Tag Archive | patience

Acceptance

“Yacht Race off Boston Light” three days underway. This pink sky is one of the most challenging sections of any puzzle yet.

Yesterday was interesting. I was too tired to write about it last night, and probably won’t do it justice tonight, but want to express my gratitude to the imaging technicians at Delta Hospital. Everyone was so kind, from the receptionists on. There were some little glitches, at intake and with the MRIs, that would once have really frustrated me, but my growing capacity for accepting things as they are instead of thinking that they should be different served me well.

I may have never met a more tender, compassionate, and sweet tech than Toni, the woman who did the bone density scan. We were practically in tears of loving-kindness by the time she led me back to the waiting room. The MRI tech was very business-like, though also considerate and kind. I remembered Deb’s encouragement to ask for what I needed, so asked for extra pillows to support my knees to reduce sciatic strain; and when the classical music station wouldn’t play, I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb. Remarkably, the only stations that would play were country, and something called ‘soft rock,’ which was horrible. I experienced extreme aversion during the first MRI as the DJ blithered on and on, and when there was ‘music’ its beat clashed with the machine noises inside my head until, despite a concerted effort to remain focused on my breath, I was completely rattled. I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb again when anxiety rose to unbearable-verging-on-panic, and fortunately that was the end of the first session. I continued in blessed internal silence for the next three tests. It was a lengthy exercise in conscious relaxation, first my face, then abdomen, then shoulders, back to abdomen, back to face–as one area relaxed another tensed up, and I cycled through one after the other, consistently returning attention to the breath. Nothing like a long MRI to strengthen meditation practice.

During the whole second scan, there was a little lump in the pillow, which bored into my head. I breathed through that, but it got worse and worse. It was fascinating to watch my mind deal with all these sensational challenges. She wanted me to keep my head perfectly still when she pulled me out to inject the contrast dye, but I had to insist that she smooth the pillow. It wasn’t really a pillow, just a folded cloth. She was exasperated, and in a hurry. I said calmly, as she prepared my arm to stick a needle into it, “I need to not feel anxious, and I need to feel that you’re not in a hurry.” She softened instantly, apologized, and explained that there were two emergencies waiting and there was only this one machine, and one of her. This put things in a different perspective for me, and we both calmed way down. She thought to put a little lavender patch on my chest, which actually helped a lot. This experience, which was stressful and could have been really horrible, was transformed by my ability to accept things as they were each step of the way, do what I could to change them, and then accept again. And again, there was much tenderness and well-wishing between us as she walked me out.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I left the hospital, for the emotional skill with which I’d navigated the morning, and decided to treat myself to a deli sandwich. But there’s no deli near the hospital, so I stopped at Sonic to see what I could find. At the drive-up menu, I realized I couldn’t bring myself to order factory-farmed chicken or beef, so I left; but circled back and ordered three fried sides. I was glowing with acceptance when the little girl brought my limeade and a small bag, and was only mildly disappointed to find inside the bag just one little wrapped burger. I accepted the error with good cheer, and she said she’d be right back with my order. Way too long later, two more “Welcome to Sonic, may I take your order” queries, and finally my bag of sides, I almost lost it when I opened the bag to find they were small instead of medium, and there was no mayo. Acceptance out the window! Attachment in high gear: I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it NOW! But still, I managed not to be too grumpy. When the manager brought a double handful of condiments and apologized, she said “It’s just the two of us, people didn’t show up…” My perspective adjusted itself instantaneously, all frustration melted, and I assured her it was no problem. We smiled and laughed and wished each other happy holidays.

The food was a big disappointment. But I accepted that easily. Fast food is what it is. I drove home filled with compassion for the people who worked at the hospital, the patients who needed emergency MRIs, the harried staff at Sonic, and deeply grateful for the skill of acceptance.

Calm Abiding

Stellar enjoys cleaning my latté mug this morning.

Oh Topaz. I know right where she is, or where she was just after dark: east of the fence, lying in wait beside a scrap wood pile for some unsuspecting or terrified rodent. If she’s not in by bedtime, it’s another layer of surrender for me. It’s been one layer of surrender after another for the past few weeks, and less dramatically for months.

The last cat who was allowed to go where and when she pleased day or night was Dia, the Psycho Calico. Her name is short for Aradia, Daughter of the Queen of the Witches, but not many people ever knew that. It was my Wiccan phase. She made life so unbearable if she didn’t get what she wanted, including outside at night, that the house motto became Dia gets what Dia wants. I’m afraid it will end up thus for Topaz, especially if she survives lions, coyotes, owls, etc., tonight and lives to be an only pet.

