A friend in Rishikesh sent me this cool video of a parent and child. Can’t help but make me smile.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, (Using Affirmations as Mantras), mantras are usually short Sanskrit sentences that translate often into some form of “I bow to God.” People łiving in religious communities that use mantras are encouraged to say their mantra all day every day. Saying a mantra quiets people’s minds and in so doing they are better able to focus on God.
Months ago, while I was living in a senior residential community, I faced a situation where that knowledge was useful.
I was beginning to have more trouble walking. One day, as I walked, my foot became caught in a paper bag. I was increasingly frustrated. No matter what I did, I couldn’t free my foot from the bag. Since then I’ve been told that that kind of experience and the accompanying frustration is typical in Parkinson’s patients.
About this same time, I started saying “I can’t do it” a lot. Eventually, I realized that I was immersed in negative thinking.
Whenever I heard myself say “I can’t do it. I changed it to “I can do it.” or “I will do it.” At times, I even used the line from ”The Little Engine that Could. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”. And once I achieved the challenging task, I said “I did do it.”
I decided if i was going to free my mind from negativity it could be done with a positive mantra. Tochange what I was saying to myself,I would change my mantra. While I knew that it’s best to say the mantra all day every day, I also knew that in therapy group we only expected clients to say it 1000 times a day. For this purpose I would say it anytime I was facing a challenging problem where I was tempted to say “I can’t do it” and if I still had problems I would bump the mantra repetition up to 1000 times a day.
I soon noticed that I was more successful in meeting my goals when I said the positive mantras, i.e. “I think I can” pretending I was the little engine chugging along the tracks or using ”I can do ït” or “I will do it” or “I did do it” as a positive mantra.
(Note: ”I will do it“ is the mantra that is most likely to be successful while “I can do it” and “ I think I can” tend to be less effective. Whatever the mantra is that brought you to success should be changed to “I did do it”once you’re successful. It is important that you reward yourself in this way.)
Three days in a row, Jerry has shown up at the western cafe. Is this the beginning of a new era? Is Jerry growing up? The last monkey post was the first of those days. And this one contains the next two days of videos. As Satvamrita’s mother, I am a bit concerned about the last one. What is for sure is we have the opportunity to work out issues related to living learning and letting go.
Lumosity consists of brain training games. I have been playing them on and off for about 10 years. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing them and also have enjoyed competing with myself and others my age.
Each game focuses on an area such as speed, problem-solving, attention, divided attention, memory, flexibility, etc. I am fascinated to see that even though my scores are lower than they used to be, I have the same strengths that I had when I played them before. My highest scores are problem solving, attention, and memory. My weakest area was speed in the past and it continues to be lower than other areas.
I remember having a lot of 97- 99 percentile when I was younger but now when I’m compared to my peers my highest areas are in the mid 60 percentiles with the exception of problem solving which is 88.4%
I have been able to get home health services since I have been staying at this senior living facility. One of the home health therapists focuses in part on cognitive areas. She thought any deficits I had could be attributed to stress, but suggested I do some brain training activities. She was delighted when I suggested Lumosity.
One day in the last few weeks, I got my foot caught in a paper bag when I went over it with my walker. I became very stressed when I couldn’t fix the situation.
I was able to eventually figure it out and free myself from the bag. But I am having more problems with my left foot freezing, especially when I’m stressed.
I am also challenged by getting dressed. Sometimes I can’t figure it out and I need help. I don’t necessarily like that I need help, but I appreciate that help is available.
I need to acknowledge and accept the grief about what I’ve lost without losing myself in it. And there will be lots of opportunities to use my problem solving, attention and memory skills. Thank you Lumosity for showing me I continue to have those skills.
I have had a recent reminder that my judgments may be wrong. It can be very difficult for me to open envelopes now. I often end up tearing the envelope and hoping I don’t tear what’s inside of it.
One day I got an envelope that was secured a lot more than normal. There seemed to be no way I was going to be able to get inside without getting help.
I became very judgmental. Don’t you know that I can’t get this open? How would they know? I didn’t even know the person that sent it. I went further into my tantrum. What do you think this is, Fort Knox?
