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Living on the Edge

Over seven years ago I worked in a job that required me to be focused at all times due to the sensitivity of the population my boss was serving. I kept order in the office while my life was spinning out of control. My daughter’s health was deteriorating rapidly. The possibilities of organ transplant in the Boston area were growing less likely due to approximately 30 people waiting at the edge of their life. I had a small team of people on task searching for transplant centers that met her transplant needs. Every day I lived in crisis while hanging on to a job that demanded I keep order.

I feel like life is similar right now as we wait for a critical election to come and we wait for this deadly virus to get under control and we wait in an unstable environment.

A colleague of mine helped me. He suggested I look at my workday hour by hour. Every hour I commit to working 55 minutes and set aside five minutes to let down, let myself cry or worry or just close my eyes to the stress and strain. Five minutes of every hour, let go.

He also suggested during the 55 minutes of every hour if I find myself unable to concentrate, do a math problem. Force my mind to engage in simple math.

Both these techniques helped me cope through a very very difficult time. I had responsibilities during my workday, so five minutes every hour I let go, and 55 minutes of every hour I focused on my job using simple math problems to focus me if I drifted.

  • I choose not to be a run-away train.

  • I help myself.

  • I use affirmations that enhance my well being.

  • I practice meditation.

  • I ground in nature and breathe in the calmness around me.

  • I look into the eyes of a loved one and focus on the joy of their presence.

  • I give words to my angst by writing.

  • I pray for guidance and insight.

  • I take salt baths to recharge my energy,

  • I choose foods that uplift my energy, not enhance my addictions.

  • I censor negative input by avoiding gossip, exaggeration and fear-based programming.

  • I monitor my self-talk.

  • I keep my eyes on my own feet.

I believe in a change of perspective.

I believe in me.

I believe in you.

We are in this together.

We model for each other.

We are worthy of our self-care

We deserve kindness and respect

There is no wrong way because any way leads us home to ourselves.

I am on your side. You be on your side too.

Stand still. The trees before you and the bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is a place called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you, If you leave it you may come back again saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Your reading this morning reminded me of the time when my husband was facing a transplant. In order to do that, we had to go to a hospital in another state. I had to give up my job and leave my family. It was a three-month process. What struck me about that was what I brought with me was a few clothes and my computer. That’s what kept me together with my family and got me through it. Now as we are going through Covid, that’s the same thing that’s getting us through it. Thanks to our computers and phones, our connection to our families. That’s the biggest thing. Through all that trial and tribulation of going through transplant, he was blessed that he got through it. But the things that mattered the most were friends and family and connections. All the trappings of our lives mean nothing when you are going through something like that. And going through Covid makes me think of the same thing—our connections, this group, everyone who is holding us up and helping us—we will get to the other side, we just need the perseverance to be able to do it. I appreciate everybody and thank you for your reading today.

  • Thank you very much for committing to this group, and everyone here as loving witnesses. Two things came to mind. The energy of a tree, staying calm. How is that tree connected? I think a lot about what is happening, what are my sources of strength at this time? And the other thing that I thought of as I was in my meditation was letting go. What do I have to let go of? Stay strong, stay focused, stay healthy, stay rooted. What are some things—and this mention of the trappings is a perfect example of focus—things that are less significant that I am hanging onto? Sometimes they are ridiculous things I hang on to about what I think I am responsible for. Just hearing that of the tree and trappings and what is really significant events in my life and sometimes I can’t even control that. It’s a lot of letting go and staying rooted.

  • You said something about breathe in the calmness around you. The key is to put yourself some place where it is calm, when so much around us is chaos. That’s why it’s important to come here in the morning, where all of us are practicing calmness. That’s very comforting. I’m going to remember that. It’s too easy to breathe in the chaos. I liked what you said about the transplant and being on the edge of life. My friend who just died wasn’t strong enough for the transplant. He was on the edge of life. He wasn’t bad enough to get onto the transplant list but then when the transplant is possible, you have to be good enough to get through the operation. We don’t think we are on the edge of life, but all of us really are. We could die tomorrow, we don’t know that. I think about that, we are all on the edge of life. It helps us live while dying. We could be dying anytime, so it’s important to live each day.

  • Thank you for your beautiful, powerful words. I absorbed them, the beautiful forestry words. I will reread it. When my husband was dying, before I brought him home, someone gave me a link to a Lady Gaga song, which I didn’t know about. She wrote the song “On the Edge of Glory” for her grandfather’s dying process. That song helped me get through my husband’s passing. My siblings and I are going through boxes of our parent’s memorabilia. There are many dynamics. I can’t thank you enough for this space which helps as we enter into this task. We will put a lot of loving effort into developing mutual respectful, loving and empowering relationships with each of my siblings. As a group, there wasn’t enough love to go around. Now that our mother is in glory, her love is limitless.

  • Thank you for continuing to hold this space and create safety and community in these turbulent times. What stayed with me was the poem about letting the forest know you. The trees know that they’re there, they know you’re there. I recognize that so often. I live in a space of wanting to be somewhere else, either where I just was or where I am going next. And the concept of just standing and looking at the ground in maybe a five-foot circle, and staying in that space, and wanting to be in that space for an extended period of time, I think about living there. On some level, it feels terrifying. I think what I am going to do today is think about my five-foot radius and watch the circle go with me, and move as my feet move. And I’ll keep my focus on my feet. Thank you for that reminder this morning.

  • I have a childhood memory of the Backyard Cookbook. One of my favorite recipes was to draw a circle. Everything you found in the circle went into the pot to be cooked in the sun before you had a tea party with your dolls and animals. It was always so interesting to look at what was around me. Oh, I didn’t see that. All the joys of life were there. It was literally my favorite thing to do was make a backyard stew. Thank you for the memory.

  • What I loved about the reading was your list that ended with looking at the feet. To me, it’s a grounding list. I do that when I get a little frantic, I go back to a list like that-- where am I? What is in my control? This keyboard, my feet. Not that I have much control over anything. But it’s a really grounding thing you did, was to make that list. It’s a good reminder to me. I do pay attention to what is happening in the world and it’s good to come back and focus on this list—where I am, what is my reality, where is my heart—today. I appreciate the reminder.

  • Your words were strong and you help in many ways. I appreciate it. This morning, I saw something outside my window. There is a red squirrel coming to my fire escape and I throw seeds out once in a while. This week, I saw she was nursing. I saw one of her babies on a wooden railing. It was pacing back and forth. There was a gap of two feet between two parts of the fire escape. It looked like it was trying to jump that gap but was afraid to. It kept going back and forth. Then she finally made a decision to do it a different way. She kept refocusing. Do I jump? Do I not? And then she crawled down the fire escape and came back up a different way. She was focusing too. And she figured it out.

  • When the going gets rough, instead of doing five minutes of math, do 55 minutes of math and 5 minutes of work, and the world would be a better place.

  • Thank you for sharing your time and your heart and your sacred space. It’s always an adventure. What a wonderful day.

Photo credit: September In The Forest by Larisa Koshkina

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