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Posts Tagged ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’

I’ve been kind of sick for too long a while.  I’d rather be sicker and have it over more quickly.  There is simultaneously optimism and fear inside me – and a disheartened kind of grief.  A good, gracious man I know died on New Year’s Eve; he was only 61.  I’m not sure what’s going on inside my head but I need to watch videos like this and seek out information like you get here in order to continue to have faith in humanity

I have to remind myself there are so many amazing things. 

I forgot to bring my camera on my trip to see Jonah yesterday, so I’ll have to share older pics.  Jonah was a good boy.  He didn’t want me to sing, though, even though he was in a parroting mood.  Andy had on the radio and Jonah was humming snippets of the top 40 music and saying things to himself… then suddenly he’s quiet, moving his thumb easily and naturally into his mouth as he turns to look out the window.  It was a warm day – maybe even 40.  My mother and I were quiet on the ride home as she tolerated my music:  things like Kula Shaker, Paul Simon, Radiohead, and Death Cab for Cutie, this day.  I won’t subject her to Greenday or the Grateful Dead; I know where to draw the line.   It was a good visit tinged with the usual feeling that comes inside when you are driving farther and farther away from your innocent ten year old son. 

Today I made chicken cacciatore and M and I are watching Dick Proenneke’s Alone in the Wilderness.   It’s such an amazing documentary that tears come to my eyes as I watch it.  This man built a cabin in the middle of Twin Lakes, Alaska (where he was the only human) and lived there for thirty years, 1968-1998, until he was 81 years old.  He carved spoons and bowls out of wood in a matter of hours.  He could chop down 40 trees and shape them into useable logs to build the cabin, all before noon.  Amazing things.  He built carriers for food and moss.  Caught fish and avoided bear.  Somehow didn’t go insane even while so literally alone.

The things he accomplishes – the way he thinks, the way he moves through the world — it’s so mind-blowing sometimes I have no reaction but to laugh out loud in astonishment.

He builds tools, tables, chairs;  intricate, near-perfect hinges; neat, even boards for shelves and working surfaces.  He narrates most of the movie, sets the camera on a tripod and films himself measuring, building, climbing, chopping, carving, cooking, gardening.  Everything handmade.  A plane would come only, I think, twice a year to bring him very basic supplies.  Are there still people like him, people who know civilization but choose to leave it, with talent and skill and that true harmony with nature?  I am in such awe of it.  No wonder I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For me these people speak of possibility, and resilience, and determination.  

It’s good for me today.  So here are some random things while I make my exit to watch some more about Mr. Proenneke:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

O

Silly Me

Silly Me

O

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ScareMeNots recycle!

The Hudson River in March 2002Rhinebeck NY

Baby Jonah...Looking right at me.

Baby Jonah…
Looking right at me.

Gustav Klimt'sThe Kiss

Gustav Klimt’s
The Kiss

O

my child of the water

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“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
 
Our signatures, then, over all the world,
with every moment we exist,
like fingerprints – your hand on my bare shoulder; its mark of love…
Our footsteps on the ground;
the way we meet the earth, walk & mark the earth.
 
~ Lie still & breathe ~
 
or rise, enraged, to rave & blame, mark & judge,
to find an other & lay upon it all the pain, the wrong
There is no other. 
 
Lie still & breathe.  Be still.  Breathe.
 
Stream-of-consciousness poem there.  Sorry to flake out on you all.
 
I am reduced to – or, quite possibly, fortified by – breathing. 
Smell the rose, blow out the candle.  Smell the rose, blow out the candle.
Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Now and now and now and now.
 

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“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching)
 
I am losing a lot, like it or don’t, as P would say.  But I’m tired of myself, tired of carrying on in my grief, so I’m turning (as you may have noticed) to Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite Buddhist monks, for guidance and peace.  I’m turning to the Buddhist view of impermanence – that which says nothing has permanence, that permanence is an illusion we cling to.
 
