Very recently, I had a rather profound conversation with a man I don’t physically know. He is another mind in the blogosphere. Some people are so easy to connect to and you instinctively know your lives were meant to cross. There is so much we can learn from others if we stop trying to only get our point across and learn to listen. I’m not sure without looking what country he lives in, but our ability to talk about this reality called life, is rare. Be honest when taking responsibility for your life instead of blaming the bad things on external reasons, or saying, “God must have wanted this to happen. It’s his plan for me.”
This man told me what he was doing with his own life. It was something I had never thought to do. Not like this. He said, “Go back and talk to your younger self and forgive her for the mistakes she made. Tell her you love her and you understand.” So the other day, while chanting, which anyone else could do using any way their faith dictates or even with no faith at all, using any means that helps give them with clarity. I sat down in the chair in front of the scroll of my Gohonzon to chant, already understanding the outcome will be difficult to deal with.
I have been through decades of illness and surgeries and ongoing pain because my younger self stuck needles in her arm to get high and contracted the virus Hep C. This wasn’t even a word in our vocabulary at that time, but would it have made a difference to me if it was? I didn’t know then why I said yes to drugs. I know the answer now. It was a cause made somewhere in my long existence and the effect came forth at the time it was meant to. I blindly followed the intended course. My younger self had no power over that karma the same way all karma affects the lives of others.
Some people have been taught, God pulls the puppet strings of their lives, but I never believed that. It made no sense. Not understanding why things happen doesn’t mean it was done by an outside source. It just means I don’t have the wisdom to understand it. Karma is the exact same thing as the lesson taught that reads, “You reap what you sow.” It doesn’t matter if you believe it. It is just as real as gravity. If you jump out of a plane you will fall to the earth whether you want to or not. We create what happens to us – and we repeat it until we learn the lesson it is teaching.
Unless you were born with an illness, ALL illness has a starting point that most people could have changed had they not done something to create it or perhaps allowing harmful things into their bodies that shouldn’t be there.
As I began chanting, relaxing myself with the deep breathing necessary to chant nam myoho renge kyo, I had a talk with my younger self at age 19. My 62 year old self, broken, stapled and screwed back together, gazed at a young girl the age my grandchildren are this day. They don’t know the word consequence any better than I did and think the only time that matters is this very moment.
I can so clearly remember a day, standing on the porch of someone’s house, looking out into a sunny day while watching people and cars move about in the course of their day. I thought to myself, I couldn’t see a time in the knowable future where I wouldn’t be sticking a needle into my bruised arm. These people didn’t know what they were missing. I hadn’t reached the point where the drug was needed to bring me up to normalcy. Forget getting high. I was using up my future life’s energy.
This younger me was so young, so perfect in her youth with her entire life ahead of her, and I cried. I sat there with my head bowed and tears flowed down my cheeks. I whispered to her, “I am so sorry. I’m sorry what my lack of wisdom did to you.”
“I understand now why you did it, but it took me a long time to learn the answers. Why you needed to become this other person who felt better about herself when shooting speed – I understand.” I continued, “You needed the false confidence it gave you to make friends. I understand being near people made you afraid. I understand how you felt you had no value, so why would anyone else think you had value and want to be near you? Why would anyone want to be your friend? I understand you couldn’t give these feelings a voice. When you are high you feel you have worth. You have not learned yet how to achieve the understanding of how much value you really have – without the drugs.”
As I write these words I look at my left hand. I am grasping my thumb in a tight first. It is what I have always done when I needed to hold and comfort myself; reassure I am really here.
Because of this; because of the mountains you will have to learn to climb that gives you the understanding of how powerful you really are, the me you see before you now has learned things I never would learned without the life you have yet to live.
Without this struggle I would be a different person. I am sorry about the decades of pain you will have to suffer through, that I have already lived. But you will be okay. Through this you will help many people and become a woman who matters – all because of what you learned to teach. I want to thank you for being the soul – the body I inhabited during birth. I wouldn’t trade you for anyone else. You don’t know these things yet and I wish I could help you along the way, but understand I love you and I’ll be waiting until you get here. Just know, you will live through this.
