I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: August, 2014



Ready to Rest

If death is like Savasana, maybe we have nothing to fear.

Savasana, the deeply restorative “corpse” pose at the end of yoga class, at the end of practice, at the end of life, is when you put aside the ups and downs, the effort and the ease, the breathing in and the breathing out. You just be. Usually, it is simply a sweet break at the end of class. Sometimes, it’s an impatient pause, the anxious to-do list intrudes. Every now and then, it is bliss. Nirvana. Samadhi. It takes a long Savasana for me to reach this point. (Take note yoga teachers! A 2-minute Savasana is not enough!) I float into a state of consciousness that is not awake, not asleep. Sometimes I see colors, feel tingling, radiate intense warmth. But generally I hover, aware of my soul, but not really aware. At these moments, it is profoundly enough to just be.

If death is like Savasana, maybe we have nothing to fear.

But we fear death – for ourselves, for our loved ones – fighting our body’s evolution/devolution, attempting to stave off the inevitable with doctors, pills, and procedures, prolonging life until … until it is not life anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of life. I want to live to be old. VERY OLD! I am disciplined to the point of being obsessive with eating healthily, staying thin, keeping active. I plan to fight my evolution/devolution HARD!

But maybe, for the person at the end of life, they are ready to rest in Savasana. Maybe we should help them go peacefully to a place of bliss. Maybe we shouldn’t hang on to them so hard, with doctors, pills, and procedures.

My mother is nearing the end of her life. I visited her and my father last weekend, with my daughter. It was painful. Every aspect of their lives is focused on getting her to survive another day. He measures out her pills. He coaxes her to eat. He trains the aide on how he wants her bathed and dressed and exercised and which diapers are for the daytime and which for the nighttime. My mother has stopped speaking and spends most of the day sleeping, exhausted from being fed, medicated, bathed, dressed, exercised. It was the first visit where she was unable to exhibit much enthusiasm for my presence and none for my daughter’s.

As an only child, the aging and inevitable death of my parents is an unshared burden. No siblings to mull over what to do. No siblings to compare notes with. No siblings to mitigate the dysfunction. Just guilt that I am far away and not doing enough. Just anger that there are still so many unresolved issues and things unsaid. Just grief at my beautiful and vibrant mother’s deterioration and regret at the adult mother-daughter friendship we were never able to establish.

People tell me how lucky we are, how sweet it is that my father is so devoted to my mother. I smile and nod agreeably, not wanting to diminish his faithful attachment to her.  It is taboo for me to tell them what I am really thinking. He is terrified of being alone. It is an act of selfishness to keep her alive. Let her go. Let her go to her Savasana.

Every visit I am armed with good intentions to say more, to ask more, to do more. All with the goal of resolving the past, healing the present, trying to find more love and compassion for the future. I try. I never say, ask, or do as much as I intend. I tried waking my mother up in the mornings by offering her Reiki. If nothing else, perhaps it would be soothing to have someone she loves and who loves her offer her healing and loving touch.  I tried to not be judgmental and annoyed with my father.  He tried to not be judgmental and annoyed with me. Negativity begets negativity. In the midst of our awkward attempts to not succumb to judgment and annoyance, he tried to tell me I was a miracle. He tried to be interested and loving and not self-absorbed. I tried to appreciate his terror at being alone, his grief at losing his beautiful and vibrant wife. We tried.

We took pictures. Is this last time I will see her? Is this the last photo I will have of her? I smiled, because that is my habit. It was not all painful – there was some joy in the visit. I am no longer sucked into the dysfunctional triangle that is formed by my parents and me.   I can honor how who they are helped me become who I am.  I can love them for that.  My daughter was with me, thank God, and I am looking forward to being able to build, with her, an adult mother-daughter friendship. It begins now.

Image Credit:  Savasana sketch by Missy Briggs on her blog The Rascally Rabbit, used with permission.  Thank you Missy!

What Would Jane Say?


