I am taking a moment between the constant domestic duties I find myself right smack dab back in the middle of. This was not how my return to home was supposed to look. There was going to be structure and contemplation built into my re-engagement. There was going to be desert days (time every week for no talking and just praying or moving with the earth and the Divine). There was going to be a gentle flow between what small things I needed to get done to keep my home together (since it was going to be me and my husband, alone for the first time in 27 years) and time to just dwell in quiet.
None of that is what is happening or happened. I came home early to help care for my son Issac, who is 29 years old, and who was hit by a car on April 15th while riding his bike to work. Luckily for all of us, only his right foot was damaged, completely damaged, run over, crushed. The bones in the center of his foot being described by one doctor as cornflakes. Bones and cornflakes, should never be in the same sentence together. I think there are now more screws in his foot than bones. Screws put there to hold the flakes of bone together. The hope is that the bones will grow back and be functional.
I’m not going to go into the medical or financial reality of all of this, because that alone will take months and years to sort out or try to explain. I’m trying to find myself in all of this, right now in this discrete moment.
I’m describing my re-entry to this world in the following ways. It’s like a rocket returning from outer space and having to go through the atmosphere and have all of my external structures burnt off in the heat of re-entry. Then instead of a week or more floating on the ocean while I decompress and prepare for earth’s climate, I’ve had to jump and roll right on out of my vessel and start running a marathon, while carrying my son on my back.
Another way this feels is like all my molecules have been thrown up into the air and are in a jumble somewhere between here and there. Who I am and how I am is just not easy to experience or articulate, let alone be. My husband and I are both just holding each other and taking it one day at a time. When I’m not too tired, we play Upwords together at night.And there’s this sense of being crazy for complaining at all, because my son is alive. His neck and spine were not damaged. His brain is intact. He will walk again, maybe never without pain or he’ll have to use a cane, but he is in a body still. I think about all the folks in war-torn areas, whose children, beloved partners and parents are maimed or killed by landmines, gunshots, bombs, polluted water or diseases that are preventable but are rampant when men are fighting over territory. I know that folks with less resources suffer all the terror and pain of what I’ve gone through and am going through and I sometimes feel, even with all my community support and friends and family that I am barely managing. I know folks whose children are fighting cancer or who were hit by cars and have brain damage. I’m dealing with something that will have an outcome that is still something reasonable and manageable. Even still, I feel that I’ll need a whole year off again just to recover from the last few weeks. That’s not on the agenda, not even remotely. My Jubilee is over. I’ve got six years of work to do before the next sabbatical year of rest.
So, I soldier on, which is not something I ever think of myself as doing or being. A soldier is not a metaphor, Nicole the Pacifist, connects with, but it is the one I find myself feeling close to right now. The soldier is someone who just keeps going and gets the job done, despite the trenches, the muck, the mire, the pain, the confusion and the exhaustion. You just put one foot in front of the other and move until the time to stop moving arrives or until you fall over. It’s not that terrible all the time, but the feeling of it on some level is. I guess the job of being the kind of mother I am is also an apt metaphor. I’ve also described this time as being similar to what it is like when you have a newborn, lots to do, all the time and it’s constant.
In the last few weeks, most of the folks I know have gone through or are going through equally difficult situations for themselves. I do not feel alone in having to traverse complex territory. Many of us are walking through a land-mined landscape, hoping that the damage won’t be irreparable or that we will be able to restore the wetlands or the broken home we found after the storms of life have battered our spaces. The Earth herself is on edge, and we’re part of that system, so all of us, without exception are experiencing that edge. Whether you feel it or know it is a different matter.
And our responses are important. Some folks get stiller and calmer and pray more, some folks get busier and move faster and try to fix everything, some folks feel inspired and try to paint, draw, dance or dream a change or healing. Some folks spend hours pumping iron and doing exercises or yoga to make their bodies vessels for strength or flexibility. Some folks just stay in bed or do drugs or take their lives.
I’m somewhere in the middle right now. Moving between doing all that needs doing, a constant stream of dishes, laundry, physical care of Issac and his various daily needs, shopping, organizing appointments, attending to my husband’s and Ethan’s needs and trying to manage other friends, family and a few minutes here and there for myself. I feel badly that I’m exhausted every day, completely wasted and walking through each day with 1/10th my normal speed and energy, but then I look at the list I’ve just written and know that it isn’t even all of what I’m doing every day and if I was listening to a friend tell me their story and it looked like this, I’d say, “of course you are exhausted!”
I think it is a fallacy of modern life that you are supposed to feel good all the time. That somehow if you find the right formula, the right job, the right relationship, the right meditation practice, the right coach, the right diet etc…then you will always be well and hardy and hale and happy. I reject this on a fundamental level. My aches and pains, my fatigue are not necessarily preventable or fixable by me if I just get things right or better. Of course diet, exercise, and my environment play a part, but the idea that WE are in CHARGE is something I just don’t agree with on a deep level; especially in terms of being able to control what goes on around us and how that impacts us emotionally. There are too many factors involved and the only way to control anything often seems to involve letting go of someone or something in our lives. There is no free ride or way to make changes happen that doesn’t have a cost and consequences, some of which we cannot know for years or perhaps eons.
I have done three loads of laundry, which I need to fold soon. I’ve made breakfast and lunch for Issac and myself and heated up soup for a friend and her daughter that came by. They swept the kitchen floor and also did some dishes for me. I had a nice fifteen minute discussion with them about humility on my deck. I’ve looked at my bank account balances and made an appointment for the window cleaner to come by in two weeks. I’ve reached out to my god-daughters who are dealing with a very hard situation right now and I’ve also been working on this piece while doing all of the above. There’s a few other things that have happened as well and the day is not even close to being done.
I think for now though, this piece of my mind is recorded and I’ll move onto doing more that needs doing. This post has taken all day to get written, in between all the aforementioned happenings. Just a little while ago, Issac wheeled himself out onto the deck and we folded laundry together, something he NEVER does with his own laundry and which he finds laughable, but he did it with and for me. He’s an amazing man and when I’m not freaking out about his bones, I’m just grateful for the person he is and that I get to spend this unexpected time with him.
My choice and my response to difficulty is to remember to love and to give thanks. I’m grateful for the flowers, the birds, my husband, my friends, my family, the teachings of all the amazing masters I’ve had the grace to encounter and the gentle breeze blowing on my skin at this very moment. My response involves breathing, when I remember to consciously, and trusting that there will be an ebb and a slowing along with a flow and a quickening. I am part of a great web of folks and creatures, all doing our best.
These words of the Jewish prayer/song by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov also inform and flow through me when things are difficult:
- Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od, veha’ikar lo le’fached klal.
- All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by fear.
You can hear a version of this song if you go to this link: I sing this song to myself all the time: