Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What my mama taught me

There is a saying that goes something like "your mom is always right" or “mama knows best”. I generally don't accept absolutes. There are very few (if any at all!) things in this world to which the assured word "always" can be attached. But the older I get, the more I am willing to acknowledge that there is a large truth in the point that our parents, and probably our mothers especially, teach us a lot...And as fate would have it, the lessons often come in unexpected forms. My mom teaches me something nearly every day...more often than not without realizing that she does and even more often without saying a single word. She teaches me some critically important things about life simply by living her own life in best way she can. Or should I say as best as her failing body allows her to. So, here are a few things that my mama taught me (and continues to teach me) that may be unique as well as universal in equal measure:
  • If you've got working limbs, USE them right now. My mom has been wheelchair-bound for years. She often reminisces of the good old days when she could walk. And I often remember with nostalgia and a bitter-sweet fondness when we used to walk together. The lesson: if you've got legs and they work, share a walk with someone you love! Or just take a walk alone. And in the process (this is the critical part) enjoy the experience of just lifting one foot and then the other. Don't take any step for granted!
  • If you've got eyes that see, USE them right now. My mom has severely impaired vision. She isn't blind, but she basically has an annoying, blurred double vision – all the time. She is an avid reader and art lover. Fortunately, I haven't experienced the impaired vision that can NOT be fixed with surgery or glasses. But I can only imagine that living with something like this is probably no picnic. So, if you've got eyes, even if you have to put on your glasses to see better, the lesson is LOOK around and absorb it all. Really see things, people, faces, art, clouds, cars, buildings, the garbage on the ground, and the little script on the bottom of the letter…all of it. Revel in the incredible technology that is YOUR vision. A pair of good eyes - a real gift to cherish.
  • If you've got a LIFE, LIVE it right now. My mom often says that her biggest regret is not enjoying the "good years". She says that until she got sick, she was “waiting for life to begin”. She didn't stop to smell the roses, even though they were right under her nose: great loving parents who pretty much did everything for her, a good marriage, a good job, an adorable kid (me) and loving special friends, to name a few of those "roses". So, what’s the lesson? Well, yes, most of the time, there is a way to continue living. No matter what card fate deals you, you can "adopt and adjust". Disability is not the end of the world. You can buy diapers, wheelchairs, lifting equipment, special bed….whatever. But if your body is not falling apart and you can go to the bathroom without assistance, the lesson here is that THERE IS NOTHING else to wait for. You already have everything you need!
I've read about various approaches on how to appreciate life more. Everything from "imagine that you have three months to live" to “climb the highest mountain without food and then head down eating wild berries all the way to the bottom” to "imagine you'll die tomorrow".
Listen, I don't care to be overly or unnecessarily dramatic. But I do want to urge that possibly in all of our lives a sort of re-prioritization is required. I certainly don’t claim any superiority just because I have a parent who is ill. I am right there with all of you, in the trenches of life YET often forgetting to live. What the #@$& could I possibly really know? I am a work in progress and will be for a looooong time. Yet I am watching my mom suffering through her life and I am learning…
So, if nothing else, simply ponder upon these very real lessons, and maybe ask yourself "am I really living, right now, this moment, to its fullest potential, or am I just waiting for life to begin?" If you are waiting, the bus has just arrived and the message has been delivered.
Here is your to do list:
  • Take a deep breath
  • Take someone's hand
  • Take a walk with them
  • Take a look around.
 Amazing, isn't it?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Wind of Change

The Russian (or should I say "soviet") version of Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's beautiful and inspiring in every way. I've seen it (no exaggeration) hundreds of times since it came out in 1984. There is a song in the movie about the "wind of change" (Russian lyrics by Naum Olev). This is my attempt to translate it.

Earth is spinning around like children’s carousel.
The winds of loss are swirling around it.
Those are the winds of loss, division and evil.
They are countless.

They are countless.
They seep through every crack,
Ripping off the doors to people’s hearts,
Crushing hopes and instilling fear.

The winds are swirling and swirling.
Hundreds of years, day and night, the Carousel Earth spins around.
Hundreds of years, all the winds come back to their origins.

But there exists the Wind of Change.
It’s going to swoop in and banish the winds of betrayal.
In time, it will chase away the winds of separation and disappointment.

Hundreds of years, day and night, the Carousel Earth spins around.
Hundreds of years, what goes around, comes around.

Tomorrow the wind will change.
It will come tomorrow to replace the past.
It will come, and it will be kind and gentle, the Wind of Change.