dimanche, décembre 04, 2011

I'm Elizabeth, and I'm an addict. You may be one, too.

It was a bright, lovely fall day on Saturday -- but you probably noticed that.

The recipient of a few hours of leisure time while my son filmed himself re-enacting the battles of Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, I went for a long walk around Springton Manor Farm.

Now owned by the county, the farm was once, so I've heard, owned by two single ladies who left its many acres of hills and streams to people like us to enjoy. I often wander down there, and while hiking around, say a brief prayer of thanks to those long-gone women for their generosity to me and the rest of the hoi polloi.

We're so fortunate to live where we do. If I'd been been less tense yesterday, I would have been more able to take in the pure gift of the water and the breeze and the light.

Instead, I was like one of the warriors in "Braveheart" or in the Civil War battle that my son was filming -- on guard, distracted, worried about a threat that I would not see coming, and searching for it anyway.

But there was no threat in that cloud-studded sky.

I am a stress addict.

Argue whether or not it's my fault -- coping with six months of medical crises, the challenges of parenting a daughter in full-scale adolescent rebellion and a clever mind she doesn't choose to use, living in a house where I have no authority, and the day to day problems of looking for work would be stressful for anyone.

And then there is the fact that when it comes to relationships, I am both overly cautious and perhaps not careful enough. Who knows? Why should I think myself exempt from the human condition? Everyone acts foolish now and again.

Sometimes two people do it together.

Meet Elizabeth, who let her heart rule her head and got hurt. Lesson learned.

The fact is, though, that life is improving. The house will be done within a month or so. The kid's dad is getting better (though he's also less willing to take on the parenting fray). Whether my daughter chooses to do her or work or not is up to her -- all I can control is my reaction. Growing into a young woman of striking loveliness, she has been given much raw material with which to sculpt a life.

Perhaps maturity will enable her to grasp the nettle with both hands.

And my son continues to be a source of almost unalloyed joy, not solely because he reminds me so often of the mother and great-grandmother I adored.

So why am I constantly on guard, increasingly plagued by the migraines that used to visit once a year?

Because, right now, that's what I know. Because where once I used to self-medicate with food, I find that doesn't satisfy me. Because I'm not much of a drinker. Because I never took up smoking.

Because I haven't had either the discipline, or the drive (until now) to be otherwise.

And because, probably, I was born wired. Anxiety is a family trait.

Recently, I've been reading Mary Karr's autobiographical "Lit." It's the story of her often tragic family life, and her struggle to medicate away the pain with booze and a crushing lack of esteem for herself and those around her.

Her recovery is based (as I read it), in part, on accepting that her mind, her questions, her snotty over-intellectual attitude get in the way of self-acceptance, of forgiveness, and of God-acceptance.

There's an urgency and discipline in the last part of the book the reverbrates in me, like the tinkling of a Buddhist prayer bell.

It is time.

Time to reach for health.

Time to embrace pleasure, whether I fall across it, or someone offers it. Unless, of course, they live in the South (smile).

Time to accept that right now, I am in this place -- and that it gives me a lot to work with.

Time to trust the good in myself -- and in others.

I don't know if any of what I have written finds an echo in your heart -- but if it does, carpe diem.

For now, as Jon Kabat-Zinn reminded me virtually this morning -- now is all the time we have been given to work with.

Make the most of each moment.

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