Just because. Because I and Stellar are not the center of the universe, and life goes on as usual outside our little nest. I’m grateful for another gorgeous fall day full of wild wonder. I heard a large flock of sandhill cranes overhead when I stepped out to make a phone call.

Meanwhile, Stellar had a very exciting day, and I learned how to surrender another layer: of thinking there’s some fateful timeline, of clinging to some shred of a sense of control. I’m grateful today for resilience, Stellar’s too but especially mine. He keeps on surprising. It would be easier if his downward trajectory were more direct, however slow. This repeated rebounding, this resilience, aggravates my second-guessing habit, which is not a habit I wish to cultivate; I’d prefer it to atrophy.

Today was an online meditation retreat with my teachers’ teacher, B. Alan Wallace, “Shamatha in the Dzogchen Tradition.” Shamatha is the meditation style also referred to as Calm Abiding. The first session looked promising. Stellar slept through the night, I was reasonably well-rested, and I’d given him water, pills, and food. He went back to sleep. I listened raptly to the first talk, and settled in for the first 20-minute meditation. Stellar had woken and was alert, panting a little. I realized a few minutes into the meditation that he probably wanted more water. I figured he could wait another 18 minutes. Nope.

My eyes were closed. He stood up and stepped over me, walked a few feet before collapsing on the floor. Ok, I surrender. I slipped the sling under him and hefted his back end as he made his way out the front door, and around the south end of the house to his water bucket, where he drank copiously. What I got for not interrupting the meditation three minutes in for a minute was no meditation at all. Oh well. Nonattachment to outcome. He settled down for the next hour.

At the midday break, Rosie came by with more pain meds from the pharmacy for him–Dr. TLC didn’t anticipate him lasting this long, I think, and had to call in a special request refill. At her arrival he went bonkers barking from his bed, and she came in to visit him. He struggled to get up again, so we took him outside for an assisted wobble. Then again, right after the next session began, he got up on his own and wobbled to the door. By that time already drained for the day, I let him out unattended. He managed about ten minutes in the yarden before collapsing comfortably (appropriately) under the Contemplation Tree, where he rested another ten until I saw him trying to get up. I slung him in, and he’s been in bed since, though wide awake until just recently.

Topaz finally came in, and Stellar is asleep, so I am relaxing at last, after a long, full day. With Alan’s guidance, I sustained a meditative state throughout, and deepened my capacity for letting go, for surrender to the changing conditions of each moment. I’m grateful for calm abiding.

I’m grateful today for Topaz. She hasn’t gotten her fair share of attention in recent weeks. Today I took her alone for a short walk around the Breakfast Loop. Neither of us has gotten enough exercise without Stellar to lead us on walks, and we both needed a silent stroll in the fresh air. There were a couple of brief interludes today when he slept soundly; otherwise he has been agitated all day. Partly discomfort, I think, but during the day there was certainly frustration at not being able to get up and go outside. I hate to limit him, but I just can’t haul him around anymore since he can’t help at all with his back legs. It’s the equivalent of carrying a fifty pound feed sack with one hand and steering a canoe with the other.

I’m grateful for my job teaching mindfulness, grateful for community support, grateful for a beautiful fall day. I’m grateful for the sweet moments of connection with Topaz, and the hours of respite with Stellar calm or asleep. I’m grateful even in difficulty for another day with him in which to cultivate patience, compassion, and unconditional love, developing my understanding and capacity. I’m hopeful for an easier day tomorrow.

A Joyful Ease

Stellar looks adoringly at his older sister Raven and uncle Mr. Brick. I’m grateful for having had these three amazing catahoulas from Dog World with me for a third of my life. I’m grateful for having known their family for more than thirty years, including Sundog, Feather, Moonshine, Ruckus, Onion, Grits, SamNail, and so on back to Marcus and Rose. Oh, and for their precious pair of people too! I’m grateful that David set out to convert me from a cat person to a dog person all those years ago, and grateful that he only half succeeded. I’m still a cat person, too.
I’m grateful for the miracle of Little Doctor Vincent who showed up crying under a tree three days after Dia the Psycho Calico lay down and died in the sunroom at the age of sixteen. Vincent was unflappable, and turned baby Stellar into a friend pdq.

I’m grateful for the awareness I had to be grateful every day for two happy, healthy dogs for most of their lives. Mr. Brick died of cancer when Stellar was nine months old, at the young age of ten. Over the next decade Stellar and Raven brought so much joy. Their sheer physical magnificence would have been ample, but their inseparable and enthusiastic relationship delighted me constantly.

Their athleticism inspired me and forced me to keep fit enough to keep up with them.
I’m grateful that despite my focus on Stellar, I am still able to turn my attention to important things like a fabulous lunch of a BLT+chicken sandwich, and a homemade pickle; grateful that I’m able to savor the simple pleasures in the midst of this melancholy process.

