Gratitude

21 Feb

 Thursday, Feb 21, 2019 —

                                                                            Gratitude

 I am spending a weekend in the country, at an adorable cottage on my daughter’s farm, near The Plains, VA. The weather has gone from a temperature of 67 degrees when I arrived on Friday, to a cold wet rain with the threat of snow or sleet on Sunday night.  It’s typical Virginia late winter/early spring weather. I don’t believe it will snow tonight. But still, the weather is a constant mystery. And I love it. The fact that it is so changeable is fun. I have plenty of warm clothes. And I am so grateful for everything. So grateful to have the chance to come here and decompress.

The fireplace in the cottage is made of stone, not firebrick, and it throws off a lot of heat. There is a joke around the farm, about how much wood I use. It is true that I am profligate with wood burning; I love the sight and sound of an open fire so much. I could stare at the fire for hours–It brings all sorts of imagination to the fore. Before I knew about meditation, I loved to look at the fire in a fireplace and let my mind rest. “Sometimes I sets and thinks, and sometimes, I just sets” is an old Virginia expression to which I relate. And a fire in the fireplace is one trigger for that same sort of non-thinking that meditation brings about. Restful in the extreme.

Everywhere I look, there is beauty, and peace. A huge pond ripples and glistens with reflected light from the sky– no sun today but a glistening, rippling expanse of water that seems to be trying to move outside its banks. Hundreds of daffodils are emerging, halfway up out of the ground. They must be confused by the different signals that Mother Nature is sending them.” Rise Up!” “No, never mind. Hang tight.” And though the leaves on the poor little struggling spring flowers have brown tips where frost has tainted them, the stems will soar, soon enough and blossoms open. Yellow blooms will extend soon down the driveway and we will know for sure that spring is here. We are on the way to the month of March now. More than halfway through February.

The gratitude I feel extends well past this farm. The entire countryside, unblemished by commercial space or even many houses, is open to all the wildlife that lives here. Deer herds are actually a problem. Bears are sighted regularly, and possums and raccoons and squirrels and rabbits and chipmunks abound. Birds are plentiful; even hawks and eagles soar in the sky above this county. Riders on horseback and runners on foot share these roads with bicyclers, who seem to come in droves. No wonder they are here. We have hundreds of miles of dirt roads. We also have wonderful two- lane, paved roads, which many people wish the bicyclers would stay off. I do worry about someone running them down, by accident.

When I wake up here in the cottage, my heart is full the moment I realize I am in my own bed, my old bed from my own, former house.  Here in the cottage, of course, it is different from city living. Sometimes the heat is off, or it is intensely windy. At times like that I am grateful for the curtains surrounding my bed, and I draw them the moment I get in. It makes a little house for me to stay, snug and warm, and cuddling my dog, Magnus, for added warmth.

Most of the time, I now live in Washington, D.C. with my 101 year old mother. I sleep in my old room, in my childhood house.  There is already a bed in that room, SO, there was no point in bringing my bed to Washington. Besides, my bed is a four-poster, with high posts. We did measure to see if it would fit in my bedroom at Mother’s, but it would not because the eaves in that bedroom come down too close and too low. So. I sleep in the bed that was there, missing my own bed in the cottage, with its pretty hangings which I can draw if it gets too cold. At Mother’s, the central heat is very effective. There is no need for bed-hangings.

My sensitivity to gratitude has been heightened by meditation. I believe that meditation has altered something in me, and I am forever changed. When such intense gratitude engulfs me, I wallow in it. Being grateful for the gratitude may sound silly. But that is how I feel. And I believe it is contagious. Be careful. You might catch it from reading this.

If I let myself, I will never be able to stop thinking of things for which to be grateful. For the peace that engulfs me, and all the things around me. The sheets on the bed, the feather pillows upon which I rest my head and the duvet that keeps me cosy. My warm dog, who sleeps beside me every night. My fireplace and tiny kitchen, indoor plumbing and central heat and air conditioning.

