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Friday, July 30, 2010

Living Backwards

I've been doing a lot of walking lately.

It's not only great exercise, but it helps to clear the mind. It's also a great way to pray.

If I jog, I have to think of too many things. My breath. My pulse. The road ahead. Cars, sometimes. Pedestrians, other times.

And dogs.

Some of them get very upset and bark Very Loudly. Enough to wake up the dead as well as some babies who might be sleeping. Sometimes, they run out after you, thinking, I suppose, that you may be running off with something that belongs to their pack.

It's hard to think, much less pray.

But, walking is a very different sort of exercise. Not as good, perhaps, as a jog, but it depends, I suppose on what parts of your body you want to exercise.

I like engaging my mind, my heart and my soul as I use my body. A good, long walk will accomplish all of that.

I have found it deeply satisfying.

My kid brother walks all the time. He's found that it's the one thing he can do, now that he has Alzheimer's. The disease has progressed to the point where he can't drive a car or ride his bicycle. He's lost half the vision in both of his eyes and half the hearing in both of his ears.

There is no end to the cruelty and indignity of Alzheimer's Disease. The horror is that there is more to come. We all know this. We take one day at a time.

My brother has risen above it. I learned a long time ago from a man with 40 years of recovery under his belt that "You don't always get what you want. You don't always get what you need (with apologies to the Rolling Stones). You get what you get and you make the best of what has been given."

And, my brother does exactly that. He's a continual inspiration to me.

I have a wonderful walking stick which I plan to give him when I go up to the Boston area to visit with him again. I got it in Ghana when I was there several years ago. It's hand-crafted. Elegant. Lovely. I think he'll enjoy it very much. And, I suspect, it will be useful to him, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

I had a dream the other night that startled me and caused me to reconsider my gift.

I was walking, alone, without my walking stick. A First Nation woman suddenly appeared up ahead on my path. I recognized her immediately as the woman who had been my Spiritual Guide when I first began the journey on the path that led, eventually, to ordination in The Episcopal Church.

She died a few years ago. While I grieve her loss on this earthly plane, I often feel her Spirit. She comes to me, sometimes, in dreams. Very vivid dreams.

Other times, she comes to me during the day and whispers to me from beyond. Wise words. Words of comfort and healing. Words of chastisement. Words of inspiration.

Not always what I want or what I think I need, but words I always try to make the best of because I know they are gifts from her.

I approached her with great joy. It is always good to see her again. While she seemed pleased to see me, I could tell she was not exactly pleased.

"Where is your walking stick?" she asked, more than a little annoyed.

"I'm giving it to my brother," I answered, thinking she'd be pleased with this response. "Besides, he needs it more than I do."

She smiled warmly at me and said, "Yes, this is true. This is good."

Then, looking annoyed again she said, "Wait here. Do not continue on this journey. I will get another walking stick for you."

My dream ended then. I awakened startled but with a sense of anticipation. As the day wore on, I wondered if I should reconsider my gift to my brother. I wondered what she would bring me.

My old friend, Worry, came and kept me company for a while, until I asked her to leave. I told her that I trust my Spiritual Guide. She left, reluctantly, peaking around trees and rocks here and there as I tried to wait patiently.

Just this morning, a friend sent me a message on FaceBook. She has a gift for me, she wrote. Could she tell me about it? Sure, I said, distracted by multitasking.

It's a Native American walking stick, she wrote.

I immediately burst into tears.

These kinds of things don't always happen to me, but they have happened enough over the years for me to know that there is something to Jung's idea of synchronicity.

One of Jung's favorite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards".
'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
'Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.
My friend is bringing my new Native American walking stick with her when she comes to church on Sunday.

I will bring my old Ghanaian walking stick to my brother next week. It has taken me as far as it can. It's time to pass it on.

I'm going to be starting a new journey. I'll be living backwards into my forward and backward memory so that I can walk into the future.

It's called synchronicity.

It's the work I'm apparently called to do, now.

But first, I think I'll have some jam to-morrow and yesterday.

It's the rule.


Joie said...

No words. Beautiful. So glad for the gift you can give your brother and the gift that is coming to you. Okay, that's a few words.

JimB said...

I and others I am sure, continue to hold your family and especially your brother in our prayers.

Your post is beautiful.


The Crow said...

Lovely post, Elizabeth. I hope the worst of your brother's future never quite reaches him.

I borrowed the quote from John Souza and placed it at my blog, with a link back to you. I recently had to learn to ask for help, and found his quote quite helpful and personally meaningful.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, your post gave me a frisson of recognition and remembrance of similar experiences in my life.

I once jogged, but I stopped a good many years ago, partly because I never enjoyed jogging. Walking, on the other hand, I love. Good for thinking. Good for praying. Some of my best prayer times come during my walks.

Your brother, SIL, and you are on my daily prayer list.

Love and blessings.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Ok. I am officially spooked. As we vivid dreamers often are, in that Twilight Zone sort of way. But of course we await the next dream anyway!

Ali said...

Well, that's a "God-incidence" if I've ever heard of one. The journey certainly is easier when supported, isn't it.

Muthah+ said...

I always knew you carried a big stick because you walk SO QUIETLY? Nahhhh!

Ana said...

Beautiful. Thanks.