When we were little, my dad signed us all up for a Transcendental Meditation (TM) class.
My mother thought TM was the craziest thing ever. At the end of the first class, there was a special ceremony where we were each given a unique mantra to repeat during our twice a day meditation practice. Special blessings were said and the instructors even threw rice at us to celebrate. My mother yawned throughout the ceremony. Needless to say, she did not return to the remaining classes. Looking back, I am not surprised.
My mother does not see herself as an anxious, nervous or worrying type.
My dad had a lot of friends who were constantly throwing parties. He always brought all of us with him. I remember how uncomfortable my mother was at these events. She would complain, saying she was uninterested in my dad’s friends. But looking back, I now know she was simply nervous, anxious. And maybe even scared.
There was this one– very memorable office Christmas party we went to — my mother was very uncomfortable the whole night. Normally, at a party, my mother would quickly calm down after having a drink or two— but this time, the alcohol did not even relax her. My mother decided to wear high heeled shoes instead of boots to the party. There was a lot of snow on the ground. Somehow upon entering the Christmas party, my mom slid across the floor and got one of her heels stuck— she then tripped and landed on top of the Christmas tree. Both came crashing down. It was awful.
I can understand why my dad signed us up for the mediation classes. I believe he was trying to help my mother find a way to calm her restless, anxious “monkey mind.”
- Monkey Mind: a Buddhist term meaning unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.
Recently, my older sister had a friend come over to teach us about mindfulness. It was an attempt to help our mother find relief from her anxieties and worries.
During the meditation–my mother’s behavior was not unusual (for her). She kept fidgeting, interrupting and talking loudly. She was incredibly resistant to just being quiet and calm. I think this is why she has trouble sleeping at night.
I am beginning to see that this is a shared family trait– on my mother’s side. My mother’s older sister, Ruth, visited us over weekend. She had not seen my mom since the stroke (more than 9 months ago). Both my mom and my aunt Ruth were very nervous when they saw each other. My aunt Ruth normally brings gifts. This time she brought a whole lot of JUNK. She said she did not have time to sort through what she wanted to bring prior to driving up from Florida. Of course, she meant well. But clearly she too has anxiety, nervous issues and she is a hoarder.
The other night I thought maybe prayer would be the answer to my mother’s nerves and her restless mind. “How about we say our prayers out loud?” I said. She rolled her eyes. “Oh God!,” she said. I suggested we get on our hands and knees. “It will be good exercise for you,” I said. She refused. I did it anyway.
A big lesson for me is: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
I realize now that acceptance of my mother’s choices and beliefs– is the best way to maintain my own balance. As Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Meaning–things and people are what they are.