A Little Thing Called Hope

http://ciderandfaun.blogspot.com/2011/02/hope-grace.html

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”
–Barbara Kingsolver

It’s been two months since I wrote, friends, and I’m not sure where to begin. My last post was about the death of my mother, which is an event that I continue to process. I feel a lot of relief that the hard part, the end of her life, the suffering is over. And I feel sad that she’s gone, whenever I realize it, because I seem to realize it again and again. I think on the one hand, I just don’t want to believe it. But on the other hand, she had been gone a long time already. The person I knew as my mom was taken by Alzheimer’s long before she died. Now, I am free to remember her as she was before. And I do feel her presence, all the time. My last thought here: the dying is so much harder than the death itself.

There are some other things happening in my life as well. Yes, my life, that continues onward, hopefully for a long, long time. The biggest news….I am pregnant! I am at almost 15 weeks now, and this is probably the main reason I haven’t been writing, because I have been sick and tired and tired and sick. Besides working and parenting, I just want to read or watch movies, anything to comfort me and take my mind off feeling like shit. So far, the prenatal appointments have been good. Strong heartbeat, low chance of genetic problems according to the first screening and NT scan. It has been such a scary ride for me due to my past miscarriage and subsequent partial molar pregnancy. I rented a Doppler so I can reassure myself at home between doctor appointments. I have used it twice so far, and have heard a heart rate of 150 both times.

The other big news has to do with my partner. Danny has a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. This condition affects his vision. He has always been night blind, and when I say this, I mean he is truly blind if he does not have good lighting. It also affects peripheral vision. People with RP get tunnel vision that gradually gets more and more narrow, depending on that person’s progression. For Danny, it has always been a struggle, as he needs a guide at night. He can never drive or go out alone after dark. In the winter months, he has to work short days in order to make it home before dark. He has been lucky for a long time, because his vision has seemed to be relatively stable rather than getting progressively worse. However in the last few years, his eyes have been shifting, but we mainly attributed this to him being in his 40’s and needing reading glasses. Then, in the last few months, he started getting blurred vision that’s been making it hard for him to function at work. Uh-oh.

This is the life of my little family for the last few months. In June, Danny started feeling the shift in his vision. It freaked him out, but he did not tell me what was going on for a couple of months! He thought maybe his eyes were tired, or he needed a new prescription, but nothing was helping. In July, I found out I was pregnant. It was such a surprise, because we hadn’t started trying yet. My mom was on her deathbed, and we were gun-shy after the last pregnancy losses. One week later, my mom died. There was the grief that hit like a tidal wave and the burial and the memorial and the gradually worsening morning sickness. Danny stepped up as the main care provider for our 4-year-old son.

About a month ago, Danny finally shared with me what was going on with his vision. We started researching, and found that people have actually been treating his very condition since the ’80’s with something called micro-acupuncture. They stick needles into one’s hands and the soles on one’s feet. I felt like kicking us for not learning about this sooner. A crazy synchronicity: Danny has always been into astrology. Years and years ago, his astrologer told him that traditional chinese medicine would help him with his eyes. Acupuncture comes from traditional chinese medicine, so go figure!

To make a long story short, we have traveled across the country to work with one of the handful of people who offers this treatment. We chose the man who has been doing it for the longest, and has trained several others. It is a shitload of cash, but we figure if it helps, it’s priceless. On the first day, Danny underwent vision tests for acuity and visual field. Then he had two days of treatment, with five sessions each day. Today was day 3. He had to do the vision tests again this morning to see if he is a responder to this treatment. With no improvement he would be sent home. To our elation, there was improvement! So, we will be here for two weeks to continue the intensive treatment.

It’s not a cure, but it can get him some acuity and peripheral vision back, and halt the progression of the RP. Danny is noticing the changes. Colors are looking brighter and everything is looking sharper. Hopefully, he will be able to continue driving and working on a computer, so he can keep his job. This is a miracle for us. Western doctors will simply tell you that there is no cure, you will eventually most likely be (at least legally) blind, and it is a good idea to learn Braille.

The town we were initially going to come stay in for this treatment was called Mt. Hope. The doctor moved to a new town down the road this week, but the vacation rental we found is on, can you guess, Hope Court. Sometimes, hope is a really hard thing to have, when you have been struck with the cruel limitations that are so very real in this life. I’m not saying I don’t have faith. Even when life hands me a bitter pill, I try to understand the lesson, and I am usually able to somewhat sweeten the bitterness with acceptance. At least, so far. One never knows what catastrophe may be around the corner.

But that’s the thing: one never knows what beautiful spirit-fulfilling blessing may be around the corner either. One just never knows. Right now, I am daring myself to hope. We are daring ourselves to hope. Our tears are out of gratitude rather than despair. I am not of a Christian faith, but as you know if you follow my blog, I am a spiritual person. Maybe it is that we are currently in the South, where there is a church on every corner I swear, and probably it is because we are seeing the possibility of the miracle of answered prayers in our lives right now, but I find myself wanting to run to the nearest hillside and yell out at the top of my lungs, “Praise the Lord!!!”

 

 

The Afterlife

 Back when I was in my early twenties and did crazy things like eat psychedelic mushrooms, I once had a vision. I found myself on a rock in a secret place deep under the ocean. Around me sat all of my female ancestors, welcoming me with great joy. They were all lounging about on the rock, with no cares, very happy, and completely peaceful. It was light and warm and expansive there. I remember feeling like I had walked into a spa, this atmosphere of profound relaxation, and…immense relief.

