Friday, April 29, 2011


Allow me to share something I was reading tonight that touched me. It comes from a nutrition book, of all things, by the fabulous Nina Planck. "The ideal stance is a kind of gentle wonder, now and again brimming over into radical amazement, as your story unfolds." What great musings on life. If we can adjust our stance, even occasionally, to assume the position of a wide eyed, open mined observer, we can change our very concept of the world.

In December, when I got the phone call from my sobbing father, I went into shock and told my boss that I needed to leave town right away, my mother was dying. All the evidence pointed to that unequivocal fact. I couldn't eat, I couldn't focus, I couldn't read more than a paragraph at a time (on a good day) for almost two months. And then I began to shift from All Action All The Time to simply watching things unfold. Not being able to control this situation or any outcome in it has been the best lesson of my life. I burnt out very quickly as "doer" and had to shift to observer. And what a gift. What I have been able to witness. I am now able to assume this stance, this gentle wonder. I can marvel at the power of determination, of grit and grace and feel that radical amazement. The overpowering gratitude. Boundless, pure love.

As I marvel at Mom's accomplishments today, she shrugs them off. She walked so far today, with the walker, distances I couldn't imagine two weeks ago. And she's telling me it's no big deal. I'm not sure if she's minimizing her progress because she's trying to be modest and feels silly about us making a fuss over walking down a hallway, something we all do so effortlessly, without giving it a thought. Or maybe she sees how far she still has to go before she can be independent and walk on her own. Or maybe the strength is just how she's feeling today and she takes it for granted that that's how far her body can take her today.

Ross made an excellent point tonight that the progress is significant in any case, but even more so because it's all happening during her chemo weeks. So she still has stomach cramps and nausea and digestive troubles, and still she walks farther. Still she pushes harder.

There are a lot of long distance friends planning to visit next month, which is lovely, but also concerning to Mom. She thinks everyone is coming because they want to see her before she dies. That this (random, I'm sure) timing is because she doesn't have much time. Four months ago, I would have agreed. But now I realize how wrong I was to tell my boss that my mother was dying. That is so not what she's doing right now. And now that I have been able to take the position of observer, I can see that. The story will always unfold, and will take unexpected twists and turns. We will all have our hearts broken with sorrow and broken open with joy. I hope I can always remember to take a step back, watch life as it happens, and treat myself and everyone around with gentleness.

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