On Endings and Beginnings – Part 1

“To greet a lovely morning, we must leave the night behind.” ~Tarang Sinha

I used to have these nightmares as a child. I would be chased by a monster or a ghost, or a group of ghosts. It seemed there was always something evil lurking in the dark, just waiting to pounce on me.

In these dreams, I would be running through the basement of my parent’s house, or the basement of my grandparent’s house (always basements!), with the monster of the night fast on my heels. Unable to get away, I would awaken suddenly, terrified, my heart pounding.

In one memorable dream, I managed to escape my grandparent’s house into the dark of the night. As I continued my escape, running down the road to some imagined safety, I suddenly saw my grandmother up ahead, walking slowly. Relieved, I ran up to hug her, desperate for some feeling of comfort. But as she turned to face me, I saw that her skin was green. She wore a witch’s hat and snarled at me as she reached out with her bony fingers to grab me.

So many terrors.

Many years ago, when my husband and I were first dating, I remember reading something about animal avatars. This was long before the rise of video games. In this article, the female author was describing her personality and trying to choose an animal that best matched her spirit. In the end, she picked a tiger. I thought that so mysterious and sexy .

Intrigued, asked my husband what kind of animal he thought I might be. I imagined he might see me as something equally strong and beautiful, perhaps another kind of cat. But do you know what he said?

A rabbit. He saw me as a frightened, bunny rabbit. Droopy ears, long whiskers, twitching nose and all.

Even then, even through my disappointment, I could see the fit. I’ve always been a frightened girl. I’ve never been described as fierce or courageous. I’ve always been a coward.

Now that you know that, it is probably predictable that these last number of years have found me cowering under the covers, anxiously awaiting news of the next, fresh catastrophe. In my case, it hasn’t just been the pandemic. There’s also been my mother-in-law’s dementia and the uncertainty of running her business without her. There’s been my mother’s Parkinson’s disease, and her slow and steady decline. As each of my mothers approached the end of their lives, they demanded things of me I never felt fully equipped to give.

I’ve been stumbling. Badly.

But then, as I’m realizing now, I’ve also been growing. Unbelievably, in the midst of all this fear and sorrow, I’ve somehow managed to complete my herbal training, mentor at a herbal clinic for a year, and also take three different yoga teacher trainings. Maybe I wasn’t as frozen in place as I thought.

For me, the night appears to be lifting. The pandemic is over. Both of my mothers have quietly passed on to the next world, with my father-in-law unexpectedly following them. As I blink and look ahead, I am dazed by the light of a new morning. A morning I never dreamed could one day exist. And yet, here it is.

I am opening a yoga studio on Sunday, October 1st. I will be teaching gentle yoga for emotional issues like depression, anxiety and burnout, three conditions I am very much acquainted with. Classes will be both in-person and virtual. If you are interested, my website can be found at www.rebeccasrestfulyoga.com.

Come join me as we walk away from the anxiety and fear of the last few years, and create a new beginning. One with presence, peace, and calm. One where connection is valued over competition, and kindness matters more than hate.

“No matter how far you have run , no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found”. ~ Rene Denfeld

The Meaning of ‘Things’

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

My father-in-law loved kitchen gadgets. I suppose he thought they made his life easier. No doubt, they made his food healthier and tastier, and his ingredients more fresh. He owned more than one food processor, two air fryers, four juicers, a vacuum sealer, and more woks and frying pans than could ever fit in his kitchen cupboards – so he stored them in his study.

He also loved movies, but he loved a good deal even more. So, he would borrow movies from the library, copy them onto a compact disc, and then store them in perfectly organized file boxes, which he kept in a series of shelves in his front hall. He had hundreds of these discs. Thousands, even. The shelves were absolutely packed with them, yet I doubt he ever even watched most of them.

He owned shelves and shelves of books, his closet was packed with clothes, and he was starting to build an extensive tool collection. He also filled more than 15 external hard drives with miscellaneous TV recordings. Why did he do this? What was he trying to capture?

You may have noticed that I’m referring to my father-in-law in the past tense. That’s because he died a few weeks ago. Suddenly. Dramatically. None of us were expecting it. His death came completely out of the blue, on a sunny August day, while everyone else was out on vacation enjoying the superb, late-summer weather.

Perhaps we should have known. Or, at least suspected. He’d been struggling with frequent diarrhea, which then progressed to include uncomfortable bloating. In the end, it turned out to be pancreatic cancer. He died less than two weeks after he was diagnosed, before the cancer oncologist could even meet with him to talk about treatment options. The shock of this quick succession of events required time to process. I did nothing but stare at the wall for two days.

I think most everyone has had the experience of cleaning out the home of a recently deceased relative and taken note of all of their things. The things that were so important to them, that they worried over, that they spent outrageous sums of money on. They are all that’s left of my father-in-law now. Our task is to scoop these items up, decide if we want to keep them, and then dump them into boxes and cart them away.

It all feels so disrespectful, and so sad. You become aware, as never before, of how unimportant ‘things’ really are.

My friend Melissa says something often: “Collect memories, not things”. She probably heard it from someone else, but it still resonates with me now. She spends her money and time on experiences: hikes, concerts, parties, friends, and of course, on time with her children and grand-children. She takes pictures. Countless pictures. She captures smiles, funny moments, memorable times.

Looking around me now at all the ‘debris’ my father-in-law has left in his wake, I think she has the right idea. When I die, I don’t want my children to have to clean expensive clothes out of my closet, or weighty, yet meaningless trinkets from my shelves. For the remaining years of my life, I want my heart to sing, not from any power I’ve obtained or from any things that I’ve bought, but from moments of joy and connection with others.

Once we’re gone – and at some unknown hour we will all go – everything we own will turn to dust. It will just be some junk that someone else has to clear away. All of the countless, precious things we have collected will no longer hold any meaning, to us or to others.

So, why not focus on one another instead? Why not observe and listen to the incredibly unique, multi-faceted people sitting all around us, the ones who are themselves ephemeral, flickering lights in the dark. At least these gems will remember some small part of us when were gone. They’ll have a few stories to tell, they’ll warm themselves with laughter, and drink to the memory of our finest hours.

In the end, isn’t that the most meaningful memorial we could hope for? And as a bonus, it doesn’t add to the size of the city garbage dump.