Well I’m a Buddhist by circumstance, then. Yet I am also many more things: raised Catholic, I still go to Mass on occasion and cling to my roots, finding solace in the ritual of the Mass.  I may be other things I haven’t even discovered yet.  So it goes, to throw in some Vonnegut.  This is my favorite little story about Kurt Vonnegut, taken from Wikipedia:
 
In the mid 1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and left.[17] On the verge of abandoning writing, Vonnegut was offered a teaching job at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While he was there, Cat’s Cradle became a best-seller, and he began Slaughterhouse-Five, now considered one of the best American novels of the 20th century, appearing on the 100 best lists of Time magazine[18] and the Modern Library.[19]

The lesson I take away from all of this is I can’t abandon life by sitting in my soiled self in the sorrowful, shallow end of the pool.  I have to keep writing because it saves me.  I can come out the other side of this, make myself into someone good, be Jonah’s mother as best I can, be the change I want to see in this world (thanks, Gandhi) instead of complaining about the changes that aren’t happening.  I may moan and rave, cry and bitch, but I’m not going down without a fight.  I am recharged with people all around me, some who don’t even know me.  They care and they tell me so and it helps like they will never know.  I am not alone, I tell myself, mantra-like.  I am not alone.

Mary helps me too.  Yes, that Mary.  The mother of God Mary.  She sure had a difficult child, an only child (it seems) and she lost him too, in many ways, before she really lost him.  She understands. 

  • St. Josemaria Escriva: “Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.”  “When you see the storm coming, if you seek safety in that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.”

How can I believe all these things simultaneously? 

“Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then; I contradict myself.  I am large – I contain multitudes.” ~Walt Whitman

(I’m actually quite scrawny, but I think Walt was being metaphorical). 

I am going over to see Jonah-boo tonight, to take him on the “Groundhog Day” tour of his favorite things:  the train, car ride, maybe grandma or a peanut butter roll.  If it is warm enough, swimming and splashing. 

I am looking forward to it, whatever it brings.  I love him so much.

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“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (Being Peace)

Thank you for everyone who voted for me – I seem to be see-sawing back and forth between #20 and #19, and I don’t expect to stay this far up on the list, but I cracked the top 25.  I appreciate your votes, all of you. It’s funny – Elizabeth Moon has a blog on the list (I haven’t looked at it yet) – but she wrote a fantastic book about autism, The Speed of Dark, set slightly in the future, which gave me the idea for the name of my blog; one of her characters said it in the course of a conversation.

So I am relentlessly counting.  Twenty two days – three weeks from tomorrow – we pack up Jonah and all the things they’ve asked us to bring for him, and we drive him away to live at an educational residence for kids with autism.  It’s like a movie I am watching, or a book I forgot what chapter I’m on…a dream I am consciously trying to end.  Sometimes I literally can’t even breathe… I can feel the pressure in my lungs, my heart, my bones, my center.

Tomorrow Andy and I go for our free consultation for divorce mediation.  M is tired of me being miserable and often “snippy” as he calls it.  He helps me watch Jonah 4 times a week and it is wearing on him – he has his own children and he wants time to relax.  My sadness wears on him too; he says I am not the person he met and fell in love with.  That it true – I am not and never will be again.  It is not his fault that I am a mess.  I wear this like a cloak and I shed the cloak sometimes but then I wrap it around me again.  How many metaphors can I use to describe this kind of helplessness, this form of pain?

Maybe I should be alone.  Maybe I should be done.  The counting won’t stop, this ticking ringing in my ears (I go next Friday for a hearing exam but it won’t stop the clock).  I hold my breath and hold my breath and pray I don’t burst out crying at the gas station or the grocery store. 

I try to hold my son tight and he says bye-bye mama, bye-bye mama

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Someone nominated me for Babble’s Top 25 • 2011 autism spectrum blogs, which is cool and kind of humbling.  Even though the title says it lists the ‘top 25′ it actually has the top 100 or so, based on readers’ votes.  If you read my blog and like it, will you please click on the link above, find Normal is a Dryer Setting (I think I’m number 33 or something right now) and then click on “I like this?” 

