This month has been full of change and transitions. First, thank you again to Ms. A, whose blog is linked here for she has been sharing her hard-earned research with me: As many of you already know, her son had a heart transplant and she is the one who originally suggested my getting tested for what he had. Which nobody I've ever met ever heard of before and whose letters, MTHFR, form an acronym for a naughty word. Having tested positive for two genetic mutations, we have also discovered an immune system deficiency and guess what? YO! That's all I really want to say about it because that's not who we are! Sickness does not define us! Life does. Life is who we are, living is a Gift, we are in such a good place, all things considered: the guineas just received their giant carpet remnant so finally get to Runabout again: eagerly racing
in-between cages (that get pulled apart when they're out to create a maze!) exciting uninhibited curiosity as they explore, rumblestrut, race, and rejoice upon discovering hidden tidbits of salad veggies while holding more meetings than Congress, rubbing noses while boasting competitively to see who had the Best Runabout! They GET THINGS DONE: Maybe we should nominate Guinea Pigs to represent us in Congress? Won't even start...
Since my futon is beside them I get to fall asleep to the soothing, contented munching of hay each night, which makes me wonder: am I'm sleeping in a manger? They play and eat with enthusiasm, live in the moment, worry about nothing, and are grateful for whatever they receive: I envy the guinea pigs and wish I was more like them.
(Those Little Buddhas: How wise they truly are.)
Just above and out my window, what I so desperately longed for all those months we were incarcerated in downtown Seattle: AT LONG LAST: Evergreen Tree-Tops; Puffy, White Clouds, and within & without that Never-ending Canopy of Sky fly that pair of bald eagles whose nest is, no doubt, near Puget Sound. Waking up and from bed beholding their broad-winged, aerial Sky-Dance, (sometimes choreographed by crows!) - and soaring circles which only broaden and relax as they warm outstretched wings beneath the sun we are finally receiving…i fly with them, letting go of bodily things and just living in Spirit, Freedom. Eagles.
There's a fine line between acceptance and giving up. Acceptance for what one cannot change, like in the Serenity Prayer. And that would define April. I fought like a pit bull to get well for a year now. The good part is finally being able to nest in our new apartment and the Seattle area's tremendous resources for "living-in-place" with a few amazing caregivers (Yes, It really does take a Village!) all of whom are uniquely wonderful. A year. Now to accept, have the courage to share that I feel terribly vulnerable not being able to care for myself, that I am - at times - unbearably homesick and that I do grieve, yes, not just for Bellingham but for having felt that everything was exactly as it should be: That wilderness still exists and to have enjoyed the strength to embrace it - and Life - so wholeheartedly with unbridled passion! Yes, i miss feeling that alive. I have been reprimanded for grieving by being reminded how much worse things could be, but you know what, as true as that is, it does not mean we are not entitled to our own pain…My God! I have tried not to expose myself to too much media about the recent tragic landslide yet still wake up having nightmares about it having heard the extraordinary stories of survivors! Grieving for ourselves can also open our hearts to the pain of those around us whom we do not know. Suppressing my own sadness would not allow me to feel theirs. Life is not a competition of suffering, it's an opportunity to unfold our capacity for the courage to feel and empathize with unimaginable pain being borne by those we've never met, never will, yet feel so agonizingly close to!
Life flows like a river, it cannot remain stagnant and neither could the happiness and joy we experienced before remain that way forever. It was counter-intuitive to expect we could come here, get well, pick up where we left off, and - what? Get well, find LIFE where we left off, just on a different mountain, replacing Mt. Baker with Mt. Rainer?
We arrived a year ago, albeit reluctantly, with a Plan, dubbed ingeniously: "The Plan"! I was encouraged to use Creative Visualization for health and imagine life as I wanted it to Be OOPSY! I mistook snowshoeing the glaciers of Mt. Rainier for Reality…boy was that dumb! Hope and Positive Thinking…can be a good thing. And are. They have the value of taking one out of a moment which feels unendurable and replacing it with a moment which does feel endurable. Only problem, if it doesn't come true, the original unendurable moment only feels more unendurable. Renowned Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, has a lot to say about this kind of hope and since I don't want you to shoot the messenger (in this case, me) I won't admit to agreeing with her, just pretend you didn't read this. There's also something to be said for accepting "what is." Breathing in. Breathing out. Forgetting the past, not worrying about the future, breathing in and breathing out without fleeing what feels unendurable, breathing into endurance through Being Quiet and opening to gratitude for What Is. Simply That.
From this place, this very real bed which is not a glacier it is a bed and i am not snowshoeing i am lying in this very real bed because that is how - for now - Things Are in this very real moment, I can drop all pretenses of the Amazon Warrior i once was and concede: LOST. Though painful, breathing from a place that feels like Defeat is also liberating: sunshine streaming in through our adorable west-facing window and, at last, finally letting go those too-tightly-held imaginary reigns I never really held in the first place, just made it all up cuz it was so warm and fuzzy: ("YO! Yeah, You - from "Grey's Anatomy" in your starched, bleached-white lab coat, yeah, I'm talkin' to you! We left Paradise and moved here to see you, so> MAKETH ME WELL AND MAKE HASTE while you're at it, you Slayers of Disease, you Healers of…?") Idiots? Cuz I be an idiot! Astonishly, the earth did not stop turning just to accommodate my expection for wellness. Considering how many people with terminal illnesses face staggering odds with courage and grace, and gratitude: from them we have much to learn. I want to learn it. And live it. And share it. If I can't or don't get well, how then, to live above the fray of fear and in the Light of Faith, Courage, Love, Gratitude, and empathy for those also struggling, which, realistically, would be practically everyone for we do not know the inner pain a smiling face may mask…but we can become willing to.
Today is beautiful. Discovered an elegance in Life's tiniest details, in the flower that - against all odds - somehow, some way pushed its tiny self through an even tinier crack in the concrete sidewalk because it was determined to Greet the Sun, Open and Blossom to Life higher then it ever imagined it could go. But it did imagine. And it endured and pushed and survived doubt, clawing its way faithfully until it DID BLOSSOM; not to be seen, noticed, or admired, but simply because it chose to bask in the Light of Life instead of beneath the darkness of a man-made sidewalk, concrete. Who notices this Opus of Virtue, this quiet embodiment of courage and determination? Probably few, if any. In fact, people will probably step on this flower without even noticing that this tiny delicacy defied the odds of ever blooming to find its way without a map to the Sun, its only ambition to feel warmth, experience Light, and not be imprisoned forever underground.
Maybe that's what illness gifts, discovering eloquence in smallness. Getting from bed to the kitchen sink a conquest no less significant than summiting Mt. Rainier. Caring for guinea pigs the only difference one can make in the world bringing meaning enough to the Transition from a life outside to a quiet Inwardness. Four guinea pigs: My life matters to them. So keep living! We don't come with a script, no one does. We all have our - as one MOD so wonderfully put it (yes, you know who you are) - our "left turns." I love that expression.
What I hope? That this left turn brings inner peace and deepens appreciation for those things once taken for granted. As we used to say at Passover with my immigrant grandparents when I was a little girl and the extended family all got together to celebrate our freedom, then our exile, then our Return to the Land of Milk and Honey: "Dayenu!" meaning - "It would have been enough." What we were given at each turn in our Exodus, whatever God bestowed upon us: Every single thing we needed wandering helplessly through that desert, "Dayenu!" we say at Passover. I am not observant. But I feel an Exile. And, inspired by the flowers that grow through cracks in sidewalks only to get stepped on, inspired by guinea pigs no one wanted yet who truly want me, Dayenu!
Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Welcome Spring!