When I tore the envelope open, I felt like the contents were very worthy of Fort Knox level protection. It was a gorgeous 3-D get well card from somebody I didn’t even know.
This incident will serve as a reminder to me that my judgments are not always right. Or warranted. This may have been the most beautiful card I have ever seen.
I have had more than two full and difficult months. When I last wrote about Al, I mentioned that he had had a stroke. His stroke was on the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, our son Satvamrita arrived from India to take care of him.
In that post, I said I didn’t know whether either one of us would live for a few days or ten or more years because the next moment is not in our hands.
On December 29, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked about two blocks from Al’s apartment. The friend that drove me and I were invited to come to his apartment for dinner after the appointment. We decided to go. I’m sure glad we made that decision. (I generally don’t go anywhere because of Covid.) That dinner was the last time I saw Al.
He had had trouble sleeping for months before the stroke. He would go to bed in the late afternoon, wake up about eight and then be up most of the night. He had followed the same sleeping pattern after his stroke. On January 6, he started sleeping all the time. Satvamrita wasn’t even able to wake him up for appointments. Then, in the early morning of January 8, he took his last breath. So he ended up passing in his sleep.
He was ready to go and he was finally out of pain. (He had been having severe leg pain for months if not years.) I wasn’t ready though. I had never considered it a possibility that he would be gone so soon. After all, Chaitanya was coming to relieve her brother in mid-March. In my mind, they would continue trading off caring for him for years.
I was also not at all prepared for how deeply Al’s death would affect me. When Satvamrita called me that morning to let me know his father had passed, he was feeling such deep grief. I burst into tears and felt so sad, sad for Al, sad for my kids, and sad for myself. I cried spontaneously many times over the next weeks and I imagine that will continue to happen from time to time. Al’s presence in my life clearly had meant a lot to me.
My kids planned their dad’s memorial to be held three weeks after his death. There was both an onsite function and a zoom option as some of Al’s contemporaries would have been hesitant to venture out in the current Covid situation. Since I am now living in a senior community, I also decided for the zoom option.
There was a video that was created for that event. My kids collected pictures from throughout his life and also some videos. They then sent them to a friend at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in India and she created the memorial video. I often cried as I watched it. It is so beautiful.
(The video has photos of when Al and I and our children were young, and information about his extensive career working with the homeless.)
Not only was I dealing with Al’s loss but I had to deal with the fact my children would soon return to India. Luckily they had spent significant amounts of time with me throughout their stay here. But letting go is still difficult.
They are presently in Norfolk, Virginia spreading some of their dad’s ashes and from there will go to Baltimore to do the same. On February 10, they will go back to India.
I know that I will talk to and correspond with them frequently when they return to India. They are always good about staying in touch. But it has been several long and difficult months. I know I have to be gentle with myself and I am very appreciative of all the friends that are helping me.
I will miss Satvamrita and Chaitanya and I will miss Al.
Al, Sreejit (his name before he was initiated as Satvamrita) and Chaitanya in 2018.
Before he died, Al wrote a memoir about his childhood. Although the memoir details many of the abuses he suffered, it is also an inspiring story of how he was able to keep picking himself up, over and over again to make the best possible circumstances out of the situations he found himself in. You can find both kindle and paperback versions on Amazon, if you’re interested.
I had six stories for the laughing series. I decided six was too many for one post so I’m putting the last three stories into this post even though I expect this one to be significantly shorter than Part 7.
My daughter put a microwave oven in my apartment in the senior living facility when she fixed it up. I haven’t had a microwave oven since I found paint chips in my food in my old one. When I looked in that microwave oven, I saw chipped paint on the top.
I hadn’t used a microwave oven since then, except when I stayed at a friend’s house in the summer of 2020. Using one then reminded me how convenient it was to use one. So I wasn’t totally opposed to having it, especially since I knew wouldn’t be cooking on the stove top.
I had friends that objected though and suggested that I get a toaster oven which is what I have at home. They were even willing to go out and find me one. I was surprised when the one they bought was smaller than the microwave oven and since the kitchen has very little counterspace that was especially good.
I had been using the microwave oven to heat eye compresses so they put it on top of the refrigerator and plugged it into the same outlet that the refrigerator was plugged into.