My goal is to make it into the actual top 25. 

Thanks.  🙂

It’s supposed to be 95 degrees or so today, and we’re planning to go back to my savior-friend H’s house after work so fish-boy can swim some more. 

This morning when I got to work, I was unloading the dishwasher.  We have these very tall, heavy glasses and I held one in my hand for a second and really, really wanted to throw it at a hard surface, just to watch it smash…to see the shards fly…to destroy something.

But I didn’t.

“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow?  It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

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I’m told that someone once asked the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh to explain Buddhism in one phrase, and he paused and answered:  “everything changes.”

Several things are changing now, actually.  Got very good news about my position changing at work (in a way that I am very appreciative of and happy about) and also have an appointment this morning to visit St. Colman’s residential educational placement school, which is only about 10 minutes from my home, as opposed to the 4 or 5 other residential schools we’re applying to, which are all at least an hour away.  It would be so much nicer to be able to see Jonah pretty much whenever I wanted, and I hope the tour goes well and they have a place for him.

When I was in the hospital, the nurse who handed out meds had seen my file and knew my story.  She told me that she doesn’t usually share personal information with patients, but that she had placed her son (who also had autism) at St. Colman’s when he was 7.  Now he is 21 and about to age-out into an adult home; she had nothing but wonderful things to say about the place, how far he had come, how wonderful the staff was, how much she appreciated everything they had done for her son.  I swear everything happens for a reason.  It is no mistake that I met this woman.

On Wednesday Jonah had 9 aggressions at school, and Andy picked him up early to take him to the doctor for something the nurse said was patiki eye…tiny dots on his left (bad) eye…the redness was traveling down his face and the nurse was concerned.  But they never made it to the doc; Jonah attacked in the car halfway up the Northway and Andy called me from his cell phone and told me to cancel the appointment; I could hear a struggle in the background and sighed.   When I went to the house after work, Andy wasn’t up to reliving the details – Jonah had fallen asleep by then and his face did look a little red but he didn’t seem to be in any pain, so Andy said he’d try to take him again tomorrow if he needed to.

Yesterday there was no call from the school nurse, but Andy’s car broke down on Colvin Avenue, which is about 3 miles from our house.   He called AAA (thanks, dad, who always gives us each a membership for Christmas) and then had the car towed to a nearby repair shop.  He called me to tell me what had happened.  I asked if he wanted me to come pick him up but he said he was going to go for a walk anyway that day, so he walked home.  Just one more thing to deal with.  The big property tax bill came too, and now a car repair.  Good thing neither Andy or I really mind not having much money.

Then Jonah’s log book said he’d had 10 aggressions that day- 9 at staff and one toward a peer.  This frequency is as bad as it was before we started him on medication, and I’ve become almost numb to this kind of news.  It only serves to make me feel sorry for Andy, for the people at Wildwood, and to underscore the necessity of placement.  It gives me an all over, bone-deep, constant anxiety that feels like a new kind of normalcy now.  I’m on anti-anxiety meds but I find myself wanting to mainline them straight into my veins – to sleep, perchance to wake with life as it was 8 years ago or so – a small but comfortable house, a sweet beautiful baby in my arms, a happy husband to come home to me each night after work.

But everything changes.  The wheel turns, and those squashed at the bottom will rise again.  I just wish the wheel would turn a little faster…

“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod,
Big wheel turn by the grace of God,
Every time that wheel turn ’round,
Bound to cover just a little more ground.”

~ The Grateful Dead

For my peeps at the hospital, wherever you are — for everyone reading this, leaving comments, praying for us, thinking of us, calling me, sharing your own stories, expressing your compassion, wanting to help — I thank you.  It means more to me than you will ever know.

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