The bugs sing in the heat. Narrow golden leaves ride the breeze, spiral to the ground in waves, ripple in the air current, animated as butterflies with the dexterity of thin wings. The tomatoes and bell peppers continue to grow. I struggle to find a regular pace. Weekly events are not what I expected.
– Edited journal excerpt from September 21, 2010
I’ve been pondering recent weeks – medical and relational surprises, the opportunity to learn, the chance to start afresh (at least try!) with old stuff. While I’m not sure how to convey the array of associations – pain, fear; mystery, possibility; waiting, reacting – I know this is the essence of life, a dance of surprises that we can accept and learn from or churn with hostility. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we can’t strive for change – bettering ourselves and where we live – but some things are about acceptance, like a loved one’s choices or the discovery of a heart murmur.
Flashes of pain and fear bring up old lessons. I think, “Yes, I suck at being angry because I have a hard time letting go,” and how I do my best to sidestep provocation (when possible!) as I learn to better process certain emotions. I appreciate small measures of change, like not taking it personally when someone’s having a bad day rather than cart blanche internalizing encounters with the world. My mind’s eye watches the big picture unfold.
At the same time, it’s back to basics after a recent one-time (fingers crossed!) episode of chest pain. This is important information, especially with a family history of heart disease. Dad’s triple-a (abdominal aortic aneurysm) and triple bypass happened when I was pretty young. Back then I learned how men are more likely to develop symptoms at a younger age compared to women. Now I know that women’s older-aged onset of heart disease is tied to menopause, and everyone is advised to check cholesterol from the age of 20 every five years. Next week I receive the results from my very first cholesterol panel – 15 years overdue!
Compassion is threaded in this story, which just so happens to correspond with my calendar of Susan Seddon Boulet paintings. September highlights the Goddess of Compassion, also known as Kuan Yin (China) and Tara (India and Tibet). Within this month, a f/Friend (or Quaker) at Meeting for Worship cautioned, “If our compassion is limited by experience, then we’re in serious trouble.” The words cast a new light on my responses to loved ones, and brought to mind opportunities for compassion I certainly provide others!
Compassion plays out in many directions. I’ve been mindful of a dear friend thanks to my recent medical encounters: an emergency room visit after chest pain, a treadmill stress test indicating a slight murmur, an echocardiogram (results pending). This person has underwent many tests. More than once I’ve said to this friend, “I can’t imagine,” and I truly never tried to picture the process, from physical onset to a series of procedures. Meanwhile, realization has struck: strangers touching the body, and results evaluated without specialist meeting patient.
Despite our vast range of experiences, as a species we share emotional and physical responses: fear, pain, anger, love, pleasure. Maybe that’s the best place to start – remembering our basic make-up, weaknesses, and strengths. The process takes time, patience, and a willingness to grow. It’s here that I find imagination tutors anew, and acceptance is possible.