I felt emotionally spent last week. Overwhelm had set in with no good reason except a series of seemingly insignificant triggers that felt like the ground had shifted, doors had closed and paths had become obscure. It wasn’t pleasant.
But I pushed through. Not by muscling through the day with a pasted smile but by holding back on social commitments, taking long solo hikes in the solace of nature and having a few good cries in the privacy of my house. Adding in the bittersweet knowledge that I’ve been here before and will be again also helped smooth out the jagged edges.
During these times when I spin into melodramatic bleakness I try to put forward a question in meditation. I ask what I am missing. I trust I will be told. This trust, however, requires faith. And faith, well, faith requires trust. I have faith in an interconnected Spirit but also in ancestors long past, who, I believe, truly want the best for me. I sit with them often in meditation. I also trust, or perhaps know is a better word, that my all too fallible humanness can shut me down to the more subtle truths. An answer to my question of what I am missing may take a while to be realized. But once again I trust that I will eventually wake up even if it takes a lifetime... or two.
When the answers do arrive they tend to do so in fairly innocuous ways: an unexpected meeting; a knowing or a felt sense of rightness when I see, hear or do something. Then again they can also appear in the opposite form with the shocking realization that “I’ve done what for how many years?" Trust definitely needs faith at these times to know that I will live through the embarrassment.
A few days ago, still reeling from my emotion clad week, I was returning from one of those long solo hikes when, up ahead, I spied a lady of senior years. I was just a few blocks from home by that time and though I could almost hear my bread-of-first-rising calling to be gently punched down and placed in pans she caught my attention. She seemed to be at loss, somewhat indecisive as she subtly pointed her walker this way, then that. I asked if she needed help. It was minor her request but she didn’t like crossing the street unaccompanied … would I?
As we slowly transversed the narrow expanse she prepared the weft and warp of her tale.
I’m 94, she said, sane of mind and body except for these “pegs”. Born in Vancouver, she drove alone across Canada and survived two husbands. I have so many tales, she continued, I often think I should get a tape recorder and get them all down.
My mind started drifting as soon as she declared her heritage and a line of indirect query began: So you are looking for someone to write your memoirs?
Oh no, I don’t think so. Memories are the only thing I have left that are truly mine. But I like talking about them. You start forgetting them if there is no one there to listen.
She then told me how Gerry McGeer had “stolen” her playground to make way for the new city hall on Cambie Street and how men delivered bread and vegetables by horse drawn carts but my agenda continued to leak through: Were you there for the opening of Burrard Street Bridge in 1932?
Oh, probably, she said, there was always something to do and see. You know I supervised eight staff when I worked…
To my shame I cannot even remember the end of her sentence. I was adrift in need and not a little anxiety. I came clean: My mother was also born in Vancouver, 1925. She had a brother, four years her senior… he drowned, under the Burrard Street bridge… one week before it opened.
She looked at me. I’ve been trying to write about it for years. The story needs to be told… It can destroy a family, you know.
Yes, she said, it can.
I asked for her phone number and then begged her leave. Although I cited bread that needed baking it was just too much to continue listening. I was teetering on the edge of an abyss while questions tumbled through the empty space where my brain once lay. None, it seemed, were about her or her history as much as the can of worms I had just opened.
Two days later I am not overly confident I will call her. Although she was pleased with my request to continue talking about the early days of Vancouver something conspires to hold me back: responsibility is what first comes to mind but also energy and desire. Then again something inside me rebels at my waffling and knows I will call.
This lady may or may not be the answer to what I am missing. I cannot, however, deny the fact that sometimes when it feels like all doors are closing there is, indeed, one that opens.
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