"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

April 11, 2017

"This is going to be some day..."



Much has been written about mindfulness and there are various books, blogs, and classes out there in the ether, and in reality. For some it is a daily practice and complete lifestyle. One of my favorite books is World Enough & Time by Christian McEwen (Bauhan Publishing) and certainly worth another read–I can't recommend it enough. A favorite blog is called "Zen Habits" published by Leo Babauta and I had to laugh when I read his recent entry, "Three Habits for the Overwhelmed, Stressed, Anxious" because that fairly well pegs it right now. Then there is anything written, or said, by Jon Kabat-Zinn (who happened to be the colleague of a family friend, who was also doula for my first child back in 1988, **Ferris Urbanowski. But that is another story...), and certainly Thich Nhat Hanh who composed the lovely Zen calligraphy that I've shared here (a small representation of his work).
Lately I've been struggling with accomplishing basic every day tasks and larger ones related to my writing and potential writing projects. Putting my health first is also a challenge and I've never been very good at "giving myself oxygen first." As I answer to no one, except myself or the flow of the day, this is harder than it might seem. While my time is generally my own––if not involved with making a meal, overseeing a medical issue for a family member that can be all encompassing (like right now), or taking kids to school and back––it would seem that I should have no excuse. I really don't because I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to time management. Even the 2-4 round trips to our boys' school (18 miles each way), which used to translate into 2-4 hours a day sometimes, have been removed because one of our boys is now driving his own car and his brother, too. You'd think with all of that extra time I've have MORE time but it just seems like it's falling through a sieve. [Bouts of depression do not help, either, but fortunately there are pills for that.]

I blame this fleeting time/time wasted phenomenon that I am now experiencing partly on my age and circumstances. A person in their mid-50s has easily lived more than half of their lives and there is no guarantee on the rest. The old adage about "it's all down hill from here," after one turns 50 is apt: after all, one accelerates as they go down hill, while trying not to trip or crash, and time certainly seems to be doing that, too.

I also have two very independent young men in the home–one of whom will be off to college in August and the other with two years still in high school. Yet I hardly see either one of them! Between school, and activities, and driving themselves now, and their after school jobs, it can be a revolving door and they don't need me so much. I'm on the edge of empty nest all over again having gone through it once before when my daughter stayed back in New England, at 20, when we moved here. Then another mini-bout of it in 2012 right before I turned 50 and when she lived here with us for about six months and then headed out west for a new job and new life.

It was Ferris, actually, who said to me something I have never forgotten. When my daughter was born, Ferris said, "She is no longer yours and the rest of your life will be a continued journey of 'letting go'..." That resonated then and even more so now. Empty nest is a real thing but so is each milestone of a child's life: eventually we let them go into the world, but every day when they leave the house we are letting go, too, and hoping that they will be alright. Then one day you wake up and realize they are almost grown, and gone.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali, 1931, MOMA
So there's that. Meanwhile, in my 20s, life seemed limitless and boundless and that I could do anything with it. At some point the reality creeps in that maybe you can't do everything you want, or wanted, to do. As someone with so many different interests, and an innate attention deficit issue, this can be cold comfort.

I have often written about my Old-Order Mennonite friend Anna who has been my primary glimpse into the world of a certain kind of mindfulness. She lives very much in the task–whether it be laundry (no electricity), baking, quilting, or gardening. Yes, she ponders but she primarily lives in her hands and is rarely idle–much like the Shaker saying of "Hands to work and Hearts to God." I get that but like so many things that I fully understand it is often the practical application that is the hardest. My mother is another person who always likes to be doing something–like gardening–and I have few memories of her actually sitting down except at the end of a long day. Both women are productive "do-ers" and it never ceases to amaze me that my mother worked on her feet five days a week as a nurse and then came home to care for three teenagers and her mother. And here I am, with no full-time job, fewer mothering tasks, and nothing but time all around me.

Well, that's enough pondering and "living in my head" for one day. Only so much we can do in the world (and what a world it is becoming) so it's always best to focus on the home front and what's right in front of me. Life is good and I am very blessed, despite the occasional glitch or hurdle (like getting in my own way).

Back to the spring cleaning! And it helps me to listen to a favorite album like "Big Science" (1982) by Laurie Anderson while doing so. One thing at a time, one moment at a time. It is all that we have.

"This is going to be some day...this is the time and this is the record of the time."


You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

PS I have often thought about **Ferris through the years and have not seen her for almost two decades. She was a big part of the lives of my family for many years as she worked with my mother, a former nurse, at Whole Health Center in Peterborough, NH where Ferris was a counselor. In the 1970s, not far from our family farm, Ferris built a small off-grid cabin in the woods along with a like-minded community of other cabin builders well before it was the trend. She drove a school bus while putting herself through graduate school and raising two daughters, one of whom went to school with one of my brothers. She even put in a good word for a great job in public relations at Antioch New England back in the day, where she had studied (yes, it is about talent but I've also discovered it can be about connections–which is probably one reason it has been so difficult for me to get non-writing jobs in Kentucky).

She was also right beside me, and my mother and former stepfather, when I had my daughter, all naturally, on a hot June day in 1988. Long before her work in counseling and mindfulness, Ferris was featured in the natural childbirth Lamaze work of Elizabeth Bing when she lived in New York in the 1960s. I knew she had struggled with a brain tumor in recent years and could no longer find her website when I looked last year. I just Googled and found this video that she posted last fall. I can't tell you how it means to hear her voice across the miles, to hear about her struggles and continued triumphs despite obstacles, and to realize how her words mean the world right now. I encourage you to listen, also, to the video below and you, too might find magic–and more mindfulness-in your life.

"May we come home to our hearts."




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