I am in Colorado, sitting in my car talking to my sister, Anne, in Texas. She has spent the last week helping my parents in the hospital while my mom, Andrea, had a kidney infection. Anne tells me that, when it was time to leave the hospital, she said, "Mom, it's time to go home."
Mom said, "Anne, I don't have a home."
Dad said, "You know, Andrea, I just can't call that place home either."
Mom and Dad had been living in an assisted living community in Austin, Tx for about nine months, and while it was not horrible, the situation was a bit depressing. And while the facility provided a more-than-basic level of care, clearly the place had not become "home" for either of them.
I told Anne, "Well, you know, things in life can change on a dime. We never actually know what is right around the corner."
Kelly and I put an offer down on a house in Buena Vista, Colorado.
We invited Mom and Dad to move to Colorado with us.
Locket, Kelly and I loaded up in the Sprinter van and took a cross-country camping, hiking and teaching trip that included visits to some of my favorite yoga communities and gave me the distinct honor of getting to marry two of my yoga students, which was a highlight.
October 18, we took possession of our new house.
I spent a lovely week in San Marcos, Texas hosting Manorama for her intensive and co-teaching with Gioconda Parker.
Mom and Dad moved in.
Anne and Jeff came for Thanksgiving.
December I returned to San Marcos for the Winter Asana Intensive. We had our first Christmas here. Anne and Jeff came for the holidays again.
The new year began and continued with teaching trips, snow blowers, learning to snowboard, going to church again, cooking, cleaning, laundry and the like. Intermingled with all the details of living and teaching, I have been adjusting to living in a new place as well as living in a more extended family situation for the first time since I left home when I was eighteen.
And so on.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Kelly, Locket, Mom, Dad and I are driving from Leadville, Colorado to Buena Vista, after getting our driver's licenses changed. As we passed the sign for Buena Vista city limits, Mom said, "We're home!"
I don't think she meant a lot by her comment in any conscious way. However, her joyful exclamation registered in my consciousness as a meaningful moment of which to take note.
Mom had a home again.
We are part of that home.
I texted Anne: Mission Accomplished.
Three and half years ago, my mom had her second stroke. This one came 13 years after her first stroke and her recovery has been difficult for her, for dad and for our family. As her needs increased, we made the choice for Mom and Dad to go to the Assisted Living Community, where this little blog entry began. Mom didn't talk much over the last few years and had slipped into her inner world to a degree that we, as a family, were unsure if she was experiencing signs of dementia or if she had a more significant level of damage from the stroke than we had previously thought.
In the time she has been with us, her strength has steadily increased, her interest in life has returned and she is talking again-- telling stories, making jokes and laughing at herself and all of us. In more ways than I can list, she has come back to life.
More could certainly be said, but much of that is hers--and Dad's-- story to tell, not mine.
The story that I can tell is that life can, and often does, change on a dime. The day I sat in my car talking to my sister I had been planning on returning to Texas in the fall and getting back to business as usual after a summer season in the Colorado mountains. I had no plans for a big life change. I had not been planning on re-orienting my life and becoming an active participant in caring for my aging parents.
And yet, here I am.
And I am happier than I thought I would be in the change.
A few weeks ago, a visiting Episcopalian bishop came to our church and preached about Lazarus. He suggested that each one of is Lazarus in some way. Each one of us is breathing but not necessarily living, walking but not in freedom of choice--bound and blinded by habits of thought word and deed that keep us locked in a tomb of limitation--perceived or actual and making us ripe for transformation.
He also suggested that each one of us are the disciples saying that the journey is too dangerous. Each one of us is Mary, blaming God. And each one of us Martha, wanting to avoid what is smelly, unsightly and distasteful that must be faced in order to grow. And he also said, that in some way, each one of us can also connect to the power of Love that is Jesus in the story. Each one of us can be renewed, revived and (dare I say it?) resurrected in Love.
The story I can tell is that caring for my parents in this way has clearly been a good thing for them, for which I am super grateful. And our new arrangement has been a good thing for me also. In countless small and often seemingly insignificant ways, the change has breathed new life into my perspectives, has unbound areas of my own self-centeredness and has opened my eyes to a wider world of Loving. Love has called me out of a cave of comfort in to an arena of risk that holds its own reward in the process of living into it.
