Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I am SO grateful to have had the opportunity to make that retreat so soon after my mother-in-law's passing. In spite of much to do when I got home, I continue to feel more rested and centered.
Throughout the retreat, I kept thinking of Isaiah 40:1-11, beginning with "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people". It was hard not to sing it except in my mind, that and the following verses that are part of Handel's MESSIAH. I did a meditative walk across the cove with part of verse 11, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd...and gently lead those that are with young." It served to measure my breathing and my steps, gently, slowly, aware of ocean, rocks, gulls, beach flowers, and a large shell I picked up. For Christmas, my mother had given me a top quality travel set of watercolors. I spent an afternoon painting the shell with little purple beach pea flowers, an orange crab shell, and a dandelion. My art journal often served as my prayer.
That last one is a collage icon, loosely based on the Holy Trinity icon by Andrew Rublev. There was a large one over the fireplace, and it reminded me of the meal my husband, our two daughters, my mother, and I shared on the evening of my mother-in-law's passing. It was so good to be surrounded by loving family, sharing what was truly a sacred meal together. That Trinity icon had the same feeling of loving community and communion. When I told my spiritual director about it at our daily meeting, she suggested that I might want to make my own icon. I didn't have the time or materials to do a formal one, but the silhouettes in collage form serve as a visual reminder of a very special time.
For those who've never tried it, eight days of silence may sound pretty intimidating. I find that silent directed retreats like this one have a strong sense of community even in the silence. I kept meeting the same people, those who also enjoyed the outdoors even though it was cold and wet most of the time. The prayer requests offered during mass told me something about the concerns of my otherwise silent companions. There were whispered exchanges here and there, such as when I found the name of a yellow wildflower that I and another camera-toter were taking photos of--or a question from another retreatant, "WHERE'S the laundry???" In the dining room with wall to wall windows looking out on the ocean, I might be greeted with a smile--or not, if someone happened to be deep in thought. Mass and the daily 30-45 min meeting with a spiritual director offered opportunities for sharing out loud. I looked forward to that daily time to verbalize what had been going on inside, where I was feeling uncomfortable, where I sensed a need. My director asked thought-provoking questions and made suggestions and comments that helped a lot.
It took about half of the retreat for all the stuff on my mind to settle down and to take care of loose ends from having had so little time before I left. I had forgotten, for instance, to reschedule a piano student and had to make a call. Now that I'm home, I'm taking time to sit and savor the peace I felt as I slowed and rested.
As I mentioned in my last blog, I haven't previously taken my computer, but this time it was important to me to stay in touch with my family. Phones were to be used outside where you couldn't be heard by others, and with the rainy cold weather, that was not often a good option. I'd also taken it, hoping to keep up with my Spring Into Shape Bootcamp Challenge videos. I had internet access in my room for only 3 of the the 9 days. However, I got PLENTY of exercise. All the activity--hiking, biking, rock climbing, walking--balanced the quiet times, and I was SO pleased that I was physically able to do all that I did. Here are the promised pics of Brace Rock. I do wish I knew who was taking photos when I was on top of it!
Brace Rock the night of Super Moon!
Brace Rock at low tide. You have to climb over all those rocks first.
Brace Rock in thick sea fog; it's out there somewhere--and I climbed it!
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Definitely something I've never done before, posted a blog while on retreat. I've never taken my computer either; you're usually encouraged to leave such at home to maintain inner as well as outer silence. One of my good reasons for bringing it this time was to continue my Spring Into Shape Bootcamp videos and keep up with basic tracking. I was glad to find that I've had internet connection about half the time. However, I'm not at all concerned about not getting a video in today. My fitness minutes are soaring.
So what have I been up to? I've walked, hiked, ridden a borrowed bike for hours and miles, and even done rock climbing! Eastern Point Retreat House is right on the ocean, with Brace Rock behind it. When I was here last, there was too much ice and snow to even think about it, though I saw a few brave souls out there.
This time, the day I arrived, I walked out to the Rock, no small feat either. There is no path, you have to go at low tide, and it looks impossible on first glance. You have to avoid water, slick places, and go from rock to rock. I started out focusing on one step at a time. If I got stuck, I stood still until I either saw the next spot to place my foot, or backtracked to where I could continue. That day, I got all the way out to the rock, touched it, and said to myself, "You are wearing a (denim) skirt, and the tide is coming in. Don't even think about it."
