Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Greatest Gift

“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”
~Winnie the Pooh
There was a group of children from the U.S. that were asked the question: What is love?
These kids ranging from four to eight years old eagerly responded and here are some of their responses...

Micah, age 6: If you want to learn to love better you should start with a friend you hate.

Jessica, age 7: You really shouldn't say I love you unless you mean it, but if you do mean it you should say it a lot because people forget.

And my favorite...Bobby, age 5: Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.
This has been a very different holiday season for me – having a broken arm, limited mobility, and lots of time at home alone without being able to work.  Somehow my heart knew there was a gift hiding in the mystery of this broken arm…in letting go.  How very much we cherish holding on and clinging to the familiar. But this time I wanted to see what would happen if I truly surrendered.

At first I struggled to do even the most mundane of chores, like folding laundry.  Have you ever tried folding laundry with your dominant hand tied behind your back?  Mornings I prepared meals, washed the necessary dishes, and vacuumed one-handed, then later in the day, once I got my cast off, that same left hand spent hours massaging, stretching, and rubbing the weak right hand and arm with soothing oils and creams.

Somewhere along the way I stopped struggling.  I stopped trying to keep up.  My left hand was tired.  But more importantly my whole being needed a rest from all the doing of daily life.  I let the dishes soak and a light coating of dust settled like new fallen snow on furniture and floors. Laundry stayed heaped in baskets and the few folded things languished on chairs and my massage table because it was impossible in most cases to put them neatly on shelves or in drawers without them falling back out.  I found ways to make meal preparation simpler; no easy task for someone who is gluten intolerant and cooks most things from scratch.

Thankfully a few friends insisted that I not buy Christmas gifts.  The mere thought of struggling to wrap gifts or write Christmas cards with one tired non-dominant hand seemed daunting and funds are temporarily in limited supply.  When friends stopped by and offered to take on my household chores, give me gifts, prepare meals, and massage my wounded “wing,” I let them.  

Days and weeks went by so quickly.  It felt like I was accomplishing nothing.  I didn’t spend much time actively seeking storytelling or speaking engagements. Just as chores were left by the wayside, I hardly lifted a finger to write stories or poems the way I dreamed I might have if I had two functioning hands.  Even tapping computer keys was at times frustrating because I accidentally hit buttons I didn’t want to hit and partial emails would sail off into cyber-space or be deleted altogether.  

Normally I would not give myself over to these things easily – to being only the receiver, to doing nothing - and there were still a few dangling threads of guilt, like the last few strands of tinsel that cling to the Christmas tree branches. But in light of my recent mission of learning how to “let go,” I even let go of asking how I would ever catch up or repay the favors and allowed myself to float along in the warm river of Love.

So what DID I do?  I walked.  I read…some.  I did what little yoga I could do, because it takes me to my calm place.  Any time the temptation crept in, I consciously turned my thoughts away from worry.  Mostly I was alone in a quiet bubble and thought about people, living and in Spirit; all those who have passed through on their way to somewhere else and those who have stayed or joined me on the path recently.  There’s not one that I would give up, even in the painful times, for the things I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown from knowing them.  

I cried more, which some might see as a depressing thing, but for me it was one more way of being vulnerable, opening my heart to what is, and letting life flow through me instead of blocking the dam.  There is something so incredibly touching in allowing someone else to wash your hair or clip your fingernails.  I thought of all those in worse positions than I – the handicapped and elderly – and it became clearer than ever how very much we all need each other because at some point most of us will be required to receive in our infirmity.

Perhaps it was losing the use of my arm that brought me to missing my deceased parents and my estranged brother and family more than ever.  Losing those you love CAN feel like losing a part of yourself because in truth, they ARE a part of you.  Was I living in the past by giving in and letting tender memories wash over me?  Some might say so.  But in those memories there is so much good and beauty.  Why would anyone deprive themselves of that?  Our Creator made the yin and the yang for a purpose – night and day, sunshine and rain, the tears and the smiles – and gave us memory to turn to for comfort and an honoring of sorts.  In the quiet moments when I remember those past times and the people I shared them with, the free flow of tears opens my heart.  Only then, with that open and vulnerable heart, can I be fully open to YOU who are here NOW.  

So in and around the tears, I also found more ways to connect to people and to be thankful that they are in my life.  Emails were accompanied by meaningful photos or videos that conveyed my heartfelt messages with fewer words.  I spent tons of time “liking,” “commenting,” “posting,” and “sharing” on Facebook; something that I have often felt was an unnecessary consumer of my time became  a welcome activity that connected me to people I really care about.  Now, having my Sunday mornings free, I was able to fulfill my dream of finding a church “home” and supportive community.  I took part in new groups of people and met with friends on the phone or in person.  There has been more precious time to spend hugging my aging doggie and caring for her special needs.  In spite of my “non-doing,” some storytelling work, offers of help, and opportunities beyond my imagination poured in! 

The emphasis does seem to center around gift giving this time of year.  All of that started with people coming TOGETHER in various traditions to remember times when the Creator bestowed gifts on humankind…the birth of a child who would become a historically revered teacher of Love, lamps that stayed lit long beyond what was logically possible, the return of the Sun and longer days, and many others.
What rang loud and clear for me in the silence and tears, the “doing nothing,” is that the holidays are not about presents, it’s about PRESENCE – now and all through the year.  I realized that I have enjoyed every minute of this holiday season more than ever before because it has been filled with Love and connection rather than being filled to the gills with doing and buying.  I know enough about the “flow” that I will be given plenty of opportunities to help others in their time of need and I will most likely give some form of material gifts.    Yet, I see very clearly that there is no material thing that can possibly convey my love better than just being there and there is no greater gift that I have ever received than someone’s generous gift of their time, even if it is to just sit quietly doing nothing TOGETHER.  In the moments when I think of my deceased or lost loved ones and the tears flow, perhaps it is they who are tapping me on the shoulder to share their love.  And though it brings tears, I wouldn’t miss that acknowledgement for anything.

I wish you all many cherished moments of Doing Nothing and sharing your beautiful and very Divine Presence!   Thank you for being a part of my life!  
Happy Sappy Sentimental Holidays with Love and Hugs,