Today I cried a lot. And it’s only noon.
I was meeting my friend from out of town for coffee after my 8:15 cycling class and realized that it was going to be the first time I was wearing a sports bra in public after actually working out (instead of pretending I’d just worked out in order to justify wearing my sports bra in public) and I got very excited. I seemed to have become a person I never expected to be and that was very exciting, since this particular person I had become had both healthy and social inclinations.
Anyway, we met and it was so good to see her, it had been a year and we rarely talk on the phone, and after a while of catching up she said, “I don’t know if I’ve already told you this, but my mom has Parkinsons.”
No, she hadn’t. I didn’t know. I couldn’t believe it, her mom is the person who gets more done than everyone else and leads and cooks and works so it’s not possible.
As my friend explained what it looks like to have Parkinsons at this stage, how the brain can’t process the same way, how someone with Parkinsons can follow two steps of instructions but not three, I started crying. It wasn’t big crying, it wasn’t my place to have big, loud tears, but it was like we were sitting at this little table in a coffee shop and the space in between us had just turned into a void where we both stood and looked at the reality of what was happening to her mother, and to her.
My dad has a hearing aid and we still have to shout in order for him to hear us. We grew up with visits to my grandmother punctuated every five minutes with my dad shouting, “Mother, put in your hearing aid!” and my grandmother shooing him away, disgusted with the hearing aid and probably with her son for being so obnoxious. And now it’s him.
My grandmother had a bowl full of plastic grapes on her coffee table. There were green grapes that were normal-sized, and purple grapes that looked more like plums, and I knew, of course, that they were fake, but I still liked to bite on them when no one was looking. They were squishy, filled with air, and satisfying to bite. And it wasn’t like I was two, I was probably 11 or 12.
She also had plastic on her couches. And she told me that you should only use four squares of toilet paper, folded. She got so skinny when she was older. Frail, like a bird. Forgetting things so she asked the same questions over and over and over again.
What is this life we’re living? What are we supposed to be doing? How many things do we argue about, stupid things, filling the world with poison and guilt and anger? Sometimes I feel like I can step over it, walk around like I’m walking on glass and the rest of the world is underneath and I can look down on everyone arguing.
In those times I feel so calm, like I can just walk forward and do what I have to do and not get sidetracked or overwhelmed or stressed out by anything. And it feels like this is what is possible, what we’re really all supposed to be aiming for. But it also feels a little boring. Maybe nirvana is boring. Do you think it is? No pain, but no great joy, just a constant general buzz of things being OK exactly as they are?
I don’t really know what nirvana’s supposed to be like anyway. There’s probably some official definition—hold on, I’m going to look it up.
Hey, check it out!! I was actually kind of right:
- Freedom from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations, with their consequent suffering, as a result of the extinction of individual passion, hatred, and delusion: attained by the Arhat as his goal but postponed by the Bodhisattva.
- A place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world.
Well, look at that. I’ve been achieving nirvana without even realizing it!
Bursts of nirvana. Because this morning was clearly not free from pain or worry.
And what is it I’m really trying to say? The purpose of this thing that I’m doing for 40 days, this Thing That Matters, is to prove to myself (which will help me prove to others) that it’s possible to set aside distractions, to move through excuses, to be willing to believe that it will all be OK even if you START with the thing that’s most important to you instead of getting all the other stuff done first and leaving this one ‘til the end, by which point you’ll be exhausted, spent and wanting to just drop down on the couch and binge watch Chopped.
What I’ve needed so far to continue to prioritize the Thing That Matters to me:
- The structure, accountability and cheerleading of my coach
- The strong suggestion of my friend/other coach that today I start with writing instead of starting with all of the emails, follow-up and other tasks on my list that have to get done. Because I KNOW those will fill every possible second available and expand like foam into every inch of my calendar and leave me with nothing for the TTM. And I’ll be able to say that all of those things needed to get done, because that’s true, and I’ll just have to find another time to write, which I probably won’t be able to, at least not for a while. I know this, because it’s happened to me many, many times. And that’s OK, I just want to see what else is possible now.
- Flexibility and kindness. I realized yesterday that I kind of wasn’t doing this whole thing “right.” These 40 days were supposed to be based on the 40 Day Miracle I did a few years ago that changed my life. It was a very specific process, and it worked. I was just so excited about the fact that I did anything to start this off that I forgot that I was supposed to be doing something specific. When I realized that this was sort of a free form 40 days so far, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I wanted the kind of results I got the first time around, but something else was evolving naturally. Am I taking the easy way out and lying to myself by not following the structure? I’m not sure. Can I incorporate some of the structure and still give myself room to let this be what it needs to be? Probably. Right now, can I just be proud of myself for doing something different in my life and for sticking to a commitment? Yes. I think I’ll do that for now.
Our lives can be very full and hectic and heavy. Some days we need to be extra kind to ourselves. We need to let ourselves rest. We need to let ourselves cry. We need to watch movies and read books and paint. Or walk in nature or go to a spin class or write a song. I don’t know why I’m feeling right now like a water balloon about to burst, like I have energy about to spill out of my fingertips and like I can’t fully open my eyes, but I’m just going to accept that that’s what I feel like today, and let myself be.
I don’t know everything, I know some things, and I seem to have moved into a new phase where I can accept help. I can be OK not being the person in charge or the one who needs to know everything or be successful or never need help. Hallelujah! Two women, older, successful in different ways, offered to help me yesterday—to brainstorm, to bring me to networking events—and it was like the Universe was giving me a chance to accept not being “perfect,” to see that it’s absolutely normal to need help and get support and have questions and to want to grow and to be mentored.
It was a strange feeling for me, and when I sat with it I felt so adult—I felt proud for accepting that I could use help, instead of pretending I didn’t need any.
And so, going back to some of the structure of my original 40 Day Miracle, let me finish with my Compassionate voice:
Jennifer, good for you. Look at what you’re creating. You’ve shown up! You’ve shown up for three days straight now, and you showed up early for this one and you made sure it got done. Woohoo!!! Good for you for letting yourself be, for letting yourself feel what you feel and for stepping up and getting this done, whatever it looked like. Good for you for being honest about the ways in which you might be avoiding a harder job here, and being open to different possibilities. And good for you for being gentle with yourself, giving yourself time to be and feel and to do the things that are most important to you.
You are holding something hard and sad right now. You are holding it with your friend. You are seeing what it’s bringing up in your life, and you are sad and also willing to have it make you grab your life and live it. You have sent out loving thoughts and energy to people all over the world today, and you need to let yourself cry and rest.
This world is filled with a lot of fear and pain, sadness and anger. It’s also filled with a lot of love and joy and hope and selfless giving. Hold on to what’s most important to you and give your time and energy to that. You feel very lucky, and you are. Enjoy it, and fill this world with love, everywhere you go, starting inside yourself. Share it, because there’s an endless supply, and it makes people feel really good. And then they get to go out and share what they’re meant to share too.