Will I Choose to be Independent or Interdependent?

Decades ago, I participated in an experiential exercise that the facilitator called The Relationship Dance. That exercise gave participants the opportunity to feel the difference between dependent relationships, independent relationships, and interdependent relationships.

First, we each picked a partner. During the Dependent section of the exercise, one person in each dyad leaned against their partner and they walked around the room in that state. One person had the experience of being completely dependent on their partner to hold them up, and the other person had the experience of being totally responsible for their partner’s well-being. In the Independent section, partners wandered through the room having essentially no contact with each other or with the people in the other dyads. Interdependence was demonstrated by having the pairs separate to do some individual activities and at other times walking shoulder to shoulder.

I’ve never forgotten that exercise. The experience of being Dependent was not familiar to me, and was not at all inviting. I was more familiar with having people be dependent on me. Being Interdependent was inviting but not familiar. When I experienced Independent, I felt lonely and it was all too familiar. Since this post isn’t about my relationship with a partner, I’m going to broaden the definition of interdependent so that it includes being in give-and-take, supportive relationships with many people.

I grew up as an army brat. It was very hard for me to make friends since we moved at least every three years. If I wasn’t leaving, then my friends were. Also, my mother once told me that I would make one friend at a time, and then was devastated when that person became friends with someone else. To compound the problem, in my opinion, our family had a very low level of connection with each other.

As a child I became very independent. Over the years, I have made significant changes in that part of my life and now have many friends who could potentially be a large support system. While I have moved a significant distance along the continuum that goes between independence and interdependence, I still have a way to travel before Interdependent becomes my primary way of being.

I have had an abundance of opportunity to watch my struggle in this area as I heal from breaking my wrist. My recovery was made harder than it would normally have been because I also had considerable pain from bruised ribs caused by a fall two weeks earlier. The rib problem made it painful for me to get up and lie down, and the fact that I needed to overuse my left side when I couldn’t use my right hand, prolonged that pain. (Be assured that I am looking at, and committed to changing,  the factors that caused me to get hurt twice in two weeks.)

I have long marveled at how people who live with physical limitations are able to overcome them. I decided to use this experience to see what I was able to do on my own. One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of occurred on the second day after I broke my wrist. On that day, I was able to pry open tight hooks on a bra and put on the bra using only my non-dominant hand. I soon discovered I could do my own laundry, get dressed in carefully selected clothes, cook using the food I had in the refrigerator and freezer, and crack an egg open. I also felt proud the day I changed the cloth waist ties on two pairs of Indian pants to elastic. With the cloth ties, I would have had to tie a bow, an impossible feat at that time.

While I was able to figure out how to do almost everything on my own, I did ask for help when it was impossible for me to do something that needed to be done. The best example of that was being unable to lock my deck door at night since I had to pull it towards me with one hand and turn the key with the other. I tried but I couldn’t do it. The temperature was in the 80’s and 90’s in Seattle that week and I couldn’t open any of the windows in my living and dining rooms with one hand. Leaving the deck door shut as well would have been unbearable.

I wouldn’t have felt safe leaving the door open at night so that was not an option. I asked one neighbor to lock the door each night before she left town. After she left, I knocked on different neighbors doors each night, asking them to lock the door for me. I rationalized that asking a number of people would cause them less of an inconvenience. Another example is that I asked a friend to bring my vacuum cleaner up the steep stairs from my basement since I knew it wouldn’t have been safe for me to carry it, but I didn’t ask for help vacuuming even though it was difficult for me to do with bruised ribs. And instead of asking for help to bring it back downstairs, I eventually took the vacuum cleaner outside and rolled it around the house and in the back door.

I did accept help from two friends who wanted to bring a meal and from another who offered to come cook some meals that would last for a few days. I also accepted help from a friend who offered to go grocery shopping for me and asked another to take me to the places I needed to go to get ready for my trip to India.

For the most part, however, I told the friends and neighbors who offered help that I was fine, but would let them know if I needed anything, and then for the most part didn’t ask.

