Zen and the art of loss

Yesterday I wrote all morning, fast and furious, and produced a manuscript I’m really very proud of, as rough as it probably is.  It might be my best picture book yet.  I was elated, mostly because I’d obviously recovered from my depressed Monday blues.

Then I spent the afternoon making marinara sauce, baking two loaves of banana-chocolate chip bread, and tackling some laundry.

Today after a morning of errands to get ready for the girls’ party on Saturday, I spent two hours washing the front windows.  Then I did more laundry and cleaned the house.  I also cooked a lot and went to a parent board meeting at the nursery school.

You could say it’s an overdue fit of domesticity.  That would be nice, wouldn’t it?  And I’d be happy to claim that as my motivation.  Uber-Mom!  It’s about time!

But the truth is, I’m struggling to control anything in my world.  Housework I can take charge of.   I can subdue over-ripe bananas and pound chop meat into submission.  I can dictate the course of the wash cycles.

Disease and death I cannot control.

We are all so worried about Grandma these days, wondering what the doctors can do for her to help her through the newest round of health issues.  My mom and her siblings confer, share information, draw conclusions, help Grandma make decisions.  It’s what kids do for aging parents.  But although we’re adults now, we grandkids seem so out of the loop.  Not that it should be any different than it is, and not that my mom isn’t forthcoming with information when I ask.  

But we’re so worried.  I’m so worried.  The phone rings, I jump.  What news?  What can I do?  How can I help? 

Then on a lesser, but no less heart-wrenching, scale is my friend Dori, and her recent decision to put down her aging, sick dog, Abby.  If you’ve ever owned a pet you know what I mean when I say there are no words to describe the enormity of this decision.  Dori got Abby as a puppy when she, my sister and I were roommates in Southie.  Abby chewed a lot of stuff (mail was a particular favorite, as I recall), got into some mischief, but was just about the friendliest, most loving, big galoot of a yellow lab that you could ever find.  We hung out recently, and my heart broke to see Abby, ever smiling even when she could not raise her own hindquarters from the ground.   What to do when the painkillers fail?  How can I help?

I cannot control any of these things.  So I clean.  I bake.  I do laundry and wash windows.  I organize my coupons and dust my moldings and sweep the basement workroom.  All along I tell myself that order is good, order is welcome, order will restore the universe.

If I were a Buddhist I could probably meditate on the idea that I should let the river wash over me and not fight it so much.  I should not struggle for order, but rather let the order of things be as they will.

But I’m not Buddhist, and my own meditation practice is not enough to help me ride the week that’s ahead, or the month, or even the years of events beyond my control.

So I clean.  I tell the kids to clean their rooms.  Put the toys away — make sure every teeny Lego piece is put just where it should be, not just in a jumble at the bottom of the bin — line up the shoes.  

Then I can breathe and look around and see peace.  It is a false peace, but a welcome one nonetheless.    

Some might say that I should find another way of dealing with these situations in my life.  Meditate, do yoga, go for a run, take a bath.  Sure, I love to do all those things.  But afterwards, when I climb out of the bubbles, blow out the candle, and snuggle myself into my softest cotton pjs, the chaos remains, whether it’s the chaos of a disorganized house or the chaos of the knowledge that I can’t always fix things or save people.

Self-awareness is half of the journey.  I know why I struggle to order my wild Mom’s World.  I know why I struggle to create order in this chaos.  I am aware.

But a little part of me is convinced that if we all just hung up our coats and filed the mail, the river would flow more easily, the universe would listen, control would be real.

Loss would not be.


2 thoughts on “Zen and the art of loss

  1. I am Powerless to control anything other then me. I have tried for years to control others and life itself. I wanted to be the fixer, the bedrock, the go to guy. In sometings and at some time I was those things but not on a regular basis.

    I have come to believe that if I accept “life on life’s terms” then I am available to help others. Not fix them but be there for advice, a shoulder to cry on, to help carry the burdens, to help carry the grief.

    I control nothing without the help of my Higher Power and then it is only me that I can begin to control. My character defects are many and somedays I can control 1 or 2 of them. But others are there waiting to pop out . So I am learning to be positve, to smile more, to think before speaking, to give the other person the same rights that I have.

    We parents make the mistake of trying ALWAYS of protecting our children of hurt and try to fix their problems. I for 1, tend to be overly protective . Only share the good news and keep the bad news until it Has to be told. Mistake, maybe? But I can’t control the outcome of situations that are going to end in death. So ,I say to myself, why burden others with this kind of news. I’ll tell when I have to.

    In the past I buried my feelings and self medicate to not feel any emotions. Today I feel my emotions and I have learned to deal with them.I don’t have to self medicate. I have found other ways to let thoses emotins out.

    For you it may be cleaning, or writing, or keeping busy with the kids. What ever works is OK with me as long as it is not self destructive.

    Loss is a part of life. Buddha said–Life lives on life. We all eat and are eaten. When we forget this, we cry; when we remember this, we can nourish one another.

  2. Just having celebrated Easter when we should be rejoicing at Jesus resurrection and the promise that that brings to us, we feel that we are still in the desert of the 40 days of lent. But we are not alone. He walks with us, comforts us, gives us a family that will bear the burdens we have to bear with us. Death is part of life but it’s the very hard part when we are the ones that are being left. When the person who is growing closer to the end of their journey means so very much to us. We all go through these times in any way that can help us to cope but we must remember that as a family we are all there to travel the journey together. And we are never alone because God also walks the road of life with us. xo

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