Dear Beloved Fellow Traveler,
I have been thinking a lot about the lighted screen and watching myself tick tasks off a to-do list, keep track of my expenditures at time of purchase, and get totally stressed over childhood patterns erupting in my life, as I react to the news that my 82-year-old mother has fallen and broken bones in her foot and needs 24-hour help. Somehow, these things are related.
I’ve been thinking about misery and suffering, seeking to arrive at the fountainhead from which they spring so that I can stop drowning. The source seems to be my to-do list, my finances, and my mother’s broken foot, and the lighted screen seems to be a help.
But I know enough of what seems to be to look around behind all that and find something deeper that isn’t rooted in stuff – metal, circuits, paper, pen, bones, skin. The only place left to look is within myself. It must be my own mind that is the source of all this pain. At one time, Western medicine’s idea, handed down from the Greeks, was that a person’s personality imbalances were caused by imbalances within the body’s humors. Too much bile made you melancholic; too much blood, sanguine. The New Thought people turned it around, believing that one’s thoughts create one’s physical condition. Louise Hay’s mantra is, “It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”
Quantum spirituality proposes that we are a matrix of thought, feeling, cell, light, impulse, and energy; changes originating from anywhere in the system create changes everywhere in the system. Think of the circle of the bicycle wheel, which can only be in true everywhere, not in segments. When I tune my frame drum, a turn of the tuning screw at one point affects the sound elsewhere and everywhere as a whole. Living is much more like tuning a drum than creating a to-do list. Although lists and check registers keep me from wandering aimlessly, they also cause stress by their dissonance with how my soul is put together.
While I was in panic mode over my mother, I carried my cell phone with me and answered it every time it vibrated against my bare belly, clipped to the waistband of my slacks. I interrupted treatment sessions with little old ladies, explaining to them, “My mother fell, I’ll be right back!” and off I’d go to find a nook in the nursing home to confer with my brother. I retrieved messages as soon as they came in and made calls during lunch.
I was able to sustain this for two days before feeling I would crack under the strain of multi-tasking and squeezing my own needs out through that crack. To be someone who relieves my own anxiety by jumping on my horse and riding in to save people and to be part of the events only via text messages and emails, is to be a tortured person indeed.
Granted, I am the healthcare person in the family, I speak the lingo, I understand the parts of the system related to old people, but that didn’t prevent the emergency room from sending her home unable to walk or the orthopedist from casting her foot without a making a referral for home-based therapy.
A conversation with a wise friend convinced me I would have to make self-care a priority. She pointed out that rushing down there and missing work and income would only make me crazier. She reminded me that my mother is her own person, with her own life to live, her own life path, and her own loving God taking care of her. She shared some of her experience with caring for an elderly family member, and through her sane approach I saw that in fact the essence of my childhood pattern is to put my own needs on hold to act in everyone else’s drama. The role, of course, is Florence Nightingale.
As I reprioritized, the whole situation settled, at least for the next few days, giving me time to research other options and my brother time to attend to his life’s priorities. I “lost” my cell phone for a few hours, went to a recovery meeting, cried a little, laughed a little, connected with people who were warm and loving. Right before bed, I called Mom, knowing it would help me sleep better, and she and two friends were partying over TV and Philly cheese steaks. There.
Today is mine, and I’m putting writing before vacuuming, drumming before showering, alone time before going into work. (Yes, I get up early, but it’s worth it.) I browsed the Internet a little, did some banking, which always quiets the stress of unattended-to finances. And I am watching the thoughts come, dance around, and fade. The cell phone is in exile in another room. On errands I leave it in the car. I’m not that important today.
I’m committed to making something of joy of the minutes I have. Instead of shaking on an agreement, my partner and I kissed and hugged. What the hell! I like the word “warm” to describe the life I aspire to, a life worth living. Computer screens and cell phones are not warm. But if all I have in this moment is my brother texting me from the emergency room 400 miles away, I’ll take it. Lukewarm is good sometimes.
I’ve been fantasizing about going totally low- to no-tech. My friend Dana says it just doesn’t feel right in her gut to be on the Internet, that where she needs to put her focus is “right here,” pointing to the space in front of her body. The present moment does have a location, and that location is here.
I have a theory that these technologies are substitutes for an ability, yet to evolve in humans, to be conscious of a much larger now, the whole world of human life, all at once, just by tuning in, like a ham radio operator twirling a dial.
I feel it coming, ever faster, the time when, if we have lost the ability to connect with our neighbors in ways that have to do with the interdependence of our matrix, then no amount of high speed or unlimited long distance is going to keep us afloat.
One day I hope to be able to tune in without a device. I hope to be able to feel the anguish and joy of childbirth across the ocean, sense the weather patterns that wrap the globe, enjoy the rhythms of infinite improvisations of my human family. I hope to be able to experience this one, big, warm, happy, miraculous life, here, now, always, anytime.
Until then, I can be reached at …