I guess it's time to create another bead; Castor had his first chemo treatment Thursday.
Oh, yeah, the bead talk probably needs some explaining. Please forgive me a seeming digression from the Land of Castor.
As I've mentioned, I themed my last yoga class around life as constant change and brought our focus to the transitions. Many describe Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, near 200 sweet aphorisms which, taken together, systematize Raja Yoga, as the threads of a mala. Sutra translates as thread. I find this metaphor animates a beautiful approach to a spiritual practice.
The sutras are so bare - many of them not complete sentences - so as to be elegantly universal. The practitioner gets to imbue the teachings with specifics, with texture, with herself. One gets to put their beads onto this thread, creating a unique path. ("Truth is one. Paths are many.")
In this time of change and even chaos in my life, I see the mala in a slightly different way. Each of our lives are continuous, unique entities floating around in this ecstatic universe. They each fumble around, soaring and falling into and around each other. Sometimes we come together, often we never meet. The Yoga Sutras, or any other spiritual teaching one follows, provide us a path, some guidance on our ups and downs and back and forthing. As are our lives, the threads of Yoga are traveled continuously.
As humans, however, we love to interpret time discretely. We have "the big moments," those moments we label as important, as devastating, as life-altering. These are like the beads on our mala. They are the revealing moments with which we decorate our lives. In the past, many of mine were colored in tones of regret and shades of anger.
I will never forget the time my mom picked me up from high school. A non-exceptional Wednesday. I got quickly into her car, a half-blue, half-primer gray Camero with T-tops and the word "Fluffy" painted in primer gray on the rear left side. (Thank you, mom's boyfriend.)
Immediately, I knew something was wrong. It was probably what my mom didn't say to greet me. Then I noticed her red eyes. She'd been crying. A lot.
I was not surprised by her words, which seems odd to me now. Perhaps I just don't remember my surprise. "It's your dad." That's all I needed to hear. He was gone. I was in shock - no tears, few words, even fewer breaths. He was gone. It was really happening this time.
What does this mean? What do I say now? What should I do?
"Surreal" comes to mind, now that I know that word. Back then, at 17 and still living in Englewood, CO, I just fumbled with my, "what happened?," and other such nonsense. He fell down, hit his head on the coffee table, and bled to death. I know it sounds rough, but unfortunately, there's no way to make a death like that sound peaceful and clean. He had been drinking. More precisely, he was drunk.
The most unfortunate part? He died alone, and I wish more than anything I could have been there to comfort him. He was living by himself, about four hours from my house. A life-altering moment.
On August 13th, a seemingly normal Friday afternoon, I put the most recent bead onto my thread. More upsetting words. "It looks like cancer." Followed by more shock and more questions.
What now? What do I do for him? ... You get the idea.
This time was different though. He's not gone. Though I spent the first day and night grieving, I have spent all of my time since then spending time with him. He's not gone. Grieving him has no place here now.
What I have learned from that 15-year old bead to this one is, well, a lot. Specifically, I've learned that, "The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are." (Joss Whedon via Whistler in BtVS)
So, yes, we like to decorate our malas with beads. Sometimes pretty and, in my past, all too often melancholy. We get to choose them though. Now, I try to cultivate a strong, serene thread with tiny, beautiful beads, accenting but not weighing down my loyal thread.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist teacher, encourages us to ask, "what's not wrong?," as we pass through our uncertain days, planting seeds of joy not pain. Though I created a new bead for Castor and the Big C, it is not an ugly moment I remember with anger or regret. I remember a gift. I was presented with the opportunity to do for Castor what I could not do for my dad. I will hold him through this transition. I will, with immense gratitude, comfort him through all of his remaining stages of life. And, by goddess, I will plant seeds of healing and optimism.
As we begin the next phase of his treatment, chemotherapy, I remind myself that real living is continuous, is breathing, is moving from one place to the next. First we walk, then we hop. Nothing wrong with that. As long as I am supporting Castor, as long as that is what I do next, I will enjoy finding out who I am.
Everything's coming up roses. That's all there is to it.