I am writing this at my sister’s dining room table in Florida.
My mom is asleep nearby on the living room couch, contorted into a comma-like shape in the corner. My sister is asleep in her room down the hall.
Mom was up wandering most of the night so everybody is exhausted. And we’d be exhausted anyway since we are in the midst of moving mom from Washington to Florida, from me to my sister, from one memory care place to another.
It’s been… a hard few days.
On top of feeling frustrated at mom’s 10,000 constant tangled questions and ashamed of my lack of patience with her, tired from bathing and tending to her, I haven’t been meditating. I had two drinks last night. I’ve eaten pretzels for lunch. I’ve been beating myself up for screwing up ordering the bed frame.
I feel lost from myself, imprisoned by the me I was in high school. It’s a feeling I often get around my family, as if the Jen I have become over the last 35 years has just poof! disappeared. It’s a terrible frozen feeling.
So instead of napping, I thought I would write my way back to myself.
But even as I wrote that, I thought,
“Writing won’t help. Nothing will help but getting through this hard time. I just have to get through this anyway I can and then I can get back to me.”
Then, right after that thought, the question came out of my pen: What does losing myself or getting back to myself even mean?
And pop!, in that gentle inquiry, written with genuine curiosity, a tiny window of remembrance opened in my twitchy maelstrom of wanting things, wanting me, to be different. My self-judgement softened. The dust of ‘I don’t like who I am right now’ cleared. I took a genuinely deep breath.
I had to giggle, which woke mom up, and after I comforted her back to sleep – with much more patience and lightness than I would have a moment before, I marveled – for the 100,000th time in my life – that I am so good at teaching what I need to remember and practice.
How many times have I preached the essential art of self-inquiry? How many books have I written about that idea? So adorable, how I forget my own knowing. I restrain myself from laughing out loud again and instead turn back to this precious window of freedom, focusing with my breath until the window becomes a doorway I walk through into endless peace.
The truth I remember right then and there, listening to mom snore and the air conditioner hum, is that underneath this painful, trying transition; underneath mom’s fear; underneath the truth that after four years of taking care of her, I need a break; underneath my chagrin at not managing the move as perfectly as I wanted; underneath my self-hatred at yelling at mom three times in the last week; underneath all that is this spaciousness and peace. Always present. Until now, simply forgotten.
I sit at the table and relax. I remember I’m doing the best I can. I remember I am not separate from this spacious awareness. Neither is my mom.
This spaciousness that pools around me is not an idea, not a concept, but a felt sense that welcomes everything I experience, everything you experience. To feel into this felt sense of spacious peace is to know there is space and permission to experience everything you experience. That nothing need be pushed away or disowned. That everything is welcome, and that what is welcomed, wholeheartedly, can be moved beyond.
It is only in the judging and pushing away, in the saying, “Yes this, but not that” that we lose our way. But even then, we haven’t lost our way or ourselves, we’ve just forgotten to relax and welcome.
I know I will forget this later today, eat pretzels for lunch again and get frustrated with my mom again, but in this moment, I am so grateful to remember I am never lost, I weep.
Thanks for helping me find my way home. It’s so good to be witnessed.
P.S. Here’s my favorite welcoming practice, which writing this reminded me to do:
Put your hand on your heart and take a breath or two into the space under your hand, feeling the weight and warmth of your hand. Notice the feelings, thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are present. Welcome each of them by whispering, “This, too” or “You are here. Welcome.” If you find yourself not wanting to welcome something, welcome the not welcoming.
We will practice this and other ways to remember our essential goodness, as well as claim our desires, this summer at The Oasis. We will breathe and write, and listen deeply to that which is wiser than our monkey minds. It’s not a class but an hour-long sacred date with yourself. Sign up here for the call details and links to all recordings. It’s completely fr*ee this summer.