Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

17May/101

Thinking About AH in San Francisco

I've been.... Well, awfully busy for someone without a job. Let's see, I've been:

Taking Mom to see the naturopath/Chinese medicine doctor, plus errands, once a week for a few weeks. For those in the PDX Metro area that's from North Portland to Gresham to Lair Hill to Gresham to North Portland. For those for whom that makes no sense, just be assured that it is a lot of driving around. These days exhaust me physically and emotionally, often well into the following day.

I've been working with my Zen community to address the pain trying to practice with them as a vegan has been for CK and I. Trying to improve things for us all. This too is uncomfortable and painful. I feel singled out around being a vegan and experiencing this now reminds me that this sensation was one associated as dangerous as a child. It is very hard work to try and learn that being singled out can be an expression of loving-kindness.

I also have been making art and trying to work in the garden. These things have been really good.

CK and I also started making plans for our wedding ceremony. This is filled with all kinds of exciting emotions, mostly lovely.

Then CK got sick. Then I got it. Then we drove to L.A. to see Peter Gabriel perform, I was still quite sick. A day there and then driving up to San Francisco with a friend while CK took a flight back home to get to work. I was still sick and slept much of the drive up I5. The drive through the mountains, away from the Interstate was beautiful.

It was outside of Gilroy, CA, when I got the news that AH had died uxpectedly.

And it hit me in the chest, between the heart and the throat chakras. Hard, cold, dark, painful. Today's massage tried to work some of it loose.

Where I got the news the cellular signal wasn't great and CK was still in the air, flying home. Besides, I felt like I wanted to be stopped, not driving, somewhere safe to try and convey the news. I didn't phone her right away, waiting until I was parked outside my friends' house in San Francisco, alone to phone her. Ultimately she felt disappointed I hadn't left a message earlier. I just felt so stunned at the moment I got the news, I just froze.

I also started to think of my mother and all the challenges to her life I have witnessed, including those she dangers she chose. These memories found me as I drove alone out of Sunnyvale up I280 after dropping my friend off for a short visit there.

So there I was, in San Francisco, staying with one of my very closest friends, on vacation. There's really nothing could be solved by rushing home and KK, the friend I'm traveling has plans she is looking forward to as well. Heck, I have plans and many friends who enjoy my company who have made plans to spend time with me.

No amount of DO-ing will fix anything at all. There is this dichotomy of new pain, old pain, feelings of inadequacy, and a holiday in a city I really love to visit with people who love me. Just staying put, letting life tick on forward. Trying to let myself just enjoy the company in the present moment, the present place.

In the mornings there I woke to the constancy of traffic noise, the busyness of San Francisco. I'd lay in my friend's office with my mind thinking about AH, my Mother and CK. In and out, back and forth. Having been coughing hard for nearly a week I found it even harder to settle my mind by watching the breath because of the painful way my breath moved in my body.

It was a quieter visit than many. I was still coughing badly and conscious of the sorrow I felt. I didn't feel capable of rushing. I mostly rested and relaxed in the mornings. A bit later in the day my friend and I'd go out. One day to SFMOMA and the second afternoon he drove us across the bay to Berkeley. Each day was quieter and more reflective.

It was in the glorious, golden light of evening that streamed across Berkeley that I was just struck at how happy I am - how lucky, how fortunate.

Right there with that simple joy I felt welling up in me was this hard, sharp point of AH's death. My mind returning again and again to her smile, sometimes so sly, and so often gleaming in her eyes with mischievousness. Her hugs, the warmth I felt in each and every one of them. Her curiosity about life which makes her death so hard to process. I nearly felt silly, but I kept thinking how I'll miss her wonderful sweaters & scarves and how seeing her in them often brought a lightness to my heart when it felt heavy.

I commented to SJ as we walked that there is this strangeness in practice where we learn to accept that we feel all of these things at the same time. If we are present to everything there in front of us, it is all in there together. The awful and the glorious.

There is the unspeakable grief that sticks in the space between my heart and throat chakras, stealing my voice, incomprehensibly intertwined with a gratitude & happiness that is too precious for words. All there, all together. I noted that I could just sit down with a thump into that dark sorrow, or rush back pointlessly to Portland, but if I did so I'd be turning my back on the dear friend with me that moment and the incredible beauty surrounding us.

So I was simply happy strolling across Berkeley in the evening light. Choosing that brightness and wrapping it around the jagged edges. There's nothing that makes that sharpness go away, but there is some cushion between the points in allowing myself to be present to the joy that exists simultaneously alongside them. I'm grateful to have so many loving people in my life, so many safe havens where no one minds that I go from tears to laughter within moments.

Good-by, AH, I will miss you.
May we all be at ease.

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  1. Exactly.-a


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