I had second thoughts about that, and checked the Internet to see if it was okay. When I did that, I discovered that nothing should be plugged into the same outlet as the refrigerator. I was not surprised and had somebody unplug it for me. Later, another friend said my microwave oven was now a fly-proof storage unit.
I’m not used to being in Seattle for Christmas. For the last 30 years, I have been in India for almost all Christmas seasons. So when I fully realized I wouldn’t be going there, I wanted to get some Christmas presents, I wondered where to put them in the small studio apartment.
When I looked around, I noticed the microwave oven on top of the refrigerator. I remembered the friend commenting about it being fly-proof. It also would not be where anyone would look for anything and it certainly would not be used for cooking, since the plug and cord were hanging loose on the side of the refrigerator. So that microwave oven truly became a fly-proof storage unit!
Satvamrita became a brohmachari (monk) in March 2020. He received a new name at that time. (Before that he was named Sreejit, a name given to him by Amma when he was 15.)
His new name was much harder to remember. Al, his father, still called him Sreejit when talking about him (since Satvamrita was in india).
After Al had a stroke, Satvamrita came to Seattle to take care of him. Al wanted to say the new name correctly but he couldn’t, and so in his confusion used other names. The most common name that he was now calling my son was “Karuna,” my name! So Satvamrita heard “Karuna” many times a day.
On December 29, I came to Seattle for a doctors appointment. There was still snow on the ground.. Afterwards, since it was two blocks away, the friend who drove me and I went to Al’s apartment for dinner. I hadn’t seen him since before he had the stroke.
We didn’t stay long for a variety of reasons. Among them was the fact that between dealing with the snow, seeing Al, and the doctors visit, I was totally exhausted.
Satvamrita walked us out to the car. As we left the apartment, I needed help getting my walker over the edge of the doorway. I looked at my son and called out to him, “Al!” He looked at me shocked, “You too???” he said.
I thought that mistake was pretty funny and am still laughing about it.
I was awake from 1 to 3 AM two nights ago writing this last piece of this post in my head. I cried during part of it. I wish I had actually written it down because what I remember isn’t as complete as what I composed during the night. But it’s close.
One of the first things that happened after his stroke was that AL wanted somebody to notify all of his Facebook friends. That request was fulfilled.
One of the people that he notified was a friend that he used to work with and they had a large box of ice cream delivered to his apartment. There were 6 different kinds of ice cream in it.
Al goes to sleep about 5:30 in the evening now and he often wakes up throughout the night. One night, at 3 am Al called out to Satvamrita in the next room, “Does anybody want ice cream?” “No,” Satvamrita answered. A few moments later again Al called out, “Are you sure.” “Yes,” Satvamrita affirmed. Al had already had ice cream twice that day. Hearing the silence that followed, Satvamrita got up and brought the smiling Al some ice cream.
For some reason, I thought that him asking for it at 3 am was really funny. More importantly, the incident shows how people can make a difference in someone’s life by something that is as simple as sending/bringing them some ice cream.
Because of his stroke, I have realized what a difference Al has made in my life. In the late 1960s he protected me by sitting all night with me at a pier on the Seattle waterfront after I had missed my college dorm curfew. In the 1970’s, we attended concerts by Tina Turner, James Brown, War and others. Later we raised two wonderful children together, even after we were divorced. The hard and painful times that occurred back then are no longer important to me.
Before his stroke we talked on the phone every day for months. I know he was frustrated that he couldn’t do more to help me through my illness but those phone calls were a big help. I’m feeling a similar helplessness that I can’t make it better for him now, but am so grateful that our kids can help him.
This contemplation is giving me an opportunity to reflect on how many other people have made a difference in my life: Amma, my children, my friends, my spiritual community, my colleagues, my clients, my neighbors, and the staff and residents here in Woodinville. And I know I have made a difference in many of their lives as well.
I believe that the next moment is not in our hands. I don’t know whether Al and I will live for a few more days or 10 or more years. What I do know is that our friends and family are pitching in and helping us. They are making a difference. And I appreciate them more than I can say.
This post didn’t turn out to be the short one I visualized when I started it but it turned out to be an important one.
