dealing with sadness

a year after

thoughts of death

heart re-grieving

meditation therapy, one year after my father’s passing.  Okay, got it under wraps.

Then comes Tuesday night, with constant Red alerts. My phone app repeats again and again, which of my friends and neighbours are being ordered into their shelters within 15 seconds. On my kibbutz, life goes on until 2 a.m. when we, too, are ordered to the shelter twice within 30 minutes.

Morning arrives for me at 4:30 a.m and all’s well until once more Red alerts begin at five a.m. School buses are on standby until five-thirty when we’re told everything’s fine for returning to normal living.

Our English department has been geared up for running our second highly organized, multi-stationed English Day, this time for the seventh grade. All teachers rally, send their own little children to kindergarten or to school and show up to don commemorative shirts and organize their stations: obstacle courses, Bedouin tents, Hanoch Piven portrait stations, falafel making, poster-making, map making, theater and dance stations, to name only a few.

All goes well. We do it. We are immersed in alternate learning and the pupils respond well. We clean up and head home. Wednesday has been offered and delivered.

Then comes the post-trauma

cracker and peanut butter therapy

hanoch piven style art therapy

guantanamera rhythm therapy

Adi's chapeau
Adi’s chapeau

I think I’ve got it under control. But that night, I can’t sleep, I’m buzzing, and I wake up on Thursday with a feeling of vulnerability. Gratitude for the chance to lead a classroom mindfulness morning.

I coast along through Thursday’s classes, looking forward to my mindfulness workshop. Today’s topic: being the change. If we find ourselves unable to alter outer circumstances, we can shift our own perception.

Happily I invite in the participants and hoping to draw on our last workshop when we came up with solutions, I’d like to offer the chance to experiment with our own perceptions and how to notice our inner responses to an event.

When I introduced the theme, T asks for a chance to talk about the war we’d all just been through, a mini-session and a major trigger of all previous wars in our area. I assured him we’d address it right after we began with a short breathing meditation to connect to the present moment.

Some of the boys couldn’t get into it, and they bothered others. This was no time to remove students, since I wanted us to feel that all were welcomed.

Being the Change didn’t seem to make a dent in what they needed to talk about, as each expressed anger at the Hamas in Gaza, at the civilians for voting in Hamas, at their attacks on us and on world opinion which seemed bent on placing the blame on us, on Israel.

The session was what they needed. The session was not what I personally needed since my own personal sadness was being given serious reinforcements. Sadness for their predicament, sadness for the predicament of the civilians in Gaza, sadness for the impossible situation in which I was currently living.

Sadness for the lost optimism, sadness for lack of hope in these kids, sadness for me being unable to magically snap my fingers and create a better present moment.

Tears are ineffective in such cases of sadness, and although I let them fall when the last student left the workshop, they barely made a dent in my well of sadness.

images

all things pass. This too is but a cloud in the huge blue sky of life. But attention to the cloud is valid, for out of recognition comes self-knowledge.  No point ignoring the cloud, for the cloud is indeed stubborn. And rather than allow it to fester and infect other clouds, observing it and honouring its presence might allow the infiltration of light.

Worth a try.

 

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About my dad’s passing

Since his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the end of January, with details of treatment options given to him and some of the family in February, it’s been moment after moment of charged presence.

I showed up at the end of February to witness the Palliative Care team step into action. The social worker, the doctor, the nurses, the physiotherapists. I heard my dad go over and over his history – professional and personal. They needed to appraise him and we got to hear him conquer his innate feeling of exhaustion to elucidate his past. When the pain was great, he sometimes searched longer for the correct wording, but always the words appeared.

He’d sit on the couch slouched over, breathing heavily.

“Dad, are you in pain?”

“No,” he’d say. But the breath, the exhale and the position said something else. “Dad, from 0 (no pain) to 10 (horrible pain), what number would you give how you feel?”

When he finally admitted to something, he’d say “6 or 7”.

By then the drugs at his disposal back then were hardly enough to numb his discomfort. We’d begged him to tell us as soon as it was a “1” or “2”. He had other ideas. He’d never taken drugs for pain and I guess he was waiting for what he imagined would be the big guns.

His sister had died painfully of pancreatic cancer back in 2011. She’d gone quickly with agony. He knew it and knew it well.

One day he said, “What do you think? Should I pull the plug?”

I couldn’t deal with that. I cried, then tried to find my voice. “Dad, you’re so full of life. If you’re asking me, I’d say please no.”

Later on when I had to fly back home, I regretted my words. I felt that I should have withheld my own feelings and instead said: “Dad, it’s up to you. Do what you feel is right. It’s your decision and I’ll support whatever you decide.”

But the tears belied my ability to be logical. I was aching. My beloved father was beginning a path that could be outrageously torturous. But meanwhile, he was lucid.

My niece filmed him as she conducted interviews about his past experiences. She’d ask questions and he’d gather his forces and answer thoughtfully and energetically. When we watched the clips, we learned so many new things. He shared a fountain of experience.

 

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