My mother had a favorite word, “providential.”
She used to say it all the time about how things lined themselves up in certain ways to allow for things to happen. She had an
annoying amazing ability to not judge things; part of that vexed me because that made for slippery accountability and empathy.
“It’s providential, Mally, really, how this has worked out. God has shown you how things happen. I can’t explain your past, our relationship and our difficulties any other way than by saying it’s divine providence. One day you will see,” she would sigh into the phone during one of our many heated debates about our choices in life.
I used to get mad at her when she’d say this stuff. I considered it an excuse for the choices she made in her lifestyle, and she would say as much by stating, “Guilt is pointless. I live the way I’m destined.” I still have little patience for those kinds of things; I know we all have challenges, but we must take part in our lives to effect change. Asking for help is one thing; doing nothing with the help is another. She would at times fiercely defend her position, heels dug in and teeth gritted, “These are the cards I was dealt.”
It was hard at times. I saw little sense in any of it. I have been largely a logician most of my life even though I suck at math.
Because I am my own person, I didn’t realize the irony in what my favorite word, “dovetailing,” has shown: it’s a synonym for providential… For years I have used “dovetailing” to describe how everything aligns in our lives — neither “good” nor “bad” as it makes way for something else.
So much of the living we do is unconscious. I thought I was thinking separately than she. I thought I was the maverick in my observations. “Providential” seemed so archaic, so Mom. I used to argue with her, saying it was a cop-out; that bending to what we consider our fate was a mistake. I just wanted her to be well.
Once I woke up to the fact that dovetailing means the same as providential, it was too late, she was gone. It’s a yucky feeling, when it’s too late.
I see it now though, how even that: her being gone, is part of a plan, not just for me though. But as far as I’m concerned (because I really can only speak to any of this from my perspective), everything that lined itself up exquisitely before she died was also part of The Plan.
We think we are powerless.
We think we are victims.
When struggles arise we hunker in our teapots and we shake our curled fists at God, at the Universe in desperation wondering, “When will it change?! Give me a sign!”
And the signs are all around us. Always have been. Never weren’t there.
We miss so many opportunities to see that not only does the world spin madly on, but it spins on with signs.
What’s this have to do with yoga? And my retreat? I’ll tell you. Keeping things chronologically in order would require that I go back to before my birth, but I’ll try to start with this summer.
It’s impossible to do this justice in a humane word count for a blog post and some of you might already know this story, but I’ll do my best to flavor it and keep it tight.
No promises. (wince.)
I’ll start in the spring when I started therapy again because of family discord which rattled some very rusty chains in my psyche which induced very inappropriately placed guilt on to me.
- doing that therapy allowed me to admit some truths about myself, which in turn
- created a space where I could reach out and share my talents and gifts (in this case: yoga) with a demographic of people who might’ve never had an opportunity to experience yoga, which then
- created a dynamic with a person who wanted to underwrite more of my yoga training, which
- spawned research into yoga training classes, which
- turned up the 16-day yoga teacher training retreat that I ultimately went on, which
- generated such an amazing amount of emotional upheaval, honesty, humility, allowance, forgiveness and love that when I came home I was able to be the forgiveness I had sought for my mother, which I profoundly experienced on the retreat
Scant 23 days later, my mother went to God.
There are other dovetailing / providential incidents :
- writing the self-imposed 30 Days of Jung challenge that I created for myself, which
- required that I get out of my own way and out of my own head to write about Jung’s quotes with Truth (with a capital T).
- During that series, I went on vacation to my childhood beaches this summer where it rained so much that our property was surrounded by a moat.
- Usually Mom would go on that trip too to her house, but she couldn’t this year as she and Dad were sick with bronchitis,
- Because Mom wasn’t there, I spent more time than usual with my favorite aunt and my cousin and her family which then opened up into a beach trip in North Carolina right after the retreat.
- After the rainy vacation, I called Mom and we talked about how awful the weather was.
- Mom got me in touch with another cousin whom I’ve always adored, but I hadn’t seen in years who possibly knew of a rental property for next year.
- That cousin and I talked a LOT on that initial call about all sorts of family history.
- Then I had my parents over for their 51st wedding anniversary; Mom stayed in her chair, Dad ate on the deck with us: it was no more pretending, she wanted what she wanted that night. We gave it to her with nary a protest. I walked her to her seat in the car, buckled her in and kissed her on the cheek — the last time ever for her life — and told her “I love you” as I looked into her ancient, graying eyes. She gave her squinchy nose grin back and they drove away.
- The next weekend, my yoga teacher training began and I was mostly out of pocket. We had very little wifi and I’d have to borrow a phone to connect if needed. I was apprehensive on that retreat. Things were going on with my parents that were challenging for them and I was fearful I would be called home for an emergency.
- Three days after the retreat ended, I went on the NC trip.
- After NC, I talked to Mom more. We had really nice calls those days. I told her about the retreat but she was more interested in hearing about my cousin and her kids and that trip to NC. People she knew interested her way more than people she’d likely never meet.
Sixteen days later: Mom died. Who did we stay with in Buffalo? That NC cousin. Would I have stayed there without the beach trip? Likely, but the “lubrication” of us all being together just two weeks beforehand definitely made the request a no-brainer. Who has been another fierce resource for me, checking in with me? Reading my posts and calling me since Mom died? The other cousin. The one who I connected with after the rainy vacation on Mom’s advice.
Mom loved family. “Family’s all ya got, kid,” she would say in an odd mixture of WC Fields and Truman Capote. It was with her family, her cousins and others that she felt free to be exactly who she was: ethereal and energetically rootless, as frustrating as that was for me.