I am proud of you, so proud, because you will learn the value of your life and you live it, in spite of what others think. You will reach and fall and pick yourself up no matter how many times life tries to knock you down. You will dust yourself off and re-determine you are stronger than the rock that knocked you off balance. You won’t hide. You won’t quit because you still breathe. This is the effect of the cause that made you an addict so long ago. This is the lesson it was trying to teach you. You will never repeat it again.
I wrapped my arms around her and held her close. People who I thought loved her – loved me – yet resented who I became, because the truth of who this young girl grew to be, became too hard for them to look at and see the truth. So be it. It’s easier to be hateful than to look at why you hate. It’s easier to pretend she doesn’t matter than to face your own insecurities. I expected too much from people who had no capacity to show and accept responsibility for their actions. How could I expect them to understand mine?
I had no strength to explain to my younger self what was to come, some pain is deeper than the physical. But she will learn that in time. That is a pain I see no end to. It is something to bear in later years. Everyone has pain they have to lock away to survive.
No one gets out of life alive This was a year of loss and saying goodbye Was no one dying when I was young? or was death far away and I wasn’t among the people whose lives were nearing the end Did they manage to do what they did intend? Or did they say they didn’t have the time I’ll do it tomorrow or next year sometime Every day we hear that so and so died we stop, take deep breath and let out a sigh you know he had problems, his heart wasn’t strong I didn’t think he would live for very long Our habits, not caring, hasten our death you gotta go somehow, as we take our last breath She was such a good person, it’s a shame she’s gone But now she can be with her dear husband John People need to believe in a heaven above a place where our loved ones continue to love. She died much too young, she should have had years We now just have memories and sadness and tears We want to believe we’ll see them someday It helps us cope if we think there’s a way Many believe after death there is more Drawing our last breath opens a door Each in our own way finds a way to make sense of our life as we fade away Because no one gets out of life alive Every year has it’s loss and saying goodbye Soon it will be you, what will they say? What do you want remembered this day? I lived my life honestly and helped all I could I grabbed every dream, lived as good as I should I have no regrets, I learned from mistakes I lived my life fully, but in places it aches Someday I’ll be the one that others will miss I hope not with sadness, but with happiness
Today a paralegal called me back who I had spoken to last Friday. When we finished speaking she told me, “I went online after we spoke to find your music. I listened to it all day while I worked. It’s beautiful. You have a gift. I hope your arm heals okay. You have so much give.”
Such a simple sentence with so much power to heal the hurt and fear inside. A simple sentence many people are not able to say; withheld because it isn’t important to the giver. A simple fear; will I be able to raise my arm and play the piano without pain? Will I be able to open my arm and play a bass arpeggio? If that happened would I be told to just get over it? That would be likely.
SoundCloud – Sonni Quick. Hear my music at this link. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to download as an MP3 and I’ll make it possible.
Two days ago one of my oldest friends from jr high responded to a post I put online about my fall and she mentioned she has lost complete use of her right arm. A one line sentence with no explanation. I must call her today. How can I not? Had she told me before and I don’t remember? My mother had a stroke in April that affected her right side. It is somewhat stronger, but still she can’t hold a pen or feed herself with that arm and hand. This helps me understand their loss. I’m in a cast and a huge sling to immobilize my arm.
Throughout our lives we are sometimes faced with losing parts of our life, whether the death of a loved one or any part of our life cruelly snatched away. We have to learn to cope with it ouur it will kill some part of us. Sometimes it alters us permanently. You would think that experience would make us more sensitive of others, but I think it makes some of us want others to hurt as much as we do. If we have to lose, so does everyone else. Their pain is NOT MY FAULT we may think.
