I’ve been thinking a lot about living in the moment (being mindful).
I’ve been practicing daily meditation for a couple of weeks now. As with most people, I’m pretty bad at it. But I keep trying.
And the reason I keep trying is because, at the most stressful time of my entire life, being mindful got me through.
When I was living with JD, his OCD made our lives chaotic and exhausting and extremely difficult to live with any measure of peace. Correction: it made my life that way. It was his normal way of being and he seemed mostly OK with that.
Except every once in a while he would complain about other people being able to take vacations and have weekends “off” and time to enjoy life, and why couldn’t we?
Oh brother. Where do I begin? I used to tell him exactly why but he didn’t want to acknowledge that it was the disease’s doing because he didn’t want to seek help. So I just stopped responding. He didn’t want a solution; he just wanted to complain at the unfairness of it all.
Anywho, every once in a wee while he would agree to us taking a day or most of a day off and we would hit the road for a respite. Those times got me through. During those times, without consciously thinking about it or forcing it, I lived totally in the moment. I was BEING. HERE. NOW. I didn’t think about the mess back home, the unceasing backlog of work, the shit-storm life I found myself trapped in, NOTHING. I just enjoyed every present moment of being with a more relaxed, funny and charming JD, and taking in some new sights and experiences.
And when that day or those few hours ended, I felt as refreshed as if I had been away for a week of “regular” vacation. Huh!
When JD got cancer, things got much worse. Because nothing was supposed to change or else the cancer would have won. (Spoiler: the cancer won anyways – 6 months later.)
So I kept working and going to (online) school and now I had a new job – caregiver to someone who already needed a lot of care and attention. JD had to stop working because he was too weak but he kept on going with his MBA studies as well. And his OCD escalated, of course. And I had to participate in even MORE of his daily rituals as part of my caregiver role. Plus we had a few of our own, like his nightly heparin shot to the stomach, that I had to administer.
Most days the only moment of peace I had to myself was when I went upstairs to wash my face to get ready for bed. I wash my face with olive oil, have been doing this for years. But when JD was sick, this became my “moment”.
I would apply the olive oil to my face and gently massage it all over. Then I would take a washcloth and rinse it in the hottest water I could stand. Then I would place the hot washcloth on my face and just let it sit there. Ahhhhhh….
I called it my daily spa moment. During that 60 seconds or so, I focused on the feeling of peace and serenity that accompanied the hot cloth being applied to my face. I succeeded in noticing every wonderful moment of that experience. My mind emptied of all other thought. And if I was really lucky, I got to enjoy it until the cloth got cooler without hearing “Sweetie? Sweetie, where are you? Sweetie! Sweetie!!”
And it was enough to keep me going for another day. It had to be.
So these 2 experiences taught me about the absolute power of mindfulness. I wasn’t intentionally being mindful – not at all – I had no time to think about that. It was more like a survival instinct kicking in. I found myself at mindfulness, at this intention unintentionally, by opening the unmarked backdoor.