Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This "something" 

Everyone around me sensed my resistance to the trip to India. The letter of intent to Guruji's school, unsent. Dates and flights, not committed to. Notice at work, postponed. I attributed it to fear and soldiered on, making plans to sublet my apartment for three months, nonetheless.

Then kitty took a turn for the worse. She was an old lady and pretty mellow and I'd been preparing for the fact that I would someday lose her, for years. Didn't make it any less sad to hold her head as she got the fatal injection administered. She went quickly, without a struggle- the tumors in her intestinal tract had slowed her down so much, she was ready. I did everything I could and gave her a good life in her later years and even her last day. Still, every stray cat hair I find anchored on a sweater or hiding in a corner pierces my heart- I miss her.

Part of me felt a little free, also. She was a big reason I didn't want to be away for six whole months, the reason I did not seek out a bigger nicer apartment all these years, the reason I smiled when I came home from work. I receive great solace from the fact that I was able to be there for her and give her a much sweeter life than had I not.

I see now that this was the warm-up for the main event.

When my mother died, she stipulated in her will that her closest US friend be responsible for me, before even my dad. When I moved to the States, back in '96, with $50 to my name and no idea what I was doing, I crashed at her one-bedroom for over a year. She was always the slightly eccentric (ok, sometimes a little whacked out) relative who may- or may not- have too much to drink and make a scene on holidays. We'd not been in touch, so much, these last couple of years. I didn't reach out to her as much as I could have, and she pushed me away when I did. She had already pushed away her relatives years before. The distance was real, real enough that the news that she committed herself to a hospital and has advanced breast cancer came as a shock. She had just made a killing on her apartment and was free to finally live.

She spends her days strapped to a hospital bed in a brown room, alone and weak and in delirium for a lot of the time. Except when I visit, she becomes lucid, we talk about the past, I make her laugh, she lets me massage her frail limbs and stays with me for a lot of the time I am with her. I tell her I love her and stroke her hair and try to listen, to really listen. I would feel like a real asshole to go off on my dream yoga-holiday and leave her alone. I guess the yoga is here, right now. Not on a Himalayan mountaintop or a Keralan cliff, but here in NY, and now. It's imbuing my day-to-day life with these practices with more fervor than I have been. It's sitting quietly while I wait for the train. Getting to know the attending nurse. Facing and staying with the onset of death and decay and keeping an open heart and sweet eyes. Offering what she really needs, not what I think she should need. Making her life a little bit better and in the process becoming a little kinder and stronger in my own. Otherwise, why the hell do we have these practices, anyway?

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