Just when I least expect it, life kicks the shit out of me, and I’m left kneeling beside my bed, bruised and battered. I raise my fist to the heavens, scolding the dead, you can not have her just yet. “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance,” so says Allan Watts. I like the whole plunge in, and move part, but the dance thing kind of set me off. There is real suffering in the world. Right now someone is dying, someone is being abused, starving, living in poverty, dealing with sickness, discrimination, or despair. These human violations cannot be minimized or ignored. The phrase join the dance seem to trivialize how easily life can take you down.
The confusing part for me has to do with the strange bedfellows who occupy this same space. Here we are, wallowing in our own misery, when we’re assaulted by kindness, generosity, and compassion. Just when we thought all was lost, someone tosses us a life preserver, and we are reminded of how much we are loved. We feel your love dear friends and we thank you.
I am my own worst enemy, because I create all sorts of internal battles, seeking that which is not mine, or avoiding the things that make me uncomfortable. Maybe that is what Mr. Watts meant when he said join the dance, let the rhythm of life take the lead, you only need to follow. “When you get out of the driver’s seat, you find that life can drive itself, that actually life has always been driving itself. Life begins to flow, and you never know where it will take you,” Adyashanti. We hang on so tightly to the way we want things to be that we don’t leave room for how they could be.
My sweet mother took ill this past week. We thought it was a virus, the heat, maybe lack of sleep. But it was none of these facile culprits, instead it was her heart, beating far too fast, and irregular. She is using all her strength to fight this unfortunate situation but it is putting a tremendous amount of strain on all her other organs. I marvel at her determination, calling on reserves we never knew she had, taking it literally one step at a time. Her “small heart grew three sizes that day, and then the true meaning of life came through, and she found her own strength times ten, plus two.”[adapted] We don’t know when it started, or why, but this is our new reality. Mom is eighty years young, struggling to hang on to this one precious life, with an incredible amount of grace and dignity. We’ve come across many doctors as we moved from emergency to home, back to emergency, some shrug their shoulders and say, “She’s eighty, things break down,” but others actually seek plausible solutions. I like people who don’t give up in the face of adversity, but also hold the circumstances up to the light, and look for a viable balance.
The family has rallied, taking turns being by her side, changing plans to make room for caregiving. In emergencies my sister’s reign is supreme, I submit to her wisdom without reserve, she has the instincts of a firstborn, and no one is as generous as she. But today she sent me a text, “If I haven’t told you how much I love and appreciate you recently, I do with every fiber of my being.” Sob. How the hell did I get so lucky? Our kids have mobilized forces, monitoring stats, bringing food, covering shifts when Nancy and I have to be away. This is what it means to be family and I am privileged to belong to this one.
“Suffering arises in the desire for this moment to not be how it is,” Jesua. I have always taken my mother’s health for granted, she has more energy than most people half her age, and she’s stubborn as hell. My mother’s unexpected illness is exactly the type of situation I would prefer to avoid. But today I am leaning into the moment, giving it space, letting love lead the way. I did mention rather loudly to my deceased Dad, you can not have her just yet. Sitting here, day after day, hour after hour, helping my mom convalesce, I am learning the true meaning of love. I have always been so tenderly loved by this woman, she lifted me up when I could not walk, washed my back when I could not reach, served me a meal when I was unable to cook, and kept watch over me when I was vulnerable. The tables have gently turned. Knowing that death is simply a part of life proffers each and every moment with a sense of grace and gratitude.
When she woke up this afternoon, I told her about a phone call I received from my son Tony, who is currently living in Australia. I said, “Mom, Tony”s coming home for Christmas.” I heard the crack in her voice before I noticed the moisture in her eyes, “We’ll all be together soon, I’m so glad.” Then she turned away and was quiet. I love that she placed herself in this future event, this is good, very good indeed.