Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mystics have shadows, too

Traditionally Lent, for me, has been a time for getting in touch with my shadow -- never a particularly pleasant experience, though always illuminating -- and so it is that I greet Easter with extra joy, confident that I have done enough "getting in touch" and can now move on with the fun stuff.

But as I have mentioned earlier, Easter doesn't always arrive on schedule. So this morning, lucky me, I had lots of opportunities to find myself right back in the throes of Lent.

I suspect it all began yesterday, when an old friend in Maryland called to tell me his wife had died. Luckily my husband works at home on Mondays, so I could go down to his office and cry in his arms a bit. Sarah, who had been my older daughter's first nanny, was only a year older than me, so my husband and I both had those intimations of mortality that always hit when death takes a contemporary, which meant there was a bit of extra tenderness between us for the rest of the day.

But this morning came, and my husband left the bedroom without kissing me goodbye, and my first thought was "How could you be so thoughtless when life is so short?" But as I lay in bed and listened to the sounds in the house, I realize he wasn't leaving after all; in fact he was taking care of some of my usual morning duties, feeding and walking the dog. Very sweet.

I came downstairs shortly thereafter and his office door was closed, but there was a light underneath the door so I called out to him that I was awake, at which point he asked if he could let the cat out. I grumbled a bit: traditionally I meditate after my morning coffee, and this particular cat has a habit of jumping on my lap and clawing at my face, so I prefer to keep her locked up until I am done. But I let her out of the office, picked her up, and cuddled her a bit.

And then the dog started demanding to go outside. I knew he'd already been out to pee, so clearly this would be a poop run (sorry about the graphic language) and usually those take longer, and can be delayed til later in the morning. So I told him to lie down and settled in for my cup of coffee. He continued to periodically scratch at the door, and I continued to remonstrate with him.

By the time my coffee and reading were done the cat had established herself elsewhere, so I thought it might be safe to meditate. I lit my candle, curled up in my chair, adjusted my blanket, hit my meditation gong, and the dog scratched at the door again. Clearly this was an urgent need for him; usually he knows to curl up on the couch til I'm done.

So I took him outside, still in my robe and slippers, careful not to slip on the icy steps, and walked him down the path a bit. And there, silhouetted against the sunrise, were two geese: beautiful. So when he had done his business, I took him back in, ran upstairs and got my camera, and went back out to photograph the geese. The first shot was perfect -- except. I had been photographing the moon the night before and the camera was set to a very long exposure.

By the time I realized and reset the camera, the geese had begun to move out of the frame, so I got the picture you can see here (they are way off on the lower right). I took another shot or two, then went back inside, curled back into my blanket, hit the gong again, and the cat jumped into my lap to begin her tentative clawful pats at my face. I found myself grumbling: stupid husband. Is the cat more important than I am? Why can't he keep her in for another 20 minutes?

Sophie finally jumped off my lap, and while I sat with my eyes closed I heard my husband come out of his office and into the living room, stop, and then head up the stairs. GRR, I thought: if you were going to go back to bed anyway, why did you get up in the first place? Because of you my whole morning is off.

Yup. I am not a very nice person, I thought: can you spell CONTROL FREAK? There's something pretty funny -- and yet not funny at all -- about a mystic who is so picky about everything. Shouldn't all this meditation lead me into a space where nothing bothers me, where I roll with the punches, go with the flow, feel at one with the cats and the dogs and the husband and all their needs and decisions? On the other hand, if I am this obnoxious WITH meditative practice, imagine who I'd be WITHOUT it!

And then I stopped. Took a breath. Looked tenderly at the whining child I had become and breathed myself into the space around her, holding her in my arms and smiling. And in that moment I could feel the relief of the dog, and the tiredness of my husband, the sore gums of the cat who just wants them rubbed, and the joy of the geese as they begin their morning rounds.

Yes, Lent is still very much with me. But so is Easter. And it's all good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your writings Diane. They are profound enough that they make me stop, think, feel, reflect, enjoy, commiserate. They are honest and real enough that I feel no trepidation in chewing them for breakfast. They are simple enough to challenge rather than intimidate me. Thank you. Carole