Mom's operation was in August of 2006, one month after the beginning of the three-year retreat. I had to learn to balance assisting her with my committment to more meditation practice and caring for the family. It was grueling. She could have died, but hung on with a will made of steel wire. But she never quite recovered fully. Instead, she became progressively weaker and more forgetful. Ten-hour operations are traumatic for older people.
In my sadness and outright despair I turned to my faith, of course, and I also reached for a book written by Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, and then another called Finding Your Own North Star. I'd found her through a weight loss program, and her philosophy was vehemently cheerful and outrageously joyful. She suggested writing down all the things that made you happy—all the things that made you sad. I did. I discovered that yoga, playing guitar, and being on retreat with my teacher were my happiest activities.
So I scheduled guitar lessons, enrolled in a local yoga school, and continued my home retreat.
Started to see the light. The stress lifted more and more.
Then Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love, hit the stands, and I fell in love with her and her search. Her determination to follow her bliss, not even knowing at the beginning of it what her bliss was, was heart-warming and encouraging. I started to try things I'd never done before to see if I liked doing them.
I started a blog and I started making malas for others, which I'd always done only for myself.
I love, love, love, doing both. Meeting all the wonderful people I've met online and through making malas has been, well, wonderful. I see more and more how connected and well-meaning we all are.
Since then I have followed my own lead and learned to do more of what makes me happy. My teacher says "learn to be your own best friend" and I have done that.
So when I write that I am so happy and so grateful, it isn't that I'm shoving anything beneath the rug or trying to psych anyone into thinking I'm perfectly adapted, it's just that:
I still get mad, still make stupid mistakes, still crave chocolate and coffee and way too many books, but there's more equilibrium now. It has been a rebirth of sorts.
What's your story? We all have them, don't we.
Follow your bliss!