I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reentry and change

Thich Nhat Hanh
My life is beginning to return to normal, after a fashion. There are permanent changes but they are not yet fully integrated into my mind and heart.

While I was in Florida, I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace Is Every Step: the Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. It is a deceptively simple book, but it calmed me and I spent some time thinking about the interconnectedness of all life. I am still reading the book, curiously unwilling to be done with it. He talks about "bells of mindfulness," seeing a red light when you are driving as a bell to remind you to return to the present moment, or any sound or light as a reminder to become peaceful. He is an 84-year old Vietnamese monk who has fascinated me for years. So nonviolent that he would not even strike a bell, he says he invites the sound of the bell to come out. You can see that in the picture. Whatever he is doing, he does it with his entire being.

I miss my sister much more than I thought I would, but it surprises me that I am so surprised. We started our lives together, and whenever we are in close proximity, our thoughts and lives begin to merge. It was so wrenching to be in the airport and start the process of moving away from her, away from our life of the past three weeks. The first few nights I woke in confusion, wondering where I was, but that has faded as I've gotten back into my usual routine and reconnected with my partner. I have also had the chance to video chat with Norma Jean and find it very much more comforting, now that I've spent so much time with her, it allows me to feel really connected.

As I wrote on my other blog, I had the thyroid biopsy on Friday and, although it wasn't exactly pleasant, it is done and behind me now. Next week I will hear what they found and am hoping for good news. The practice of mindfulness and coming to terms with my fear has also been helping me integrate the experience. Today I think I'll go to the Y and swim laps in the pool, hoping that I will be able to add that exercise to my current practice of aerobic classes, hiking, and walking. It will also allow me to feel connected to Norma Jean in yet another way.

In less then two weeks I will travel to Texas to be with my family for five days, and I'll see Norma Jean, Allison and Lexie again. It will be the first time that all six of us siblings will be together since 2002, when they all came at Thanksgiving after my son Chris had died. We will be having a family reunion of sorts, with such an extended group there will be some who won't be present, but the "sixlings" will all be there. My sister Markee is flying in from Alberta without her family, just to see Norma Jean again and allow us all to be together. As the oldest, me, is nearing seventy, I hope that it won't be the last time. It's amazing that although both of our parents died in their sixties, we are all still here. I am grateful.

I can hear rain outside, just a light patter, nothing like the huge rains I saw in Florida. Yesterday, however, when I thought about going on the Saturday walk, it was a downpour with a howling wind. I decided to skip it, since I was also still feeling quite sore from Thursday's long hike with the Trailblazers. Today, after a good night's sleep, I finally feel rested and raring to go. After this Sunday morning meditation, my world feels bright with possibility.


Teresa Evangeline said...

This is so nice, well-written and Very thoughtful. I have found great comfort and inspiration in the writings of this monk. And in your own. Thank you.

Gigi said...

So glad you are home and getting back into your routine. The reunion should be nice - it's too bad that it takes something like a loss to get it started. But that's the way life is I suppose - we get to caught up in our own everyday to take the time and effort.

Linda Reeder said...

On this first day of Daylight Saving it is so dark and gloomy. I need some inspiration and brightness an lightness! I'll have to get moving and work on that. I'm glad you found yours.
You are a beautiful, spiritual person.

Linda said...

I enjoyed this post. A very well written piece that gives a glimpse of your soul. Very nice.

Now that all of you have outlived your parents the sky is the limit. You can all live as long as you want to. How about shooting for 100?

Sally Wessely said...

I so look forward to reading these Sunday posts. Transitions are so difficult for me. I sense that you also were feeling that difficult shift as you went from being with one person with you are deeply connected and reconnecting to another person you love deeply. I find these shifts quite difficult because I want everyone I love accessible and nearby.

