Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Staying Awake and Open

Sometimes a gnawing sadness settles over me. Not often. Just every now and again. It’s been with me now for a few weeks, just enough for me to know it’s there. I recognize it for what it is and find ways to counter it, like riding my bike even though the temperature is below 20 degrees, and allowing myself to slip into comfy sweatpants and a warm sweater as soon as I get home from work, usually around 4 pm. This signals to the family that I’m done for the day. They tease me about my propensity for putting on pajamas so early. I just snuggle up on the couch and let the world go about its business without me. More recently, I found another way to ease the sadness. When I take the dogs for their walks, and Ado decides it’s time to sit down for a break, instead of tugging at him to continue, I let him sit. I watch where his eyes go and I look where he looks. One time he was watching a crow fly overhead. Another time he saw a couple of squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of a tree. Just yesterday, he sat and turned his head first one way, then the other. Then he stood and turned around until he found the wind chimes hanging near the front door of a house. Seeing the world just a little bit through Ado’s eyes softens the sad feeling. 

Today the sadness intensified a bit with Lovely Beautiful Daughter leaving to return to her new home on the east coast. Having her visit for the holiday gave me a chance to catch up with her and the life she is creating for herself. She's doing fine. I knew she would. That's just who she is and has always been. And while I'm happy for her, I also miss her terribly. All I kept thinking the entire time she was here is I wish she'd come home. And even though I promised myself before she arrived that I would not say anything about her moving back, I broke that promise, whispering to her as I hugged her tight while saying our goodbyes that she could come home anytime. Just say the word. Lovely Beautiful Daughter hugged me tighter, saying if she needed anything she would let me know. For now, I have to be content with the knowledge that she'll be returning in May for her brother's graduation.

To help myself navigate through the sadness, I've returned to a favorite book, Comfortable With Uncertainty, by Pema Chodron, and reread some passages I marked. One, especially, spoke to me: "If you . . . aspire to stay awake and open to what you're feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best you can in each moment, then something begins to change." It used to be that I wouldn't allow myself to be open to what I was feeling. I believed I needed to squash it, bury it, refuse to acknowledge it. Doing so only enhanced the feeling, making me sink further into it and feeling worse. Now, I allow myself to say hello to the feeling, examine it, think about why it might be a part of me at that given moment. Recognizing it, acknowledging it, and giving it its own space help me understand the feeling as well as myself better.

Tomorrow the sadness might still be with me, but that's okay. I already know having breakfast with my boys will make me smile. I know walking the dogs and seeing the goings-on of the world through Ado's eyes will make me smile. I know working with my students will make me smile. That's a whole lot of smiling to look forward to.

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