Sunday, May 22, 2011

Changes, Changes

A couple of weeks ago I had my right knee replaced. Having had the left one done last year at this time, and having had a generally great experience, I was actually looking forward to getting this one done. More mobility, less pain, etc.

Without launching into the details, I'll just say this experience is being a mixed bag of great, not so great, and really difficult. The knee itself is generally doing extremely well. However, problems have arisen which, coming on the heels of a tough eighteen months of grief and illness, I'm finding my resilience is slipping. Or at least it feels like it is. I'm usually an optimistic, forward-looking person, but that part of me has been soundly buffeted by circumstance for the past many months. And then I am aware of my committment to keep up with this blog. It's been two weeks since I wrote a post, and that's just too long.

My debate, now that I'm feeling a bit better physically, has centred around the content of this post. How do I write something that could be helpful to somebody "out there," while still being true to my own experience and feelings? How can  I write honestly without sounding like a whiner, when I am at a pretty low ebb? As I get going here, I'm remembering my usual approach when I don't know what to say or write -- just get started, be honest, and see what happens.

I am finding that my usual anchors aren't working so well, and that feels scary. I don't know what to feel or do about the changing circumstances in which I find myself. I don't trust my previous optimism. I don't trust my concept of Something More. Yet here I am, writing it out, however vaguely. Somehow that feels like something, at least. What, I don't know. But something, some positive response to myself and my own previous decision to keep up with this blog, to commit to it for my own sake and, hopefully, to be of some help to somebody else.

It seems my rambling is done for now, but by doing something, even as small as this, I do feel a bit better. I think it's about reaching out past my own concerns at a time when those concerns are feeling like quite a load. It's the offer that matters, not the result. I can control my offerings, but I can't control the result.

I hope you are making a great day for yourself or for someone else. Mine has gotten a little bit better. Thanks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Celtic Triads

Half of my heritage is Welsh, and it's the part to which I feel the most connected. When I was growing up relatives came to visit from Wales often, and my grandparents went back there to visit, as well. I was the first of my generation to visit the Welsh island of Anglesey, where my ancestors come from and where many cousins still live.

Though the word "Celtic" is often thought to refer only to the Irish, it also refers to the Welsh. It is easier to find information about Irish Celts than Welsh, but I found some, and this knowledge has added richness and depth to my understanding of myself and my family.

In exploring a little of this heritage, I came across The Celtic Book of Days -- A Celebration of Celtic Wisdom and enjoyed reading each day's entry. It seems to refer mainly to Irish traditions, but I like the richness I found there just the same. Serendipity is a delightful part of any search, if I keep my mind, eyes and heart open. My favourites in The Celtic Book of Days are the threefold prayers and blessings which are explained in this quotation from the book:
Throughout Romano-Celtic Europe, the Triple Mothers were worshipped as the Deae Matres or Matronae. They are usually depicted as seated mature figures carrying fruits, bread and babies and were clearly venerated by all sections of society. Triple deities abound in Celtic tradition, as we find the triple Morrigan, the triple Brighid and the threefold Godesses of Irish Sovereighnty... The Celtic preoccupation with threefold groupings is seen from the tripling of divine powers to threefold repetitions of invocations and prayers. The number three is still dominant in British and Irish culture as being lucky, and significant events are believed "to come in threes."
From time to time I'll post a threefold blessing until I run out. I think they're lovely ways of considering ourselves and our place in this life.

Three things that ruin wisdom: ignorance, inaccurate knowledge, forgetfullness.

The three most beautiful things in the world:
a full-rigged ship, a woman with child and the full moon.

I hope that, whatever your heritage, you enjoy and feel blessed in some small way by these Celtic snippets of wisdom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A poem by Crowfoot

Life is the flash
     of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo
     in the winter.
It is the little shadow
     which runs across the grass
And loses itself in the sunset.

-- by Crowfoot, a Blood Indian who grew up with the Blackfoot people of Alberta and became their chief.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thoughts about Death

Since the death of my step-son a year and a half ago, I have roamed and lurched all over the strange planet of grief, loss and change, accommodation and acceptance, fury and pain. It's a complicated and unwelcoming place, to be sure.

Before Daniel's death, I had experienced many deaths -- my first child, my father and grandparents, all my aunts and uncles, friends, in-laws, students, cousins and pets. Since Daniel's death, more deaths have touched my life closely...and painfully. My world is being rocked significantly.

I am being challenged to re-examine my ideas about death. I've never been terribly afraid of dying or of death, but I've also never spent a lot of time thinking about it. I guess in some vague way I've just assumed it would all turn out okay. This non-approach has been part of my magical thinking, which I wrote about a few times in April.

My current exploration starts from a place of absolutely believing I can't know for certain what dying feels like or what happens after we're dead. So it's all speculation. Maybe we'll understand it on "the other side." Maybe we won't. I can't know that, either. Maybe I won't even know it once I "get" there.

I like to think that our time after we leave these bodies will be pleasant, but I don't invest a lot of emotion into that preference, because as I said before, I don't believe it's possible to know for sure while we're on "this side."

Where all this surmising and musing leaves me is with this: it actually doesn't matter too much (to me) what happens after I die, but it matters a great deal what happens before I die. And I can do something about that. I can choose to live my life fully and consciously. I can choose to regularly act on the love I feel for those around me. I can choose to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday or last week or last year. I can choose to be respectful  and kind to those I find hard to love and to those I meet only briefly. I can choose to shoot for my best self and to be grateful when I see traits I admire in others and in myself.

So I don't currently feel too worried about the hereafter. I'm aware that I may feel very differently if I'm conscious when I'm close to my death, but even so, I prefer to deal with the here-now as best I can. In the meantime, I love this sentiment about death which has been ascribed to Mark Twain:

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.