The other night I was lying in bed, listening to an audio course before falling asleep. It was Tara Brach’s Free Yourself From Blame & Resentment on InsightTimer. I went through it for the first time last fall and have listened to the ten episodes three or four times since then. In an early episode Brach talks about “not putting anyone out of your heart” and that perspective has been meaningful to me.
As I lay there, listening, thinking about not putting anyone out of my heart, I thought about my last visit with my mom. I didn’t put her out of my heart because my heart wasn’t there. It wasn’t even in the neighborhood.
So, I’m going to use a new mental model when I go back in July. No more going back as the home health aid. No more lime green polo shirt. I’m going back as a daughter and this time I’ll imagine I have a wounded leg. And she’ll have one, too.
The image comes from a story Brach tells. The gist is: a man is walking down a road. He sees a dog lying under a tree. He decides to pet the dog. But as he gets close, the dog starts snarling, growling, jaws snapping. The man becomes frightened and angry at the dog and backs away. But as he does so, he sees that the dog’s leg is caught in a trap. The dog is wounded. And this causes the man to feel compassion for the dog.
I had an old wound on my foot that should help me remember to be compassionate. In college I was playing in a pickup volleyball game. Because we didn’t all have the right footwear we were playing barefoot, feet squeaking on the hardwood. I dove for a ball, slid across the floor, and took a layer of skin off the top of my left foot. It healed and it looks normal but for several years after, if you touched it, it would hurt. A sock made from scratchy wool was unbearable.
This is what I want to remember when I see Mom. Not the wounding but that we both have residual sensitivity. She and I can be extra sensitive around one another. Even a light touch on tender skin can hurt.
The home health aid image helped me not hook myself but also kept our hearts apart. I am hopeful that imagining tender legs will keep our hearts close and my words and actions kind.
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Chewing the Cud of Good
Summer: The smell of mown grass. Corn with butter that drips on my chin. Honeysuckle.