As I read your post, I felt the need to tell you that I think you will break the mold. As Linda said, you will live as long as you want. Shoot for a distant figure. I must remind my husband of this same thing. He has passed most of his family members age of death, so I try to convince him that these things are not set in stone. I fully expect him to live into his 80's even though his mother and his sister died in their early 60's.

Keep on keeping on. Mindful living sounds like the best way to live.

Anonymous said...

I am not as close to my sisters as you are to NJ. Perhaps, the only person to fit the bill is my husband of almost 31 years. As I said in my post today, I don't think I would want to go on living if he were to die first. Nothing more to add.

Stella Jones said...

Once again I am put in mind that I have no sisters or brothers. No doubt when you read my posts about sons and grandson, you feel that emptiness too. I have no siblings, therefore no nieces, nephews etc. and you have no children or grandchildren. That's what friends are for, I suppose, to fill in the gaps. Through your thoughts and actions with your siblings and their families, I feel the loss but also the enjoyment of participation.
We all go on our own journey but our friends come with us. Long may that last.
My parents both died at the age of 69 and for that reason, I don't expect to live longer. I am 59 years old now so I feel like I have ten years left. Funny how we have these thoughts, isn't it!

Donna B. said...

What a great post DJan. Sounds like a book I would like to read. I agree with everyone that you have broken the dying in your 60's mold...you have passed it. You take such excellent care of yourself with the quality exercise you gift yourself. I know it helps.

I continue to hold positive thoughs with your biopsy. I know you are looking forward to Texas and I am happy for you. We have trips coming up these next two months, and I am very excited and looking forward to it.

Glad you feel rested and home with Smart Guy.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am glad the biopsy is over and hope the waiting will pass quickly with only good results. Believe.
I am glad you have found writings that help give you peace of mind. He does sound interesting. I love the gentle souls of this world.
Video chats are almost like being there. Thank goodness for electronics. Your reunion sounds like fun. Take lots of pictures.

#1Nana said...

I didn't go out for a walk either, but it wasn't even raining here...I was just lazy! You do inspire me to try and be more active. Maybe we'll cross paths at the airport; I'm going to Texas next month also.

Red said...

You cover a lot of territory here. I like the monk. I will have to find that book.
Funny how we compare ouselves to our parents. My Mom died at 59 and for many years I wondered if I would outlive her. Now I know and I look back and realize how young she was when we lost her. I'm sure you have the same feeling about your parents.

Whitney Lee said...

This sounds like a good book, like something I could use right now. I've got some spring cleaning I'm doing, emotionally and mentally speaking, and am finding there are many places of inspiration.

I wondered how it was leaving Norma Jean. I know what you mean about the connection with her through swimming. My sister and I now live a few miles apart but used to live about 4 states apart. She took a job in a bank just because I was working in a financial institution, and it made us feel more connected. It'll be good for you to see all of your siblings (not to mention Lexie!). That should be a wonderful time. Is Smart Guy going with you?

I have said lots of prayers for you surrounding your thyroid, this biopsy and the results. Thoughts create reality, and if mine have their way, you're going to be just fine, regardless!

gayle said...

It is strange to read that so many thought that they would die around the same age as their parents. I thought I was the only one.

I am so glad you will be able to see Norma Jean in just a few short weeks!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

This is an especially interesting post, and it makes me think I should look up that book. It's interesting how even small changes take time to become integrated into one's mind and heart, as you put it.

Linda Myers said...

When my father was the age I am now, he had been dead for six years. I've made better health choices than he did.

My sister and I have become close only since my mother died two and a half years ago. I feel lucky.

Grandmother Mary said...

I appreciate your posts. Your thoughtfulness and minfulness is an attractive combination. I'll look up that book. He's a treasure.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You sound calmer and more at peace..I think you needed to go to Florida and see for yourself about Norma jean..you are a good sister:)

Paul C said...

'Peace is Every Step' is a wonderful book that I have enjoyed as well. I like how he wrote the book as a collection of brief meditations. One of my favourite is the meditation on eating a tangerine.