Facebook became a Real Thing around the time I began my late life career of coaching and mentoring. I welcomed all comers, thrilled to connect and/or reconnect with kindred spirits from near and far. In the ensuing years, I’ve stopped by FB infrequently, and I hardly ever pulled up a chair to stay a while.
Why? My Friended Folk list is a bloated blend of more than 65 years of friendships, extended family, interesting people I met at a retreat or on a shuttle bus, or others I’ve never met but who are a part of my tribe of Wayfinders or coaches or yogis. It’s a weird mix of public presence (meaning I may not know the friend personally) and a longer friendship or deeper connection.
Over time, my more private and introverted self has been getting hives even THINKING about the trip to Facebook. At the root are many old stories in which I protect my internal life from public inspection. I would be overwhelmed. Then I would lose my inner life. They wouldn’t like to know this about me. On and on.
I’ve also had many opinions about all the promotion I need to wade through to get to authentic connection on Facebook. And this was all before the political climate of the last year. It’s been getting so that a trip to FB is like enduring a visit to my great Aunt Mabel’s house. All the clutter made the air too heavy to breathe, so I stayed away.
Then last week my mom died. My first thought was to keep my grief close in, to pray and meditate and watch for dreams and listen for her presence and create little grief rituals for myself. This has long been my way of dealing with deep stuff. But in this case, there were so many demands and arrangements and people to inform that the first couple of days I spent most of my time on the phone. I could barely feel that particular frozen feeling of tears waiting to escape.
After the first day, I had the house to myself. I had intended to bathe in the solitude. But something led me to Facebook. Amazing luck, distraction, divine guidance. Who knows.
I posted a question about why people describe the loss of a mother as “huge.” And, sure enough, I was overwhelmed. A good kind of overwhelmed. I read each response and every little heart emoji, and I imagined their faces in front of me as I read. Each time, the tears flowed freely in the privacy of some inner Oasis.
My FBF’s surrounded me in a blanket of love. They shared their beliefs and experiences. Some were so grateful that she was in the bosom of Jesus. Others envisioned the Light of Pure Being (which, in my mind, is Jesus). There was always such wisdom and kindness in their words. Something deep and true was triggered, a kind of thawing. Tears flowed in awe of the powerful bond that transcends time and space.
One of my FBF’s and deep friends from long ago wrote This is Facebook at its best.
I seldom share my poetry in my blog, but this one belonged here, a thumbnail sketch of my year so far.
Dark rainy days of river-flooding March.
Muddy twilights of brackish pools and raindrop rhythms.
None of it touches the tears that won’t fall.
Some days are too small to contain this me I think I am.
Because that one hangs on the cross-hairs of not-knowing.
As the one who came before me prepares to leave
And the job of being here, that job,
That it’s not my time to go but hers.
It could go either way, I think.
The sky, an indeterminate steel gray.
Light is suspended in the balance between seasons
On the cusp of some new life,
I linger in the colorless dawn
Which might also be dusk.
I hold the early swelling of buds as they begin their inevitable festival of life
Next to my mother’s certain march toward nonrenewal.
I long to be broken open, to flower.
To give birth to new life.
Or two of them.
One for her, one for me.
I sit in the space between worlds, in the not-land of unknowing.
For this moment, enough.
Spring is undoing me, flowering tree by tree.
I prepare to kiss my mother goodbye
Or not my mother, but some confused absence of her.
I imagine holding her hand, and without words
giving her permission for something or other, as if it’s mine to give.
A thousand little tasks steal my attention,
And then I remember the green, greening and greenest
Spring spilling all around, demanding to be seen and heard.
My feet touch ground, even as my mind ricochets,
So I breathe three extra deep breaths to take to her bedside
And return, again and again, her sidekick, as always.
How would you answer that question? Finding an answer stops my over-eager mind, momentarily at a loss for the right words. My first thought was the Mystery, or That Which Has No Name. Then, a flood of others: God, the Infinite, Christ-consciousness, which makes me think of Krishna, and before you know it, the intention of the meditation is somewhat lost in the word avalanche of deities and attempts to name that which has no name.
Pretty soon I’ve forgotten what I already knew, which was the simplest possible answer to the question. Or not. Hint: It’s love.
Did you guess? See what I mean by simple? Or, given the nature of that big word, not simple at all?
Beyond Love: Soothing Songs for the Soul is also the title of a CD that my daughter Johanna has been working on for the past year. She’s a yogi and singer who practices her meditations musically around the country in participatory concerts called kirtan.
When she was a baby my favorite book was Love is Letting Go of Fear, which pretty much explains itself. Johanna was the child who loved going down the slide face first. I joked that “she never learned a decent sense of fear.” I coped and nagged and guided, which was my job at the time, apparently.
As a woman, even though life has handed her challenges and accidents, Johanna has learned caution and bravery. She discovered the power of singing for healing after being hit by a drunk driver. Her early risk-taking has transformed into single-minded focus and bravery on her own spiritual path. This music is a result.
I know sound like a proud mother. I am. And I’m also a proud daughter. Two weeks ago I sat with my mother, who is slowly dying. She seems to be in her own process of letting go of fear as she lets go of life. I played the CD to her with my ear buds. She has little speech left and doesn’t respond to much lately, but when the phrase “Beyond love…is love” played, she looked in my eyes and nodded.
I figure she should know.
I’ve always found the peekaboo stage of development fascinating in babies. Right around a year, they’re so easy to entertain with no props but a blanket or scarf. Developmental theorists have a lot to say about what they’re learning, things like fear of abandonment by adults or “object permanence.” First lesson: People go away and then come back. I’m safe. Second: Things (and people) exist even when I can’t see them. I’m guessing it was hysterically funny when my mother played it with me as an infant, but I can’t say that I remember it.
But who knew it’s a lesson that deepens over time? My mother is coming and going now, mostly going. Sometimes when I get in her visual frame and wave she doesn’t see me…or anything outside of her, apparently. Then I move a few feet and come back and there’s instant recognition.
I’m no longer disarmed by this. Our roles have shifted in this “Now you see me, now you don’t” relationship. The other day I greeted her without a reaction. Then I walked around her back and waved again as I sat down by her other side. She grabbed my hand and said “Did I ever tell you what a beautiful child you were?” I was stunned. This is the first sentence she had put together in three months. (And although I’m not sure she had ever told me, I’ve never needed or even thought about that subject.)
I have so many questions about this late life peekaboo. On the top of the list is: who is it who sees me, who remembers to say things, when her brain is obviously so scrambled from her stroke that she strains mightily to just utter a word?
My mind has finally given up trying to make sense of it because at one level it makes perfect sense. There’s a way she and I connect that is beyond words. It has always been like that.
AND there’s something very familiar about the way our minds work. When I pay close attention to all the places my mind comes and goes (Oh! The places it goes), I see my non-stroked mind is much the same. It cycles in and out of thoughts, creating a trance of its own making. Past. Future. Fears. Things to solve. It’s an ongoing practice to call it back to the current moment.
It’s so sweet to have this in common with my mother. We have minds that are simply not trustworthy. Without relying on our minds for connection, the game is over. What’s left is deep, soulful, and simple. For want of a better word, I’ll call it love. Straight up.