On this Christmas Eve day, I wanted to share the words of Pema Chodron.
Blue Eyes is on day three of recovery from his hip replacement surgery. He is doing well, but as expected, is in quite a bit of pain. Our boys are off at my parent’s house for Christmas Eve, and we are home by ourselves. It is very peaceful and all I really need to do is make sure Blue Eyes is comfortable and that he receives his meds, stays fed and hydrated, wears his compression socks, and gets up every two hours and walks around. I know in just a few weeks he is going to be so grateful he had this surgery.
When this past Monday rolled around and it was finally surgery day, I was not worried. Blue Eyes had researched his surgery and talked with at least a dozen people who have had the surgery and I went to all his pre-operative appointments and spoke with his surgeon and I felt quite confident that the surgery was going to go as planned. I knew recuperation was going to be difficult. Difficult for him for obvious reasons. Difficult for me because now, all of a sudden, I have the responsibility of taking care of someone who took me for granted and turned my whole life upside down. Someone who hurt me badly. I have now looked pretty deep inside and been able to exorcise some of the demons that have allowed me to give more than I receive. To take care of people that don’t take care of me in return. I didn’t honestly know how I would respond to Blue Eyes before and after surgery. Do I love him enough to feel that deep compassion again? I have given him everything, all of me, all these years.
As the anesthesiologist wheeled Blue Eyes away on Monday, I headed to the waiting area by myself. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. I soon became antsy and started walking the halls of the hospital, looking at all the people walking alone, at all the families arriving with balloons and flowers waiting to see their loved ones, at all the couples, especially the elderly couples, and how they behaved, how they treated each other. I sat for a while near the front entrance to the hospital and I listened to people’s conversations, how they talked to each other. I became acutely aware of how much goes unsaid. Of how harshly we talk to each other and how much judgment is expressed in our words. Of how little we tell the ones we love how much we care about them. Of how much we really do love them.
As the hours passed, I was worried. After returning to the designated waiting area, and receiving no useful information from the elderly ladies who sit there pretending to be helpful, I realized I was becoming worried. I want only good things for the people I love, and the truth is, I love Blue Eyes more than I love any other single person in the world. I chose him. He wasn’t part of my family, he isn’t someone I gave birth to. He is someone I consciously chose to love for the past 32 years. As the surgeon approached, I felt a deep sense of relief. I could tell from his face, that the surgery had gone well.
It was still hours, however, before I was reunited with Blue Eyes. As it turns out, long story short, Blue Eyes was given a pain medication post surgery that he is allergic to (but we had no idea) and he stopped breathing for a short period of time. By the time I was informed of what happened, he was already breathing fine again. Pre-Surgery, Blue Eyes had been asked probably two dozen times if he was allergic to any medication. Now we know why they ask so many times, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Dilaudid will now be put on his “bad medication” list.
We were able to leave the hospital about 20 hours post surgery, and we are enjoying the peace and quiet that is the holidays when you can’t go anywhere, you haven’t planned anything at your house, and everyone else is too busy with their own festivities to feel obligated to come visit. It is the best kind of healing for Blue Eyes.
Blue Eyes and I ordered a book we both wanted to read, which arrived yesterday. I offered to read to him out loud this afternoon. After making his rounds of the upstairs, he collapsed in a chair and I sat down to read him a bit of the book “When Things Fall Apart,” by Pema Chodron. There is one particular part of one of the first chapters that I want to share here today. It speaks to my desire to be a forgiving and compassionate person without losing myself in the process. I love my husband dearly and I don’t want to be caught up in the negative energy flow the world seems to want to deposit at our door step. I want to be a procurer of peace. I want to be someone who acknowledges my life and lives in an enlightened way so that I continue to feel emotions and remain culpable for my own reality while at the same time embracing what is good and honest and pure in me and my life. I want to feel all the emotions and let them feed me versus consume me.
Excerpt from When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron, Chapter Two, pages 9-11
I remember so vividly a day in early spring when my whole reality gave out on me. Although it was before I had heard any Buddhist teachings, it was what some would call a genuine spiritual experience. It happened when my husband told me he was having an affair. We lived in northern New Mexico. I was standing in front of our adobe house drinking a cup of tea. I heard the car drive up and the door bang shut. Then he walked around the corner, and without warning he told me that he was having an affair and he wanted a divorce.
I remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing–just the light and a profound, limitless stillness. Then I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at him.
When anyone asks me how I got involved in Buddhism, I always say it was because I was so angry with my husband. The truth is that he saved my life. When that marriage fell apart, I tried hard–very. very hard–to go back to some kind of comfort, some kind of security, some kind of familiar resting place. Fortunately for me, I could never pull if off. Instinctively I knew that annihilation of my old dependent, clinging self was the only way to go. That’s when I pinned that sign on my wall.
Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
To stay with that shakiness–to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge–that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic–this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous, indignation–harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, sense of inspiration.
Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles, Halifax, Taiwan, Beirut, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq, everywhere. All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?”
I am going to practice peace. ❤