It’s been emotionally painful, knowing how much this fall could change my ability to play and possibly affect other plans for my life. I believe many creative people in all the arts are sensitive to the opinions of others. We expose ourselves to criticism and rejection of a very personal part of ourselves. It is not that everyone has to praise or love what I do, but rejection or disinterest by people who know me opens up a wound that goes deep inside. It can’t be fixed when it is done intentionally or callously with no regard. If the argument is given that it was done unknowingly then what does it say about the quality of that person to care so little,
These are the kinds of behaviors that go around, over and over, cause and effect that bring sadness; no one taking responsibility for the things they do yet seek understanding for themselves when the effect of their causes swing back to them. Can I treat people the way I’ve been treated? I don’t think so, but truthfully, I’m not sure. I would hope I wouldn’t be vindictive. I would be disappointed in myself if I did.
Today, this woman on the phone, a stranger, taking the time to tell me how she enjoyed my music gave me the boost of inner confidence I needed to hear to believe a little more that I will be okay. It gave me the determination to not only get it all back but to use this experience to add a deeper layer of expression to the emotions I play. We don’t often realize how much our words affect the people we speak to. Sometimes we are callous and don’t realize what we do. What we think, say or do affects our own life as well as the person we say it to. We reap the benefit of being positive, and we reap the negative of the pain we cause.
What I play are not compositions. They are improvisations. I do not “write” these pieces down so others can play them. They belong only to me and not to the interpretatiom of others. I can not play them again so I record while I play. I don’t think about what I play. I get a feeling – an emotion – and I let my fingers express it. Usually days later, after memory of playing it fades, I listen. Simple, clear, uncomplicated melodies. Close your eyes. Relax. Clear your mind of your worries. Regroup yourself. My music is a meditation..
Because I am very sensitive to emotions, the brightness in this woman’s voice was just the medicine I needed. She made the cause to brighten this woman’s day. She may not understand that but the effect of that cause will be there for her in her life regardless, hopefully as something nice done for her.
I am a Nichiren Buddhist. Our faith is based on the law of cause and effect. We take that very seriously. It makes US responsible for our lives and happeniness. Christians have something very similar in their teachings. It is called – you reap what you sow. There is also the Golden Rule. If you believe the Bible is irrefutably God’s word, how seriously do those phrases play a part in all you think, say or do?
My mother had a stroke. If you are fortunate enough to have one or both of your parents, you know some time in the near future, if they are elderly, time is going to rear it’s ugly head and you will witness the decline and disappearance of someone who may have been your rock your entire life.
In April of this year, my 83 year old mother had a stroke in the early hours of the morning. When she woke and found she couldn’t move and panicked. She slipped off the bed to the floor. After a couple hours she inched her way to the phone cord and pull it down from the table and call 911.
My mother doesn’t look at herself herself as 83. As long as she was able to go outside to her beloved bright blue Honda Civic and whiz off down the road, as she did her entire life selling Tupperware, she was happy – until one day, I heard a knock on my door early one morning. The ambulance service tracked me down because they couldn’t reach me by phone and told me my mother had stroke and was in the ER.
My husband and I were at the ER as fast as I could get dressed and made the 25 minute drive. What I found resembled a broken bird. My heart crushed but I still needed to smile for her. Her life crashed that day and was she would never going to be the same woman again. I understood how much this was going to cost her. Family came together quickly. Being the middle child of three girls who are close in age, born in ’53, ’54 and ’56, I wasn’t the baby in the family and compared too often with the first born.
The oldest of her daughters lives twenty minutes away, but might as well live on Mars because she made it known long ago she didn’t want her mother in her life. My younger sister lives 2 1/2 hours away. Instead of day to day care she takes care of bill paying and the multitude of calls to set up the help she would need when she came home. and has driven here every single weekend for at least one day. I absolutely detest making calls. Stomping on the phone with a big brick would be my first thought if it woke me up.
My younger sibling came flying into the hospital room letting everyone know she was now in control. Whoa . . . excuse me . . .hello, what am I, invisible? She gave the feeling that no one but her had the capabilities of making a decision. My sister and I had not talked at all for several years because she talks on the top of issues and I talk about why an issue is important. We speak two different languages and I get angry at her complete inability to accept responsibility for the causes she made.
