I was reading my latest copy of Mindful, a magazine I richly endorse for all the consolidated wisdom it offers its readers each month, and I came to an article that really captured my attention – Lean In To Love. (Mindful, February 22, pp. 47-56).
It is an interview with Frank Ostaseski, a teacher of mindfulness, meditation, and compassionate service, who suffered five strokes and lived to talk about his experiences as they continue to unfold for him. He describes a place of acceptance where he’s learned to embrace his life even when it feels foreign, unlike any other slice of his experience. His mantra has become, “Right now, it’s like this.”
It made me think, I need that mantra for my life, especially now. My life is anything but the way I’d prefer it would be.
- My husband of 20 years is deep into his dementia and failing in front of me – a daily, painful reality to watch.
- My support team (something I advocate for in my book, Self-Care Strategies for Family Caregivers) has also become less available as the individual lives of those team members become more complex, challenged by family developments, work changes and COVID.
- My own energy, always at its lowest in winter, seems to have sunken to a new low such that even on a sunny day, I’d often rather just pull the covers over my head and stay in bed all day. Not an option.
But I hear Frank’s mantra in my head, “Right now, it’s like this” and I think, who am I to expect that my life will change any time soon? I cannot change my circumstances, but perhaps I can adjust my perspective!
Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!
And that, a change of perspective, would be a great gift to give myself just now – as I notice the sadness in my own voice, the grief that sits in my heart and the longing for a simpler time when my husband was my partner, in love and in life, that he can no longer be.
Are you facing some circumstances that you wish would change? Maybe you’ve been working hard to change them (an up-hill battle, to be sure). Sometimes, we find ourselves in a place where acceptance is what’s needed – not struggling for change.
Frank tells the Mindful readers that at this place in his life, he’s turned to curiosity. Rather than seeing the circumstances of his life as ADVERSITY, he wants to be open, even welcoming of them as an opportunity for ADVENTURE – stepping into the unknown, not with fear, but with curiosity.
That’s where I find myself today — stepping into the circumstances of my life, not only with fear, but also with curiosity. Life is messy (Definitely mine! Yours?) and it is so easy to find ourselves caught in fear.
It is certainly more challenging to open up to curiosity; to imagine that even what I dread might be an adventure unfolding before me, full of opportunities to learn, to grow, and to explore who I might both be and become. My circumstances don’t define me, but they may teach me!
I wish I could tell you that life is an endless unfolding of amazing, always uplifting experiences – it isn’t. Sometimes it brings us sadness, grief or even anguish. Learning to embrace Frank’s mantra might help: “Right now, it’s like this.”
Recognizing that circumstances may change, but whether they do or not, or whether their pace of change is swift or slow, you have the capacity to change your perspective, and if you wish, to embrace curiosity and see what you might have to learn, even from the presence of pain.