That Day We Always Knew Was Coming…

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” 
Robert Frost

I’m feeling achy and sad inside today. Late on Monday afternoon, we sent Ben’s elderly mum to hospital. She’s in her nineties and has always been stubbornly independent. And she’s been able to stay at home on her own with help which is just the way she wanted it.

But she’s been in increasing pain from a degenerated hip. Her vision is failing. She’s moved into dementia. Bit by bit we’ve watched as she’s stopped driving, stopped shopping, stopped cooking. We’ve all worried over her, and what to do for her, and what might happen when she moved into that place of no longer coping.

Now, over the past few days she’s not been eating, not drinking water, and all she’s done is cry from pain no matter what we’ve done or with what home doctors have prescribed. So off she went in the back of an ambulance – with a small bag packed with nighties, a hairbrush and toothbrush, a dressing gown, her house keys.

We met with hospital staff yesterday and we realised we’d reached that time we’d always known was coming. She won’t be able to go home to her own home. The hospital will do their best to manage her pain, and to find the best options for her. But when she leaves hospital it will be to go into care.

So last night after we left her in her hospital bed, Ben and I went over to her house to take the perishables from the fridge, water the pot plants and put out the bins for her.

We didn’t think we’d cry, but of course we did. It’s hard to believe that she left in her pyjamas with that tiny bag, and now she won’t be coming back to her home and all the memories and everything she loves.

The only thing that matters to all of us is that she is safe, well cared-for and most importantly that she is not in pain. So she’s in the right place, and this is the right time, but oh, I didn’t think it would be so terribly hard, so terribly sad, or that we would be this emotional.

Maybe it’s better like this. No big dramas, no long-winded goodbyes. No big scenes about putting her into a place she said she’d rather die than have to end up in. She’s happy to stay in hospital or ‘medical places’ until they can get her pain under control. It was a blessing to say goodbye to her yesterday and see her face a little less drawn, and watch her burrow down under the covers and go to sleep in clean sheets, a hot meal in her tummy and kind nurses checking in on her.

Still, we’re struggling with it. Still, we’re wishing there was another way.

Love cracks you open, doesn’t it? But isn’t it fiercely, beautifully worth it to feel it all so deeply.

Biggest hugs to you, my lovelies, from your slightly broken-hearted friend,

Nicole ❤ xx

 

That 2am Place – A Lesson In Mindfulness for Insomniacs

“It was that sort of sleep in which you wake every hour and think to yourself that you have not been sleeping at all; you can remember dreams that are like reflections, daytime thinking slightly warped.” 
Kim Stanley Robinson

I’m still in the grip of this flu. Not only that, I’m stuck in the city so that I can be close to a hospital while my heart continues to misbehave.

Here I am again, awake at 2am (which is when I am writing this – I’ll schedule it to post all by itself so I can sneak back to bed later and hopefully finally get some more sleep). Each night I’m in bed early, and I’ll fall asleep easily. But then my heart wakes me up, sometime between 11pm and 2am, pounding and crashing and racing in my chest. I’ll sit up in bed, distressed, catch my breath and cough a little and then quieten myself and try to bring my heart back to a normal pace using meditation and my breath. I’ll have a nice big glass of water with magnesium too, which sometimes helps. Still, it’s a bother.

Once upon a time, years and years ago, I used to panic at stuff like this. I was an amateur back then and worried excessively about every creak groan, pain and weird symptom. Now this kind of stuff is background noise mostly, and I have a raft of management techniques I use while I wait to see what my body will do and if I will need medical attention or whether it will settle on its own. One of my favourite techniques is mindfulness.

Mindfulness has become a soothing companion for me over the years. I use it three ways. I thought that by sharing this you might be able to add it in to your coping skills toolkit too. This technique works for pain, anxiety and many other kinds of problems.

  1. I become mindful of my body. Sitting or lying quietly I bring my attention to my breath. Then I take a tour, starting at the top of my head and working all the way to the tips of my toes. At each part of my body I draw my focus inwards and observe. How does my body feel? Any pain? Hot or cold? Any sensations or things I need to be aware of? Can I use my awareness to bring control, assistance and calm to my body? I’ve found that this simple act often dials down my pain, calms my heart and breathing, and lets me work through and out the other side of whatever is going on. Thinking about pain generally is very different to feeling into it specifically. When you connect with your pain through mindfulness and being in the moment everything becomes much more manageable.
  2. I become mindful of what’s going on outside my body. Always I bring my attention back to my breath first. Then I reach outside myself with my senses. What noises can I hear? How far can I hear when I reach beyond myself? Where does that awareness take me? Is there a breeze or any other kind of weather I can detect? What animals or people can I hear? If I can see the sky I pay particular attention to that. I let myself dissolve into the world around me, so that I am at the centre and life surrounds me. (This is a brilliant technique for developing your psychic senses too!) If my eyes are open, what can I see? What can I feel? Can I feel the texture of the sheets, or the cool of the night? This brings me a sense of reconnection and belonging. I see that I am more than just my body.
  3. I become mindful of my thoughts and emotions. By now, having spent time in mindfulness of my body and surroundings I am usually calmer. I sit or lie quietly and bring my focus to my breath. Then I stay quiet and open, waiting to see what arises for me. I tune in to any thoughts or emotions – not grabbing at them but letting them float up into my awareness. When I recognise a thought or emotion I sit with it, to see what it means for me. I do this with love and compassion for myself. Often this simple act of witnessing will dispel worry and uncrowd my overactive mind. This, in turn, soothes my physical body and often enables me to return to sleep.

