Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meditations on Observation

I spend a lot of time in quiet observation. There has never been a time in my life, when I have done more of this than during the past eighteen months. When my brother died on February 17, 2008, something inside of me withered and crumbled, leaving behind a spirit that was scarred in a way that even I could not fully comprehend. And I am now beginning to understand how incredibly hurt my soul has been. How deeply damaging my own mother's behavior was to my fragile psyche during a time when all I really needed, was someone to mother me. I had never asked for or even expected it before. I knew that in so many ways, she was incapable. But oh how I needed a mother during that time, and oh how she betrayed such a simple petition. All has been forgiven. Because I chose to. Because I knew that it was the right thing to do. Because I could not be the one to leave my own mother, childless. But even now, I am writing through the pain. It runs through my body like thick mud through a very narrow canal, pulsating against the margins of skin. Thick with betrayal and sadness and confusion.

So, I thin it down with forgiveness. I speak to her, I see her, I listen to her. I love her, but I just cannot like her. She has caused me too much pain over the course of my forty-seven years. And yet she clings to me. She tells me that spending time with me is like medicine for her, without even realizing that it is toxic for me. I hate this. I want it to be different, but it cannot be. She has done too much harm and all that I can offer her is forgiveness.

So, I retreat into the realm of quiet observation. I observe short vignettes into the lives that go on around me. I quietly watch, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that will heal my wounded heart. I know what a healthy relationship looks and feels like, because I have created and nurtured many in my life, but still, there is something missing that should be there. And I mourn its loss, even while it is still alive.

I have recently begun catching up on all of the health-related appointments that I skipped during the past year. Our family has been going to the same dentist for over fifteen years. When he asked me why I had missed a cleaning, I admitted something to him while admitting it to myself. For the past year and a half, I had checked out. I stopped going to all of the appointments that I was so good about going to in the past. I did not do it consciously, but in some ways, it was a mindful decision. I was not interested in dealing with the body, when the spirit felt so lost. My chronic illness exacerbated this by allowing me to wallow in the physicality of my pain. It began to feel as if I was giving up, fading away, giving in. And then I went to the dentist, and after finding out that he wants me to come back again sooner than normal, something in my soul shook loose. I realized that I was falling behind in my life. I began to realize that I was observing my own life from a kind of detached, other-worldly place, and that if I continued on that path, the result could be devastating. So yesterday, I went back to the gynecologist for the first time since 2007 and I now have plans to get my mammogram, get back to my hematologist/oncologist every three months for blood work and to visit my dermatologist to get checked for any suspicious sun damage. After sending my dear husband, Mark, in to find out how to combat any further sun damage, and then finding out yesterday, that he has a very mild form of skin cancer that must be removed from the bridge of his nose, my world of observation became an even more dangerous place. It is time to do more than just observe.

So as I slowly make my way back up to the surface of my life, here are a few of the observations that I made over the past year and a half. May they serve as reminders for us all.
Toss away negative feelings in the same way that you might throw a ball. Physically find a way to let them go, whether it be by throwing some rocks into the ocean, or releasing a balloon into the air. Utilizing a physical symbol to sustain the idea that we are letting go, is a good way to reinforce it.
Create lots of memories and then photograph them. I cannot tell you how comforting the pictures that I have of myself with my brother are. There are just not enough of them. Take lots of pictures. Be absolutely sure to include yourself in them. Oh and do not worry about scrapbooking or putting them in albums. It's the memories that are crucially important, not how you file them away.
Look for beauty in the beliefs and traditions of others while still honoring your own. There is so much to be gleaned from observing the things that give meaning to lives of others. This woman held my attention for quite some time. The way that she looked in her sari made me wish that I could wear one, too.
Try to view the time spent waiting, as perfect timing. Recently, a friend wrote about an incident in which she avoided being involved in a car accident that occurred a few cars ahead of her because she was running a few minutes late. The Universe has timing that we cannot possibly understand.
Accept your own beauty in the same way that you appreciate the beauty that you observe in others. I might not be the exact weight that I would like to be, at this point in time, but so what. I am here, I am alive and I am wonderful.(There. Now I said it, so you can, too!)
Take comfort in the arms of those you love and who love you. To me, there is nothing better than a genuine, heart-felt hug.
Enjoy the company of someone else. Absorb each other's energy. Discover the things that are important to the other person. Collect sea glass!
Never stop searching for more. We will never know what we can possibly know unless we continue to be curious.
As I move forward into another phase of my life, one in which I promise to be a better mother to myself, I know that I will continue to observe. It is what I do. It is how I make sense of the world. It is how I metabolize meaning. But I will also continue to force myself to become more proactive. It will still take some time for the dull ache which has consumed my soul for the past year and a half to subside, but I will remain more aware of it and what it does to my life. And like a good mother, I will schedule all of those appointments that I neglected in 2008, and I will get my blood work drawn whether it hurts me or not.(It does.) I will check back into life. Slowly, steadily with both observation and action.