I’m grateful that Stellar had a pretty easy day, therefore so did I. He never got up from his bed, and the last time he really tried was at two a.m., when he woke me with pitiful crying. I spent an hour getting him settled down, and he slept soundly til well after I and the sun were up. Perhaps he’s accepted his immobility, and he seemed comfortable all day, sleeping a lot but otherwise alert and engaged. He’s still a good watchdog, sounding the alarm when various friends stopped by with treats for me and necessities for him. I’m grateful for the TLC of people looking out for me, and grateful that I can also be helpful to others even during this challenging time. I’m grateful to finally begin to understand what it means to live with a joyful ease.

Practice

Stellar and his sister Moonshine at about ten days old, held in the loving arms of my dear friend Chris, their ‘birth’ mother.
Stellar at four, helping in the office.

It was a rough day. Stellar woke crying in the night, and I spent the rest of it in and out of sleep on the floor beside him. He wanted to go out in the morning but couldn’t walk. I spoke with his vet to get clear instructions about palliative dosages for his pills, and the cold reality of the ways mammals die colored the rest of the day. He got himself up late afternoon and went outside, begging for a walk. We tried, but his back legs just dragged in the sling, and he kept heading to the right, going in circles if he didn’t encounter an obstacle like a sagebrush or my leg. I could barely move him along, and found myself crossly impatient.

I’m grateful for the introspective skills I learned in mindfulness training, so I could observe my reaction with gentle curiosity. We were never far from the fenced yarden, yet the prospect of his falling down and not being able to get him back inside made me anxious; that and some other inconveniences, and being so tired… it was a rough day. But now he’s sleeping, and I’m sleepy, and off to bed. I’m grateful for friends who care and understand, and offered help with some errands this week. I’m grateful for perspective, support, the forgiveness of unconditional love, and another day tomorrow to practice.

Stellar and Raven romping in the high country on a hike with Rosie nine autumns ago.

One More Day with Stellar

Stellar at five, in my lap, again! I’ve been trying to find this one particular shot of the last time I was able to hold him in my arms. It continues to elude me in various hard drives and backups, but I have a fresh lead to follow tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for the joyful journey down memory lane.
Meanwhile in real time, he couldn’t get up this morning without assistance. I helped him outside with a sling, but his left back leg just wouldn’t cooperate. A few steps and we turned around. I fed him breakfast in bed. A couple more times he struggled to get up so I helped him out for a short stagger; then he slept all day.
Around four, he wanted out, and by golly that leg worked again–just barely.
He only fell once on the short Sunset Loop, and then I wrapped him in a belly band for the next few hours. He wanted out again after dark, so I took it off, soaked, and threw it in the washer. He’d be mortified if he knew I was sharing this picture.

I’m grateful for the products available to manage his incontinence. I’m grateful he had a pretty easy day with little agitation, grateful today wasn’t the day. Each day, each challenge, offers another opportunity to practice patience, compassion, and unconditional love. I’m grateful that I have this precious time, these hours each day, to lie beside him on the floor and remember with him the travels we’ve shared back and forth across the country, our joyous life together here for almost fourteen years. I’m grateful for the perspective that allows me to settle more deeply each day into this process of surrender, of letting go: grateful that when it’s over, I really will be able to say I brought my best self to this passage of our lives.

Stellar in his youthful prime, flying uphill.

Patience

Stellar giving me a kiss in 2010 at Auntie’s house. I’m grateful for all these old pictures of Stellar. I can’t find the exact one I’m looking for tonight, but I’m enjoying the search. I’m grateful for digital archives!

Arrg! Dogs keep on teaching me that “Patience only begins when you run out of it.” My best boy ever did two bad things today, after a lifetime of never doing either. I did lose my patience, briefly. The first time, when I caught him with his face in the bag of new dog food, I just chuckled, nudged him away, and clipped it shut. We had had a great day outside, more putting the garden to bed, pulling up, cutting back, raking, while he napped comfortably wherever he chose to.

He hadn’t eaten too much–I remembered Knobbydog, who was shut in a shed for a couple of hours one time, to keep him separate from some fightful ranch pitbulls: he ate an entire 40 pound bag of kibble, was shaped like a barrel and sick for days–no, Stellar had only eaten a cup or two, I think. But still, it’s a new food, and an abrupt transition can cause…er…digestive distress.

