Monday, July 26, 2010

When My Mother and Father Were Little Girls

I discovered some speck of something or other on my cotton duvet cover not long ago and was pleased when it was easily removed using a wet washcloth. I adjusted the gooseneck lamp by the bed so that the light shone on the spot, to help it dry. When I returned to check on progress, an ant was hurrying toward the circle of light, maybe thinking, “Yeah! The sun’s out. I’m going to lie on the beach!”

Meanwhile, Hammett was sitting in the bathroom near some dripping fine washables with the dreamy air of one enjoying a gentle summer evening rain.

I read an outstandingly helpful article by Ezra Bayda in the July 2010 issue of Shambhala Sun. There is a link at their website, but it’s to an excerpt only. He offers five questions to use in processing emotional upset: 1) What is going on right now? 2) Can I see this as my path? 3) What is my most believed thought? 4) What is this? 5) Can I let this experience just be?

The first question is answered by describing the situation objectively; I myself think it’s OK to include things that are invisible. For instance, I’m sitting in my comfortable chair and I’m extremely worried about such-and-such.

“Can I see this as my path?” reminds me that whatever is happening isn’t some obstruction on my path, something to be dispensed with or shunted aside as quickly as possible so I can get back to my life. In fact, it is the path itself.

(By the way, I highly recommend Ezra Bayda’s books Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life, and At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace Within Everyday Chaos. I see he has another book due out later this year.)

The question that has been particularly helpful to me is “What is my most believed thought?” Maybe it’s “Something terrible is going to happen.” Or, more elaborately, “Something is going to happen that will make me permanently unhappy. It will be beyond my resources to deal with. I will simply not be able to handle it.” Or, “If I don’t make the right decision—and there is a decision that would be the right one—it will wreck the rest of my life and I’ll spend my golden years in bitter regret.” Ah! Just thoughts! Things I’m making up all by myself, about the imagined future.

“What is this?” invites a detailed examination of my actual, current physical experience. (E. Bayda writes that this might be the most important question.)

Finally, can I allow this experience? Can I open to it moment by moment with a sense of kindness toward myself. Or, in a rewording that may come in handy now and then, can I tolerate this sensation in my gut for one single second more?

This has been working like a charm. I have the questions on my desk at home, and a printout of the whole article on my desk at work.

Since I saw Bridge on the River Kwai per my father’s recommendation, it was only right that I see two movies my mother likes a lot, Ikiru (the true fan of this movie, as it turns out, is tolerant of those who insist on calling it Icky-Roo, but doesn't really think that's super-hilarious), and Prince of the City.

I wanted to do this before my June trip to Ypsilanti, because I love my mother very much and esteem her completely, not because I didn’t want to afford anyone the opportunity to say, “Oh, you watched your father’s recommended movie immediately but still haven’t seen mine. I guess when you’re the mother, no one cares if they ever see your recommended movies.”

As it happens, Ikiru is about 2.5 hours long and the other, Prince of the City, is three hours long.

My mother said on the phone that I didn’t have to watch the latter all at once, that I could watch it in installments.

“In fact,” she said, “You could just see the scene with the law—”


“You could just see the scene with the lawyers, near the end,” she said firmly.

Darn it! Was there even any point in seeing it, now that I knew it had lawyers in it somewhere? (Tom and I did end up doing so, albeit after I got back from Ypsi, as already mentioned, and we both liked it.)

We went on to discuss my perimenopausal situation. Based on what she’d told me about her experience, I was expecting smooth sailing, so 60 days in a row of bleeding must be more similar to my father’s experience?

My mother said, “He’s out, but when he gets home, I’ll be sure to blame him.”

Once, decades ago, my father began an anecdote by saying, “When your mother and I were little girls … ” All these years, I’d thought that was my father’s charming way of being gender flexible, which is very much something he would do, just to be gracious, but it now seems that prior to that occasion, a member of my generation had seen a picture of two children and innocently asked our mother, “Is that you and Dad when you were little girls?”

This is by way of saying my father won’t mind being blamed for the 60 days.
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