April 2018

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time to Stop and Listen to the Roses

Today, I'm tired. Weary to the bones. I was yesterday, too. And the days before that. When I passed Laurie at my practicum at the National MS Society (great place) yesterday, she asked, "How are you?"

I know most people ask that question out of habit and don't really want to know, but I always answer as if the person really does want to know. "Tired," I said, and Laurie stopped to hear more and told me a parable a friend of hers had shared with her. She cupped her hands like a tea cup and said, "My friend told me that we are like teacups, only half full. We need to let ourselves restore until our cup flows (she might have said floweth) over. That overflow is what we have to give." With this, she gestured with one hand's fingers, demonstrating the water flowing over the cup, her other hand." Cool. Her friend must be a psalmist. 

This was the reminder I needed, a return to the most important things I've learned with these brain tumors: Slow down. Breathe. Love the moment. Her reminder was so spot on that I felt myself getting a little teary. How quietly amazing to be understood passing in the hallway.

Why do I forget this simple and not so simple lesson so quickly? Before surgery and radiation, I rushed about, rose early to exercise and do yoga and get to school to prepare for the day (which I had done the night before as well.) I would run from space to space, hurrying to fill my day like Lil' at Camp Seafarer had implied I should: like a suitcase packed full.

Since surgery, I have slowed because I must. I know this slowing down is a gift.  I walk slowly, leaning on my cane. I stand slowly, checking to make sure I have my balance. I read slowly, too slowly to read addresses on the building I ride by or the captions on foreign films. Sometimes in class, I feel like my professor is a record on an old record player, a 45 playing at 33.

Though I've slowed down, and now I must sleep 12-14 hours to make it through a day, I'm still packing my suitcase too full. It's still busting at the seams. I have fewer waking hours, and I move more slowly through them, but I'm still pushing myself, draining my cup. I wonder how many times I must learn this lesson…maybe until I really learn it.

I hear myself arguing with this truth that I simply must approach my life more humbly. There are so many interesting things to do in the world, so many ways that my joint experiences with teaching and disabilities could be used to serve others. I have so much wisdom that others simply do not have. (Okay, I know that's not true, but that's how I'm acting.)

As I write this in the Research Commons at school, Gina stops by to tell me about meetings for the committee I've just volunteered for. I nod and recognize the irony.

This morning, in the midst of this wringing of hands, Little Brother Matt brought me back to my center, as Laurie did yesterday. He shared this Mary Oliver poem:

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention

“As long as we are able to 
be extravagant we will be 
hugely and damply 
extravagant. Then we will drop
 foil by foil to the ground. This 
is our unalterable task, and we do it 
And they went on. “Listen, 
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
 death, illness, pain,
 unrequited hope, not loneliness, but
lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety, 
Their fragrance all the while rising 
from their blind bodies, making me
 spin with joy.

It's time for me to stop and listen to the roses. I wonder if I will. I wonder if this time I can learn this lesson. 

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