Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Being present in my own life

On December 31, I began a post about my resolution for 2015. But I was conflicted about it, so I waited. And waited.

A phrase took up residence in my brain: I want to inhabit my life more fully.

I may have seen this phrase in one of your posts; less busy-ness and more meaning have been big topics here and on Facebook, especially among women. I tried to put it into different words. I want to be more present in my own life. But the original phrase still speaks to me.

I love my life and all the opportunities it provides me. I'm not looking to change direction. But in the midst of winter doldrums, I felt as though my great life was going on without me. I was letting opportunities go by, spending time on escapes like computer games and sleeping a lot. My office was strewn with stuff that had accumulated for more than a year. My best energy was going into my continuing obligations to the carousel. Peter and the grandkids got a watered-down version of me. I got a watered-down version of me.

As the new year approached, part of me wanted to grab hold of my wandering attention and flagging energies by scheduling every day, assigning myself, say, an hour of housekeeping, 30 minutes of physical exercise, a few hours devoted to carousel responsibilities, and others to something new and fun.

But another part of me resisted. Life can't just be a series of tasks. What, I asked myself, is my most compelling priority? What single concept can provide focus and passion so that the daily activities will fall into place of their own accord? 

Just days into the new year I found that I could not have scheduled my life even if I'd tried. My youngest brother, David, had entered hospice care in mid-December, and January became all about finding the right days and times to visit, and about withdrawing into a cocoon after each visit to process what was happening. And then as I drove home one afternoon I began to experience terrible tooth pain. So now I was juggling pain and medications and dental visits, which were real enough for me but irrelevant and annoying as I strove to be present for my brother. At the end of January, he died. I will write much more about him another day, when I can focus just on him. But this post is about something I learned during the course of his final journey.

My time with David was rich and fulfilling, in large part because he was such a good, gentle, thoughtful person. But also because when I was there with him, I learned to be totally focused on him, totally present for him. As he grew weaker, his reality was right there in his room. Things we used to talk about--politics, the news of the day, stories from various parts of our lives--were no longer relevant. It had taken me a couple of visits to get the hang of it, but we both were in the moment.

Twice David told me about having night terrors, waking up with his heart pounding because he'd been fighting death. He said when he realized it was a dream there was a split second of relief, and then the realization that he really was dying. He had many good conversations with friends and family, but he never told anyone else about the dreams. I took that as a kind of gift, a sign that our visits were meaningful to him as they were to me.

After each visit I found myself exhausted. I think this was partly because I'm an introvert and partly because I was so sad. I would go off by myself to think back over everything we'd said, everything I'd learned, exactly how my brother had changed since the last visit. I had to take it all in, think about it, feel it, process it.

And one day I realized that I was doing just what I needed to do, and just what I had (sort of) resolved to do. I was present, in the moment, with a person I loved and who was my top priority right then. I was paying attention to him, and also to myself, to my responses. For the past couple of months, just when I'd thought I should get busy and get more things done, I have understood my limits and fed my need to be quiet and listen.

So that's my intention, not just for 2015 but for life. I will focus on inhabiting, or being present in, my own life. I want to be more aware, more in the moment, with the people I care about. I want to spend my time doing things that matter to me. I want to make use of the riches all around me, and that includes husband, family, friends, blogging, tap dancing, and so much more. And yes, it also includes napping from time to time.





12 comments:

DJan said...

Oh, Nancy, I am so sorry to learn that the reason you have been absent in my blogging universe is because of your brother David. I feel sure that the places the two of you have traveled in recent months will change you forever. I look forward to being able to be a traveler along with you. I am sending you love and blessings from me to you. And tears as well.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am so sorry Nancy, my heartfelt sympathy. What a journey you have been on. I hope you and Peter and your grands are all well. Naps are good...sometimes a person just needs down time to face the nest part of the day:)

Grandmother (Mary) said...

What a gift you gave your brother and yourself, Nancy. Full presence to him, to exactly who was in front of you enriched David and taught you just what you needed to learn. Good for you for being open to and saying yes to this opportunity even if it broke your heart. My youngest brother, Donald, died one year ago in February. I wasn't able to be with him since he died in an auto accident but I cherish the work we did in the years before his death to strengthen and deepen our relationship. So do whatever you need to do to care for yourself after this loss and treasure the memories.

troutbirder said...

Sorry for your loss Nancy. But you gained as well. I found some very helpful introspections in what you wrote. Things I needed to think about for my own life. And for that I thank you very much.....

Ms Sparrow said...

What a beautifully-written post! Your sad journey with your brother in his last days was surely a gift. I'm so glad you shared your thoughts with us.

Retired English Teacher said...

Please know that my heart is full of sadness as I read of the passing of your brother. I also hope you know how blessed you are that even if it meant that your brother was dying, you two were able to really be present with each other. What a gift for him. What a gift for you. This relationship speaks volumes about the both of you as siblings. It also speaks volumes about the home you must have grown up in. I wish I could have such a relationship with my brother.

You and I are on the same wave length. I am processing the same things you are. I turned 70 this past week. I am sorting through what this stage in life mean.
"For the past couple of months, just when I'd thought I should get busy and get more things done, I have understood my limits and fed my need to be quiet and listen." You said exactly what I continue to say to myself.

Thank you for your beautiful insights that reflect what is going on in my own soul. Your affirming words help me to know that I am not alone in the stage in which I find myself.

Kc W said...

I am truly sorry for your loss. I can't imagine your pain and this had to be hard to write.

This has sure left me thinking. Lately I have found myself so caught up in checking things off the daily to do list that I don't get time to get to the important things! Thanks for writing this, I needed to read it.

Daughter Number Three said...

Thank you for writing this.

Jayne Martin said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Nancy. How interesting that your brother, in his passing, was the one person who could give you what you were seeking. The Universe works in strange ways. So lovely to have your back, my friend.

Wow, that was awkward said...

Wow. You are right, a seemingly common topic these days. Sorry about your loss. I'm glad it provided some clarity for you though. You wrote this so well...

Teresa Evangeline said...

I have not yet lost a sibling ... I hope I handle it with as much grace as you have. I'm not good at facing death, seeing the phases as people pass from our lives. Your grace is inspiring.

Pauline Persing said...

Just read your post about David and being present. Thank you for posting.

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