“Beach Combing” a poem…Receding tide exposed an expansive, collateral-cluttered beach this morning…
Life in 55+ housing has no dull moments. I’ve lived on the sixth floor of such a building for two years, and the adjustment has run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes all on the same day! The elevator provides a rich assortment of spiritual practices around patience and compassion with others and oneself. For example, I’m learning to laugh at myself after I have walked halfway around a hallway in search of my apartment which is on another floor. Hey. If I’m having a lively chat with a neighbor who gets off on floor five, why not continue the conversation? You would think that by now I would have memorized the paintings in front of the elevator on each floor, or at least, look at the floor number before I get off. Then there’s moving days, when through no fault of their own, departing tenants hold up the elevator on their floor. Patience. Tenants on wheels slow things down. Tenants standing in the open door talking or holding it for someone down the hall slow me down. Several times a day I have to let go. It’s ever so good for me; however, my internal dialogue can become quite colorful at times.
We have a custom of putting out unwanted items by the elevator for anyone to pick up. When my cat died I put out her little pink carrier and it was gone within ten minutes. So, on Saturday someone on my floor put out an antique end table with three drawers which I thought could nicely replace the inadequate one I had. I carried it to my apartment and rearranged everything. Excited to re-gift the end table I replaced, I put it out by the elevator. Finally, I settled down to read with all my accoutrements neatly organized nearby. Alas, within the hour I had an allergic reaction. The end table had mold in it. Upon examination, I also discovered a dangling leg. Another opportunity to learn patience. I decided to try taking the high road. I’ll retrieve my inadequate end table and take this one down to the recycling, I thought. I went in search, and you guessed it, the table had already been snatched up. My disappointment was eased by the knowledge that I helped out someone else, just as I thought I was being helped out. The office opening at day’s start yesterday, found me there checking out a cart to take the broken and moldy table downstairs. Outside my apartment, where the table sat, I met Mandy, the house cleaner. She asked what I planned to do with the table. I told her. “Oh, she said, I’ll take it for my daughter’s room. I’m a cabinet maker. I can fix this easily.” And she already had decorating plans for it.
There are days that I long for my spacious condo, sans elevator, but I wouldn’t miss these little opportunities to let go, for the world. I’m convinced that we grow old the way we live. Life in a 55+ is the playground of the sublime and the ridiculous.
One year after the unexpected death of my sister I still step gingerly. When we grieve we learn that all we CAN do is step out. If we step in harmony with the pain, we become sure-footed. The pain transforms from foe to friend, and we endure in spite of the loss.
My spiritual practice has been intentionality. I ask for the grace to stay conscious, to recognize each wave of grief and to honor my humanity by feeling it. It has also helped me to be aware of my sister’s continued presence in a new way. I have prayed for her spirit as she transitions into this new and unknown existance. And I have practiced letting her go.
Two gifts have emerged from this experience: reinforcement that the ice holds, and realization that we are not in control. Now I try to live into these truths, and to be in solidarity with others who grieve.