I knew in this moment that this was the afterlife. I knew I would be welcomed here when it came time for me to die. In fact, around this same time period, my grandmother died, and I dreamed that I ran into her at an actual spa, and she was vibrant and joyful and free.

I don’t subscribe to any particular religion. I don’t believe in a fixed idea of heaven or hell. I do believe anything is possible, and that there is some truth and some falsehood to every religion. I have also come across people in my life who feel so familiar, and so much like immediate family, that I tend to believe in past lives.

The only thing that I am sure of though, is that I don’t know. I believe that whatever happens after we die is so amazing that it is simply beyond our comprehension. I do not believe it is possible for us to truly understand what happens after death while we are still in our physical bodies, because we have no context to place it within.

Even this vision is diminished when I try to put it into words. I do like to believe that it’s real, though. I like to believe that my mom, who will shortly pass, will land here, welcomed by her ancestors, nourished by this circle of women, and rewarded for all of her hard work here on Earth.

Image

 

Generosity

I don’t donate to charity regularly. I don’t like to stop and talk to people asking for money to give to whatever organization. I’m not in the habit of passing money to homeless people on the street. Honestly, I don’t really know why. Maybe I think I can’t afford it, or I grab on to the stereotype that they are going to use it on alcohol or drugs. I tell myself I give back through my work at a non-profit (except, I get paid for my work, so I am also benefiting). Mostly, I am uncomfortable opening my wallet to pull out money, maybe because it highlights the fact that I have and they do not have. And that is a reality that is hard to reconcile. I feel like, to really face the fact, I would need to give everything. So instead, I give nothing.

There’s a homeless man that has been hanging out nearby my house lately. I’ve seen him a number of times hunkering down on the stoop of the business next door to my home, with a blanket covering his shoulders. He’s young, quiet, appears harmless, and wears an expression of suffering and extreme fatigue, as if he is fighting an eternal war with the voices in his head. I’ve heard him screaming at night, repeating at the top of his lungs in a agonizing voice, “Father, why have you forsaken me?!”

He recently approached me while I was in the middle of getting my 3-year-old son into his car seat, and asked me if I had money to spare so he could get something to eat. I reacted without thinking, in my habit of not giving, and my instinct of wanting to protect my son from a person who may be unpredictable, and I denied his request.

I felt awful after that. Here is this man, who is obviously ill, and in need, who humbled himself enough to ask for my help. Here I am, having everything I need, mentally stable (at least I think I am), healthy, and unwilling to share. I often complain about the illness of greed that drives the wealthiest to hold on to their wealth. How am I any different than them, when I cannot even spare a few dollars for this man to get some lunch? I believe we are all connected and need to help one another, but in practice, I don’t want any of those “undesirable elements” near my family or my home.

I have become exactly like the people I despise.

Something about this particular homeless man opened my eyes to that discrepancy between my ideals and my actions. Maybe because I started to see him as a neighbor, or maybe it is the aura of gentleness that surrounds him, but I am thankful to him. A few days later, I saw him again, and I gave him some money, and I apologized.

I want to teach my son compassion, non-judgment, and generosity; not fear and greed.

Last night, my husband told me a story that made me cry about a homeless man approaching him early one morning. The man came up to him, and asked him about his Roland bag. I guess Roland is a brand for a guitar synthesizer or something like that, and this homeless man knew that. My husband is a mortgage broker, but also a musician. I suppose he was touched that this homeless man knew this random fact that only a musician would know, because he opened up his wallet and handed the man a $50 bill.

I was shocked at this story. Yes, he was making good money at the time, when the housing market was booming (and no, he was never one of those corrupt mortgage brokers, I promise), but still, $50 is a lot of money to hand out. I asked my husband to explain, and he said, “The guy was like a brother.” He then said, that with this eye condition that he has (retinitis pigmentosa, which makes him completely blind in the dark), he always needs a lot of help. He knows exactly what that feels like, to be in need. And in this moment, it gave him great joy to help another person in need.

I am so happy that this man is the father of my child.

Connectedness in action. Humanity as one family. A great concept, and amazing practice. Giving to others, for me, is about expanding my heart. The joy that I receive when I practice generosity is more rewarding that anything I have to give. I am enveloped in warmth, connection, and faith that there will always be enough.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You receive from the world what you give to the world.”~Gary Zukav

Stay Empty

ImageStay empty. Be a vessel, calling to you everything bright and good and beautiful.

Stay empty. Sit with your hunger, feel that ache, and seek to understand it.

Resist the desire to fill yourself with static noise, heavy food, meaningless chatter.

Put down the book. Turn off the TV and computer. Don’t answer the phone.

Go outdoors. Study the full moon. Howl like a wolf, longing for connection. Feel the               yearning.

Stay with the wanting. Don’t give in. Dive deeper into it.

Recognize the many faces of desire. Wanting for intimacy, sex, companionship. Appetite for food, for sweet, for salty. Searching for temporary escape, for alcohol, for drugs. Cravings for distractions, for senseless stories, for entertainment, for gossip.

Dismiss each demand. Remove the many masks, one by one. Don’t run from the sorrow you may discover underneath. Calm the fears, rock the despair to sleep. Listen to it, feel it, learn from it, and let it go.

Stay empty. Feel the wanting bubble up inside of you, insistent to be filled.

Find the deeper desire, the vast openness beneath the desperate demands for illusory things.

There is something that drives all of us to live and to love, and this is it.

Stay empty, until you see this, and then drink and drink, and let this holy water be your guide.

Stay empty, until you know you are already full.Image