You see… this was all providential. As are all the events that happen in your life. Everything you experience: be it a job loss or a love loss or a lottery win or a scholarship — all of these things are lined up. We just have to be ready to see them. Even with the good times we might feel undeserving. If we only ask “Why Me?” during the “bad” times, we miss out on asking “Why Me?” during the “good” times too.
On the retreat we learned that “Wahe guru!” is something akin to “thank you — for all of it!” a sense of welcoming, a surrender to what is and gratitude for all of what is, even the so-called “bad” times.
During that retreat I had many moments of release, but they all culminated in the Wahe guru! moment of my entire life. We were accustomed to waking at 5:15 for 6:00 sadhana (“spiritual practice”), but this one time, a Friday morning, we woke at 4:00 for 4:30am sadhana. This time is known as the amrit vela (“ambrosial hour”) — a time when the earth’s angle to the sun is magical and mystical and when creativity and invention peak:
The mother, and queen, of all sadhanas is morning sadhana. Morning sadhana is done in the 2 ½ hours before the rise of the sun. Wisdom traditions of all types have discovered the special qualities of this early time of the morning, these ambrosial hours, in which we can determine our reality and separate ourselves from fantasies, illusions, and even delusions, the denizens of our subconscious. —spiritvoyage.com
At 4:20am it is pitch black, midnight blue dark. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s even darker yet the stars in all their glory and magnificence shine and twinkle and sparkle. In the east, I could see a perfect crescent moon hanging and glowing as if just for me.
Leaning over the side of the deck, to position myself beyond the hang of the covered porch’s roof so I could get a better look at the stars, I began to breathe so deeply, as if guided to do so; as if some cosmic force was impelling me to go further, leave the deck, go on the grass, look up some more, don’t stop, keep looking, spin and look up and drink it all in.
I stepped down off the cold wooden steps, sun worn, cracked, faded. Their rough surface snags my socks, almost pulled one right off!
It was SO dark, but it didn’t matter. I was in a zone. My foot forcefully landed on the gravel, its points digging into my sole. I broke one of my own rules: “no socks on the dirt,” so I could get a better look, see more, keep going… I wanted to hiss, “I’m coming as fast as I can! Hold your horses!” to whatever was calling me out to the space, an oblong spot of grass, about 50′ long behind the house where my views of everything, the moon, the stars, huge clusters of cosmic somethings, galaxies? were completely clear.
I was overwhelmed by my smallness and oddly grateful for it too. I rejoiced, teary-eyed, wet feet, quietly in the chilly valley’s darkness; I felt as though I was one with it all, just far away is all. Chills ran along my body, wrapped in my bed spread for it was barely 50˚ most mornings.
In correspondence we’ve shared about my grief since Mom died, I wrote to my yoga teacher about the moment,
When I am terribly low, I go back to that moment under the stars on the early morning sadhana and how when I awoke, I looked up to the sky and ran down in my stockinged feet and walked on the dewy grass to do nothing but to throw up my arms, to look at that glorious and perfect crescent moon and uncontrollably and silently and humbly weep tears of gratitude as I verbally thanked God, my father, my mother, Jesus and all my woes, challenges, admissions, truths and triumphs for bringing me to that moment. It was my eternal and fixed yet infinite “wahe guru” moment. I was forever changed that morning.I thought I’d never thank my mother for the life she created that I had to endure. I thought I’d never thank my father either. I understood at that moment that it wasn’t all bad with her, “bad” is the wrong word, but it wasn’t all negative; although like that little poem about the girl with the curl in the center of her forehead, when it was bad, it was awful.But those tears not only reminded me but they crystallized me. She shaped me. Our souls were graced with one another for a reason; I have no doubt about that now.
So that’s when those moments work: when we can see them all lined up in a row as if they were dominoes ready to tumble. Sometimes they usher unpleasant events, sometimes they usher seemingly regular events until you line them up and look at the stream and see how perfect the cosmic math is — they are all connected.
That morning, I saw one of the most amazing dawns:
My life changed forever that morning to prepare me. I had an odd sensation, I knew at that moment, that Mom likely wouldn’t be here for Thanksgiving. I can’t explain it but I’ve mentioned it here before. A pit in my stomach lurched each time I thought of her, not in an unpleasant way, but in a conscious way.
That lurching stomach pit told me my days of expectations and hopes and wishes for her life to suddenly change (on earth) had melted away, but I was OK with it. I was at peace knowing that I had no control over anything but my own disposition. Complaining about anything now seems ridiculous. I know that sounds so glib as I type this from my home with my husband at his job and my children with their health and our lives the way they are — at this moment — but that’s the truth. Complaints do nothing but keep us stuck.
Wahe guru means thank you. At least that’s the way I learned it. Thanksgiving is coming up. I suspect there will be many tender moments in my home as we celebrate something, all four of us now, together again, without Mom. Wahe guru for all of it: the easy and the difficult; the pain and the comfort; the sad and the happy; the high and the low; the abundance and the scarcity; the resolved and the anxious; the rage and the joy. It’s what makes us who we are.
I believe there is a string that ties us all together, that makes sense of all our experiences once we get out of our own way and shows us who we are meant to be.
Everything has a reason for happening, and you see that. You saw that. Your mum saw that and she accepted it from an early time from the sounds of it. You had a fantastic woman to luck up to there, Molly.
Thank you for sharing this with us, I know it can’t have been easy to write.
Thanks, Alastair — What’s really interesting about this is that I wanted to write about the moment under the stars so much but I was never really ready. I didn’t think I could articulate it. Then she died and then clearly there was no real way I was going to be able to sew it all together and even this is lumpy (because of venue I want it short) so yes, she was teaching me. She didn’t seem to fight her circumstances … she existed within their framework with little apology for it. Vexing at many times, her stubbornness.