Archives for posts with tag: Being present

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Today, I got up late. It’s Saturday, and there was no urgency. I can take a later yoga class instead of my usual early morning one. I could have stayed in bed all day in fact, and probably no one would have known.

There is a great freedom in that. To cliché it, “my life is my own.” Pretty much.

It also means, however, that no one really witnesses my life. Especially this chapter in it, this new adventure in a different place and country.

Our lives are the sum of so many moments, the trivial and the not so. All the small things – which matter to me hugely – that constitute my every day aren’t really worth relaying to someone else, later. And so, these days, for the most part I am the only person who “sees” the micro and the macro that threads together my personal narrative.

Mostly, I am pretty content just witnessing myself witnessing me.

But there are times, too, that it feels as if I am looking for proof that I actually exist, that I am here / have been here / did that… Which is probably why I am drawn to writing, a potential affirmation of my existence. A record, of sorts.

Maybe that’s what diaries are all about. A witnessing, a proof to ourselves that yes, we do actually exist.

A few years ago, I saw (twice) the film Dreams of a Life. It tells the true story of a young woman who is found dead in her London apartment two years after a last sighting. She was found accidentally. No one had reported her missing. She literally disappeared, and no one noticed.

I am good at being alone. I like it. But I also thrive on being in the company of others. And I am happy to report that I am gathering “others” in my new land.

In Buddhist teaching (which I am currently studying and getting much from), the notion of the “no self” is a dominant one that challenges the delusion of cherishing the small, individual self. Our perception of our “selves” and others is merely a thought. Perhaps we fight that notion of “ourselves” being no more than a succession of thoughts by doing things, by chronicling them, by having others witness them, so that we can be truly reassured that we do indeed exist.

Of course, the presence of others need not necessarily equate with a witnessing. We all encounter many people every day, but how often are they truly present to us, and we to them?

As always, I look to poetry for further considerations.

First, Norman McCaig, from his poem Summer Farm:

“Self under self, a pile of selves I stand

Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand

Lift the farm like a lid and see

Farm within farm, and in the centre, me”

 

And second, Morning, by Yannis Ritsos (translated from the Greek by Nikos Stangos):

“She opened the shutters. She hung the sheets over the sill.

She saw the day.

A bird looked at her straight in the eyes. ‘I am alone,’ she whispered.

‘I am alive.’ She entered the room. The mirror too is a window.

If I jump from I will fall into my arms.”

 

CQ

 

 

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This piece, from Tim Lott’s regular Guardian weekend column, is profoundly moving and sad, but also uplifting (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/feb/23/tim-lott-fathers-final-moments).

Lott tells of time spent (‘sad, but also tender and positive and beautiful’) with his imminently dying 87-year-old father.

Lott’s father was intermittently aware that his family was present, as they shared the experience amongst themselves, ‘laughter, reminiscence, and unexpected joy’, alongside their sadness.

Lott’s take on sadness and loss and mourning following death leaves much to reflect on, in terms of what we mourn…

‘I wept, but not for his death. He was fulfilled.’

‘I will miss him, but I will never mourn him. His death was, like the man himself, profoundly average yet utterly exceptional.’

Lott mentions something, which I have often personally considered:

‘Death is so intimate – more intimate than first love.’

This intimacy troubles me, and the extent to which we are truly ‘invited’ to be present at the time of dying. Intuitively and instinctively, it feels ‘wrong’ to allow someone you love (or indeed anyone) to die alone. Yet I also wonder whether, without explicit consent, it is one of the most intrusive and invasive things we, inadvertently, do.

I have no answer, apart from making my own wishes explicit to those I love.

CQ