Initially the bossy attitude pissed me off. She had not come out to visit with our mother in at least two years, only seeing her only for a couple days when my mother drove in to her high school class luncheons. Now she comes out usually one day a week for a few hours. Before the stroke my mother would drive to her house every two months for her high school class luncheon. My sister never lived close enough for daily visits on a whim. Cutting her some slack, though, her job for years didn’t give her 2 days off in a row. She did say recently, after five months of dealing with the stroke, thinking about something I said, she admitted she did come on too strong. That was surprising. She was used to doing things herself because then she knew they were done right. That admission was not easy for her to make. It is necessary for us to be able to work together on this and I can’t always talk the way she needs to hear it. Sometimes she needs to be able to hear what I say in the words I need to say it.
My mother told me on more than occasion, no one came to visit anymore and calls were rare. Her granddaughter who lives nearby seldom came. Her grandson, who used to come, didn’t come anymore and seldom, if ever, called her. She also said my sister didn’t call her as often as she used to. Why? Because busy lives come with their own set of obstacles to overcome. It is not unusual for younger people to think they can visit later and sometimes later is too late. Gradually, she only saw her family during planned holiday events and that bothered her enough to talk to me. She and I visited each other often because I live close by. This is not criticism. We all have our own lives to live, and have relationships that sometimes need work. Welcome to life. Every day is a gift we give ourselves and it isn’t to be wasted.
My relationship with my mother is deeper than she had with my sisters, because of our ability to talk. I am not saying I had a better relationship – we have a different kind of closeness. She and I are also both Buddhist and speak the same language of life. We are twins born 20 years apart. The similarities are almost scary. Knowing how she thinks and understanding what is going on in her head is easy because we often think alike. Would my sister argue with that? Probably, but how can you understand when you aren’t able to discuss what is going on in your own head, let alone your mother’s head?
Mom and I talk about issues for hours and apply the Buddhist theory of the law of cause and effect to understand why our lives have become what they did. What good is it to look outside ourselves for answers if we aren’t willing to do the work to change the parts of our lives we aren’t happy with. Ignoring the bad parts does not change a thing. We reap what we sow, if you believe the Bible. Buddhism is simply the law of cause and effect.
My mother is the only one in this family who understands who I am. I learned so much from her. Having her for my mother means I did something right somewhere. I am who I am because of her. She taught me strength and courage. She taught me to grab life by the horns and run with it. She said I lived a life she wished she had a chance to live but couldn’t, because women in the 50’s weren’t supposed to reach high. What she did to add income to their household was sell Tupperware – until she retired. Growing up at this time there was a lot of Tupperware in our home on order packing day!
My sister and I never had a close relationship. No sister talks not did we do things together. She stayed close to home and I left home at eighteen and moved many times. She does not have one clue about what makes me tick and if I try to encourage her to talk in any way, she shuts down. She stuffs what she can’t deal with and pretends they don’t exist. I stuff nothing. We don’t confront life with the same set of objectives and are extreme opposites. I’m not saying I am right and she is wrong. We are different and I can’t talk to her about anything deeper than the weather. We are a dysfunctional family.
I’m afraid of my mother disappearing. Hermemory before the strokewas at the point of repeating things but there weren’t gaps of time. Now there are sizable holes that pop up when we talk about certain times in the past. I am making recordings of her memories that no one else has shown any interest in doing – except maybe later. Family thinks they are doing all they can without being too disruptive to their own lives, but what about my life? Maybe my sister doesn’t want to see and shoves reality far enough inside to be safe so she can go about her life. My house is only a block away so I understood from the beginning that her care was going to fall on me. How else could it go? We would need a few weeks to see if a routine is established that allows me to do my work. Because I don’t get a paycheck and can’t get fired, do they see what I do as less important? Do they really know what I do because my mother has told them things? Do they understand why I do the things I do? No, how could they?
In addition to the different avenues I write for, I write record improvisational piano music. No one in my family was ever interested in my music. They know I have played piano my entire life but they have never heard me play or wanted to hear it. I wrote a piece for my niece for a special occasion. She wasn’t home when I took it to her house so I left it with her husband. She never thought to say thank you until I finally asked her one day if she received it. I wanted to believe it got lost and that was why I didn’t hear back. To be given something so personal and not say anything at all was hurtful. The music piece on this post is the one I wrote for her. It is titled Graduation Day. Spending twelve hours a day behind my computer is not unusual. In addition I teach a few piano students. My life is jammed, and doesn’t take a lot much twisting to get out of rhythm.
