Thanks to good ol’ cancer and some wonky funky hormones, I’ve been having hot flashes for the better part of a decade. They come and go in their intensity. At this point, Greg can expect me to start frantically stripping my clothes off around 7pm or so. At least for a few moments before I pile everything back on. Along with a heating pad and close snuggles with his nuclear-warm body. For at least another moment or two before the stripping starts again.
This follows me through a good part of the night. It’s routine by now. Sometimes I still try to just be calm and allow the hot-as-hell fire to roll through me without freaking out. After all, it doesn’t last that long before I swing the other way. However, what inevitably happens when I try to do this, is a more extreme response on my part where I end up with my head in the freezer, or my hands under cold water. I still try from time to time though.
Way back before I was divorced, but after things were pretty critical, someone gave me a book. The author is a Tibetan Buddhist ordained nun. She is a little sprite of a creature and the wisdom that comes out of her is enough to keep me kneeling for eternity. Her name is Pema Chödrön. The book was, When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times. From the moment I started reading, I was transfixed by the enormity of truth and its fierce determination to be a voice of reason for me through a brutal journey of transformation.
Introduction: “Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.” Page 1: “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” Page 5: “The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought . . . Nothing is what we thought.”
Regarding me trying to hang in there with my hot flashes, the following quote is what puts me in a mind to try. On a larger life level though, this idea has given me the gift of some pretty intimate moments with myself. And big freedoms too.
A Voice Of Reason
Page 30: “The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face. When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness. When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound. Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves. There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever. After we have died, the ebb and flow will still continue. Like the tides of the sea, like day and night – this is the nature of things. Being able to appreciate, being able to look closely, being able to open our minds . . . we can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal.” (pg 27)
It’s a pretty short book. 146 pages. Immediately upon finishing it, I ordered a case on Amazon and started handing out copies to everyone I knew who was struggling. For me, this book was a road map for not only my survival, but presence, connection, and ultimately learning to live a life where I could experience joy, and be happy, anywhere.
Guilt. And Joy.
Some years later, my son, Jacob was diagnosed with Leukemia. It was devastating. Even more devastating was when he got so sick, he went into a coma, and we almost lost him. I remember sitting in his hospital room, nearly catatonic with exhaustion, feeling so much gratitude for his life, and the care we were getting, and the support of people all over who were sending us love. I felt joy. But also, a moment of guilt – how can a mother with a dying child feel joy? Thankfully it was short-lived, and gratitude washed back over me. A gift from lessons learned from Pema Chödrön.
I remember that day, serendipitously stumbling upon these words by Ram Dass, a contemporary of Pema’s: “I was horrified to find that I was happy . . . but I was surrounded by life force . . . if I can be happy here, perhaps I can be happy anywhere . . .”
We Are Not Alone
If you hate being uncomfortable, or long to be transfixed by truth, if you know the brutal journey of transformation and don’t want to journey alone, let’s be friends~