Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Love is a Powerful Thing

For much of my youth I was waiting for love.  Waiting for that one special love.  And for many years I loved my husband and the father of our children.  But he decided he wanted to be single again and walked away.  For decades I wondered about this.  I couldn't figure out how he could leave when he had a family that loved him.  And the pain that scarred my heart lingered.  Oh I went on with my life but it haunted me.  How could I ever give my heart to anyone again?

Five years later I met my second husband.  And I loved him very much.  We were artists and each of us had studied the genocide of our cultures.  And then one day a car came speeding into our lane and hit us head on.  And life changed.  All of the ways and reasons aren't as important as the lessons my heart eventually learned.  A year after the accident he left.  I wasn't the same person he married.  And I felt incredibly vulnerable.  I focused on my children and our farm and one day led to another day and we moved on with our lives.  I was no longer waiting for love or wondering if vows ever meant anything or if there wasn't something wrong with me.... I wondered in between the pain and confusion of having a Traumatic Brain Injury, among other injuries and as odd as this may sound, I was grateful.  I was alive one more day to hear the voices of my children.  I was alive one more day to watch them grow.  And I was alive one more day to teach them whatever I could, should I not be around the next day.

I lived completely in the moment.  Most of my memory about my life was gone.  I could remember changes but not the specifics.  I could remember I was hurt but I didn't feel the pain of it anymore.  And I was grateful for that mercy in the midst of the pain and determination to read and write and walk and talk and have a vital life again.  It was important to me to set a good example for my children.  To be a good person, yes.  To be honest, yes.  To cherish each other and life, yes.  To read and explore and think.... all of those things I continued to teach my children.  But now there was something even more important.  To teach them how to survive; how to never give up; how to have hope.  The last and most important things I had learned that I wanted to pass on to them was to accept that they were never going to know everything.  Life can be freakin hard.  Your heart can get broken.  And for a little while you might even lose hope.  But in all of that remember this, you are not perfect.  You will make mistakes.  But as long as you learn from them they won't be wasted.  And the biggest mistake you will ever make is to lie to yourself.  Life is what it is.  But we often want to make life or people the way we think they are or the way we think they could be if...  We do this with other people and we do this with ourselves.  I was a very honest person with everyone but me.  The rationales I gave to every disappointment were amazing.  But after the brain injury I could hold those thoughts together anymore.  And this was another mercy.  I had to accept my limitations without giving up growth.  I had to let go of everything I had lost and focus on and appreciate the imperfect reality that I was living.

My first Akita, Angel, was a tremendous help.  I always tried to be strong for my children.  I didn't complain about the pain and chores I needed to do I did when they were in school.  I didn't want them to know I was having a hard time taking care of the house or cooking.  I didn't want them to worry.  They did anyway.  But I did my best to bring music and life and art and possibilities into our lives again and that remained.  There were many hours when I was alone and our Akita took care of me.  All of the ways she helped me are amazing but for now I am going to let that be.  We had a wonderful life and then when she was five years old she was gone.  I grieved so terribly.  A neighbor whose parents had best friends and who bred Akitas had this long haired fawn colored male pup that the people who bought him decided they couldn't take him.  He was paid for.  They didn't want the money back.  And here he was.  My neighbor told me to at least come and see him and when I did my heart skipped.  He had this joy and exuberance that was irresistible.  I met his mom, who was a good sized gal and wonderful.  I met his dad and he stood one his hind legs and was six feet tall and 180 pounds and he gently put his paws on my shoulders and looked down into my eyes and he gave me a sweet gentle kiss right on my nose.  I still wasn't sure.  What if the other dogs, especially our English Bulldog, didn't accept him.  But I couldn't leave him.  He loved me so much, right from the beginning.  He got in the van with me and tucked his head into my shoulder and that was it.  When my neighbor took us home and he met our sweet Mo, she rolled over on her back and they were off running and playing.  They remained best friends their whole lives.  We also had a German Shepherd and a Labmix and a Maltese and llamas and donkeys and a mule and a goat and teenagers.  I'm guessing we had the safest farm around.

Years later, the kids were grown and off finding their way.  I was so proud of them.  I realized I didn't have the physical strength to take care of the farm.  One day I fell over a bale of hay and hurt my leg.  It wasn't bad but I realized that if it had been, I was alone.  I didn't want to interrupt the journey my children were on or influence the way they wanted to live so I sold the farm and moved to Chicago to be near my sister.  We decided at least if our kids lived in different places that we would stay put and we could all stay connected to each other through the years.  I went back to Columbia College and then surprise, surprise; my daughter came back from going to college in London and she decided to go to Columbia too.  It was great.  Then my son came and he went to Columbia College too.  He stayed in the dorm that first semester and he got to know how to get around and work using buses and trains and he and some roommates got an apartment and he and my daughter got their degrees from Columbia College too.  My other son came to live in Chicago and they wound up living in an apartment and working and enjoying life in the City.

Bear was my silent giant.  I barely had to tell him anything.  He was so intuitive.  Every morning I awoke to his beautiful amber eyes waiting for mine to open.  Standing next to the bed he was eye level with my face.  He and his bestgirl, Mo enjoyed life with me and wonderful visits from the kids for several years.  I was painting and published Down the Road and was writing again and life was good.  And the ghosts of abandonment had taken their place and were quietly waiting to appear whenever I missed the love I used to have.  Knowing I would never have a partner again.  Not because of my health or injuries but because of my broken heart.  I couldn't take that again and decided to let that part of my life go.

