Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Steps

It feels odd to be away from my brother as he made his first steps.  I received a text from my mom and later talked to my brother about his accomplishment.  Using the walker, he walked around his neighborhood, stopped to eat lunch, and sat down on a regular chair.  He said it felt amazing.  He described riding again as not so far out of reach, that he can now picture himself on a bike and it does not feel like a far away fantasy.  I am amazed by my brother's strength and perseverance to say the least.  He is an example of how much our minds play a role in our achievements and the relentless pursuit of our dreams.  My brother considers himself to be an average guy.  He in no way intends to stand out or take up too much space or use too many resources.  He's a minimalist, happiest amongst friends and nature, has little connection to money and material wealth.  He treats others as he would like to be treated, always.  And he never asked, "Why me?"  The closest he came to that question was, "Why now?"  Three months ago, I didn't know if my brother was going to live.  Three months ago, I was worried he would not want to live, given the severity and irreparable nature of his injuries.  Now, in March, I stand in awe of his progress.  I am forever grateful for my brother's life and I am newly encouraged by the quality of life he will likely experience.  Our lives and experiences, whether painful or pleasurable do not exist in the context of the individual.  We learn from each other.  We are touched by our neighbor's experience.  We are invited to see the interconnectedness amongst all humans.  We understand what our brother's suffering might be like the moment we open our hearts.  For this, we are blessed.  For this, we have purpose.  For this, we are one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Riding Bikes

The other day I rode a road bike for the first time.  I wanted to overcome my fear and also feel what it might have been like for my brother on the day of his accident.  At first I felt selfish knowing how much he longs to be on a bike again.  It is the same feeling I get when I'm running or when I catch myself taking my range of motion for granted.  In the realization of impermanency, I feel so permanent, so attached to how I look and feel and operate, not wanting to lose any of it.  I don't really know what it's like.  I feel like I'm closer to knowing than ever before as I watched my brother long to get up from his wheelchair and yet a power beyond his control kept him in a seated position.  I feel touched by the gravity of his loss.  If only time really could heal all wounds.

So I rode my road bike.  I felt completely vulnerable and uncomfortable.  I am used to my mountain bike with thick, knobby tires and front and rear shocks.  It's like a cadillac in comparison.  I loved the speed, but as soon as I got up to speed, I was ready to slow way back down for fear I would forget again, for the third time how to place my hands to use the brakes.  I almost wanted to call it quits, but then I thought, "My brother wasn't scared of this."  In fact, my brother was genuinely stoked that I was going for a road bike ride.  He even warned me about things to watch for and told me, "I can't wait until I can ride again with you!  We have two awesome cities to explore."  If my brother's still not scared to get on a road bike, why should I be?  And so I kept riding...

Monday, March 15, 2010

How Are You Today?

Feeling a Sunday breeze, breeze through trees and lives, turning to chaos and back around to cool you down.  Lost an hour without even knowing it, how time flies.  Time, suddenly I'm lost in it, the second I can't relate to it because it's something I've created and not a long-standing truth.  And yet I'm so dependent on it, a sense of where I am in the world in relation to the day and sometimes I forget to take a moment and look up at the sun for guidance.  It's a Sunday.  What difference does it make?  Monday is work.  The same routine all over again.  But routine is the difference between surviving and thriving for most.  To know one thing about your day that is stagnant no matter what.  We all want that.  We all want that one thing.  So we get up with the sun and sleep with the moon, but what if that all changes?  In one moment, your life is turned upside down and what you thought was painless is only painful and the thing that brought you joy is now your worst nightmare and the life that you thought you loved is ripped to pieces bit by bit with the things you love the most shattered right before your eyes.  As you watch you wait to see.  See what will happen with time.  Time becomes the only measurement available and so you sit.  Sit with it.  And it slowly and ever so softly leaves the room.  What are you left with?  Only yourself.  Different than before, without measurement or weight.  Turning, following, breathing, longing, and no one knows.  No one knows because who could possibly understand this timeless feeling that we all cling to for dear life.  Who can you invite to sit with you here and just be, simply be?  Who has the courage or the strength?  Who has the patience?  We struggle to be who we are.  Yet we are only the dirt and the sand from which we originated.  Feeling a Sunday breeze, breeze through trees and lives, I find myself again, just as I am, knowing in a moment life can shift and it will no matter our efforts to remain the same.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Month Ago

