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sink, swim or fly?

when the table turns: sink or swim...

by Judy
April 14, 2014

After reading my last essay, “Too Sweet…Too Salty,” my cousin Matty wrote to me, “I am speechless…where do you get your strength and positive outlook from?” Her question stimulated my inquiry.

Where does this positivity come from in relationship to caregiving and watching my mom fade away and not always happily fade away? I remember my mom used to say, “Either we are going to sink or swim” in this life and she chose to swim... and she swam with vigor. Well, I want to go even beyond swimming…perhaps even to “fly.” Why is this desire in me? It certainly has not always been there. Is it age? Knowing I don’t have much time left on this earth and wanting to sift out what is really important from what is not. Is it because of all the spiritual practice I’ve done…and not just meditating…for so many years with so many others? Is it about evolution? They say every generation evolves from the prevous one, so am I just evolving from my mother’s generation…wanting to go beyond swimming, jump out of the water and fly?  Or is it because one knows what it is to suffer and more importantly needlessly suffer and wants to avoid this needless pain? Or is it simply a confluence of all these factors and some things that remain mysterious?

In any case, that is where I find myself. And beyond all this, it is also to some degree a choice. I can see the configurations of my mind at times that easily can go into familiar grooves, into a problem, but I choose not to dwell; I willfully choose because of all the factors I have named above culminating in the desire to seek higher ground, higher air as though I owe it to my incredible good fortune. I owe it to my ancestors known and unknown; to all the wisdom that has accumulated over time to reach for higher ground and to actually be happy, not ignorantly happy, but happy with a lot of depth, experience and gratitude.

There is also a kind of defiance in it as well, a healthy defiance. The same kind of defiance that I observed for so many years in my mom when she refused to let life bring her down; in spite of a husband dying at a relatively young age; in spite of her son dying at a young age; she defied the odds and chose life and creativity and new adventures.

For certain it’s not always easy watching my mom fade away, be weak and at times very uncomfortable, remembering who she had been - such a pillar of strength. I feel sad at times; even at moments depressed, but somehow something stronger pulls me upward. Even sadness becomes part of this upward movement. It is embracing more fully all of life and not being afraid of what may happen. And it is also feeling connected and in touch with that which is so poignant and meaningful - hard to even find the words to describe - like those times when we are at one with nature, or having a lovely tea with an old friend, or just sitting quietly in oneself and there is a sense of being at home; the sense that all things are right and beautiful.

This upward movement also means actively looking for and appreciating that warmth, connection and humor with my mom. It’s harder these days to find or help create it, but it’s still possible and is happening. There are still these tender, sweet moments that I often refer to in my essays - surprises that seem to come out of the blue. And that sweetness is irreplaceable. It breaks your heart into a thousand pieces.

And there is still laughter…I can still say things that cause laughter in my mom and vice versa. A shared laugh is also irreplaceable. It is like sweet manna for the soul.  

This positive outlook is the result of so many factors, so many influences and so much good fortune that I cannot claim ownership and at the same time it feels important to recognize and value it with all my heart.

Feel free to share your thoughts


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