My family believes they are doing all they can for my mother. They want to think she is going to improve and be around for an indefinite number of years. My husband said, “Go. Stay with her. She needs you.” My niece is an LPN in a nursing home caring for elderly people. She knows the odds of her ever being completely self sufficient again. Not impossible, but age works against her. She works nights and long hours and has a family. Can she do more than what she is doing?
Five months in a nursing home trying to overcome a stroke is a long time, and a big shock to her. This type of illness is something you hope will never happen to you. It took the right half of her body. It is easy to see the damage to her right arm,hand and leg, but cut a body in half and see everything inside the body, from her brain, half her throat and vocal cords down through her bowels. With a brace on her leg and a belt around her waist she can get up to a walker while I make her walk throughout the day inside her home, and do other exercises. Use it or lose it.
She needs help with everything. The love I have for my mother and the realization someday she will be gone is something I know I can never prepare myself for. This stroke made that very clear, and to lose pieces of someone is worse than if you have a cut and quickly rip off a band-aid.
Two weeks ago she finally came home and I have been by her side because she can do little by herself. They declared her independent, I think, because they knew she had family. But if I couldn’t be with her she would not be able to go home. My mother tells herself she is going to overcome this and even drive again. She needs to believe this to push through the permanent fatigue the stroke caused. But who knows? She has determination and that is the only thing that will make it work. My niece and my sister are doing all they can, they think, but they get to go on with their lives and fit my mother into their schedule when they can.
I’m going to make this paragraph as short as I can because I have already written about the liver transplant that caused me to have to move home, close to the family I thought would be there for me through this. It didn’t happen. I can’t find closure. I had no one but my husband to care for me for the two years I spent mostly in my bed. The family members I deal with today treated me as though I was an evil person out to hurt my mother, yet no one ever talked to me about why. Not one time did I receive a phone call to asking if I was still alive; before the transplant or after. It is hard for me to forget that.
This is a poem I wrote earlier and posted that says how I feel.
My sister won’t talk to me about it because she insists she didn’t do anything wrong. Her words were, “I have nothing to be sorry about.” That was damn hard to hear. Am I supposed to pretend it never happened, because I can’t. Not once has she made even the smallest effort to make it better. Doesn’t Christianity teach that we are to treat people the way we want to be treated? Buddhism teaches why we need to, because karma is a bitch. What if she ever needed me? Could I be as callous as to her as she has been to me? I don’t think I could.
The strength I need to not let the pain come out, because of what my family did to me during my illness, is sometimes more than I can control. The words “I’m sorry,”has never been said. We now see it takes three people to care for my someone. I’m just supposed to forget about that now, because it is in the past even when it is right in my face.
My sister threw in my face, “I don’t know how to be a sister, but all my friends love me.” I lost it – I absolutely lost it. Why do they love her? Maybe because she cares about them. In her stories I am sure I am the only one at fault. We are in our 60’s, isn’t it getting a little late now? I tell my mother I’m done, I will never try again. She says to me, “No you aren’t. You have to keep trying to reach her. Some day she will listen.”
This story is not unique. There are grown children caring for parents everywhere, and some of it is from a distance. These are painful times. My sister and I deal with life in a different way. It is harder for me because this “thing” between us is an infection with a light scab and I bleed when it is She is right, she didn’t physically do anything to me. The hurt is because she wasn’t there for me when I needed her and didn’t care what happened to me that created a hurt unable to heal. In the past few years not seeing her at all I could push it away. I can’t now.
My brother-n-law is a very caring person. He has sent my mother at least 160 get well cards. He has other people he sends cards to every day as well. I have known him for decades, but not one card was sent to me – by anyone in my family. Am I feeling sorry for myself?
