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Distracted From Ourselves November 17, 2012

Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
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I was just in Brighton, UK, on business for a week. Winter is not exactly the best season to be there but I do happen to enjoy Brighton anytime of the year. It’s one of those cities where you can live perfectly well without a car. The public transportation is prolific, regular and predictable and many areas of town are pedestrian biased with charming surroundings. I usually leave there feeling more fit and healthy than when I left. The cool, moist sea air cleans out the dust I’ve accumulated in my lungs from desert living and there are enough hills to get one’s heart pounding. Great food abounds. Yet unlike NY or San Francisco, Brighton center is smaller and more manageable. There are many narrow streets filled with one-of-a-kind shops and surprises around every corner or tucked away in some unsuspecting alley way. People fill the streets in the evenings and all day on weekends. Friends sit outside of the pubs or cafés bundled up chatting while families stroll along looking like they are having a great time. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

As is my routine, I went out early each morning when the streets are empty, to have a brisk walk and to get caffeinated at one of the coffee houses I frequent. After six days of gloom and rain the sun finally broke through one morning. When the sun peeks out, even a tiny bit, it’s celebrated as if it were the liberation of a country from years of bitter tyranny. Even in 48 degree weather people will be out in droves wearing shorts. I even saw a couple of people trooping around in nothing more than a T-shirt that day.

After my morning coffee, I left that wonderful section of town, called the Lanes, and made a left turn onto a main road almost colliding with a young woman rushing to get somewhere. She was wearing rather large headphones connected to a device hidden in her pocket; a smart phone I suspect. She seemed decisively cut off from the world. I was barely noticed and not acknowledged. It got me thinking.

My thoughts on such walks are usually all over the place but in their own fascinating way they always seem directed towards working things out or trying to come to greater understandings. For instance, I was planning to bring K along with me this year and while walking around town, every time I’d pass something that I really liked, I would get excited about sharing it with her – that is until I realized it will never be. I kept going through that thought process over and over again understanding a little more deeply each time that it would never come to pass. My thought pattern was part of a greater process of learning to accepting my loss and no direction was needed from me. In the quiet, distraction free periods of my walk the internal work I needed to do happened quite naturally. And it felt so good.

There was an article I came across recently about how, according to one nurse who specializes in caregiving end of life patients, grieving is a process in which a person seeks equilibrium. Normalcy.  She even refers to the bereavement stage as the creation of a “new normal” ; a kind of homeostasis. I really like that word homeostasis. At its Greek root “stasis” means “standing still”. It’s while standing still that one can observe with greater precision what’s going on.

We live at a time when it’s far too easy to distract ourselves, be in constant motion and not allow a natural inner process to happen. The result is that we give up a lot.  With the process I went through being a care-giver and a constant companion to another human being, I certainly could have benefitted from more quiet time with myself. There’s a time for distraction, but the insights that come as a result of “being still” are invaluable. It’s sometimes scary to be silent and alone with one’s self, but maybe it’s because we’ve made it such a foreign part of our lives. I remember times visiting my father and how uncomfortable he would be if we weren’t discussing something or busy. I spent a day with him once and I swear he spoke virtually non-stop from 9:00 am in the morning until I dropped him off at his home later that night. Whenever there was a moment of silence he just had to break it. On his way out of the car he said to me “You talk so little!”

It is so easy with our myriad devices to plug in, turn on and tune out around the clock whenever the discomfort of silence overtakes us. Ha! I not only travel with a laptop and smart phone now, but I also carry a tablet! How nuts is that?

Now that K is gone I find myself spending plenty of time alone and in complete silence. In the quiet I find I can more easily review what happened and see things that I hadn’t noticed before. I don’t try to do this, it’s automatic when not distracted from myself. I am now seeing things that could have made the end of life process and care-giving even more meaningful and warm for K and myself. I could have seen it then if I had given myself the space. Now it does no one any good. I don’t feel I’m beating myself up over this, I’m simply recognzing the value of the time we can spend with our self and how much it can reveal to us.

Our natural internal intelligence is an incredible gift and seems to have an extraordinary ability to take in a wealth of information and, if left alone, will in some mysteriously way make sense of it and show us our next step or reveal what it is we’ve been trying to see all along. It really amazes me. Have a happy Homeostasis.


1. blessedbebeth - Middlescapes.com - November 17, 2012

wonderful insights. What you share may not have been realized in your time of caregiving with K, but it seems to me that all of us benefit from your hard won wisdom. Also, loved reading about Brighton and seeing the pictures. Blessings to you.

ijwoods - November 18, 2012

Hi Beth. It was fun to be able to post some of my photos from Brighton. I went to Brighton about 3 weeks after K passed away and though I liked being there her absence was very strong for me. Time is an amazing thing. Someone dear to me once said that time is like a river in which you can clean things. It’s so true. Time is a great asset.

2. bethhavey - November 18, 2012

When my father died, my mother was left with 3 children to raise under the age of six. She found a woman to come in and help her and spent a lot of the first year grieving. But truly what she was doing was deciding how to live with herself and what her life would be like. Some of her choices were made for her, she had to work, but others were of her own choosing. Over the years, from things I learned about her before my father’s death, I saw what an amazing woman she became AFTER my father died. She would not have been this person with him in her life. And I believe I just write this idea in wonder–because my mother provided me, a growing woman, with a wonderful model to follow. BUT SHE WAS NOT A FEMINIST. We always laughed about that, as she refused to argue for higher pay for women when it would have benefited her.

We bring to our lives what went before a loss and change in ways we cannot begin to guess, after.
Thanks for your amazing writing. Beth

ijwoods - November 18, 2012

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing that Beth.

3. Chris MacLellan ''The Bow-Tie-Guy' - November 18, 2012

“In the quiet I find I can more easily review what happened and see things that I hadn’t noticed before. I don’t try to do this, it’s automatic when not distracted from myself.” OH Ira, so much beauty here! When we are in the middle of Caregiving, there is so little quiet time to reflect. We all want that ‘crystal ball’ to know that we are doing the right thing. Sometimes just being there is the right thing! Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful holiday!

ijwoods - November 19, 2012

Thanks Chris. I find it of unending interest that for so many years I hadn’t acknowledged how distracted I become. I remember in college blasting the Doors or the Stones and trying to study. What a disaster. I have come to notice over all these years that when the urge to distract myself comes on strong I seem to be running away from something. Now I wait to discover what it is I’m trying to avoid. When the mind is undistracted it is a powerful tool. When I am clear about life, it becomes a powerful friend. All the best to you Chris and you also have a good holiday!

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