to return the next with snow and cold. At these times we grumble through the house commenting on how cold it is. We dig the sweater out the drawer where it had carefully been put to keep safe until next winter. Looking out the window we are struck by how gray and white everything is, longing for color. Bleh. Winter. What is ever good about winter we wonder? We long for spring, sunshine, warmth, blue, green and yellow so we can feel good and cozy and energetic. Ahhhh, to be again in the Light.

Many years ago on a rainy, very cold and bitter Halloween a friend and I were with our children as they made the rounds of the neighborhood. My friend commented on how uncomfortable we all were in the chill of the night. As she spoke we passed under a street light that illuminated a web glistening with frozen crystals. I paused and marveled at the beauty of Nature’s art. My friend laughed as she passed me and wondered how I managed to find something of beauty to marvel at in the cold dreariness of the evening. She ended with “You seem to always find the good and the beautiful in everything.”

I laugh now remembering that night because I do not always remember to see the beauty of the moment. Honestly, sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to push passed all the wallowing. With mindfulness and being present, finding beauty can be some what effortless and always calming. Beauty is everywhere. Beauty helps us relax and find rest, hope and peacefulness.

“Beauty” is a word that has positive connotations. But “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder and we all have different definitions of beauty. My friend from Halloween did not define a sparkling web and a cold wet night as something of beauty. I did see it as such and acknowledged without the night and cold, I would possibly have never seen the beauty there in the light of a street lamp.

For me, the act of being present and mindful, in that situation, allowed me to see the inherent beauty in something separate from the moment in time that was physically unpleasant.

Honestly though, I am not able to do this all the time, but I do try to look for beauty, the goodness in a moment that may initially want to go down a different path. By pausing and taking note of any small, wonderful part of any moment my overall mood changes.

” A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ~John Keats

The definition of beauty includes: ” gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” While the weather was miserable that night, the glittering spider web was visually beautiful and spoke to my spirit as something magically beautiful.

For me this is all just a reminder to pause to be aware of how we are viewing or approaching something during the course of our day. If we meet something with upset, regret, disappointment, hurt, the overall result is a negative feeling. If we pause and sit with whatever it is for just a little bit, perhaps we can find the pearl in amongst the discarded broken shells.

I am definitely working on this daily as I try to find any moment of beauty in the last 8 months recovering from an aneurysm. There was so much that was dark and scary. So many things that made me feel fear, anger, confusion, worry. Yet, with a deep breath and with pausing, I was able to find a few pearls. First there was the proof of love’s strength and courage. I have no doubt the love of my family and friends was key in me being able to surmount the dire possibilities of having an aneurysm rupture. I experienced the power of love. Oh, I most certainly had been aware of the power of love, but this was a new dimension of understanding.

As my body (and mind) heal I see the beauty in the strength of the human body to overcome obstacles. I find great beauty and blessing in having a warm bed each night that embraces my weary body and soul and allows me to sleep and be healed. I understand the beauty and gift of life each and every morning as I am aware that I have opened my eyes to a new day. I experience yet another level of beauty and joy in motherhood as I embrace my children. I look upon my husband and see the beauty of his love and selflessness as he walks side by side with me every single step of the way. I see and feel beauty in the cold of the morning because I feel it. There is beauty literally all around me. Within the act of acknowledging beauty I am becoming healed and whole. I experience gratitude and am humbled by the beautiful, nurturing power of love.

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Beauty comes to us all the time in so many ways. It is left to our interpretation of things to define experiences as beautiful or something different. It takes work and is sometimes difficult, but the payout is peace of mind, a full heart, and the promises of possibility, joy and hope.

I also know there are very bad things that happen to people and that beauty hides. This is my story, my walk with beauty. If you are in a dark and lonely place I will hold you gently in love and light.