I Am The Leftovers

“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.”

~Hubert H. Humphrey

 

It has almost been a year since I hit “rock bottom,” or “the bottom of the barrel,” or whatever expression you use to describe the worst and most dark moments of life.  When I wrote last year’s post based on this quotation, I actually thought I was there, and I didn’t possibly think it could get any worse.  A few weeks later and I lost one of the most important friends and supports I had in my life.  I realize that it could have gotten even worse from there… but it didn’t.  Thank Goodness.

I spent much of my time and energy last year focussing on everything that was taken away.  I realize now, that this was likely one of the reasons this friendship was stolen away from me.  While I could post quotations about how real friend see you though everything, or that they are the ones who are still standing by you when you come out of those dark moments, and passively lay blame on a person who was actually nothing more than a shitty friend, I won’t.  I also won’t put myself down and take the blame that was handed to me and convince myself that “if only” I hadn’t been such a bad person (or something along those lines), I would still have her friendship.  There are two sides to every situation, and I’m merely realizing that I was negative, and broken, and maybe not working as hard as I could have at picking up the pieces.  Anyhow, I digress.

Last year I was at least thankful that something I “had left” was this friendship that was going to support me and see me through.  But then I lost that, too.  So, really, what did I have left in the end?

Here’s what I had (and still have, mind you):
My husband and my kids, who have loved me unconditionally and are here for me always.
My willpower, which saw me run a half-marathon this year… something I never though I would do.
My dedication to my self and my values, which has (somehow) led me to the decision for a third baby (despite my already crazy life)
My work ethic and my dedication to my job, which has not wavered and sees me succeed on a daily basis, even when it doesn’t seem as much.

Do you notice what all of this things I had have in common?  They are all about ME.  They are all parts of me; my traits; the best parts of the person I am.  Those are things that are left even when it feels like I have lost everything else.  After everything is gone, regardless of whether is was just or fair, in the end there is only me.  The question becomes, then: What can you do for yourself when everything else is gone?

Mindfulness In The Rain

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.”

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I love the story I told in this post from last year.  For that reason, I decided to again share the entire, unedited post.  This past year I have spent a significant amount of time “letting it rain.”  Perhaps not with the same thrill and intensity that I describe below, but I have allowed myself to be there in the rain.  I have felt the wetness soak into my hair and my clothes.  I have wrapped my arms around myself and tried to calm the shivers.  I let the beauty, often lost in the storm, come through: the sweet smell of the shattered and broken atmosphere, the sun attempting to shine through the clouds where they are thin, the edges of the rainbow as it starts to form and take shape…  I am learning to be present with the moment, especially when it is stressful and anxiety provoking, and this has made me realize that my experience of those storms will pass faster that they otherwise would if I tried to prevent them from soaking me.  My exercises in mindfulness, I know, have made a difference and re-reading this post made me realize that I need to get back into practicing my mindfulness on a more regular basis.

I may not be at that final endpoint of “finding what I had lost” as I describe in the post below.  However, I’ve come to realize that the endpoint may just be different.  I will never be able to experience I storm like I did when I was 13 years old, but I can experience them in a different way than I used to and that makes them so much more tolerable.

From The Old Blog, November 7, 2014:

When I was a kid, I loved the rain.  I remember a particularly gloomy day when I was in grade 7 or 8.  You could tell from the look of the clouds in the sky that it was going to rain at some point that day.  During class (maybe it was Language Arts, or Social Studies) we could hear the thunder off in the distance.  An electricity was starting to build, both in the air and in the classroom.  I was always drawn in by the energy of a storm – and it seems that my classmates were as well.  We gathered around the windows as the thunder became louder.  Bursts of lightening began to fill the sky and we started counting the mississippis between the light and the sound.

The quality of the air changed as the storm moved closer: It was chillier, but not cold, and it had that smell that only ever comes with a thunder storm (is it true that the smell is actually a result of lightening splitting atoms of ozone?).  The excitement intensified, and even the teacher didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t working anymore.

And then the rain came.

It pelted hard against the window panes and flooded the uneven tarmac of the school yard next to where our portable classroom sat.  I was high on the frenzy that was mounting within me and I had an insatiable urge to run outside and feel the rain against my skin.  We asked the teacher, who didn’t seem to care anymore, if some of us could go out in the rain.  He dared us.  And we did.

