Celebrate and Dance
We leave tomorrow, early, for our alone time to play and pamper, maybe even do the Bossa Nova. Lots to do to prepare and the weather throws me a curve ball. Forecasters said it was going to be chilly and wet. Instead, we get sunny, 65 degrees, and the warm wind that comes with it. I love the sounds the wind makes. Right now it’s calling my name to come out and play. Not everybody dies slowly, anticipating the event. Some of us go between the space, never making it to the next breath, unexpectedly. I’ve been practicing being ready at any time. And the thought comes, am I really being real?. And the next comes, this is the phenomenon so it must be real (?), but am I being authentic? What will my response be when the time stops? Gone, gone; gone beyond. Which is, by the way, quite a soul relaxing mantra as we let it settle in. then gently swirl and lift us to the beyond. From a great teacher, Pema Chodren: “One moment, one chance. This moment, this chance, to experience self and to forget self.”
Found myself wanting to stay inside of myself, and also retreating into mindless-ness. There were times when the thoughts “I’ve worked hard enough. This is as ready as I’m going to get”, were sluggish in giving space to any others. Then I read two pop ‘thriller’, FBI, mystery things in three days. Even stayed up to 4AM one night, reading. And I ate a lot of popcorn, with garlic butter. Each of these things rates high in my book on ‘Quality of Life’. I also know how easily one can slip onto a path of self-centered-ness, isolation, and depression if this becomes the norm rather than the treat. I know, only too well, as I play at my party of one. And this is OK, until like a ripening fruit, the time of OK has passed. Then it’s time to make the better choice, for me anyway. On the ‘About’ Page, I’m labeled a “hermit wannabe”. Since I’m still a wannabe, I periodically return to the school of hermits, and The Rule of St. Benedict. Here is what he says about hermits when defining the ‘different kinds of monks’: “Second, there are the hermits, who have come through the test of living in a monastery for a long time, and have passed beyond the first fervor of monastic life. Thanks to the help and guidance of many, they have built up their strength and go from the battle line in the ranks of their brothers and sisters to the single combat of the desert.” Very metaphorical, wouldn’t you say? After the pampering day, we’ll be at a Trappist Monastery for a special visit, to rest in peace.
Quick Note on Monastics and Hermits
Even before I started my theological studies, I became captivated with Thomas Merton’s autobiographical “The Seven Story Mountain”. Part of the romance was that I had traveled many of the routes, and sat in many of the same churches that he had. I was also living a very ordered life on gentleperson’s farm, kennel, and boarding business and hobby. The other part was that his life was an incredible adventure, before, and after he became a Trappist monk and hermit. I soon began visiting a nearby Benedictine monastery, and then got to know it quite well in the course of my work. I met monks who were Physicians and University Professors and gardeners and business professionals and farmers and butchers, bakers, candle stick makers. Just like every one else. Unfortunately, the concept of monasticism, in all the traditions, is often considered ‘odd’, to say the least. Can’t deny that it’s not a common choice of livelihoods. And then look at those who live, publicly, as hermits. Yes, Thomas Merton. And also Br. David Steindl-Rast, the foundation of www.Gratefulness.org; educated, well-traveled, influential, contemporary hermit. And you know what happens sometimes? We shy away from exploring the monastic way, because we’re not monks, we live in the world and consider it inaccessible. Monks live in the same world, they just follow other rules. Yet, the fundamentals of the ‘rules’ are quite accessible via the internet and some excellent books, and up close also.
I know that when I start to get too focused on myself that it’s a warning sign to reach out of myself to others. It doesn’t count if I’m the recipient of someone else’s reaching out. Contemporary research tells us that depression is epidemic among the elderly but, those with an active social life have a much lower incidence than average. So, for my better health, I spent some extra time at the nursing home visiting with my 96 year old best friend. It also keeps the process of living while dying all around me. My friend and I have something in common. We’re both prepared and waiting for the time when the dying is reaching beyond. Gone, gone, gone beyond.
A Few Good Things
You might appreciate, until the next post. This blog has been a great help to me during this One Year To Live Experiment, and I have you to thank. Without you, I may have quit any number of times. And I’m glad I didn’t, thank you.
Video from UpWorthy.com: “2 Years Before He Died”. Three minutes of comedian, Bill Hicks, who “passed away almost 20 years ago, but his words about life still resonate. His time on earth was short. But if he lived by his own advice, I bet it was a good ride.”
“The Long Trip Into a Dark Season” Sunday NYT 10/27/13 from the book The Fifth Season Very short, about a Daughter-in-Law’s experience of care-giving.
And, “Hiring an End-of-Life Enforcer”, also from The New York Times “The New Old Age” blog, “the chilling dilemma of ‘the unbefriended elderly”. Also short and very thought provoking.