One month ago I began the process of caring for my brother soon after he was discharged from the rehab hospital.  We were sent home with an illegible handwritten triplicate copy of his medication instructions and follow up appointments that we were responsible for setting up.  I took on a different kind of role with my brother than I ever had before.  I was still his sister, but I was also his caregiver.  I was responsible for helping him to remember medications, giving him messages from friends and family, and counting out his vitamins.  I cooked for him, I cleaned the bathroom, I picked up pieces of paper and bandages that had fallen on the floor that he could not reach.  I did his laundry and I made phone calls.  I faxed necessary paperwork and I made a calendar of his many appointments with several different specialists.  My mom and dad worked full time as well.  They were at the apartment a lot of the time, helping with transportation and coordination and they were also running around, filling prescriptions and grocery shopping.  We had no idea that it would take all three of us working constantly to fulfill my brother's one at the hospital talked to us about discharge planning.  No one sat down with us and made a list of some things to expect.  It took two weeks before in home nursing care and physical therapy started.  My brother went from having physical therapy three times a day in the hospital to zero times a day at home.  He began to feel like he wasn't making progress and it was difficult at first to get on a good schedule of sleeping and eating.  The final week of my stay seemed to lend the most consistency.  It took three weeks, though for everything to settle out and I don't think any of us were prepared for it.

My brother kept a positive attitude.  There were times of frustration for both of us.  I think we both wanted to feel that our perspectives and positions were understood.  My brother often wanted to "just get out of the chair and walk" but he knew he couldn't.  It was a test of patience.  It was a test of perseverance.  It was a test of communication and of understanding.  I think all of us endured the hardships and became closer.  I think all of us gained a fuller perspective on each other's experience.

Many nights I was inflicted with bad dreams.  I often couldn't remember the exact content, but they definitely related to my brother and the pain he was enduring.  I often woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning and didn't go back to sleep until 5 or 6.  As time went on, the nightmares faded and I was on automatic pilot.  Friends and family told me how nice it was of me to make the choice to stay with my brother.  I don't think "nice" has anything to do with it.  I love my brother.  I almost lost my brother.  Being there was a given.  People have asked me how it feels to be back.  I must admit, I don't know.  I hardly knew my feelings while I was in San Diego last month.  Now, the experience seems almost far away and distant.  I feel disconnected from it, but I also never felt that connected to it.  I was both fully present and fully absent.  I do know that since being back, I become quickly angered and the anger eventually gives way to tears.  I feel like a child.  I'm walking down the street with Brodie and Brodie won't drink water.  I'm worried about his transition to coming to live with me.  I don't know if he's dehydrated.  The pace is too slow for me.  I'm too hot in my jacket.  I'm thirsty and I didn't bring water for myself, just the dog.  I feel like punching something.  I'm overwhelmed by feelings of anger, sadness, and loss.  I picture my brother.  I feel the depth of his pain and I feel like I'm going to lose it.  I know I want Brodie to drink to prove that I can care for something, to prove that if you just exercise and drink water and eat good food, you will be ok.  But life doesn't work that way and the more I worry that he's not drinking, the more he refuses to drink.  It's a lesson in letting go.  It's a lesson in ridding myself of guilt, thinking that I somehow have more control over life's circumstances than I really do.

So, I'm back at home in South Pasadena.  I'm back to my life at work.  I'm enjoying early morning walks with Brodie.  I'm fostering my relationship, which has been seriously neglected in the past couple of months.  I am feeling my feelings for the first time in several weeks.  I feel grateful everyday for the many blessings I have received.  I make it my intention to notice the daily blessings...the gentle breeze, the chirping of birds, the clouds and the rain, the sun and all of its warmth, my friends and my family, a sense of hope.  It feels good to be back in a familiar place where the houses and trees and shops are all where they were before and even though so much has changed, from the outside, not a soul could tell.