Best of all for daily comfort is Magnus. What a marvelous thing it is to have a loving dog. I appreciate him for the companionship he gives. We all need something to love and if you do not have a partner, it is important to find something else upon whom to bestow your affection. Dogs are super easy to love, and they love us unconditionally. Never underestimate the power of love, even the love between a dog and its owner. That feeling of love actually sends positive physiological signals to our bodies and our souls. Thank goodness for pets, all varieties.  I am grateful.

Magnus

                                                                                         **

Copyright©.  2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

Sadness and Solace

4 Feb

                                                Sadness and Solace



I don’t like writing about sadness. However, it is important to write about the things that we don’t want to write about. Maybe more important than anything else we write.

Cheerful roses on a snowy day.


Certainly, from a cathartic view, this is the case.


Why does my body resist when I think of what makes me sad? Why not face those things? Why not try to sort out by importance and impact those things that are lurking in the shadows of my mind. The very things I leave alone, to languish unbidden and unexamined, are the things I need to catalogue and perhaps, even repurpose into life lessons and growing experiences.


Sadness creeps in “on little cat feet” (to quote Carl Sandburg). It does not overwhelm like a wave, nor does it clatter toward us like a colt. It approaches silently and stealthily and seeps up around us like a mist, rising. Or perhaps it is more like sinking into a bog, thick and tenacious in its hold on us.

Like a bird on a cold day

Sadness can exist side by side with all the happy emotions. Like sundry sets of china in a cabinet sitting side by side, the most disparate emotions, the feelings that confuse as well as those that please reside in us together. That feeling of darkness that descends as certain thoughts and realizations engulf us can paralyze. Sometimes, it rests quietly in the background, hardly raising its head as the joys of a happy and fulfilling life run together.

My mother’s decline causes intense sadness to fill my mind, if I let it go free.  Generally, I do not. I Feel sad, then follow that with a hundred things for which to be grateful.


One must be careful, however, when following sadness with gratitude, not to ignore the sad part. I tend to do this a lot. There are so many wonderful things in my life that I often neglect the sad things. It is major. There is time for both. And ignored feelings do not simply disappear. They tend to collect somewhere in the body and manifest in some way you will not like.


Sadness can be pervasive and play on itself if there is no relief from some other source. That feeling hangs over us and it is indescribable to those who are not also sad. All-encompassing and impossible to escape, the feeling may accompany us wherever we go, insinuating itself into every action, every response. So “sticky” it won’t be ignored, won’t be run away from, won’t detach itself unless we find a key of some sort to open the floodgates of other emotions.

There are a few things that can work quickly. Music and puppies come to mind, first. Who can feel sad when listening to uplifting music? Unless that particular piece reminds us of the cause for sadness, it is almost certain to lift our spirits. Especially if we can sit still and breath into the music, sway inwardly to it. Perhaps, it is literally toe-tapping joyful listening meant to bring us up out of the depths. As suddenly as swimming to the surface of deep water and breaking through to fresh air, joyous music played by a symphony orchestra or a radio disc jockey twirling discs can banish sadness.

Some people relish their sadness and cling to it as a thing to hold close. It gives them feeling where perhaps none existed before. Perhaps it is because they must replace the feeling of love with something else. The sadness is near at hand and becomes a well-loved friend. During this type of internal struggle, it is very difficult to extract oneself. Meeting new people, trying new things, even buying a new dog or moving to a new house or a new country never really enters the reality of the grieving one. They are too numb and too oblivious of the world around them to respond as a normal person might. That point needs to be examined. They are not normal.


Treating a person as if they could just “snap out of it” when they are so deeply saddened by events or loss seems cruel punishment. They are helpless. Would you ask a drowning man to go out to dinner, or take a trip with you, or anything at all while they are busy drowning? No, and the SAD thing is you cannot save them as easily as you could do if all that was happening to them was that they were drowning. It is not that simple. No one WANTS to stay sad in their conscious mind. Even though there are plenty who cling to it, they say they want to be happy again. They even mean it, but it is not that easy.


