Thunderstorms have been moving through from the southeast since around 3:00 am. Now morning, I find myself turning house lights off, then back on again, as cloud cover disburses, then gathers again to darken the room. For the first time in weeks, windows have been closed.
After several months of four-hour workdays at the troubled tech business, my usefulness curtailed by want of need, I now have, for comparison, full days of nothing. The job is over, ended by the company’s need to further reduce expenses.
Four days after I turned in my badge, I drove Jeni to the hospital for surgery. Discharged from the hospital, she and I are now here at home, full-time, every hour of every day. My purpose in this is to care for her, see to her post-surgical meds, at the correct times and dosages, to perform any small task for her, something she might need or request for her comfort. I am her caregiver, provider, resource for all that she is presently unable to do herself. I am the manager of the household, the shopper, the gardener, the one who looks after the pets, the chauffeur, the errand boy. So I stay here, very close, as she moves through her first of many weeks of healing.
This will be the way of things for a while.
For the better part of four decades, working life was defined by routine, motion, repetition, commuting, showing up, routine tasks at my desk, monitoring the status of business activities, contact with suppliers and internal business clients, gathering and sharing of information, actions to further the needs of the business.
Here at home, as her caregiver, such things are absent. In this abrupt vacuum, I find my mind reflexively reaching for anything that looks like a task; organizing her meds for the next interval; tidying the rooms and halls to make clear passage possible; checking the weather for the next hour, so as to keep the house comfortable for her, warm enough, or cool enough.
I am surprised by my reactions to my changed circumstances. I observe myself and my reflexive responses much as an anthropologist might observe another culture, the ways in which people make sense of themselves, try to understand their lives. I notice what my mind does in this alien circumstance of joblessness.
On occasion, I have disappeared into the back room, to my desk, to catch up on actions relating to the end of the job, to address the coming need for a Medicare supplement plan, catching up on the analysis of our income and spend, paying and filing her health care bills. For now, it is there my mind feels most at home.
But the work at my desk does not fill a day, not even a few hours. When, once again, there is nothing at hand needing my attention, I find a certain detached amusement as my hard-wiring grasps for something, anything, which is no longer at the forefront, no longer present moment by moment.
Eventually, I return to the realization that feeding the absence is not a solution, does not help move me towards acceptance of this basic change in my life. It is in that awareness when I am again able to step back, to observe:
Ah yes, I recognize you, old friend. You are Striving, you are Doing, you are Activity, you are a Checklist asking for completion. You have spent long years as part of me, part of my hours, part of a lifetime of days and habits.
The message, the lesson for me in this, is about change. It is about awareness, not only of change itself but of that which change brings.
It is, too, about impermanence. Everything changes. Everything is already on the way to becoming something else.
It is about being open, willing and teachable. It is about acceptance, of what it was like and what it’s like now.
In my mind, the cessation of a lifetime of work seemed an opportunity for following interests, pursuits, activities… replacing one form of endeavour with something more like play. A full stop never occurred to me.
But Jeni needs me now. My commitment to be here for her, for whatever I can do for her, is without condition. I will do whatever I can for her, for as long as she needs me to do it.
What I did not expect from this time was new lessons, new truths. Yes, this time is about letting go of all that has passed, but it is also about faith and the patience to allow truth to unfold, about recognition, acceptance and appreciation of the gifts this new part of the journey has brought, the peace and tranquility which has been revealed to us both during this period of her medical recovery, the ability to observe, to look inward, to rest in an inner quietness, a heightened state of awareness, one of simply being.
From this place where we now stand, I am astonished at how much has been revealed through quietness and attentiveness.
“True humility is the use of the ability to see reality as it is, and to accept what is.”
I am, as always, in process.
It is interesting.