I ran outside into the storm with nothing to protect me.  The rain was thick and heavy, cool and unforgiving.  It hit hard on my skin, but I liked it.  It didn’t take a minute before my clothing was soaked and my hair was pasted down on my face.  Still, I looked up into the sky and spread out my arms.  There were no more mississippis left and the lightening and thunder came together.  For a moment it felt like the earth was shaking below me.  In that moment I loved the rain more than I loved anything else: I was wild, I was refreshed, I was cleansed, and I was at peace.  All of this, amidst the chaos of the storm.

Now when it rains, I still feel that little electrical surge of excitement, but I would never run out into the street to take it all in.  I don’t want to get soaking wet – I don’t want my hair to get frizzy. There is usually so much going on that it would seem odd – if not, inappropriate – to just stop everything and frivolously frolic in a rain storm.  And, what if I have no choice but to go out in the rain? Where is my umbrella, or my rain coat, or my rain boots?  Why, as adults, do we try so hard to avoid the rain?

The storms are going to come; there is no way to avoid them.  We expend so much energy and effort on staying in control. We are satisfied if we can prevent the rain from ruining our plans.  But what if we just stop for a moment and feel that electricity again – experience it like we did when we were children?  It seems as though we lost something along the way into adulthood and instead of finding the beauty in the storm, all we feel is the mess.

The rain will stop eventually.  The clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and our wet hair and clothing will dry.  So why not enjoy the rain? Rather than fight it, we should experience it’s fullness and feel it’s power.  We should emerge from the storm refreshed and transformed, not exhausted and defeated.

There was a reason I used to love the rain: it is something that I must re-discover.  When I can freely let the rain come down on me again, I will know that I have found what I have lost.

The Bench

  

“Visualize yourself sitting somewhere quiet and peaceful,”

the voice in the exercise tells me.  I imagine a park bench on the side of a walking path and there I am sitting with my feet planted on the ground, Forrest Gump style. 

“Imagine an area of white, glowing light in the centre of your chest, and an ever so slight smile across your face.”  

I do.  I see the white light emanating from my chest and it appears to be intimately tied to the slight smile that is barely noticeable across my lips.  

As the meditation continues, I’m supposed to watch as the white light expands and eventually fills my body – beginning from my chest and radiating outward until even inch of my body is glimmering white light.  As the light expands through my body, the smile on my face expands.  I’m reminded by the voice on the recording that the light brings with it happiness and joy, and these emotions infiltrate my whole being.  The smile on my face an indication that the worry, stress, and anxiety of my life is being replaced by joy, excitement, and happiness.  Eventually my body on the bench is replaced by a  shining light that is almost too bright to look at.  Just the light and an overwhelming smile is all I can see.

“Now, bring your attention back to your breathing.  Make yourself more aware of your body.”  

So I do.  I concentrate on the feeling and sound of my breath going in and out of my body.  I predict the natural progression of the meditation.

“Now imagine that white, glowing light in the centre of your body – in the centre of your chest.   Feel that ever so slight smile across your face.”  

And I do.  However, unlike the vision of myself sitting on the bench, I can’t visualize the spread of light through my real body.  With each inhalation I permit the light to radiate a small bit further, but my mind gets caught and an unwelcome thought comes floating down the river of consciousness in my mind.  As I am distracted by each thought, I prevent the light from spreading beyond my chest.  I label the thought as “worry” or “anxiety” or “feeling” and let them flow back out of my consciousness with at little disturbance as they arrived.  But then I am stuck with the light, still unable to shine beyond the depth of my chest.  I take a deep breath and start the visualization again – but the distraction comes again, and again, and again, and again.  When the end of the exercise arrives, the light hasn’t spread beyond my chest despite the recorded voice suggesting that it has overcome my entire body, like it did when I imagined myself on the bench.  

There is something preventing me from experiencing this full body feeling of joy.  I can visualize the white light and joy engulfing my body from afar, yet I can’t allow it to happen when it is my real self.  It seems as though the possibility of experiencing such freedom of the mind is only ephemeral, but I cannot ever be the one to experience it. Such is my exercise of the mind; such are the mental roadblocks that prevent me from experiencing freedom.