Snuggleufagus

My alarm clock this morning was the four year old.  He knocked politely on the door, didn’t wait for a response, and crawled into bed with me.

He is as narrow as a blade of new grass and his hair smells like sunshine.

I asked him if he knew he was pretty special.

“Yes, auntie.  It’s because I’m a good snuggler.”

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Snuggleufagus

The Boss

I want to tell you about The Boss.  It’s hard to know where to begin, unless it is in the airport looking for my sister.  We’d both purchased tickets to Florida the night before, a one-way ticket for me and a round trip for 5 days for her.  This sudden need for sunshine had less to do with sunshine (because frankly, it hasn’t been what you’d call warm in the sunshine state) and was more a direct consequence of a seizure my mother had earlier in the day.

The Boss was one of the first people we met at the hospital – a tall woman with a pragmatic, not-to-be-obstructed kind of approach.  She was mom’s nurse technician for the day and she kept things in order with a general’s fortitude and the efficiency of conviction.

But that wasn’t all.

She danced with my mom.  On the way to the commode, but they danced.  And my mom smiled at her with the purity of a child who has just pleased someone in authority.

She prayed with my mom.  My mom on the commode and unraveling because of the sense of shame associated with her loss of control, The Boss prayed with her.  Nothing fancy.  No big words or high concepts.  The kind of prayer you pray when things are ugly and you’ve got nowhere to look but up.

Over the past 10 days, each day bringing a new loss for mom, a new insult to mom’s dignity, The Boss has defended her like this was her own mother.  Fussed at me when she was up without socks, bathed her when she lost the ability to do that herself, always pragmatic, always on top of things, always with a kind of muscular kindness that doesn’t tolerate any less than the right thing at the right time.

In the end, and we are at the end, the doctors have been lovely.  The nurses have been kind and capable.  But it is The Boss that will have been the difference in giving my mother something to smile about at her most vulnerable.  It is The Boss that I will hang onto as a long-lost family member and someone to live up to.

Don’t look above you for examples of who to be.  Look around.  They don’t put these people on TV or in the movies.  They don’t show up at the front of an arena with a band behind them and screaming fans.  They put them in hospitals and schools and in daycare facilities.  If you want to figure out who to be when you grow up, find someone like The Boss.  And hope that they like you enough to let you stay for a while.  Because it’s been nothing less than a privilege to have her with us.

The Boss

Good Enough

This is something I’ve talked around in various and assorted posts, but not something I’ve ever addressed directly.

Enough is not a meaningful measure.  What is “enough” anyway?  Who gets to call it?  A house that is big enough for me wouldn’t be nearly big enough for a Kardashian.  Enough is a relative measure, entirely subjective, and it moves constantly.  Because as soon as we reach a point where we would have called it “enough” before we got there, suddenly, it is no longer good enough.  Because we’re there and a lot of us (not all, but many) are convinced we’ll never be enough so if we can do it, then the “it” that needs to be done must be a little further ahead.

A year ago, I would have told you that swimming a mile every other day would be more than enough.  Now I’m doing two miles every other day and I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be pushing myself to do a little more because maybe two miles isn’t good enough.

That’s just ridiculous.

On the other hand, this striving for a target of enough that we move beyond our grasp isn’t all bad.  Doubt is a good thing.  It keeps us open-minded, it keeps us learning, it keeps us growing.

But for functioning in life, for moving forward, for taking a leap of faith, am I good enough is a pretty rotten question.

The reality is that you’ve gotten this far.  You’ve made some mistakes, you’ve screwed some things up royally.  You’re still here.  You’re still breathing.  You’ve survived some shitty days and you still have a sense of humor.  That’s pretty amazing.  Even better, you still have this marvelous opportunity embedded in today (or tomorrow, since it’s late) to show up.  Get the ego out of the way.  Dispose of the judgement and whatever concerns you might have regarding other people’s judgement.  Your gift is your presence, for whatever the task at hand is.  You don’t have to be good enough.  Good enough is a feeling, it isn’t a fact.

You just have to show and you’ll be way ahead of everyone else who is paralyzed by the idea that good enough is a real thing they have to achieve before they can do something great.

Good Enough

Enlightenment

Doesn’t happen once.  It’s like that ticket stub you keep because you saw that movie with your first love and it was a perfect night and every time you see it, you think everything is possible because there was that one moment where everything fell into place and there wasn’t a single thing you’d change.   So this ticket stub.  You had the night itself and every time you find the ticket stub again, you can close your eyes and embody the memory.  There are days you go looking desperately for it because you need to remember that perfection is possible, and those are never the days that you find it.  Other times, you’re dusting around the books, you pick one up, open it, and the ticket stub flutters from the pages to the floor and you’re instantly transported to knowing that everything is possible again.

That’s enlightenment.  I think.  Unless someone has found it full-time and ever since, has never had to struggle to get themselves back into alignment with taking a deep breath.

I found it driving to work months and months after my ex husband left.  The sunlight came out of nowhere and irrational joy was mine again.  It lasted for all of 20 seconds, and it hit me.  This is the point.  Joy is the point.  Getting to the place where you can let it find you (since chasing it rarely works) and accept it without question when it comes…  This is why we’re here.  The bad stuff that happens just carves out room in our experience so we can take in more joy when it reappears.  And for 20 seconds, I was 100% at peace with everything, exactly was it was.

