Ah, my husband. He came out of his procedure rosy cheeked and doped up so he was his very most winsome, funny self. He had the little nurse who had to walk with us to the car just whooshed. Both of them were in stitches all the way down the hall, into the elevator, down three floors, out the foyer, past the old, old lady in a wheel chair smoking a cigarette just outside the main entrance, and out into the parking lot.
Me, not so much. In fact, I got more cranky-pants with every step I took. I wasn’t on drugs. I was the one who was going to have to drive his daggummed truck (did I ever mention, I HATE driving that truck) through the spaghetti junction between the Turnpike and 595 in almost blinding rain and wind. I was the one who sat and watched several people who went in after of him come back out way before he did. My imagination had been relentless with that, images of a medical team desperately coding him because something had gone horribly awry while everyone else came through just fine. It was almost 4 hours of desperate vigil I kept yesterday. So I was not the least bit amused by His Cuteness Made Flesh and that sweet young thing. Not one little bit.
We had plenty else to tend to in the afternoon so I basically had no choice but to get over my snit. Sherod was feeling too fine to react. At some point I was able to step back from myself enough to acknowledge how deep the fear runs below that particular kind of anger.
Today, someone shared a link with me related to the Buddhist understanding of pain and life. Somewhere in the first few lines, I was suddenly aware that life has become most meaningful for me in these past few years in the experience of hosting my own grief, my own pain. My spirit no longer goes rigid and and spastic. In a strange sort of way, my long walks allow me to open spaces to welcome the grief, not because I am a masochist who seeks out suffering, but because I accept that grief is now a real part of me. The grief does not well up every time—in fact, I basically cannot ever predict when it will. But out walking, somehow, I am both riverbed and river, of joy, of surprise, especially of wonder, but also of an ocean of sorrow. Over time, it seems like the riverbed gets deeper, the stones smoother, maybe the river itself gets wider. I don’t know—pushing the metaphor too far can get to feeling cloying and hokey.
But there is this little bit of new insight, or at least mindfulness, about yesterday. I sat in that office and paid no attention to my breathing. The chair was uncomfortable and I never once stood up. I was aware enough to post about the experience but not aware enough to see how stuck I was. The truth is my husband is 67 and there will be more pain in his life and I will need to be able to allow it through my life without making it my life. Otherwise, I will drown in it.
Yesterday I read something — in a flash; it was there, somewhere online, and then I moved on — about responsiveness versus reactivity. I suppose your own experience is an example — you respond with such depth and beauty to so much sorrow and anxiety but sometimes, hey, it all gets the best of all of us and reaction is the name of the game.
I love your metaphor of the riverbed, the stones being smoothed — and sometimes the ocean rushing in, overwhelming everything in its path.
I’m sorry if I sounded flip yesterday. I’m sorry that when you were experiencing so much fear, I was hoping to turn it back, as if that were possible.
I think I am surprised, I have realized in the past few weeks, that for people who have experienced so much out of the ordinary in childhood and midlife, the usual losses of aging nevertheless await us, as they do everyone.
Such a wonderful insight!