This morning I walked out of the door of my apartment building angry, but maybe it was more frustration.
My mother walked me to the door as I left and I reluctantly offered both cheeks for a goodbye kiss. My anger hot.
I marched down the street toward the train half tuned in to the world around me. Seeing a neighbor outside having breakfast and reading the paper, I tuned in enough to say good morning and fake a sad smile. Fortunately that question that often follows a hello was never uttered: “How’re you doing?” Because if it had been uttered at that exact moment, I fear I would have spontaneously combusted. It might’ve obliterated me right then.
I continued my march angry at the growing changes in my mom, and at having been pulled into this world of helplessness.
As I reached the corner, an SUV in a hurry, probably a driver late for work, raced to the corner anxious to make the turn.
Then the world slowed down
I watched a white pigeon anxiously try to free itself from beneath that SUV. It wasn’t pinned, yet, by the wheels. It was just in an unfamiliar territory suddenly beneath something when it was just above. Usually I see drivers slow at this point which allows the animal to free itself, but this driver was in a hurry, either oblivious or not concerned. Either way the SUV greedily moved on drinking the life up beneath it. Then there was a loud pop like a plastic bubble bursting, but in this case it was more likely the ribs and skull of the white pigeon crushing. The bird was instantly stilled.
That was not my first time witnessing an animal rapidly crushed beneath the wheels of a vehicle — transitioning from alive to dead right before me. But it surely puts so much in perspective. It makes me rethink this thing called hurry and reflect upon it’s consequences. It puts me in a reflective state of mind. It lessons some worries. It takes away the power of that invisible “something” that has its tentacles on me squeezing and suffocating me.
That POP still echoes in my ears and my bones and some other place both familiar and mysterious.
I continued my march and prayed for the white pigeon. I prayed its spirit was instantly embraced, its head smothered in kisses, it was lifted to whatever sky lies far above the above that we see, and it was released to fly as wildly and freely as its heart desired.
I am praying too that I “pop” through this frustration and this anger that has been feasting on me: my health, my body, my hope, my joy, my laughter. I pray that its fetters shatter. I pray the ghosts and haunts of these emotions become visible so I may see them hiding in the corners of rooms, or blocking my way as I move through space, or taking up my space and stealing my peace.
Oddly, at the moment of that POP, that transition, and the walk after, and the rest of my day, I expected to be thinking about my mom. I expected to reflect upon her mortality and how she is “stuck” in death’s grip. I expected her to be on my mind.
Instead, it has been the bird, and its final moments, it’s death brought about partly by its struggle, it’s fight against the trap that confused and covered it. It occurred to me later this day that if the bird had not fought but remained still it would be alive. That it was its struggle that put it directly in the path of death. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
I heard that pop, felt it within and continued on my way to an audition and a rehearsal. That pop sent me on my way with a brief new perspective. For a brief moment it occurred to me that my fears are misplaced, as are many of my efforts and a great deal of my attention. It occurred to me that I have been distracted for far too long; that there truly is an “other” and it is not out of reach but right next to me and all around me.
Sometimes I spend time meditating. These days I fight for quieting the thoughts running through my head. I fight to stay suspended between the wake state and sleep. I use binaural sounds, meditative music, and/or guided meditation. But right now, I am oddly thankful for that mysterious energy that placed me right in the space of that pop; a pop that opened the portal between this world and that other right near me. That pop quickly silenced the world and put me in the space I struggle to visit these days. These days have been filled with a plethora of distractions, and disappointments, and sadness, and frustrations, and anxiety.
A white pigeon transitioned this morning just to the right of me, and in doing so gave me a gift of peace and silence (at least as long as that pop remains alive within me).
Tonight, when I retreat to my room, I’ll allow myself to listen to that pop, and let it quiet all that noise inside me.
It’s funny and ironic how much I have to teach my own mom. But the irony isn’t simply a reflection of the circle of life but this: as I speak the words of some lesson to her it’s as though some imaginary mirror rises up in front of me and I am in turn speaking them to me.
My mom routinely says (nowadays), “I don’t have friends here (in my town where she now lives).”
Today’s lesson was not my first time saying it but today she heard me (at least for now).
LESSON: IF YOU WANT TO HAVE FRIENDS, YOU HAVE TO BE A FRIEND.
Here are the ways you have not been a friend, mom:
So these harsh words and lessons came from me today to my mom, but they were also a reflection upon me.
Seeing the similarity might be a stretch, but I see it. Here it is:
As the second accessibility driver picked us up today, he spoke of music making his day go by better. Then he sang along loudly with the music coming from his phone (but it was good music). I knew my mom couldn’t hear him over the commotion of the vehicle and the other sounds, so it was just affecting me. Then a voice said let him have this moment. Be kind. So I did. Soon I let go and sang right along with him, loudly. I could sense it was making his day. For that moment, at that time, I felt okay. I let myself enjoy the music. I let him be right instead of my want to be right. I’ve been practicing this a lot. I have RIGHT-ITIS. I love being right and know er’thang. Jesus, save your girl. Before my whole ”be a friend” lecture to my mom, at that moment today it occurred to me that I could be a friend by practicing being friendly.
I also saw this lesson in me as more than just want friends be a friend, I saw it within me and my journey as a creative. There is a lot I want: to book that fabulous gig, to build a brand, to gain an audience, to be in demand, to build a series, to produce and direct again and again. The word BE is all over my wants lists: BE, BE, BE, girl, BE!!!!
As I sat at my mom’s feet as she made phone calls to old friends and new friends, I coached her on being a friend and not a burden. She was successful with most (sadly except for one). The folks on the other end of the line were happy to hear from her and happy she could hear them and that she listened. She succeeded today.
Now I sit here typing this and reflecting on myself.
THE SPARK THAT GOT MY MOM MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION TODAY.
You got to check in. Don’t check out.
Mom, for the last two months I have taken you to a lot of doctor appointments. And you are doing well. We caught that infection. Your neurologist says you’re doing better than before. You’re in the care of a great ophthalmologist for your only working eye. You’re up-to-date on your flu shot. We have your new walker prescription. You go to Tai Chi once a week. You have two new pain doctors. Your body is doing good. But your will is fading. You’re quickly checking out on the want to BE well, to live. And at this rate, you’ll get what you want probably as soon as Christmas. Your body will be healthy but your mind will go. You have to decide to check in or keep checking out.
Why did I say this?
On our way to Tai Chi this morning, she couldn’t remember a name of someone and began her regular monologue of this old bad memory of mine. I asked her about her brothers and sister, their children, the day of the week, when she plays bridge next, why are some days canceled at bridge this week. She answered all perfectly, then laughed. She realized then that her memory was actually pretty good.
So, I said, your “old bad memory” works. The lesson then was about attention and intention (geez, now I get what Wayne Dyer was talking about as I write this). My mom’s initial attention magnified the one thing she forgot then she quickly sank into metaphorical quicksand of anxiety and doom. And her intention was to accept this old memory that she says is BAD. For the time being, she got it.
Again, that mirror has shot up in front of me as I write now, and as I spoke then. I see me in all of this.
So now I am here wondering if my mom is actually here so I can take care of her, or is she here so I can take care of me?
I'm just writing to keep from losing it.