7 comments:

jojo said...

Your posts always leave me thinking...usually it's about how I can change myself for the better and let go of some of this anger and pain. (Isn't anger really about pain anyway?) Letting go, whether it be in my heart or physically, is the most difficult thing for me and as hard as I try I just cannot seem to do it.
I have, I am, I feel like I am an observer and like you, have let many things slide in my life. I have struggled with depression and often it raises it's ugle head. It's sometimes all consuming..this hunger to be whole.
I'm not sure where I am going with this Deb but reading your words of encouragement and comfort have meant so much to me. With each and every post I feel more at peace. I pray you will find the Peace you are looking for...
take care my friend...jj

jenX said...

Debra,
These photos are stunning as are the observations that follow each one. I love the one about loving yourself, but the pictures of the surfer boarding Amtrak - the Indian woman and her son. You gain such great insight living near the beach, and I'm so very glad you share it with us.

I've checked out, too. It was many years ago, and it took a long time to resurface. Funny, though, in the deepest part of the ocean, the most vibrant colors. You've given us all quite a few gifts via your writing during this time.

WV LeAnn said...

Debra, wonderful posting and I wish you the best returning to the "world" and "yourself". I know you have the strenghth and the willpower and your family needs and loves you! Keep those appointments that we require after 40 so that you will be here to enjoy all the moments you have enjoyed your 47 years. I am going to go collect my own seaglass beginning tomorrow for a week and will so think of you and all I've learned from you the past year. Take care of yourself!

Art by Julie H. said...

Welcome back! I think we have all checked out from time to time for our own reasons. But I think the most important part is checking back in and coming back a stronger soul and from all that I have read about you, you are much stronger than most. I used to think that forgiveness benefited the ones that betrayed us but I am fortunate to realize it is really a gift we give to ourselves. Your writing is very insightful and I think we can all relate especially me right now since my mom is in town and man oh man! : )

Lorrie Veasey said...

Best post ever. No words to comment because it is
just
so
perfect.

hugs.

Ness said...

I so get the "checking out" part...I did that after my thyroid cancer diagnosis in 2005...why bother with the annual mammogram now? But I finaly did in 2007 and Kiereney's traumatic life had me checking out again...I have been putting off my mammogram since 2008. Please know that you are in my daily prayers and someway, somehow, somewhere we will meet on your ocean some day.

Blue said...

what JoJo and Lorrie said. couldn't say it better than them. i've kept it "unread" in my google reader so that i can re-read it over any time i check in. maybe one of these days it'll penetrate my skull and help me as i strive to re-emerge too.

it brought to mind some favorite lyrics that have touched me for the past 20+ years. they sustain me when i'm underwater:

when through the deep waters
i call thee to go
the rivers of sorrow
shall not thee or'flow.
for i will be with thee
thy troubles to bless
and sanctify to thee
thy deepest distress.

when through fiery trials
thy pathway shall lie
my grace, all sufficient
shall be thy supply
the flame shall not hurt thee
i only design
thy dross to consume
and thy gold to refine.

i have a lot of dross...so perhaps that means there's an abundance of gold yet to be uncovered as i emerge. i'm grateful for your beautiful way with words and the insights you've had and shared. simply glorious!
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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