“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ~ Walter Anderson
I've had many things swirling around my heart and mind over the last several months. Most of them just partial thoughts or random musings, some of them reaching so deep, it's hard to breathe when I attempt to put them in writing.
I was going to write tonight a bit more about my grandma, her dementia and what it's been like to slowly watch it take hold of her ... and maybe I can talk about it a little bit.
But I also have a friend who is battling cancer ... well, two friends really. One of them is really sick right now, another former co-worker of mine just lost her mom and I guess tonight, I'm just having one of those nights where I have never felt so helpless.
Yet at the same time, I acutely feel the power of life, the universe, the cycle of everything and how incredibly hard it is to "let go," to live and feel life in our veins even during the times we want to cry ... the times when it feels like our whole world is crashing down around us.
It's this paradoxical moment, where you feel both entirely powerless and despondent yet completely, even painfully alive at the same time. You feel like you just want to run from those feelings, from the fears they trigger, but running has never solved anything. And I think, practicing being present, living each moment as though it is THE moment, your ONLY moment, is how we finally relinquish those fears and are truly able to live our lives fully and transparently, letting all emotion in and out, without any barriers or webs to trap them in.
Because once you trap emotions, or resist reality, you create negative emotions that cloud the mind and will eventually manifest in other ways.
So, my reality is ... I am terrified of my grandma losing her memories, losing herself, losing ...
I am scared of my friends being sick and what could happen. I'm scared of Lakota regressing, of him going downhill and never coming back again, of the day I have to part ways with him and Bella and other people in my life. I'm scared of death. I've always been scared of death.
And it's something that, I think as I continue to grow, as I continue down this path of Yoga and meditation, self discovery, transformation, etc., I will begin to chip away at that fear, like all my fears.
But right now, I can feel it gripping me at night, the way it used to when I was a child. Luckily, I've gotten to the point now where I can "be the watcher" as Eckhart Tolle says or as my yoga guru called it, "the witness" to my mind. I watch my thoughts and where they go and most times, I can calmly bring them back to my breath. But that fear will keep coming until I overcome it, just like others.
The reality is, people get sick, some people leave us earlier than we would like, some people lose themselves, some people transform and change and we don't want them to. So many things are constantly in motion and a lot of times our fears make us want them to remain in place.
One thing I've realized with my grandma is ... while she's "in there" always, even the days when she seems far away, I think oftentimes its everyone else, including myself, that is more affected with her losing her memories and her "story" than she is. In fact, in a lot of ways, she's becoming more and more "present" with her living than most of us ever get to be. More and more, it's becoming about her experience with the people she's with and interacting with than what is actually done or said during that time (which she will forget soon after).
She responds to the way I make her feel when I walk into the room, how "present" I am with her and what energy I'm exuding (is it love, compassion, calm, peace, care, respect ... or is it frustration, sadness, anxiety or anger). She can pick up on it right away, even now. And those are the things that matter to her ... and they're the very things that SHOULD matter to all of us, when we aren't in our analytical, memory hugging, compulsive minds.
If we were only more present, more in tune with the energy we put out at all moments of the day, more responsible for the energy we bring into any given situation, the world would be a very different place.
And what's more? It makes me realize just how attached we all are to our "stories," to all the chatter and sentiment and meaning our minds weave around every experience we have, all the good memories and the bad, how we often define ourselves by these stories and harken back to them every chance we get, how we use our stories to rationalize things, to explain things, as a crutch, or as an ego-boost, as a reason why this or that is the way it is.
Watching my grandma lose her memory makes me realize that yes, it is important to honor my own memories and my mind's ability to recall them ... but it's also important to let go of the stories, to cherish the present moment and to home in on what energy I'm offering those around me rather than worry about all that mind chatter and dialogue.
And those who are battling illness, or have lost loved ones ... they remind me that yes, I am scared, I am not immune to fear or so enlightened that I have surpassed fear itself. Fear still cripples me some days. And that's OK, because fear is just a guiding post to truth. And life is sacred, it's precious and it can change on a dime. Our bodies won't always be here, but our energy has the power to transform, to fuel, and to move on.
So, don't waste that energy on anger, frustration, irritation, fear ... don't waste that precious life energy some people — especially those who are sick — are losing more and more of on resentment or the past, the storytelling, etc.
Instead, lets practice gratitude, every second of the day, for every breath we take and those we love, the pets in our lives, the moments of laughter and joy, the amenities we have that some people never have, the support systems in our lives, the way nature smells, the way the air feels ...
Because it's not our stories that define who we are.
It's how we live.