Arts & Crafts Magazine

What You Are Seeking is Seeking You.

By Laharris1
What you are seeking is seeking You.
The first time I ever met Anne she politely asked me to leave.“Goodbye!” She said in a strong, matriarch voice. “Good-bye!” she repeated just in case I didn’t get the message.I had sat frozen in my seat for an extra minute, feeling like a pink-faced candy striper who had just walked in on a naked patient. But. But...I’ve only been here ten minutes I remember thinking. Ten minutes into our one hour visit.Oh well, I gave her a weak smile and walked out thinking,...well I guess not all hospice patients want visitors.Especially when they’re in the Alzheimer-Dementia unit and rarely able to recognize you; although this little insight took a while to sink in.In the following weeks my visits with Anne have settled into a comfortable pattern of unpredictability where I walk into the room with a big, happy greeting and silently wait to see signs of alertness in Anne’s eyes.

For me these moments have a fuzzy similarity with a scene out of Groundhog Day; except I am Bill Murray’s softer version, gently repeating our first introduction each time we meet.Sometimes I’ve been excited by the occasional flash of connection that happens during an ordinary visit. Those are good days. Like the time I was standing at the foot of the bed when Anne suddenly lost control of her bowels. I felt sure that something emotionally real had passed between us in those intimate moments before the nurse arrived. I was the one who saw the flash of horror on her face and heard her repeatedly mumble, “What …what happened?! I’ve never had this happen before!” In that split-second I felt myself catapulted from a quasi-stranger into that of intimate confidante, if only for those moments when she seemed comforted by my words.And it made me wonder, would things be different from now?You can imagine how giddy I felt the next week when Anne was totally alert and smiling, even asked me to push her around in her wheelchair, into the garden and through the hallways until we eventually ended up singing in front of the Karaoke machine. Around us was a small huddle of fellow patients that Anne typically avoids, and even they seemed a bit surprised to see her roll up next to them.

We sang together.And I can still hear her wobbly voice surprising me with these verses she clearly recalled from her past:“Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so”Little ones to him belongThey are weak but He is strong.”

I know it sounds corny but I've never had so much fun singing Karaoke.
What you are seeking is seeking You.

Naive me. I actually thought we had some kind of break-through that could last.
But the next week I found Anne in a darkened room when I arrived. Her mouth was open and her face was relaxed in the throes of a deep sleep. While I stood there, her eyelids suddenly flickered, she saw me and told me to go.
Taking my cues from previous weeks when she often woke up ready to talk, I pulled out a book and sat next to her bed.
And several minutes later she opened her eyes again.
“Why are you still here?” she said her voice suddenly becoming a razor sharp knife cutting through the quietness, “If you don’t leave right now I’m gonna call the lady!”
And that was that.
Later after I sent my report, the hospice chaplain was concerned about my feelings. Had I been ‘traumatized” by Anne’s treatment, he asked.
It was a sensitive question on his part, but traumatized?Definitely not.
It’s true that I felt the sting from her harsh words, let's face it, being tossed out of someone’s room is a jolt to the heart. But what had lingered afterwards was something else; it was the shock of the complete disappearance of my sweet, vulnerable singing partner of the previous week. This is what felt powerful. Not only was I not recognized, but it was the dramatic switch in moods that threw me.
A few days later while I was practicing on my yoga mat, I had this clear insight into how my ego can cause me to slip up in real life. It was a lesson on how "egoism,"--what yoga teacher Patanjali refers to as "asmita" blurs the truth. 

In my case, my instant reaction of hurt had been solely focused on me, pure and simple. Even though I had good intentions, I lacked the ability to pause. To create a little space before my own feelings of woundedness enveloped me. Here was a clear-cut example of how easy it is to misread a difficult person in my daily life. My ego had literally obscured the fact that these harsh words were being uttered from someone barely clinging to reality. The fact that I would take her outburst as personal would be the epitome of ego.

And while Anne's outburst may be an extreme example, it's one that lifts the curtain on those people who go around lashing out at others. 

Do you have one of these in your life? Because it begs the question. Before we react to their words, can we pause long enough to ‘see” how badly they must be struggling?

This is what the hospice director doesn’t know.
Anne is my teacher.
Anne is teaching me what it’s like to take my yoga practice off the mat and into the real world.
She is reminding me every time I see her that all we truly have is the Present Moment. And whether we’re a hospice patient or not, we should take nothing for granted. Thereare absolutely no guarantees that what we have today will be here tomorrow.
Anne is teaching me about impermanence. Reminding me—every time I say good-bye—that time is a gift. And that we should never wait to tell the people in our lives, I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry.
Anne is teaching me about how to care deeply about someone without attachment, how to give freely without having any expectations. Even the expectation that she remember me.
Anne is teaching me about my own annoying flaws and unfinished work and reminding me in the words of our hospice director, “that most of us die the same way we lived,” which simply means there are no magical transformations on the deathbed. Not really. Angry people die with their anger. Selfish people die afraid. It’s up to us --- in the words of Maya Angelou, to “go out and grab the world by the lapels.” It’s up to us to have a clear intention of the person we what to be, and to begin todayto put that “ideal” into practice.
Anne is reminding me to keep growing. To keep facing my anxieties. To deal honestly with my underlying fears that make it so hard for me to “let go” of certain situations and worries.
She is teaching me that if I truly want to become a wise, peaceful person by the end of  my life--it won’t happen without mindful choices and effort.
I can keep this list going, but I’ll end it this way.

Every single time I walk out of the beige, brick building where Anne has a room, I am blown away by the fact that I can walk outside and breathe in fresh air.

I have a laser beam awareness that I’m standing on two strong legs that can carry me anywhere I want to go. And that I can look up and see the color of the sky whenever I get the urge.
I can’t explain how simple and radiant and beautiful my life seems at this one moment.
But this is what I do every time I leave Anne's dark carpeted room with it's hospital bed.
I stand on the concrete sideway. I take a deep breath and I feel utterly grateful.
What you are seeking is seeking You.

Tell me.
Who is your teacher these days?

I'd love to know.



*recent posts in my yoga series:
Becoming the person you're meant to be
one radically different thing I did that changed my life

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