So...yesterday, I did it again, made my way out there, in jeans this time, without getting a shoe wet. OK, so I'm out here looking up at this massive pile of rock, and I'm saying, "You're afraid of heights. You will have to come back down if you go up there," always the scariest part for me. The same way I got that far, I started looking for the first possible step. All right, I could step there, and then there---and then I think I'd sit on that part and swing my feet that way...and up I went, very slowly, very carefully, taking time to stop, catch my breath, and plan the next steps. Eventually, I STOOD, unafraid, on the very top. I flung my arms wide to the wind and the awesome ocean view. I saw someone back on the shore with a camera, and I wish I knew who got a picture of me up there so I could ask for a copy.
And then, back down, the same way I went up, very slowly, carefully, deliberately. It was actually easier than I expected because I knew where to go on the way down. My muscles were already telling me this wasn't in their normal repertoire, and my hands were a little scraped from holding on wherever I could. But I did it, got all the way down without any trouble, and still had to make my way back across the rocks. That too, the same way: focusing on one step at a time, looking for the way forward.
I was so proud of myself. I texted my daughter, "Need Tshirt. I CLIMBED BRACE ROCK!" Believe me, the next time I feel discouraged about sticking with healthy eating, becoming more fit, and losing/keeping off those unneeded pounds, I'm going to remember Brace Rock: I CAN DO IT!
PS: I promise I'll post pics when I get home!
Saturday, April 28, 2012
My mother-in-law passed from this life the day after my last blog Living Well in Tough Times. What was I thinking when I started a new Challenge this week? Actually, I've done pretty well, missed my daily Spring Into Shape Bootcamp video only once the day of her memorial service.
I've had an unexpected opportunity to make a retreat next week. I'll be at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester Mass 4/30-5/8 for a silent directed retreat - time to rest, time to grieve, time to ask what next. This is my thank you from my husband for caring for his mother. Check out the site for some awesome pics.
I didn't know until late Thurs afternoon whether there'd be an opening for me; these retreats fill up months in advance. I've been scrambling around, making last min flight and travel arrangements, thinking of what needs to be done here before I go--I think I just wrote the last thank you note, starting to make packing piles, making lists. I've been trying to do things as I think of them instead of letting them pile up. The last thing I'll do tonight is put away a basket of laundry.
Actually, that's not quite the last. The last thing I'll do tonight is sit down for a few minutes with my journal and write a short gratitude list. Maybe I should just do it here instead of waiting.
Grateful today for...
Going out for ice cream with husband
The last piece of travel planning done at 6 AM
Reasonably good airfare for last minute
Gas prices dropping
My dishwasher working again
continued outpouring of sympathy and condolences
The kitten's antics making us laugh. She must think her name is NO, Grayce!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
To borrow a line from my friend ONICAM who often titles her blogs "What's been happening", what's happening here is a multitude of decisions following a period of uncertainty after my 93 year old mother-in-law's stroke. She'd been in her own home and managing pretty well until two weeks ago. The stroke weakened her considerably and compounded chronic issues she already had.
Yesterday she went from rehab to a hospice facility, and I am already feeling better. So many things had to be taken care of before she could be moved, and we were both utterly exhausted by the time she was finally settled in her room.
Shift focus to me: I was awake around 4 AM, thinking about myself as caregiver and what my needs are at this time. I know that my pattern is to competently handle whatever I need to and fall apart later. This time, I'm trying to do a better job of tending to myself, even though I find it difficult, like so many of us caregiving types, to ask for help. I did two things today that were good for both of us. I brought a couple of bright red pillows and a soft throw with hearts on it to brighten up her room and to make the rock-hard sofa a little more comfortable for me. I asked my husband to set up my keyboard in his mom's room so I could play for her. I brought an old hymnal and spent a lot of time playing the old hymns for her today. I think it helped both of us be a little more peaceful and relaxed even though she wasn't feeling very good.
Because I wasn't having to worry about being with her for her meals, I could take the time to plan for my own. I had my three meals and two snacks, well within my calorie range, even allowing for coffee with cream and a cookie at Hospice. I stayed home this morning and did some catching up on things here and was able to do some intentional exercise. I'm giving myself credit for managing to keep up my Spark Streaks of tracking nutrition and fitness if I did nothing else.
My title, Living Well in Tough Times, means for me that I plan as best I can for taking care of me as well as my mother-in-law, taking time to notice the beauty of things around me such as the magnolia blossoms as well as the sunset across the bay when I drove home from choir tonight. Practicing gratitude is especially important right now.
I am very grateful to feel more rested today. I'm grateful that my mother came to sit with us this afternoon. I'm grateful that my dear husband appreciates what I do for his mother. I'm especially grateful for Hospice and the excellent care my family and friends have received now and in the past. I remain grateful for this site and for this wonderful community. Thanks, friends!
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