Last night I heard my neighbour downstairs was having a party. I knew I wasn’t going to sit here getting annoyed about it, but how to turn the situation into a positive one? Well I booked a Boutique 4 star hotel room in a town one hour drive up north near my friend in a care home and my lovely brother. I’d go visiting! The hotel was a dream, plush luxury and yet inexpensive (£60 for a night and full breakfast). I had wine in the bar and slept like a baby in a luxurious bed. I got up and had a bath with wonderful complimentary bubble bath. Got dressed and headed to visit my friend who is in a deeper hell than I could imagine.
He has Parkinson’s Disease and had a fall a few weeks back, damaged his spine and now has stage c3 paralyses, that means he can only move from the neck up. He is in a Carehome that stinks of urine, with concrete floors and is terribly understaffed. It is full of people who are severely disabled young and old. He himself is having a nightmare time. His wife is too. I did some listening, and some talking, acutely aware of how utterly petty my problems are in comparison. He would give his left leg to have my petty problems. I apologised about that.
So I have had some thoughts this week on how I can possibly be of use to him. Jon Kabat Zinn mindfulness and pain management sprung to mind. If he can’t have an outer adventure then maybe he can have an inner one and learn to have a new relationship with the thoughts that are inevitably making things worse and increasing his suffering.
I found his despair hard to watch and hear and experience. I had to hold back my gagging reflex at the smell of the urine. I wondered if thoughts of ending it would be present if it was me. But I put my responses aside and the temptation to invite him to express further despair and went into practical mode. With his permission I played him some mindfulness talks. He liked it a lot. It helped the pain even, and taught him a new angle of being with the pain. I played another from Tara Brach on pain control. I am organising a counsellor too, to give him some therapy to deal with the shock of his predicament. He is depressed and in trauma I think. He cried a bit while I was there. I’m going back next week with a CD player and a couple of Jon Kabat Zinn CDs on pain control.
I think that if it was me in that situation and I didn’t give in to the temptation to just give up, I would just put everything into the inner journey.
I listened to the mindfulness guided talks with my friend in my somewhat anxious state. I am already not feeling very centred and being with him in his predicament was more pain. As I relaxed with the pain I felt I saw that I spend most of each day in a degree or two or three of avoiding the feelings of suffering that I experience. I realised that this avoidance is even more painful. As I relaxed for a few minutes completely with the fear anxiety and sadness, I felt at peace with it. Then snapped back into squirming away again as is my habit. As if it would destroy me to be with the actual pain. It doesn’t destroy me acyally, a feeling of peace arrived. What I felt at mindfulness last wednesday. A small glimpse of living life fully with the feelings. Not trying to make the present anything else but what it is right now. As soon as I say hello anxiety, the pain of resisting that anxiety subsides. I keep forgetting this!