Bear With Me

I haven’t been here for a while, but with good reason. I have finished a complete draft of my first book. Really! So, you’ll have to forgive my being away, and I have to forgive myself. I may be hit and miss in the weeks ahead, too. Please bear with me.

Bear with me.

That phrase has been on my mind lately. To bear with. Or to sit with. Or better yet, to sit still with. I am talking about difficult emotions, of course, and staying with them. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. Fear. The whole human catastrophe. Because it is just so much fun to still with those feelings, isn’t it?

I see you staring blankly at me. Don’t think I don’t.

The other choice, the auto-pilot option, is to run away, as we humans are wont to do, to drown out those ugly feelings, to stuff them down, to mute them and numb ourselves out. Food. Alcohol. Exercise. Work. The internet. Whatever it takes to shut those feelings down. The problem with those approaches is that they don’t work in the long term, or at least not without taking a significant toll on our essential humanity.

What was it that Rumi said?

This being human is a guest house Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!

We don’t even realize that we are doing it most of the time, it may be so subtle, the shutting down, the tuning out, the not bearing with. You know, we don’t necessarily connect I’ll just eat half of this box of crackers, half of this carton of ice cream with wow, I’m feeling rather twitchy. No, we just eat the crackers.  

Welcome and entertain them all!

How can we welcome and entertain what we refuse to acknowledge, what we don’t see in the very moment that it’s happening?

Does some momentary awareness ever come?

 Yes, actually, it does, in the most ordinary of moments.

My daughter is away on a class trip to an amusement park about an hour and a half from home. Canada’s Wonderland, if you must know. She is scheduled to arrive around roughly 5:30 pm, and good duckling that she is, she keeps me informed by text as to their actual time of departure from the park.

“Just leaving now” 4:16 pm.

“Okay. Thanks for letting me know. Hope you had fun!” 4:17 pm

After that we, text back and forth about a bright pink Mixmaster that I found on sale, and all the wonderful things we can do with it. Cookies. Brownies. Homemade face creams. And through all of that conversation, her text replies are almost instantaneous. 

And then this:

“Are you close to home?” 5:16 pm

“Yeah” 5:23 pm.

That’s the abbreviated version.

Notice the seven minute break. That was a long seven minutes.

This is how it really went down:

“Are you close to home?” 5:16 pm.

No reply. 5:17

No reply. 5:18

I busy myself peeling carrots.

I pick up my phone and stare at it. Hmm, maybe she’s occupied in conversation with a friend. 5:19

I better head out now so I can be there to meet her. I pull off my apron, grab my purse and head to the garage. There is a slight seizing in my gut, the smallest of adrenalin rushes down my arms, as I hop into the driver’s seat of the van. I fumble with the keys then back out of the garage. In my mind, I see the bus stopped at the side of the highway. What if – ? I halt the van in the driveway, pick up my phone and look at it again. Nothing.

Well, lots of times there is a delayed delivery of my texts. Maybe she’s between cell phone towers. 5:19:30

If we hadn’t just spent the last hour texting back and forth at high speed, I might not have been so, well, obsessive about it. What can I say? I am Mother. Hear me Obsess.

I back out of the drive-way and pull out onto the road, grabbing at the radio dial at the same time. CBC flickers to life, Here and Now. A pair of women talking about streetfood culture in Toronto. 5:20

As I drive down the road, I reach for the radio dial again, turning it up because it’s not loud enough to drown out the jagged edge of worry that is now searing across my chest. My mind plays a newsreel in vivid colour and detail. Bus crash. Children laying in the ditch. Is that -? Stop doing this to yourself! 5:20:30

As if I could stop that avalanche of thoughts.

It’s raining, hard, and water blurs the windshield. Thunderstorm. Maybe there is electrical interference? I resist the urge to reach for my phone and look at it again. How many minutes have elapsed? 5:20:45

I reach for the radio dial again when, suddenly, I realize what I’m doing. 5:21

To love is to risk everything. The phrase floats across my consciousness, simultaneously catching me off guard and dousing me with gratitude. 5:21:05

I turn off the radio and take my foot off the accelerator. The van slows down. 5:21:10

I draw in a deep breath, filling my lungs, expanding my belly, 1-2-3-4 and blow out, long, slow, even, and all the way from 1 to 5,6,7,8.  My shoulders soften a little. I unclench my jaw. 5:21.30.

“A one-to-two ratio engages the parasympathetic nervous system,” my yoga instructor says, “and calms the body down”. She’s right. When your mind won’t shut up, you can always thank it for its input, and hand it several tranquilizing breaths.

I repeat that breath again and again as I turn the corner, drive up West Street and cross the bridge over Highway 11, and just as I do, what do I see?

A bright yellow school bus. 5:22:55

And then, my phone pings with my daughter’s tell-tale custom text alert.

“Yeah” 5:23

I look up and say “thank you” right out loud. And then, I can breathe normally again.

Such an ordinary handful of moments, but the pattern, the habitual reaction: they are so easy to see, aren’t they?

Aren’t they?

No, not always. But that’s okay. There is always the next moment to catch.

Treat each guest honorably, Rumi wrote. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Invite them in.

The momentary panic. The thoughts unwinding and unwound. The deep-seated fear that you could lose everything in a moment, that you could lose the most precious thing in the world to you.

Notice. Pay attention. Slow down and breathe. Be deliberate and bear with.

Bear with me.

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