Sadness is a downer. Figuring out how to get out of it can lead to all sorts of discoveries. If one is brave and curious, the search for a cure to sadness may encourage behavior that would have seemed too risky before. Mountain climbing, cycling cross country, riding in sporting events, motorcycling, white water rafting, ballooning or bungie jumping, all of these raise the adrenaline, which pushes out the sadness to make room for a little terror, and the exultant feeling of accomplishment when these activities are survived.

A tree in sunlight


We in our family used to foxhunt regularly. We had fabulous horses, and we hunted with the best pack of hounds in the USA at that time. Believe me, the rush of pleasure we felt daily in the hunt field, with the cry of the hounds, the cool air, and the scent of leather and horses and once in a while a whiff of fox elicited pure happiness. Sadness, if any was present, had to take a back seat (Or leave altogether).

Everyone can find something they love to do and do it.  I wish you a very short period of sadness and much joy.
                                                                                      
**

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson                                                                     


The Journey Continues

20 Jan

We are all on a journey. It is different for everyone. No one can prepare for this journey because what happens on it and where it takes us is completely random.
The journey of which I speak is the one we begin when our parents begin to fail. I don’t mean “fail” in the sense that they seem older, or look older, or act older. I mean when they actually have an event, which ages them quickly. Sometimes it is a fall, or a broken bone. Sometimes it is a heart attack or a stroke. Sometimes it is a disease like Cancer or Diabetes or Parkinson’s Disease. And worst of all it can happen that they become demented in some way, generally from Alzheimers Disease.

pear trees blossom in the snow


When one of these things happen, life suddenly changes dramatically. I remember the first time something like that occurred with my mother. It was Memorial Day 2007, and she had had a pool party. After the guests left she was gathering wet towels to take to the house to be washed and she tripped and fell. She broke her hip. Lucky for her she was not alone when she fell. Her secretary was nearby and called an ambulance.
I heard about this by phone, as I was driving a car with my sister in law, as a passenger, somewhere near Great Meadow in The Plains Virginia. I remember it very well, because it was such a shock. To be told one’s 89 year old Mother has broken her hip is intense. And for many people that is the end of the line. They never really recover. They sort of give up. It crossed my mind that Mother might not come back from this, but immediately after that thought, I rejected it. NO! My Mother will NOT give up. I will go to the hospital and make sure she knows this is just an inconvenience.


SO off I rushed. I actually arrived before they wheeled Mother into the operating room. But I did not try to interfere and no one asked me for my opinion. Later we discovered that Dr Harris had given Mother a “partial” hip replacement, rather a total one. When I asked him about it, he said “I did not know your mother. All I knew was that I had a patient who was 89 years old, with a broken hip. Most people who are that age do not want to be ready to go to dances at the country club. They are finished. But, now that I know your mother, I know better.”
When I saw mother after the operation she was doing OK, but she was worried. I stayed with her from then on, sleeping in her room on one of those horrid expandable chairs that supposedly become a bed. Ha!!! Horrible. But I stayed and coached mother day and night, about how she could beat the odds. I felt my job was to convince her that she would get better. That she would be dancing again, soon and that she was NOT DONE. I talked to her about it in an upbeat way, until I was blue in the face!


Everyone knows I can be a contrarian. In this case, every person I met was saying “such a shame about your mother”, as if she was dying. That just made me more determined to make sure she did not. She liked the idea that she would be better soon. She was willing to do the work. She did not let this setback defeat her.
Mother was by no means finished. She was in a hurry to get better. She got herself up to Newport, in a hospital plane. That was 12 years ago. She got better over the summer and was dancing by Labor Day. She resumed driving and she was just fine. She was back!!!

Happy!


But, I was different. My trust in Mother always being healthy and alive, was shaken just a bit. She was such a great patient. She showed herself to be willing to do the rehab, and not be depressed. In many ways she was an inspiration. Today she is fast approaching 101 years old. Now my part of the journey is often sad. But Mother is still beautiful and healthy. She still wants to be where ever there is action.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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