I had a brief conversation this morning with a friend who said she was glad she didn’t have to worry about me. It reminded me of one of the undersung benefits of mindfulness practice. When we are calm, ok with what happens, unattached to outcome, we become a resource for those we love, an example, an offering of calm no matter what happens. This is the aspiration; not that we accomplish that in the early days. But over time, inhabiting the values of equanimity and compassion, gradually recognizing that (as George Saunders said), “Kindness is the only non-delusional response to the human condition,” we begin to understand that remaining calm in a shitstorm is a generous gift to others.
I’m grateful that I didn’t have a dog today, especially a dog on his last legs. Between snow and rain over the past few days, there was a quarter-inch thick ice sheet on my windshield, and the patios weren’t much better. It broke my heart a few times over the past few winters when Stellar or Raven would dash out the door, slip on ice, and slam down on the concrete. They were tough dogs, but it had to hurt, and the last few times Stellar slipped on ice or the smooth wood floor it took him down substantially for awhile. I covered the floors in rugs the best I could, which helped a lot inside, but even if I let him out slow and careful he still slipped on ice a couple of times and went down hard. Poor little old legs.
So I was grateful that I didn’t have to go out much today, and only had to take care of myself out there when I did go. I’m grateful to be slowly unwinding the physical and emotional trauma of the past few months with Stellar, the past two years, really, of his decline. I lost so much that I held dear in that time: Auntie, Diane, Michael, Ojo, Raven, a certain independence, trust, friendships, faith… and most recently, my best and truest companion. It was pretty grueling. I’m grateful for a simpler life right now, for as long as this lasts. Grateful that my body can finally unwind, my mind can let go, my heart slowly open. Life hurts. I’m learning to be okay with that.
And while I can list the losses, the blessings, beauties, and joys of these past two years are incalculable. I might paraphrase Saunders and say, “Gratitude is the only rational response to being alive.” But I won’t, because I know there are many for whom the suffering of the human condition is just too great in any given moment to survive. My heart recognizes and aches for those who live in intolerable conditions; yet, I can only be grateful for all the choices, decisions, encounters, near misses, and lucky chances that led me (through generations) to be right here, right now. I could complain about what’s missing, but choose to focus on the moments of tenuous calm, the fragile peace and uncertain ease of this precious day, one day at a time.