I spoke to a couple of friends about my new relationship to experiencing memory loss. MS has already created my Swiss cheese brain, but this additional dreamy haze of the past has happened since Richard died. I asked my ninety-eight year old friend if she is also sees her past through a scrim as it continues to exist farther away in time. “Yes, but not when it comes to memories of my children. I also have photo albums to remind me.” I don’t look at photos yet. I am not sure I can bear it right now. For me, the metaphor of the old rug I trod so urgently every moment of my whirlwind focus on creating my identities as girlfriend, wife, mother, therapist, etc. is being rolled up behind me with every step forward I take. It is disorienting but happens with everyone as we age.
For me it was abruptly intensified due to losing Richard. He had long and deep memory skills. Old clients would be amazed if they met him on the street twenty years later. He’d ask, “How did your Aunt Sophie do? I remember she was your close adult ally as a child and how hard it was for you when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” Clients would be astonished and clearly touched. He was also the ardent memory keeper of our relationship. His memories were embedded in all of the material possessions he acquired with each new enthusiasm he embraced; that tool, that hat, that horse bridle, was acquired on that day in that place and the sun was shining and it was on sale. He loved living here on earth in a palpable, sensate, way. He dove into everything that caught his attention with passion and intelligence.
I was never so fond of the earth plane and material items- I was always hovering a little above it all trying to escape the suffering of my unstable childhood. I spent hours alone in the woods around our house being a fairy. I couldn’t escape on those tiny wings, of course. As I have learned to address each old wound through years of work in self- awareness, they have less hold on me and the need to escape seems less urgent. Tuesday’s miasma of suffering was a reversion to old habits inspired by new pain. But even as I fanned the misery flames, I knew I would have to relent and turn towards the pain of my body and soul. I knew it was a temporary delusion; that I was fighting against my current losses to no avail. As I am often heard saying these days, “You can’t fight reality. It always wins.” Like my friend Einer used to say, “Gravity. It’s the law.” True, that.
Accepting submission to reality as the last gasp of “NO!” passes my lips, is Grace. For me it is usually followed by tears of anger and/or sorrow. I release the physicality of denial, of holding back against the waves of emotion that emerge. Then I feel less full of Judi, and that emptiness allows a drop into the nourishment of Silence; as awareness of Being. There is a magnetic pull towards the depths, and my longing is met by an upwelling of peace that meets in the middle. I have this image similar to Michelangelo’s God and Adam, but reaching not to touch fingers, but to merge beings. That painting would show Awareness and the manifest earth plane as not two, but as one and the same. Being and being. In my mind’s eye the artist’s next painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, would be only a radiant fusion of light, as Adam grows up to know that he and his God are One.
Another friend reflected to me that I now seem less concerned with creating a new ego identity here at Kendal. I have been fueled by the adolescent drive to figure out who Judi is as I blundered about joining this writing group, petitioning to start meditation classes, establishing myself as a contributing performer to the community, and so on. It was a necessary step to find out who this individual woman was without Richard entwined in my every thought. That structure is established and more and more I can just show up so that life is living through me. The identity is mine and I like her. But she is already a bit dreamlike as I am invited to live more moment by moment. At any time I can always choose to pick up my troubles if I wish to. I am not less, but more, committed to being here in this world with no wings.