Sunday, 21 June 2009

the power of now

I made another trip to visit Mum today, taking along six more picture frames.

I had spent a lot of time during the week choosing the photographs to include, getting them professionally printed and then arranging and re-arranging them in the frames [I have serious issues to deal with at home just now and I find that spending all my time doing something for Mum is a great way of ignoring my other responsibilities. You can't feel guilty when you've been side-tracked doing something nice for someone who is helpless.]

Apart from one set of 3 recent portraits, all the pictures were taken from our time spent living in Japan and India. Here I was, nailing our past to the walls, trying to cling on to a family's memories. Mum, meanwhile, was attempting to swallow an entire Toblerone in one go with the minimum of chewing.
Once we'd both finished our tasks, I reclined on the edge of the bed whilst Mum sat in her chair by the window.

Mum asked me how my job was going. I told her that I hadn't worked since December.
What was I doing for money? I was living off savings for now.
Did I still want to go travelling? I couldn't do that until I'd seen her apartment sold and the funds invested for her.
Had I heard from my Sister recently? No, not for a few years now.

These questions always come, and we chant through the same call and response every time, as though at a Church service. I'm no longer frustrated or alarmed by this; there's something comforting in the familiarity of the routine nowadays.

We sat and listened to the birdsong coming in through the open window. Mum sighed and said how much she liked sitting in the window alcove and looking out through the trees and across the field.

I had been listening to an Eckhart Tolle audio-book on the drive over, and I was struck by how Mum's condition means that she follows his precept of living only in the present moment. For Mum the past is equally as unknowable as the future, so she is neither troubled by bad memories nor concerned over what's to come. She doesn't go crazy from boredom or terror because she exists only on the cusp of now, seeing only her present circumstances. Meanwhile, I stew and fret and spend most of my time daydreaming about a future I could most likely never afford. I could learn a lot from this woman.

On my way out, Mum introduced me to everyone as her Husband.


citygirl said...

What a great posting. I really enjoyed it. I remember feeling relaxed sometimes when I visited my mom as she had no worries. We enjoyed listening to birds in the gardens at her nursing home while sipping on tea. Nothing else mattered while I sat there with her.

I went for a tarot card reading this past weekend. One of my cards was showing that I tend to overanalyze things and I should learn to "quiet" my mind to allow peace and new ideas flow. The cards also said that I have a strong belief of how I want things to be but it is not possible right now...maybe in the future it will happen but I am putting too much thought and pressure into wanting things to be 100% now.

I know I fret about the past and future too much and over-think everything. Someone used to say to me "what time is it?" - the answer is NOW.

Congrats on your new marriage! ;)

Sorata said...

Wow, what an emotional post. When I come to your blog, I never know what to expect, it could be happy or sad or funny, but this post has them all! :D

I, of course as a Buddhist, really connected when you were mentioning about "precept of living only in the present moment". It's such a concept that is hard to grasp at time, yet is the best to deal with daily logistics that could drive one crazy. And you are very true that your Mom is mastering living the moment, there is much to learn about and much to think about, even giving the unfortunate situation with the lost of memories, that the present time is the only thing we really have, because everything in the past is gone, and everything in the future is not certain.

Great post!

PS: Saw you've lost a bit of weight there. I remember you mentioned wanting to do that, if it's a result from that, CONGRATULATIONS! If not... then take care of yourself :D

Greg said...

Thanks, Sorata

Perhaps I should confirm to everyone that I'm not ill in any way. I have, however, lost just over 70 pounds in the past 4 months. This was achieved via a medical diet supervised by a Doctor and with regular check-ups. I feel great and I'm astonished to be in 32" waist jeans again, and shopping for 'S' t-shirts when I was still buying 'XL' in January.

You are not the first person who has worried that there's something wrong with me.

How's your writer's block coming along?

Sorata said...

Hey Greg,

WOW 70 lbs??? That's insane (in a good way), good for you for having the determination to do that! Shopping for 'S' t-shirt eh? We can be shopping buddies! LOL Though I fit 'XS' better sometimes.

The writing is making a come back very soon... Want to change up the banner a little bit... thought of a good idea, now just need to execute it :D

citygirl said...

70 lbs?! WOW!!! Congratulations!

I used to be rail-thin when I was caring for my mom at home. My nerves were pretty well shot.

After mom was placed and well settled in care, I put on 10 lbs overnight. Amazing how much effect your state of mind can have on your weight!

Greg said...

Sorata, European size 'S' is the same as North America's size 'XS', so we WILL be fighting over the same clothes.. ha ha.. well, maybe not, because I don't think I can afford to go shopping much longer.

Thanks, Citygirl. I hope I don't ever put on 10 lbs overnight. It would have been great if worrying over Mum back in 2007 had taken the pounds off me but I think I just ate more chocolate to calm myself down every day. Plus, I was always at my desk, either working or trying to manage her affairs, so I never got out to work anything off. It's making me ill thinking about it now, so I'm not sure how I coped at the time - I guess I just had to.

For anyone working in metric, my weight on February 1st was 104Kg and it's currently 72Kg. Sorata, I'll send you a before/after image, since I have your email address.

Y | O | Y said...

"Here I was, nailing our past to the walls, trying to cling on to a family's memories. Mum, meanwhile, was attempting to swallow an entire Toblerone in one go with the minimum of chewing."

So good to step back and notice the amusement of it all.

I'd noticed the weight loss, too. 70# is a lot and you deserve congratulations.

I didn't know you had a sister. I need to go back through your blog and see if I missed mention of her.

Greg said...

Some of the emails at the start of the blog were written to my Sister, but she's lived abroad since 2000 and we've seen less and less of her over the years. She has some problems controlling her temper and, once she started her own family, she had less and less tolerance for Mum's "dithering". 9 years back she was pretty vicious towards Mum (just after Dad died) when she returned home to live for a while under my Mum's roof. At the time none of us were daring to speculate that there was something wrong with Mum. About 4 or 5 years back now my Sister cut us off completely and we haven't seen or heard from her since. We still see her Husband and kids when they visit the country (they live in Saudi Arabia), but my Sister stays in a hotel to avoid meeting us.

Frankly, after dealing with Mum's dementia completely unsupported, I have little I want to say to my Sister, either, so her boycott of the family suits me fine. As her kids are wont to comment, it's more fun when their Mum isn't around. Given the extremely mild provocation that Mum has given my Sister (i.e. being annoyingly vague and unreliable since developing Alzheimer's), I shudder to think what evil karma is going to come back on her from her own kids, the way she acts in front of them.

So, in short, Mandy features in this blog to the precise degree in which she features in our lives. Not at all.

Hmm... I'm going to have to step REALLY far back to find the amusement in that one, eh? :D

Thanks for the congrats - I hope your own health is improved markedly over the coming months, now that you've found a new Home for your Mom. I really am hoping for the best for you and your Mom and I value your blog and your participation in mine, G.

Y | O | Y said...

I guess the way you described her trying to swallow an entire candy bar in one gulp struck me as funny! :)

Greg said...

Ha Ha... yes, I got that, and thanks for laughing with me on that one. I meant I'm trying really hard to find something funny about the situation with my Sister.