Thursday, 24 September 2009

Reflections on an autumn night

It's 20.48 on the Thursday night before the final class of my first year. I should be home, but when Rob texted me earlier this week and asked me to babysit, how could I say no? One needs one's baby fix, after all.

Well, I've had some of Rob's amazing vegetarian Moroccan stew with couscous, Ell and Rob have left for Brown's, and Master Golden Curls is fast asleep in his cot.

The only thing missing is Bentley the Cat standing on the chair behind me, rubbing his face against mine and purring. However, after far too many times waking Master Golden Curls up, he has been locked downstairs. *Sigh* Well, one can't have it all.

Having brought the baby monitor upstairs, I am in Rob's office using his Mac (you're forgiven, chuck - I'm finding switching from app to app and working within apps far more cumbersome than on an IBM), having told him I needed to work tonight, which is true. My case studies are all written, they just need tweaking; I need to look up references for some of my assertions (no internal referencing apparently, go figure); I need to type out my hypnosis screeds; I need to sort out my practice log.

But an autumn night has fallen, every morning the leaves get more beautiful and the light more ethereal, and I haven't written for fun in sooooooo long...

The moon is about a third full, waxing. The stars are out. There's a nip in the air and it is truly dark. And I might get a baby cuddle out of it.


It has been quite the week for discussing night and darkness of all sorts. I've simply melted into it, revelled in it, loving the season in which - as the pagan prayer goes - the Dark Mother teaches us to dance.

Even the snake dream in my morning status could have a meaning relating to death - it is said that those dying often dream of snakes, since they are a symbol of healing and transition. And to be honest, there is a part of me that believes the Buddhist axiom "We die not because we are ill, but because we are whole. Illness may be the method of our dying, but it is not the cause." I know that may generate a lot of anger, and I'm sorry. But it did make me think when I heard it, and it resonated with something deep inside.

When I looked up 'snake symbolism dreams' and saw that possibility, I simply nodded thoughtfully and wondered 'What if? What if that's what it means? How do I feel about that?'

And the answer is "Absolutely at peace with that - though hopefully with time to say goodbye and remind those I love just how much and how fiercely they ARE loved."

How else do I feel? Curious. Eager to see those taken too early and too long gone. And perhaps the sense of a burden falling from one's shoulders.

Rachel Remen, in her wonderful book, "My Grandfather's Blessings", tells the story of a woman at a retreat who said that she never, even when she was young, understood why people fought so hard to live, why they wanted to prolong life. It may sound like she was suicidal, but she wasn't. She felt the suffering of the world so keenly, she felt like her heart was always broken, and she couldn't understand why someone would stay when they didn't have to.

I get that. Totally, totally get that.

It doesn't make me suicidal, and it doesn't make me less aware of just how amazing and wonderful it is to be in a body - the pleasure of silk against skin; of nuzzling a baby's newborn head; of being naked with your beloved; of the autumn smell of woodsmoke and the summer smell of roses; of endless dinners and laughter with friends; of the starry sky; of being snuggled up under a duvet watching snow fall to the ground; of the sharp taste of a just green enough mango; of so much more. Life is wonderful.

But I completely understand her bewilderment. And blessed Lady, I totally understand and share her weariness. There are times when I don't want to carry this anymore.

But paradoxically, that feeling is what gives me the awareness of just how precious life is and the infinite value given it by its finite nature. Though I wouldn't necessarily prolong mine, except for those I loved, such as a husband and children, I do understand why so many fight so hard to hold on to it.

On a lighter note, I also want to check out if Anni and I got it right on the afterlife - a series of rooms with pool tables, where you gather with your group to chat about your last life and plan your next one. As people pass, you'll hear a cheery, 'Come on down, mate, you joining us this time?' or 'No, no, no, I dated him THREE times, I am SO done, keep walking, keep walking...'

As I was walking to catch the bus home after dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, beneath a gorgeous, starry, autumn night, I presented him with the afterlife pool hall scenario, and said that I really wanted to know what we had said over our last game of pool just before this life began. I magnanimously allowed that he had probably kicked my ass, at which point he magnanimously replied that he was crap at pool.

Hmmm. I want to know those conversations, have them. Know and see so much more than I do now, instead of catching just a hint at the edge of my line of vision. To borrow a beautiful metaphor, I'm tired of standing on the wrong side of the tapestry, looking at the loose threads. I want to walk around and see the pattern.

Ag, Master Golden Curls is grizzling and I do believe that I must away - and I need a kitty cuddle, so I think I'll go nuzzle Bentley.

*Grins ruefully*

Yeah, thinking of those little joys - a baby cuddle and a kitty cuddle - I expect I'll be holding on to this life for dear life. My pool table friends already playing will just have to wait.

Oh and as for you, Mr Crap-at-pool, true or not, that next game's mine.