I bought a new T-shirt three or four years ago. I thought the design on it was lightning. I was dismayed when I discovered that it was actually a depiction of an angry bird.
I did not want to wear a picture of an angry bird on my T-shirt but it is the most comfortable T-shirt I’ve got and it is also easy to get in and out of. Both of those qualities are very important to me right now.
As I continued to think about it, I remembered when the crows used to dive-bomb me in the Greenbelt behind my house. There was an old helmet that had been left in the Greenbelt sometime in the past. If it hadn’t been so dirty, I would have been tempted to put it on as I felt I was being attacked. I was told that it was nesting season and that I was coming too close to their nests. The crows were only protecting their young.
This year, the same thing happened at the place that I am staying now. Crows dive-bombed me two different times in May or June. It happened in different parts of the property, so I don’t know if it was the same crow or two different ones. Those incidents happened three or four weeks apart. Both times, I could feel the wings of the crow touch my head. And once again, it was nesting season so the crows were simply protecting their babies.
When I remembered those experiences, I no longer cared about wearing a T-shirt that had a picture of an angry bird on it. Then, I realized that my role as a corrective parenting group psychotherapist had been to teach adult men and women how to take care of their inner children.
As such, I was an advocate for the young. I was also a protective mom when it came to my own children. Even though they are now adults, I don’t want anyone messing with them and will definitely come to their defense, at least in my mind.
So now I am able to wear my angry bird T-shirt proudly. It is one of the symbols of my life. What are the other symbols? I’ll have to think about that.
When my friend Pat mentioned a warning that went through his mind the other day, it occurred to me that I had missed an important aspect in my “Stay Alert” post. The area that I had not thought to include is to stay alert for warnings. We often are warned about impending problems but instead of heeding the warning we may answer the inner voice with a flood of discounting responses.
I wrote a post (Heed the Warnings) about these warnings in 2014. I gave a lot of examples from my life. I suggest you read that post first and then read this one. This post I consider an addendum to my recent Stay Alert post.
I asked Pat to write down and send me a copy of the warning so I would be sure to report it accurately. What he wrote was an expanded form, written after he read my 2014 post. I am going to include most of his comments. He wrote:
Loved the “inner voice”! Reminds me of the times I have heard “that voice” – that quiet voice …
And as Karuna knows, I heard it just recently about ten days ago when I was walking through the fraternity’s renovation project and heard that voice say, “watch out for nails!” . . . Just before I stepped on a nail! OUCH! 😳😲😀😂 (and just between you and me 😂 I didn’t listen to nurse Karuna’s voice telling me to get a tetanus shot . . . But I survived and all is well!)
I saw a new doctor a few months ago. At one point during the appointment, he saw that I had something in my mouth and probably figured that it was gum or candy. He stuck out his hand and said “Spit it out.” I was shocked but I’ve been laughing about it ever since. I am 72 years old. I wondered if he had children and how old they were. At the time, I simply mumbled “It’s for dry mouth and it is gone now.“
I kept waiting for something else funny to happen. One day last week, my phone provided me with that experience. I dictate almost everything nowadays. What I dictate and what the phone writes is often drastically different. That day, I wrote a friend who is out of the country and said I hoped that she and her husband were having a good time. What the phone wrote was “I hope that it was everything that you want and that you were in the freezer having a good time as well.” I have laughed about that change ever since it happened. Where does the phone come up with these things? At least this time it was not cussing.
Two friends visited me a few days ago. I was telling them about something that I wrote about in the first post of this series. The husband’s response was funny. I wanted to use it and to quote him correctly so asked him to write it down for me. When I received it in the written form, I discovered he had added to it. This was his response:
The way I figure is if you are old enough to be passing by a window, and you haven’t seen a naked body — now is as good as time as any! Not that I would give them much to see, and quite likely could scare the aliens away from the human race if they were seeking a probe-able body. In reality, I would likely be a little embarrassed, but not enough to think twice about the matter. 😊
If you don’t know what this is referring to I suggest you go back and read or reread the first post. I still am uncomfortable with the thought somebody might walk by my window and see my butt but I always laugh when I think of these responses.