Attending to life

Attending to life is an act of love.

 


Quote: Katie Rubinstein
Photo: Journey Yang

Spending days…

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.


Quote: Annie Dillard

Garments  

Know then that the body
is merely a garment.
Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.
Rumi

I put on a shirt this morning. One pleated in the back to comfortably fit my narrow shoulders. Shoulders that are narrow because I do not sit up straight. My back has been curved for most of my life. This is just fact – something I have adapted to along the way. 

I have spent a lot of my life adapting – adjusting over the years to changes as my joints and muscles have tightened. It is part of living with a disability. Every day I have a choice – to wake up with a sense of ownership or frustration as I prep for my day. For almost 60 years I have been able to balance ownership and frustration. No reason to fight it – and certainly no interest in feeling sorry for myself. 

Then there are the times when a sense of loss washes over like a wave. I met that wave this morning, grieving my unexpected losses. 

It was as I put on a shirt. One that used to fit comfortably. In a second I felt a longing for my body of the past. Clearly our bodies change over time. Aging has it’s on way of sculpting and re-sculpting. Yet when these changes include two mastectomies it requires a certain type of adjusting – a more practiced way of ownership. This ownership takes courage – a lot of courage. There is work in facing a truth each day. A truth reminding me that part of my body has drastically changed. Sometimes it takes more work than others but each time a decision is made to take a step forward and forge ahead.   

I have always looked at my future through the eyes of possibility. Seldom have I faced an obstacle that did not have an alternate path. This is the way I have lived and live today. Each morning I know at my core that the mirror before me reflects a whole person. Physically altered by surgeries and age but whole. 

So I try to be gentle with myself when I meet the sunrise with the feeling of sadness and loss. Life is not a race to avoid oneself and there are moments when it is important to pause.

This body, my garment, has needed patching. The words from Rumi instruct from without and within. As the ‘wearer‘ I am grateful to understand the difference between being a whole body and being a whole person.

Gratitude that can often change the course of a day.


Quote and photo from Rumi Facebook page

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Stretching destiny’s frame – Part 1

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We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny,
but what we put into it is ours.

Dag Hammarskjold

Destiny’s frame may not be chosen but there is always a way to stretch its boundaries. An example is the image within the ‘frame’ reflecting my life, a life filled with curiosity and grace. Many would not believe what I have packed into my own frame and there is still plenty of room.

It is important that I begin to reflect on what ‘fills’ my frame acknowledging those who have assisting me in this work. Much of my journey has been achieved with companions willing and strong. Each day someone walks through my door to assist me. If I tried to list the names of all these companions/caregivers we could very easily end up with a small town! From nursing students to professional barrel racers (cow girl and her horse), from women who were native to Switzerland to women who have barely been outside their small, rural American town.

Germany, Sweden, Latin America, and across this country  – I have been introduced to the world in a most personal way. I have learned to be surprised by nothing even when I hear the care assistant say she received her first gun at 10 (probably not the most shocking but something that can be shared). I have learned to listen, been counselor, presided over marriages and sat by hospital beds and joined care assistants in funeral homes as an advocate or a shoulder for support. Boundaries — oh yes, it is a task to keep boundaries clear with those who work with me day in and day out. Their job is extremely personal which often requires living with ‘grace in the grey’.

This is a community of people who continue to ‘walk’ the road with me, joining me as support to be independent. Their diversity keeps me on my game. Their willingness allows me to continue my work stretching Destiny’s frame. Their presence reminds me to remain grateful.