I’m grateful for Rosemary maple glazed roasted chicken

Not much more than an hour later, I set down my wooden bowl with a chicken thigh, turned my back for seconds to adjust his bed pads, and caught him snarfing the whole thigh in one gulp–NO!! I yelled, lunged, pried open his mouth and stuck my hand down his throat. Gone. Fuck! Fucking fuck! I yelled, Bad dog! Yep, I lost my temper. I ran out of patience. The thoughts that flashed through my mind! I wasn’t upset about losing the chicken thigh (unlike Raven’s breadloaf incident), I was worried: chicken bone, gut puncture, horrible painful death…. But as soon as I realized he’d swallowed the thigh whole, no crunched bone, I let go of that worry. And a ghost of Dr. Vincent’s voice reassuring me that a bone couldn’t pass undigested through their guts. There was nothing I could do anyway.

Then, it was over. A flash in the pan. I was in the kitchen washing my hands, and he had gone to sit shamefacedly on his bed. I cut off the other chicken thigh, took my bowl back to the table, sat and quietly enjoyed my dinner; gave him last bite as usual, and some good pats, and it was over. This is so new to me, to experience a sudden strong emotion, like the combination of fear and rage this evening, and then be able to let it go. And have it really, truly be gone.

He is so hungry all the time since this new medication regime. At least I’m not having anymore trouble getting pills into him! But he wants to eat all the time. He’s never been a highly food-motivated dog, that was his sister Raven (and the Knobbyheaded Dog). Now he’s a food-seeking missile. I don’t mind feeding him more, I just don’t want him to eat too much!

I know… what could go wrong at this point? Fretting about what might happen is a waste of energy that I simply don’t have these days. Surrender. He is such a gooood boy. What will tomorrow bring? More patience, I’m sure of that. I’m grateful for patience.

Stellar on my lap a decade ago at cousin Melinda’s house. He was almost four.

Stellar’s Last Days: Pee

I’m grateful for a warm, sunny day, which enabled me to wash Stellar for the first time in weeks. Some days he gets almost this wet from his pee alone.

Grateful it was but a dream when I woke again this morning, after witnessing a horrific community tragedy. As we watched from Main Street shops, I spied an avalanche on the nearby mountains. “Avalanche!” I cried and others turned to look. I watched aghast as almost every chute on the whole mountain range released its built up snow in short order, and in the midst of it, saw dozens of skiers trying to ride out the first and biggest avalanche, watched some get tossed and buried (amazed even then by the keenness of my vision). The aftermath was terrible, twenty-five lost on the mountain, triage for dozens more, and all the while the mountains moving closer.

I wandered the stairs, rooms, halls of a sudden building where survivors gathered, emergency response efforts underway, people in tight conversations. I couldn’t find a place to fit in or a way to help. Even worse, I couldn’t find where I had parked my car! so I couldn’t get home to Stellar, to safety. Startled awake for the second time at 7:30, I was grateful to let my body settle into quiet contemplation of a more accurate perception of my world.

After meditating, Stellar and I greeted another gorgeous fall day. We enjoyed several short walks, and he rested comfortably on his outside beds all day, while I swept and winterized the patio and settled the houseplants in their new winter spots in the sunroom. I’m grateful for the mild weather: any time he’s outside is time he’s not peeing inside. Except for incontinence, now, he’s so much happier than he was a few weeks ago. Poor guy, anytime he lies down he leaks. I do at least one load of his laundry and throw away pounds of soaked pee-pads daily. I’m grateful for pee-pads, and for patience, and for knowing that this trial, too, is impermanent. One day it will be over.

A clean bed with layers of sheets and pee-pads will only last a few minutes once he lies down.

Cantaloupe

Today I’m grateful for this strange little cantaloupe, and also for having another day with Stellar. I lay again with him outside in the garden for several hours this afternoon, thinking This is is, before he got up ready for a walk. My capacity for patience grows. Patience only begins when you run out of it.

Patience

I’m grateful for today’s harvest, two baskets of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and three more hot peppers, a chimayo and two paprikas. I’m grateful for the comfort of patience, as the drain remains clogged and I hope for a plumber’s assistance tomorrow. With or without a kitchen drain I’ll have to start canning again in the next couple of days. I’m grateful for patience with myself as I plod through the clutter, dust, and disarray I’ve let accumulate this year having no one in my house but me and the animals. Gradually, surface by surface, inch by square inch, I’m getting a handle on the house, which I tend to neglect during summer, when my living room is the great outdoors. I’m grateful for good music, fresh air, cooler weather, fewer flies, coffee, and comfort food that help me through fall cleaning. I’m grateful for my good, sweet dog in his last days, and for the friends who gave him to me. I’m grateful for the last two good nights’ sleep, and another on the horizon as I head to my cozy bed now. I’m grateful for the patience that comes when I’ve run out, and the calm confidence that nothing stays the same.