But I wouldn't worry about it *just* yet.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The picture

Sometimes, we recognise the big moments in our lives since the universe hangs a big neon sign over them - falling in love, baptism, weddings, finding out we're critically ill.

Other times, we don't recognise the big moments until they're long past -"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (R. Frost)

Then, there are the little moments, the little questions that you know are big moments.

My cousin had been scanning in uncle's photos before they faded and asked if I wanted one of baby me with my parents.

I knew my answer mattered in more ways than I could understand at that moment, maybe even for months or years. And I knew the answer was yes. It had to be yes, and not just for me. Easy to say, because I really wanted that photo.

I admit to refreshing my email very regularly until it arrived two hours later - and I found it very fitting that it arrived on the birthday of Our Lady, whom I've always seen as a mother, and a day of new beginnings - as Fr Robert pointed out in his sermon.

At 16.35 my time, this arrived in my inbox:

I tried to do my usual photo reading - looking for dynamics, for clues to what was going to happen later, why things are the way they are. I think I can see a number of things in that one snapshot, but because I'm so close to it, I can't be certain.

But somehow, that matters less than the feelings that took me by surprise: that little girl that I desperately tried to forget and put behind me? When I looked at that picture, I found that I loved her fiercely; that I would do anything to keep her safe.

And the young couple? I was taken aback by the mixture of sadness and protectiveness I felt for them. I wanted to go into the photo and talk to them, to tell them that if they let go a little bit, let the little one be who she needed to be, not an extension of them, not a measure of their success or failure, they'd keep her. That she was bright enough to do well at school without them breathing down her neck and with them allowing her to do extracurricular activities. That she didn't need to be a doctor or mathematician or a scientist to be successful. That they could let her be with her friends, with others, without fearing that she loved them less.

I wanted to remind them of what Kahlil Gibran said about children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I would say to them, "She is with you, but she does not belong to you. Seek not to make her like yourself, for her soul belongs to tomorrow - be stable, be a compass - point North, but only to allow her to take her own direction from it. Above all, just *love* her."

But I can't do that, any more than I can go hug that little girl and tell her it's going to be ok.

If I could say something to them right now? I'd have to borrow words again, but this time from Don Henley:

The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again -
I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think its about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

Yes, little one. It's going to be just fine.

I promise.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Body balance

Well, I can still move. It's a start.

I've been thinking of going back to the gym since my last swimming session last year. I have to admit to being more of a splasher than a lap swimmer, and I definitely need a snorkel (not as in get out of the gutter, you're standing on my snorkel) because I prefer to swim underwater. I need to get back into it because I'm a total water baby.

Well, also because I'm detagging pictures at a rate unknown to man because I absolutely HATE myself in them and because I try not to look at my reflection below my cleavage - which I admit to being very fond of and which tends to be the big obstacle to any weight loss programme I consider - I never want to stop being a Bravissimo girl.

Haven't swum yet, plan on that this week, but signed up for a gym class - Body Balance - a mix of tai chi, yoga and Pilates. So this afternoon, Andrew came with me to pick out some tackies, tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt. What a star.

I was being reasonably chirpy - after all, how hard could it be compared to Boxercise and Body Pump, right?

Oh, f*** me, how wrong I was.

The stretches, no problem - for some reason, I've remained fairly flexible and despite my ballet training being all of two years when I was 6 and 7, I still stretch, point my toes and place my arms reasonably well, and could take the harder options on all of those. Balance, more of a problem - must practise standing on one leg more often, that tree position is a bitch. Abs - not too bad. Upper body strength - let's not go there.

What I did find most interesting about the class was the command, "Follow your breath," and the meditation afterwards.

I breathe? What?

That tends to be one thing I forget about - I was reminded of it a month or so ago when I went to hug a friend when I was really upset and thought, "Wow, he's breathing really deeply." Then I realised he was breathing normally. I was holding mine.

Following my breath made all the difference.

I live in my soul first, my head second, and my body is a somewhat distant third. I tend to come back into it when I'm eating fabulous food, holding a newborn, snuggling in a blanket or a huge jumper, touching a lover. But for the most part, it moves me where I need to go.

I - and most people raised in the Western world, I think - have this problem. We forget what our bodies tell us, and not just about our physical health - my solar plexus tells me when a decision is wrong or when I'm being lied to; my heart tells me when it really hurts; I choke up when I grieve.

Following my breathing brings me back to all that and to an awareness of what an AMAZING creation my body really is - as a marvel of engineering and as a house for this particular soul. It reminds me to give thanks for it.

The meditation afterwards was not only an excuse to semi-collapse, but was also a source of great amusement, as I'd just hypnotised a friend earlier and used very similar words in a progressive muscle relaxation. Turnabout is fair play, lol.

Oof, my core muscles are feeling it now, and from the way my legs and shoulders are feeling, I suspect the rest of me will be feeling it tomorrow.

So what to do?

Go back Tuesday evening for more, of course.