There is a positive inside every negative. If I hadn’t needed a transplant I would never have moved home. I owned a store in Key West I loved. But could I be here now for my mom? Would she never leave the nursing home to be in her own home with her 15 year old cat? If my mother didn’t have a stroke would my sister and I never be in the situation where we have to talk to each other? She is not a mean person. Why was she mean to me? Everything happens for a reason. What we learn from these things enables us to grow as human beings. Is there a possibility to see things from the perspective of someone else?
What is the real truth of anything if you only ever listen to one side of a story? This truth can become ugly if the nature of the person is negative. This is how I became someone to be gotten rid of when I moved home. Those are the words my sister spoke to me. “I will get rid of you if it is the last thing I do,” . Tell that to a dying person of liver failure and liver cancer. it wouldn’t take much to be rid of me. Can people admit their perception might be wrong? It’s hard sometimes to admit out loud you might be wrong. For my sister, my internal pain isn’t real and she didn’t care what happened to me. “Apologize? Me? I didn’t do anything to apologize for.”
P.S. I’m not looking for sympathy, but have you ever had someone in your life that couldn’t -wouldn’t hear the truth?
I recently put a blog post on my other blog that has a new piano recording in it. I wasn’t going to reblog it, but you can read it here if you want to. Today I only wanted to focus on the music.
My dream from very early childhood was to compose the most beautiful music in the world. A childish dream but never forgotten. I didn’t play well at the age of 7, but I could hear it inside me. I just didn’t know how to get it out. Even as an adult, through years of playing professionally and practicing every day it still wasn’t there yet. I have stacks of songs I wrote and lyrics and piano arrangements but it still wasn’t what I heard inside.
Then I lost it all. I thought I was done. My piano gathered dust for 12 years. I lost my identity. At least I thought I did. I didn’t know who I was. I had always known, “I was a musician.” I felt I had lost the right to call myself a musician. I felt like a part of me had been amputated and it was a painful blow to my life.
Then Jamie Cummings entered my life – the man in prison from my other blog. Through years of knowing him, his pain was stronger than mine. Then I nearly died in need of a liver transplant. That pain was like none I’d ever felt before. The recovery was very long and some of the damage done is what it is. Pain and I are good friends. It let’s me know every morning, I didn’t die in my sleep.
But something changed. I needed a way to express the pain. Not what I was feeling about me, but the pain I carried for Jamie – his pain and his loss. No one who should was recognizing his pain. It is a horrible pain when you realize that the people who should have cared – didn’t, and you are left to rot. Because without any love at all you begin to die inside. People told him, “I don’t write to you or help you because it hurts ME so much that you are in there.” That doesn’t make any more sense today than it did the first time I heard it. He and I understood our pain. Even through the hell he lived in he worried more about me than about himself. Where does a friend like that come from? How could I let him down, no matter what people thought?
I started to play again. I can’t really explain it, but instead of creating music from the outside by developing a cord structure and building a melody around it, I crawled inside the music and let it play itself. My fingers know what to do like a typist knows a keyboard. I knew what I was feeling so I mentally got out of the way and let my fingers express it. I don’t listen while I play. I just play. I hear it in the background like it comes from somewhere else. I record everything I play. I sometimes don’t listen back for days so I can hear it as something new. I can never replay anything because I improvise as I go. After that it is gone.
When I listen to music I recorded 2 years ago and those recorded recently, I can hear the progress and it is getting closer to what is inside. I’m not done yet. Where is it going? I don’t know. The process and progress is exciting. There ARE advantages to aging – experience. The more I immerse myself in the emotion I want to convey, the more that feeling emerges. Yes, there is, technically, an occasional wrong note – but are they really wrong notes?
I enjoy sharing my music with people who want to hear it. I know it may not be everyone’s style. Even listening once means a lot to me. You sharing it from soundcloud or anywhere else puts it out to new people. More people hear it. Leave a comment. Add a like. Stats are the name of the game. Who says a 62 year old woman is too old to keep creating something new?
Put your head back. Close your eyes. What does it make you feel? Play it again. Where does it take you? Can you do that for me?