I’ve written before about being the caretaker for my father who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and, now Lewy Body Dementia. See What I’ve Learned Being The Caretaker For My Dad With Parkinson’s. I am now pleased to report that walking with my dad along this path has broken me wide open, in the best way possible.
Last year when my father got really sick, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown every other day. My heart was broken, but I couldn’t touch that feeling. I was so spun out in worry and control and “doing,” that I couldn’t simply be present with the heartbreak and fear. I am blessed to have amazing support always – friends who walk beside me daily, and a relationship with a Higher Power, that I rely on constantly. But even with that “community,” I couldn’t feel what was happening, and, instead, just DID things. I was a human doing, and not a human being. I got things done, made sure he had the proper care, and that he was safe. I DID all those things, but I was checked out emotionally for the majority of it.
Today, it is not that way. Today I am emotionally plugged in with the pain. My father’s illness has taken another nose dive, and things have gotten scary for us again. But there is a different me who is BEING with my dad these days — a present me. I am feeling the heart break and the sadness and the fear today. I am sitting with those feelings. I am STAYING right here. I have cried with him, held his hand, listened to his fears and concerns, without doing a million different things. I whisper to myself when I am most afriad, “just stay. stay right here, Cyndi. Just stay.” And I do. I stay. I stay with heart break. I stay with fear. I stay with sadness. I stay with it all.
So, then the question becomes: what changed? How did I go from a human DOING yesterday to a human BEING today?
Today, I meditate. About a month or so ago, during yet another transition in my life, I decided to commit to the practice of meditation. I made a daily 5-minute meditation commitment. I enlisted a “meditation buddy” to send me morning reminders, and I forced myself to sit and stay for 5 minutes. When my dad’s illness took another nose dive, I was already 2 weeks in to my daily meditation practice, which had increased to 10 minutes per day. The difference is noticeable.
I have learned through this meditation practice to sit and stay with whatever comes, inluding fear and sadness. I have sat and watched my thoughts pass by like clouds or balloons floating in the sky. I have watched them come and go without my being attached to them. I’ve allowed them to just be. I haven’t tried to change the thoughts, and I haven’t tried to stop the thoughts. I just sit and watch them go by. I stay present for whatever they are. I just stay. And in staying, I have begun to see that whatever comes up for me is what it is. Whatever it is, that is my path. Whatever is right in front of me at any given moment is what is in front of me. I don’t have to change anything. I don’t have to force things to go my way. I don’t have to work and push and struggle. I can just let these things be as they are. Including my dad’s illness.
Through the practice of meditation and staying, I am walking through life a bit lighter. I do not struggle. I’m not perfect, of course. And when I find myself struggling, I find a way to take 5 or ten minutes to sit and count my breath, to feel myself sitting, feel the weight of my body on the earth, and stay.
I am far from being a meditation guru, or yogi; I am a beginner. But, as a result of all the sitting and staying, I have come to see that walking through my dad’s illness IS my path. It is not something to struggle against or change. I couldn’t if I wanted to, anyway. It is the path I’m walking today. It is my path to peace and acceptance. It is my path to get closer to the truth. It is my path to get closer to my Higher Power. It is my path to love. Yes, this journey is still scary. And, yes, it is still hard. My heart is still broken. But the miracle for me is that I’ve learned I can stay with the hard, the scary, the heart breaking. Perhaps tomorrow I will resist and struggle and completely check out. But today, I’m staying.