Kind of a year in review, kind of a love letter to this who inspired me and continue to do so, kind of a last post on self-care (for the year at least).
I had coffee with a colleague yesterday. This, but itself, is not notable. Some kind of coffee meeting happens just about each week. What was notable was that in the process of the hour-long conversation my attention wandered only once, and then only briefly. When my attention was diverted, I was able to redirect back without effort. For most of my life, I would half-listen as a habit, my mind racing ahead in the conversation. If the subject of the conversation was a problem, I’d be working on the solution. Whatever, I was thinking, I wasn’t fully present.
ADHD is a trip, but I never tried to treat it because it never seemed a problem. I could flitter about and still be functionally aware of what was going on around me and engage as if I had been paying close attention. In fact, I have leveraged what I consider a personality type into an ability to change topics, levels of detail, and abstraction, almost effortlessly. I found, or created, a career based essentially on shifting priorities and a multiplicity of masters and tasks. But I’m older and it becomes more difficult. The distractions more often lead to lead to greater focus and withdrawal from the present.
The same uninterrupted flow of conversation happened last evening for about two hours.
The work of the last year in mindfulness, of being present in the moment, of just being present, is starting to pay off. It’s starting to become habit. I’ve gotten through life, despite not fully engaged all the time. That’s no longer good enough. For a whole host of reasons, it’s not good enough. I recognized that last winter. Finally. Fortunately, I had some role models and friends to provide inspiration and guidance.
This is the thing about mindfulness – it brings you into the now. If you take a moment to meditate and count your breaths, you can’t help but be in the now. Each breath is its own moment and if you are focusing on it, there is only now.
I write this stuff in the event it might save someone a few wasted years and learn these lessons earlier than I have.
Last month I was at a day-long convening on early childhood. At the lunch break, the man sitting next to me says, “This is really random, but I think you and my wife had the same surgeon.” Conversation ensued. Yes, his wife and I did have the same neurosurgeon. She had a different type of brain tumor than I. He had found this blog when she was diagnosed in his search for questions. He told me it helpful to see evidence of surviving and thriving, especially from someone who had been through the same facility that was treating his wife. Such connections are powerful. I’ve seen it before in sharing my experience here and on a forum for acoustic neuromas (tumors similar to or related to mine).
In sharing the story of my tumor, surgery, and recovery, it is not for me about the past. It is instead about my journey now. About the choices leading to here and leading away from here, about healing and recovery. Healing and recovery are not quite the same things, I think. A quick Google search reveals frequent debate and discussion of the meanings and their differences. Basically, healing is the process of repair. Recovery is the process of regaining what was lost – function, strength, stamina. The challenge with both is this.
The body has its own calendar and it takes however long it takes.
If one is recovering from something like major surgery or illness, the tendency is to look towards the future because the now is often unpleasant. But the work of recovery requires focusing on the now. Seven years ago, I was forced to live in the now more than I had been used to since every single thing was so much effort. Everything was harder than it had ever been, including thinking. I had to stop myself from daydreaming too much about getting better, or how things used to be. It was hard to not think about things I couldn’t do until a friend suggested that I focus on all the things I could do, and not the relatively few that I couldn’t. Such a simple suggestion redirected my focus. It’s a bit of a shame I hadn’t realized how much living in the now would have been better way to go back then, but I was anxious to try and get back to my old life, not realizing it wasn’t optimal.
In The Last Jedi, we are given this line towards the end, “We‘re going to win not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” While I have rarely been ready to give up on life (save for a few momentary lapses into despair) loving life was rarely a feeling of any real duration. That’s different now. Every day, I love my life. It’s not perfect by a far cry, but I do love it, and I embrace its chaos and occasional sadness. Life is good.