Once I am calm again and things have settled I might go back to bed, or stay up for a little longer and write, or perhaps stand at the window or sit on a chair and watch the slumbering world for a while.

There’s a gorgeous moon tonight, a streaky golden sky, and the air is warm and slightly salty. It feels like there will be early morning fog here in Brisbane. It’s May and I am wearing only a thin cotton nightdress. My feet are bare. It’s almost winter, but it could be a summer night.

As I stand on our balcony I see a lone black and white cat walking down the centre of our street, placing her paws very deliberately, looking warily as she patrols. A possum and her baby are creeping along the power lines and there are fruit bats crying noisily and flapping all about the fig tree across the way. A rescue helicopter flies high overhead enroute to hospital and I send them love, light and my prayers for their journey. Meanwhile, the street sleeps on…

Hopefully soon so will I.

Sending much love to you, Nicole ❤ xx

 

Sorry You Missed Me Yesterday…

 

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” ~ Gever Tulley

I was intending to blog yesterday, and then I couldn’t.

Early on Monday morning I was strapped into a heart monitor and holder for twenty-four hours, and while I was wired I had to stay away from my cell phone, computers and major electrical devices.

I’m okay. Please don’t worry. Over time lyme and other infections have damaged my heart, and after a recent episode of tachycardia and a few miss-beats one of my doctors thought it prudent to investigate a little further. For me that’s pretty much business as usual. There are always background things going on with my health, I just don’t focus on them or talk about them very much.

Two things I am grateful for in this ongoing saga that is my health:

  1. All of the hardship in my life has made me resilient. I know that whatever happens in life I can cope, adapt, manage, and in many cases thrive anyway.
  2. Meditation is my rock, and one of the major factors in me managing my day-to-day circumstances with grace and ease. (Mostly. Some days are still tears and bother!)

I had a lovely time offline. My Spiritual Awakening Retreat starts next Tuesday, so I put together the bags for the participants, undid my latest crystal grid in the back yard and washed the stones and allocated them for my students, assembled the materials for some of the spiritual tools we’ll make for our personal toolkits and baked up a storm in the kitchen – trialling recipes for Easter.

I’ve discovered that as long as you can manage pain (medications and meditation are great for this, or counselling and meditation if your pain is emotional) you can cope with and adapt to just about anything.

No matter what’s going on for you right now, know that you can do this. You can manage, you can cope, you can get through, you can find a way. I believe in you and in your own enduring resilience and spirit.

Sending you wind for your wings, and very big hugs, Nicole❤ xx

A Moment of Perfect Peace

Crescent_Moon_(2558144570)

“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
― Meister Eckhart

Very late yesterday afternoon I had a sudden urge to go and water my vegetable garden.

It had been a difficult day, after a series of difficult days. I’ve been in tremendous pain from my current lyme medications, and doing my best to just simply sit with that pain. I’m not fighting my pain. I’m merely breathing and being aware of the pain within my body. The pain is so intense that normal functioning is a challenge. Instead I have given in to what is. I am riding each wave until I am thrown up onto the shore once more.

It’s been an enlightening journey, and when I have the words I’ll share some of that journey with you.

But for now I am tired, after so many days of so little sleep. So let me instead tell you about watering the garden.

It was late afternoon. You know, that soft afternoon light, just before dusk comes creeping over the horizon. I uncoiled the garden hose, turned on the tap and walked down the hill to my raised vegetable beds. My feet were on the bare earth, and the grass beneath them was soft and cool. The air was filled with the song of frogs and cicadas, and the last of the birds. Mr Grunty, our resident male koala, was grunting and barking and being noisy from his spot high in the gum tree just outside the home paddock fence.

A bat flipped past, so low that I could hear the flap of its leathery wings.

All this time I am wracked with pain. My face is contorted and I can’t see out of one eye. My ears pound, and my bones are on fire. Every so often my nerves jangle as though I have been tasered.

I am standing in the garden in agony, tears streaming down my face, trying to hold the hose steady on my young plants. I wonder for a moment why I have bothered to drag myself out here at all.

The air becomes scented with mint and nasturtium. I can smell the fragrant sun-warmed tomato foliage as the water hits it, scattering cool drops onto the mulch beneath.

Image from Goodness Is

Image from Goodness Is

Above me, a crescent moon has risen. Almost directly above the old hoop pine that shelters our little farmhouse.

In that moment, hose in my hands, feet in the grass, sounds of the close of day, moon above my head, body on fire, ragged breath, head full of pain, a great peace descends upon me.

A peace so profound, a connection so complete, that more tears spill. The pain is still there. Nothing about my physicality has changed at all. But beyond that, encompassing all of that – all of me, is a wonder and awe at the beauty and grace of this universe, and of my place within it.

My pain doesn’t matter. My illness becomes irrelevant. They are merely what’s happening to me at this moment. My soul, connected to everything and everyone, is always at peace. Even in great pain. Even when it feels like my world is undone.

The knowledge fills me up. The truth seeps into my very cells.

I carry that peace back into the house, and it quietens my mind. The pain is still there. But now there is also this other presence. This great comfort.

I feel like I have touched the face of God.

Or perhaps, God touched my face.

Or it was all the same thing…

And that presence is still here with me.

All of it, every breath, every moment, is love.

The Golden Light  by bnilesh

The Golden Light by bnilesh