The thing about Love seems to be that it has the power to transform, not only those who receive it, but those who offer it. Being a part of someone's depression lifting, witnessing someone's sense of humor return, and providing a place that someone can call "home" is deep, meaningful and extraordinary territory to inhabit. Tender, precious, tough and worthwhile.
And don't even get me started on Easter.
And since many folks want to know a lot of specific things about the move so here goes--
All right, if you made it this far, I applaud you.
I have had difficulty writing blog entries lately as evidenced by the fact I have not written since last year. Between the election, the move, the adjustments to a new circumstance, I haven't had a clear notion of what to put down on paper.
I don’t feel like debating politics at all. I think we have a dangerous situation there— not just #45 but the entire regime he ushered in with him. And I am not that open-minded about it and I have yet to see anything in his actions that have convinced me to change my opinion. I do listen and read— as best as I can, which admittedly is better some days than others— to people who support #45, but I have yet to see the situation differently. I do not think that “giving him a chance” makes any sense. (In fact, he has his chance regardless of how I feel about it, so I don’t understand that line of advice anyway. And, larger forces than my opinion need to work through legal channels for his chance to be over and that will take some time. But I digress.)
I do stay tuned to the ongoing developments in the political arena and I see what could be signs of hope in terms of some dynamic leadership rising up in resistance. And I phone my senators and congress people. I also think Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin is a voice, not only of resistance, but of something that might come close to reconciliation. Her smart, generous, passionate and clear-minded perspectives are good for those interested in educating themselves about how to be an intelligent part of progressive politics right now.
When our current president was elected, we were in the middle of an intensive at The San Marcos School of Yoga. I didn’t know what to say to my students but I did know what we needed to do. Walking into the tearful, scared and angry group of people who were in attendance that week, I offered a short ritual that involved movement, expression, visualization and mantra. Oh, and some fire. And then we did our asana practice—a strong, heart-opening practice to work squarely in the face of apathy and fear.
I am not of the mind that yoga actually makes the world a better place. Nor do I think that just because we practice asana we become better people. I do not think yoga— in and of itself— solves many problems. I think yoga may even make some problems worse. For instance, any of us with OCD tendencies might notice that regular counting-based practices leave us counting more than our breath off the mat. Those of us with eating issues may find ourselves in the grips of yoga-inspired food restrictions ranging from vegetarianism to cleansing protocols to well, you name it. Anyone suffering from body image issues may feel worse at times, not better. More than one narcissist practicing yoga has done more than a little harm to the people in their communities. It can be all too easy for any of us to fall prey to the multi-faceted traps of delusion, illusion, and confusion no matter how sincere our intentions are.
So there is that.
And yet, for me doing my various practices bear fruit. I am not talking about practice as simply going to class where we get caught in the nitty-gritty, in’s and out’s of what is happening in any public studio anywhere— some of which is really great, some of which is not my thing, and some of which is downright troubling. I am talking about studying scripture and grappling with the Teachings. I am talking about praying— out loud, in silence, in groups or alone, in faith or in desperation. I am talking about singing and chanting the Names of God. I am talking about moving with my breath. I am talking about exploring the shapes— again— to see, in some way, what the state of my own union is— again. And again. I am talking about charting the territory from my big toe mounds to my sternum and watching the chains of reactions inside of myself that occur as I invite myself again— and again— to be present to my embodied experience. I am talking about writing in my journal, talking to my therapist, going to church, reading inspirational literature and staying close to those things that nourish and nurture my faith, strengthen my ability to live in accordance with my inner compass, to fight the good fight against despair, cynicism and nihilism and to believe in Love.
Practice is not world peace. Practice will not save the environment or pay for health care. This work may not always pay the bills. And yet, I think that there is no time like the present to dive deep into the life of spiritually-oriented practice because we are living in a time where the very structures of our society are eroding— like free press, public education, environmental regulations, health care, arts and so on— and if we do not have an inner connection and are not practiced in taking that inner journey to the source of our innate wisdom, discernment and vision, we will be at the mercy of the outside forces of destruction. We will be that much more manipulatable, that much more able to turn a blind eye to injustice and that much less willing to rise up, resist and persevere.
There is no magical solution, as I see it. There is simply the next pose.
Again and again.
In other news, I learned to snowboard this year.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."