February 16, 2021
I was recently reunited with a friend after 34 years of no communication. Out of the blue I received an email which opened the floodgates, and the reunion tour began. As it unfolded so naturally, I began to reflect upon the person I was at 20 years old. How does the boy, who delighted so freely and openly in the companionship of his 19 year old counterpart, fair with the person I have become? Light years of difference in so many facets exist between the two eras. Yet what I have recognized upon reflection is that a similar enthusiasm, as that of the younger version of myself, still exists. The reunion sparked this discovery and I felt I could reach a hand and touch, once again, that young man I had lost in the haze of living my life.
In those longer ago days, I recall a feeling of just moving, existing and experiencing. An easier flow to life as one day’s discovery led to another. New people. New environs.
New revelations of self and life through a narrow lens. But with it all, a sense of hope and excitement for the future.
Growing older lends the risk of becoming jaded, fearful, overwhelmed by responsibility and disillusioned. Life levels it’s jab-crosses of realty at us; we dodge some but can’t avoid them all. They are inevitable and can be defeating as we get knocked down and sometimes dazed. However, there, on the ground, if we are mindful, we become conscious of the fact that we have choices.
We can lay there and let life and it’s burdens hamstring us, let it control our actions and limit our development, or…we can look it in the face, say bring it on and stand up to live an inspired life that internalizes the blows, personal missteps, pressures and stresses.
If we are enlightened, we can use the lessons cultivated from them to better ourselves and find our purpose. We may not have control, as I believe that reality will always have the final say, but we do have choices. How can these choices lead you back to you?
FINDING YOUR STROKE IN THE RISING STREAM
The convenience of time, as the parent of a child with a disability, is a luxury rarely realized. Particularly during this pandemic, I almost feel embarrassed to be encouraging you to find time for yourself in order to reunite with the you that may have taken a backseat to the needs of family, job and relationship. I read and hear how mother’s, in particular, have been suffering inordinate levels of stress, depression and anxiety over the past year.
They are doubting their mothering abilities and carrying guilt for the feelings they have of resentment and anger towards their children. I am very aware that this is an unprecedented time and for many, ideas for staying above the fray may be received as “cute” and unrealistic. So I want to be honest here.
I know in my own battle with depression and anxiety I had to learn to slow everything down. I had to learn to allow the uncomfortable feelings their room to breath. Recently, during this Covid period, I had to take care of my ailing and aged parents, full-time, for six months. The level of care necessary was not familiar to me when it came to dealing with the physically and mentally affected elderly.
But I did have my 32 years of working with those children in need whom I had learned to help. The experience was not unfamiliar.
Now, I know that dealing with a family member is like existing on another planet in terms of our ability to forgive and let be; especially during tantrums and occurrences of unreasonable behaviors from those we are sacrificing for. I will admit that I have always prided myself on my patience. I am a pretty steady and calm person even in the face of crisis with my students. Yet, taking care of my parents was a test that saw my grades slip from an “A” gradually, and then quickly, to a “D!” When it came to scraping enough patience from the well, I often came up empty.
I was becoming depressed and stressed as the demands for more intense care increased. But I knew I needed to create outlets or I would go crazy. My biggest escapes were through exercise and zooming friends.
I say this so you know that I have added a stitch or two to the quilt that you sew each day. When a stint in the hospital amid a pandemic, feels like a vacation, you know you need a break!
Slowing down and finding your breath is truly helpful. Just recognizing the insanity of it all, is helpful. The New York Times has a Primal Scream Line where you have an entire minute to leave a message, scream, cry, get angry and release your burdens.
Personally, I will just turn on 12 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers and laugh away my stress.
Can you balance your responsibilities with some time to look forward to, one time a day, for you? I believe it’s all in how we approach what is and what can be. This is an opportunity to discover ‘you’ in the fog of war that you fight daily. I believe you have choices. If circumstances can’t change than we must make personal adjustments that might make them tolerable.
And sometimes we need to fall in love with the sounds that drive us to distraction in order to hear the music.
There is a movie, ANOTHER EARTH from 2011. In it, the main character tells a story of the first Russian cosmonaut, first man, in space, who was orbiting the earth. Suddenly, a ticking began coming from the dashboard of his spacecraft. He couldn’t stop it… Hours passed like torture. Days passed and he knew that sound would cause him to lose his mind. He had to survive 25 more days! How could he do it?…He made a decision to fall in love with the small sound. He went inside his imagination and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he didn’t hear ticking anymore. He heard music…He spent the rest of his journey in “total bliss and peace.” https://youtu.be/eOU0JhkHY3w
This is a conscious and mindful alteration. We have choices. This is not easy but it is viable if we make it a priority. When I was younger I had the feeling of moving, existing and experiencing. As we age we lose sight of these as demands interfere with living lightly. It requires greater effort. To dismiss the opportunity to discover these again does us, in my opinion, a disservice. Until we try, we don’t know how far we can push ourselves and how high we can climb.
There is no ideal solution or recommendation that is suitable to everyone. I feel we have to be creative at this time and find what works for each of us. Like so many have shown, in order to cope with this present, dystopian-like world, ingenuity and out of the box thinking have been useful tools for developing new approaches for work and daily living.
I know your life is run by schedules and it’s up to you to schedule ‘you’ into your day. Just know that you deserve you. Your mind is yours. Allow yourself to escape there. Fall in love with the repetitive things you find dull, uninspiring and burdensome. Add some Mozart to the sounds of a screaming child!
We can’t alter our feelings because feelings happen to us. However, it’s again, the stimulus-response equation. I believe we can choose to alter our attitudes just as we can choose to alter our behaviors. Attach music to them. Dance through them. Sing. Rap and recite your poetry. Reimagine the limitations of your personal situation and rediscover you. You are worth it!
Peace and Keep Rising!