Saying Good-Bye

I had my last therapy session last week. For now. We talked about good-byes and how to make them meaningful. So many good-byes. I am saying good-bye to my daughter as she leaves for college this month. I am saying good-bye to my mother as she becomes more frail and unable to speak at the end of her life. I am saying good-bye to my younger self.

How do you know when it’s time to end therapy and say good-bye? You don’t. I am still anxious. I am still melancholy. I still wake up in the middle of the night ruminating. I didn’t change careers. I didn’t change spouses. I didn’t move to some exotic location. No – the changes were incremental. Maybe not even noticeable to others. But they are radical to me. I have learned to recognize my inner voice. You know, the one that speaks your truth. I learned to listen. I found people and activities that supported me. I found friends, making new ones and nurturing old ones.

Perhaps finding joy in one’s current life is the biggest possible accomplishment of all?

I wanted to mark our last session with some significance, to honor the therapeutic process, our relationship, and the personal growth I’ve experienced in the last (almost) three years. I found myself heading down my usual path of putting pressure on myself to come up with an amazing good-bye gift. But what do you give someone who has helped you so much? And, she pointed out, I had given much to her with my sharing and my development. Maybe a tchotchke was not necessary.

We reflected on what we had shared together. One of the big themes of our time together was what do I want? After spending my life, very successfully, being a good girl, a good daughter, a good student, a good employee, a good wife and mother, and reaching middle age wondering if this was it and alarmed at the hurtling pace of time, I needed to pause and probe who am I and how do I want to spend the next phase of my life? Our sessions were a place where I could practice saying what I think and what I want without judgment before testing it out in the real world with other people, other people who are less patient than Jane.

One of the tools she taught me was how to take a conversation at least one step further than I was used to doing. My habit was to accept whatever the other person said and leave my own thoughts to myself. As I would tell her my stories, she would ask questions. And I would say, “Ummm. I don’t know – I hadn’t thought of that!” I hadn’t thought to ask, to find out. I just accepted. Or she would make a suggestion for something I might do.  Differently. Something that would not have occurred to me, but was so obvious and natural once she suggested it. So we laughed at our last session. Perhaps one of the ways I could carry her and our experience with me will be to pause and ask myself, “What would Jane say?”

One of the gifts she gave me was to believe me. When I would tell her some of my fuzzier more painful stories, I would pause with self-doubt. Did that really happen? Maybe it didn’t happen after all. Maybe he didn’t really do that to me. Maybe he didn’t really do that to her. In one memorable session, she said, “Why would you make this up?” Why indeed? She helped remove the shame I felt from the more painful stories of my past and to understand and even be proud of the way I have coped. I learned that I could do things differently moving forward. Anxiety and shame didn’t have to be my go-to place.

It was a safe place, those weekly sessions. I could rant. I could cry. I could worry. I could share dreams, literally and figuratively. No judgment. Usually we just talked. She helped me knit together the stories of my past such that I could look at them with perspective as a broader narrative and not feel so caught up inside them. With some distance, I was able to find some understanding for the girl I was and the woman I’ve become.

One of the skills she helped me develop was to appreciate the impact I have on others. A greater sensitivity to what others are experiencing has helped me to be a more honest and compassionate wife, mother, boss, teacher, daughter, friend, though perhaps I am a less dutifully good one. (I doubt it – I am not sure I will ever be free of being a good girl.)

As I have developed my yoga, my writing, my expanding circle of friends, my voice, my intuition, she likened the process to growing a seedling. Tender. Vulnerable to swaying in the wind or being entirely uprooted. I needed to nurture this seedling with support and practice. Practice at being me – being grounded, honest. Only then, with established roots, could I think about saying good-bye. I could say good-bye to my identification of myself as anxious, overwhelmed, and sad. I could see myself as funny and cheerful and optimistic and loving and generous. (And anxious, overwhelmed, and sad. It’s all in the mix.) Me? Yes. I can feel. I can be me. Thank you Jane.

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