At Home with Compassion

Sunny Greetings!  Welcome to where we love to talk about— You guessed it—Wellness and Spirituality, which of course, means talking about COMPASSION!

Everything seemed surreal as I drove into my hometown in 2008, looking at all the familiar scenes. I was blown away. Because unlike the many visits home I’d made for the past 30 years, now I was going home to stay with my parents and care for them. And I found it very, very difficult to believe.  I had never ever thought I’d be “going home” like this. I was leaving behind my beloved West Virginia homestead and my husband. In the car on the drive home, I had cried and cried.  But another part of me was thrilled.  My memories of my childhood are rich and joyful. I am so appreciative of my family and the home, neighborhood and town where I grew up. And when I made the decision to move back home to care for my elderly parents, I was delighted to be going back to the old neighborhood and also to be with my parents.

We create our own reality.  That’s a diehard tenant of my thinking. So how is it that I devised this surreal surprise? —Well, whatever the psychic–quantum mechanics of it, here I am. Age 58, home with my parents, day in and day out.

Deepak Chopra has said it concisely : “Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment, are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”

I know “precisely” several lessons I am learning from “going home.”  For instance, I am seeing in vivid detail the considerable number of fear and “worry” programs that my parents re-create faithfully, day after day….particularly my father.  So I know that I am programmed to worry, if not to fear all manner of worst case scenarios.

Secondly and not surprisingly, I see my parents’  attempts to treat me as their child, dictating for instance, what time I come home at night on the very rare and tame occasions that I venture out, leaving them with highly reliable substitute caretakers. So I know to give MY own children, who are now in their 20’s, with the same adult trust and respect I wish to receive from my own parents. (It is, of course, easier said than done, parenthood being what it is.)

But these are relatively simple straightforward lessons.  The other lesson is the clash of wills on an un-even battlefield. My father, a retired physician, was a sharp cookie in his day.  But, alas, he has slipped a good deal. Yet, he still wants to tell me “how” this or that should be done, even in cases in which, frankly, its absurd.  My challenge now, is to be simply compassionate–to not lock horns with him or worse, to humiliate or demoralize him by my own habit of self-defensive justification.

Compassion, diplomacy, gentleness in this relationship does not always come easily because I am dogged about Truth. Truth is my bag.  And when  my father insists, for instance, that there is something wrong with the sump pump and there is NOT anything wrong with the sump pump, what’s a body to do?

In the fall, I took a workshop with Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha.  While studying an audio book with fellow participants, we would listen a bit and then explain to each other what we had heard. No matter what my two partners said they had heard, we had been directed to say,  “I understand and you are right!”  That, Grandmother says, is compassion. To give up the need to be right or to righteously and vehemently defend a “truth” that may only be mine.

Truth is, after all, a perspective.  My father lay awake through several hours early one morning, certain that the sump pump was  malfunctioning because it was going off and on “every thirty seconds.”  Whatever the reality, in his mind’s eye, he saw the basement flooding. Over the monitor in my bedroom where I lay cozily in bed, I heard him distressfully explaining the dire problem to my sleepy mother. Knowing  this would not be resolved until my father was assured that the pump was working, I dragged myself from bed and went to my father.  It wasn’t easy. I checked the basement.  Bone dry. I checked the pump.  Looked as normal as pie. But only a plumber, an expert in the field–not his little daughter–could put his mind at rest. So we called the plumber who could not come till the next day and anyway…by then the incident was all but forgotten.

My father has a pacemaker, bad eyesight and an arthritic back. I sometimes think that all the stress of worrying that he has done in his life has created these conditions. He was a pediatrician and had to worry day after day about sick babies.

But more than that, I see there is chance after chance in my life now to say to him: “You are right. I understand.”  Indeed, I certainly  don’t have to stomp into his room and with an impatient voice of obvious displeasure and tell him he doesn’t know what he is talking about…even if he does NOT know. The man is 87 years old.  I came to Danville to care for him.  I’d like him to know serenity and I’d like to master the art of compassion.

I want to be at home with compassion.

Elizabeth Richie/Du’Tsu

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