A Gift of Grace from the Universe

The telephone rang, interrupting my brooding about the abrupt alteration in my life circumstances and whether or not I needed an anti-depressant to deal with my situation more effectively. I suspected I was depressed because I was loosing interest in working on my memoir. What worthwhile do I have to say anyway? I had wanted to write something on my blog, but couldn’t find the words or the strength. I couldn’t even post updates on my Facebook page or update friends about the latest in my daughter’s and my saga. Talking with friends took more energy than I had to spare. Watching mindless TV was about all I could handle, often falling asleep in the middle of a program.

I got up from my recliner and ambled from the meditation room to the phone in my living room. Picking up the handset, I checked the caller ID and didn’t recognize the name. It’s probably a wrong number. I clicked the talk button. “Hello.”

“Is this Linda Marshall? Did you teach at Port Clinton High School?”

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My mind scrambled to make sense of this call. Yes, I had taught typing, shorthand, and office practice at Port Clinton High School in 1964-65. It was my first teaching assignment right out of college. Why would someone be asking about that long ago time in my life?

When I responded that I was that Linda Marshall, the woman on the other end of the line began to cheer. “Hallelujah, I’ve found you. I’ve been looking for you for years.”

She went on to tell me the story about how she came to be a shorthand student of mine and wanted to know if I remembered her. I have to admit, I have few memories of that year in my life. I didn’t tell her this, but the humiliating memory I have retained is being given a negative evaluation by the principal in the lunchroom in front of the other teachers. I was under the impression I hadn’t done a very good job teaching there.

Her memories were vivid. She recounted dropping home economics and signing up for shorthand. She said I was so strict. My memory of the details are fuzzy here because she was pouring out her story faster than my brain could take it in. I remember hearing about two “F’s” and she was ready to drop the class. She said others had and I let them. But when she came to talk with me about it, I encouraged her to stay. I said, “You are going to get this.” She said I had been right. The next grade and those that followed were “A’s.”

She told about I threw away any typing papers that had errors erased on them. She said I explained to the students that employers would make them type letters and documents over again if they contained mistakes like these. She said the experiences she had as a secretary had proved me right again.

Then she told me about her career. Again, the details are fuzzy, but she was promoted several times and reached high administrative assistant levels working in governmental agencies.

She went on to say that I had influenced her more than anyone else, made her into the person she is today, and would not have had the career she had if not for me. She recounted the steps she had taken over the years to find me, discouraged by so many dead ends. Her class will celebrate their 50th reunion in September and there are several of my former students who want me to be there.

I sank back into my recliner, my eyes watering, as I took in this gift of grace from the Universe. I told her, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear you say this today. I’m going through a rough time in my life and have been feeling depressed.”

We acknowledged that she had found me at just the right moment.

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This was the best anti-depressant anyone could have given me. I could literally feel the energy of aliveness returning to my exhausted and weary body. I had made a difference in someone’s life. A false impression I had carried about myself for fifty-one years was transformed. With that, I returned to writing. I do have something worthwhile to say. Thank you, Universe. You continue to surprise me with the mysterious and awesome ways in which you work.

Monarch

Missing the Mark

In the original languages (Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek), the word “sin” means “missing the mark.” In my last post written almost two months ago, I spoke of setting an intention to extend loving kindness to my daughter as she faced her health crisis. She moved into my home on June 16, almost two weeks ago. During these two weeks, especially the first week, I missed the mark. I was not at my best. This hospitalization has turned my daughter’s life upside down and, by extension, my life as well.

Her surgery was postponed for two days and she was in ICU a total of nine days before being sent to rehab. While she was in ICU, she experienced ICU psychosis. After the fact, they told us it is common. Wish they would have forewarned me. Seeing her in full-blown paranoia, convinced they were trying to kill her and if I didn’t help her get out of there, I was in league with them was scary. It is hard enough dealing with her myotonic muscular dystrophy. I feared I would be dealing with mental illness as well.

Then after ten days in rehab, she developed pneumonia and was hospitalized for another week before being sent back to rehab where they hoped to wean her off oxygen. They did not succeed and on June 16 she moved in with me. The week before her discharge, exhaustion turned me into a zombie. I couldn’t think straight, I took long naps even though I had slept soundly the night before. I dragged myself day after day doing the next right thing.

I was apprehensive about her coming to live with me. My home is my sanctuary, where I recharge myself with solitude, silence, order, and beauty. She does not share my values and her disease prevents her from maintaining the aesthetics I require. She has lived with me as an adult before, and it didn’t work well for either of us.

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In addition, I was nervous because I am not a nurse or a trained caregiver.  I felt overwhelmed as people descended on my home with oxygen tanks, compressors, concentrators, and the bi-pap machine she will need to use while sleeping for the rest of her life. They explained how to use it all, but I couldn’t take it all in. They gave us manuals and said we could call if needed. We needed and, thankfully, they were very accommodating.

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In the midst of all this, I was faced with the task of moving her out of her apartment. Cell phone pictures helped her make decisions about what to keep and what to give away or discard. I don’t know how she managed the steps for these ten years while her disease progressed and her muscles weakened. It was all I could do to navigate up and down those steps carrying out trash and stuff to my home for her to sort through. One day I could barely carry a heavy trash bag up a flight of stairs and down another as I made my way to the dumpster. When I got there, the dumpster was filled to the brim with branches from the yard work being done. The side door was blocked. I took a step back and heaved that bag with all my might and it went flying into the top of the dumpster. I marveled at my muscle strength. Not bad for an old broad.

My daughter’s first week in my home was an adjustment for both of us. In the midst of all the anxiety, it took every ounce of energy I possessed to deal with all the changes. I grieved the loss of my privacy in the sanctuary of my lovely new home, the loss of my solitude and silence.

I disappointed myself more than once as irritation and frustration crushed my intention to extend the loving kindness she deserves. I couldn’t summon the energy for my spiritual practice. Maintaining serenity and equanimity in the face of this stress escaped me. I was sorely missing the mark. The vicious voice in my head lashed me with the discrepancy between the kind of person I aspire to be and the kind of person I was actually being. In this state, my whole life looked like a sham.

As I sat in my meditation room this morning, the best part of me (my true self within who witnesses my thoughts and actions and knows that is not who I really am) took stock of the way I’m handling this very difficult situation. Even though this week has been much better, I wondered if I needed an anti-depressant to help me deal more effectively. And then the telephone rang and I received a gift from the Universe. I recognized it immediately as a gift of grace.