Of course I lost it again.  I lose it all the time.  I get wrapped up in the dumbest stuff: people in the pool who occupy a lane only to stand on one end and talk.  Can’t you see that you could just as easily stand and gossip in the part of the pool that isn’t cordoned off for laps and let someone who is serious about swimming use the lane?  And I get irritated even when I’m perfectly situated in a lane of my own.  The mere existence of this selfish oblivion, coupled with the failure of the pool management to step in and point the offenders in the right direction, is enough to upend my internal balance while I’m swimming.  And it doesn’t have shit to do with me!

Trust me.  The enlightenment thing didn’t stick.  This might be a solid argument against my claim to have experienced episodic enlightenment.  Perhaps true enlightenment is the kind of thing you only have to do once.

But I don’t think so.  Just about everything worth having must be revisited again and again.  You can’t work out once and then be done with that for the rest of your life.  You can’t commit once and be done.  Commitment is a practice that you must show up for one day at a time, and every morning, you have to make that decision all over again: you.  No one eats once and call it quits, or bathes once and call that sufficient for the rest of their life.  Any of these things that go into living…  love, health, spirituality…  they all require maintenance.  I just don’t think you get to taste enlightenment once and then you’re good forever and ever amen.  In part, because I’m pretty sure enlightenment, like a lot of the best things in life, happens in small experiences and not in the big events.

Or at least that’s been my experience.

I do realize that it is a lot to claim enlightenment, even incremental or episodic enlightenment.  I’ve been the most unenlightened person ever this week.  The pool incident is recent.  My rage dreams are recent…  Enlightenment did not show up and decide to stay.

But maybe the idea that you can be submersed in everything for brief periods of time and then struggle like mad to get back there is okay for me, and if it is okay for me than maybe it is okay for you too…  And that’s mostly what I wanted to say.  Take it how it comes, and if enlightenment comes episodically, well, that counts for something too.

Enlightenment

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming for this Special Announcement

Bottom line up front: if you want a free copy of my book in exchange for a review of said book, go here.

Backstory: Story Cartel is a place where authors and readers can connect over free books and reviews.  Create a log in, peruse the books on the site, download that which looks interesting to you, agree to write a review, read a free book by an emerging author, and write a review.  Simple.  I tried it out as a reader with a book called Black.  My review is posted somewhere on Amazon – basically I tore through the book and afterwards realized there were serious flaws in the characterization.  What do you do with a book that entertains you, but has some issues?  You review it.

For my regular readers who come here for the parts where I’m addressing the big questions of how to live with integrity in a world that has completely lost all pretense of being solidly black or white, The Camellia Resistance is a fictional exploration of the same basic themes.  It isn’t autobiographical, or even semi-autobiographical, but it does address what happens after the worst thing you can think of takes place.  It is decidedly adult, unequivocally fantasy, and thoroughly dystopian.  If you haven’t already read it, here’s a chance to see what it is all about.  It will only cost you the time it takes to read and 15 minutes to tell amazon how you felt about it.

Basically, it would be a huge personal favor that I hope I can repay by entertaining you for a few reading hours.

Audrey.

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming for this Special Announcement

Under Water

I started swimming a few months back.  My rationale at the time was something about realizing that I’m not getting younger here and I need to do something to show the universe I’m trying to stave off the ravages of decrepitude some 30 years down the line.  Apparently, swimmers are physiologically about 18 years younger than their non-swimming counterparts – who comes up with these statistics – and I’d like to hedge my bets as much as possible.  I’m officially at the age where I’ve got to start that nonsense.  So I started.

And discovered that it is paying crazy dividends for my sense of mental balance.  My mentor mentioned that symmetrical movement helps the brain hemispheres get re-organized, which is good for an overall sense of balance, but google doesn’t seem to be coughing up any research to back that up. It sounds good, if nothing else.

Maybe it’s got something to do with the meditative breathing.  It forces a rhythm, and, come to think of it, it forces deep breathing as well.  None of this shallow breathing nonsense.  There is a lot of research on the connection between how we feel and our physiological presence.  If you want to appear more confident, go to the bathroom and stand in a victory pose (arms up in the air like you just won the Marine Corps Marathon) for a while.  You can be in a good mood or smile, or you can smile and change your mood.

It’s working on a lot of levels, then.

Intense rooting in the body: don’t drown, don’t drown, don’t drown.

Zazen-like counting: reach 1, reach 2, reach 3 and breathe.  reach 1, reach 2, reach 3 and breathe.

Being so busy trying to remember how many laps you’ve gone thus far that you can’t think about anything else, thereby breaking whatever patterns of thought you’d been stuck in: was this lap 7 or lap 8?  They all look the same!

Symmetrical movement, perhaps balancing out the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Movement-induced endorphins.

Alone-time.

Oh, and the part where I found a muscle yesterday and I didn’t even have to go looking for it.

I know I’m not the only one in the world with a propensity for anxiety and a distaste for exercise.  If my motivator were to be a bean-pole, I’d have quit by now, for sure.  But if anyone else out there is running out of xanax and wanting some feel better that doesn’t come in a pill…  I’m suggesting you give the pool a shot.

Just not my pool.  There are plenty of people at that one already.

 

Under Water