I had a dear friend, many years ago.  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.  We met in Boulder.  He introduced me to some wild writers and we had interesting talks.  Neither one had anything to gain from the other.  No-one was looking to take from the other.  We were just spirit clouds moving around a sky of life in a common atmosphere of love and thought and hope.  We remained friends for many years.  I would write him letters and he could call me.  I used to think, that was polite.  For him to call.  And then we would get into these wonderful discussions about life.  He would ask me questions and then our thoughts would communicate wonder and amazement to one another.  Our relationship turned out to be the most significant, loving, friendship I have known in my life.  Well, I know this same wonderful relationship with my grown children now.  But Chogyam was my forever friend.

When Bear got sick I knew I was going to have to get a Service Dog.  I now understood that even though my optical nerves were healthy, my train did not receive or transmit what I was seeing around both of my eyes.  I had significant peripheral blindness.  And because of this my eyes didn't line up what they were seeing exactly right.  I knew it was time.  I put my name on a list.  And some time later, Bear died.  And I lost it.  I would wake up sobbing in the middle of the night.  Crying like a child would, "Bear, I just want you back."  The ache of his absence was felt my Mo and me.  A friend suggested I foster until my Service Dog was available.  And so I did.  Turns out I had a way of reaching traumatized dogs and rehabilitating them.  And then someone saw my artwork and we got to talking and they offered to donate an Akita pup of my choice to be my next Service Dog.  And I lifted Coco up in my arms and she nuzzled her head into my neck and that was it.  Coco is ten now and I have another Akita who is in training to take over for Coco.  She can't walk too much these days.  We go to her favorite park with the pond and I am not grieving for her, anticipating the loss of her.  I am celebrating her every minute of every day.  Two significant moments of awareness moved me along.

The first was from Baba Ram Das's book Be Here Now.  When my kids were getting into their teens I found that I noticed authors I felt familiar with.  I didn't have any memories why I had that feeling.  Before I could even read or hold onto an abstract thought I bought this book, The Sacred Path of the Warrior.  The author's name felt familiar.  It was too hard to read but I left it out for my children to pick up.  I did this with Ram Das's book, Be Here Now.  I still didn't make a connection with Ram Das either.  And then one day I was watching a movie, Seven Days in Tibet and I remembered, I had a friend who is a Lama from Tibet!  I went up to the drawer where important papers and an old address book was kept and I opened it up and there he was.  And I remembered Chogyam.  Joy filled my heart.  I wrote to him and sent pictures of my llamas and pointed out that was of them was named Dolly.  I told him about my children and asked how he was and sent off the letter.  In a little while I received a letter back.  Someone said our correspondence was kept in Canada and my friend had passed away, or along.  But he never left me.  He had passed away and I didn't know it.  And all of those years I loved him, even when I didn't remember him.

One day I must have been having a rough time.  I was missing Bear something fierce.  And I wondered if I would ever be happy when I thought of him.  We had so many good years together.  I wished I could feel the joy I had when he was alive.

And then one day, I must have been watching an old WWII movie and a soldier had died on the field and he had sent his love a letter.  And she had written to him and loved him even though she didn't know he had died.  That love, even though they were continents and seas a part was strong.  And I thought.... hmmmm.  I think I will try an experiment.  Whenever I think about Bear I will add to the thought a little trick with my mind.  He is outside.  He is in the backyard. And I would think, I love you Bear.  And the loving feeling lingered.  And then it hit me.  The greatest pains in my heart were due to one thing.  I tried to understand why and tried to understand what was true and I tried to figure out love and life but what brought the pain was that I wasn't ready to stop loving them.  I loved my first husband with the innocence and pure love this wide eyed child in me felt whenever I thought about him.  He was the love of my life.  And so I decided that I didn't care what the reasons were anymore.  I was going to keep on loving him, even though he had passed away too.  I had recently found out my second husband had died a couple of years before this new realization took hold and I let go of wondering why and did he ever and all of those thoughts and I decided to keep on loving him too.  Because I loved him.  By this time my Mother had also passed.  She was a dynamic woman and complex and unfortunately the drink took her mind and she got really mean.  I had studied a book called The Dance of Anger and parts of the title came back to me and I found it again and bought copies to share.  And I realized that I wanted to love my Mom.  It didn't matter if she was ever going to understand this or feel this or be nice or love me back.... none of that mattered.  I loved her because she was my mom.  She didn't have to deserve it.  She didn't have to appreciate it either.  It was in my heart for her and that was where it is now.

I am glad I don't remember details anymore.  I am glad the specifics flew away.  And I am very grateful to love.  And now I don't feel pain when I think of a loved one.  I feel grateful.  See, I figured out that Love is a powerful thing.  You don't have to get it back.  It isn't something you can buy or trade or even earn.  It goes beyond life and death and limitations of time and space.  Love is.  And we can choose to love and hope and have faith that somehow humanity will rise up and appreciate this precious life we share with all of it, always.

I keep self-destructive or deceitful people at arm's length.  It isn't about judging people.  It is about knowing my limitations.  Our lives are filled with hops skips and jumps.  And prider certainly does goeth before every fall.  I don't think of reincarnation like I used to.  I know our egos would like to consider that we are worth of living through eternity but I think it is more about the energy we give that lasts.  When I see someone struggling I think, I have felt that way.  That's is a hard thing to deal with.  I don't judge them because I have been a fool.  I have been ignorant and will always be ignorant.  I will never know everything.  I will never get everything right all of the time.  But this I do know.  I know love is limitless.  Hope is essential.  And faith that we will one day all be able to appreciate this great gift of life is eternal.  Because the energy of all of that good stuff, it is part of all of it.  Amidst the dust of history it is there.  Amidst the swirling activities of daily life, it is here.  It is now.

And that is the bees knees.

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