By KM Huber
Recently, I came across a quotation that considered the effect of one question as a way to give pause when facing a tense moment, when feeling anger or aggression, whenever there is pain.
The question? “What else might this mean?”
To ask the question is to create distance from the situation, to prevent an immediate and perhaps pointed reaction. We give ourselves the opportunity to make the compassionate response.
Rather than clinging to the pain of the moment, we release it. We are not boxed up in a mindset or limited in our choices. In choosing the compassionate response, we open to the unimaginable.
We are not relinquishing our beliefs or changing our goals. We are not giving up or accepting less. We are standing in the reality we have, taking a moment to step back and make the choice that suits the moment.
We find ourselves less concerned with identity, the beliefs of “I,” and more concerned, maybe even intrigued, with how we might offer more to many.
Asking what else might this mean reminds me of a well-worn meme—when life gives you lemons make lemonade— there was a time that I would roll my eyes whenever I was told this. And, I was told frequently.
At some point, and I have no memory of any “aha” moment, I considered lemons and lemonade. What might it mean to experiment with life’s lemons—it would take patience–I discovered curiosity and grew to trust it.
Another question that occurred to me was whether or not I was lowering my standards. These days, I live a routine of no routine, relieved of the stress of tasks assigned to specific times.
There is enough freedom so that on the days when life is one lemon after another, lemonade seems more than sufficient. I never know how tart or naturally sweet the lemonade might be.
I sip and stay curious.
In the last two months, I produced more solid writing than I have in the last year and a half.
Physically, I am markedly different. I am not referring to walking with a cane or wearing a soft neck collar. These are temporary results of myelopathy but not why I am different.
As I considered just what else myelopathy might mean for me, the question of lowering my standards took a turn with my ego. That required more than one glass of lemonade.
In short, myelopathy relieved my suffering for I had no choice except to slow down. Myelopathy accomplished what nearly 40 years of autoimmune disease could not.
In slowing down, I gained life anew. I was different from the moment I awakened from the surgery. I have just begun to consider what this might mean for me.
Although my pace of life is slow, more measured, it is now possible for me to comfortably complete two or three errands in one outing, something I have not been able to do.
In rest, I find awareness, options never imagined. No longer am I pushing through to the end of a task, exhausting all of my resources.
In exhaustion, however, I found energy. To me, they are opposite ends of the same spectrum. I aim for even. The day does not dawn to certain tasks, it lights up with curiosity. Standards reveal themselves.
Still, there are daily lemons.
My arms remain heavy–my biceps feel as if there are weights on them–here, little is changed since the spinal cord surgery. The same is true for the numbness/tingling in my hands, particularly my index fingers and thumbs.
I use voice recognition software so that the frustration of typing does not impede the writing. My thumbs and index fingers have difficulty pinching or picking up small objects such as pens or pills, a mushroom slice, coins for the laundry.
Daily, I do dexterity exercises for my fingers and thumbs, a bit of strengthening for my arms as well. There is no pushing just gentle flexibility. There is a lot of lemonade as well.
For all those moments when the world rages, as it does for all of us, if I ask, “what else might this mean,” I choose the compassionate response. It is not about having an answer. It is about asking the question.
KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, she blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.
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