While I did accomplish many things on my own, I was also abundantly aware how different my experience would have been if I had been living with someone or if I had taken full advantage of my support system. I was aware of the message in my head that said Don’t bother anyone,  an adult version of Children are to be seen and not heard. I also heard You should only bother someone if you really, really need it; You may need surgery for your arm or you might get sick sometime in the future, so don’t ask for help now, you might need it more later; and You choose to live alone and that decision has consequences, which was short for “You made your bed, now lie in it. As I write these messages down, I realize how immersed in old unhealthy ways of thinking I have been. I knew these messages were still alive in me to some degree, but the injury brought them out full force.

Just before I left for India, I attended a potluck in the Seattle area. I witnessed my reaction when the friend who drove me there offered to help me put food on my plate. I told her I could do it. I even resisted when she gave me reasons why I should let her help. Seeing such a blatant example of my resistance stuck with me. On my second day in India, a man offered to help me wash my dishes after a meal. I told him I could do it. He watched me struggle with that for a minute, and then took the dishes away from me and washed them. The incident made me aware once again of how I push help away. It also gave me the experience of how good it felt to get it. The next day another man asked if I wanted help washing my dishes. I said thank you and handed them to him. Since then, I have accepted help when it is offered and have been more willing to ask for it in the first place.

I dread the thought of ever being completely dependent on anyone. I hope that is not in my future, but I have no control over that. What I do have control over is whether I live my life alone now or instead create a life style that includes a mutually supportive community.

Even though this injury has highlighted my tendency to be overly independent, I know I have come a long way in this area. I also know I will have an abundance of opportunities, perhaps on a daily basis, to choose between an action that would support my tendency to be overly independent and one that would lead to an experience of interdependence.  It is my intention to increase the number of times I choose the road that leads to interdependence.

 

To view the previous posts in this series click here.

New Microscopic Photos and More

Yesterday, I decided to accept the self-imposed challenge of taking microscopic pictures primarily with my non-dominant hand. Even under normal circumstances, I have trouble hooking up the adapter that connects my iPhone to my microscope. I wondered if adding a wrist splint to the mix would make the task impossible. I would, of course, stop if the endeavor caused any pain at all. It took some effort, but before long the equipment was ready for me to snap some photos.

Last summer, I took microscopic pictures of the orange Echinacea flowers in my garden. This year, my goal was to photograph flowers on all three of the Echinacea plants. Each plant has blooms that are a different color. I was able to accomplish that objective and more.

Plant #1

While I was taking the photos, I saw something I had never seen before. It was quite a surprise. Take a look at my first microscopic video!

I did not notice that the photos of that plant had come out pink, instead of light purple, until I created the photo gallery above last night. I wondered if that happened because of the light source I was using for the microscope. This morning, I decided to shine that light on the flower again to see if it changed the color.

When I went outside to retrieve the purple flower from the back deck, I was flabbergasted to see that it had turned pink during the night. It had not looked pink when I checked it last night.

Plant #2

I found another bug when I examined the second flower through the microscope. It was a different kind of insect, though, or was it a spider? It resembled a spider in the way it looked and acted but insects have six legs and spiders have eight. I only see six on this creature so I don’t know what it is. It was so small that I couldn’t see it on the plant even when I looked for it wearing my reading glasses.

Note: There is a point in the video below where the creature stops moving for a while, but it starts again.

Plant #3

I appreciate the iPhone camera and the beautiful photos it takes. I appreciate whoever came up with the way to connect the microscope and the iPhone camera. I appreciate the ease of the WordPress blogging platform. I appreciate how easy it is to create photograph galleries on WordPress.com blogs. I appreciate the dictation program for Office products that Microsoft released last week and the person that told me about it. I appreciate the neighbor who took the case off my iPhone so I had a chance of  making this project a success. I appreciate my willingness to take on challenges in difficult situations. And, last but not least, I appreciate all of you who read my posts.

Out of Commission

I won’t be writing posts for a while. On Thursday, I wasn’t careful enough and stepped into a place where my feet got tangled in downed branches and vines in the Greenbelt.  I fell hard and broke my right wrist. I’m doing well, considering, but writing posts with my non-dominant hand seems unrealistic. Since I’m writing this, however, maybe I will be back sooner than I think!

Daily Prompt: Grit

Twelve days ago, I fell doing Greenbelt restoration work. I fell hard. The result: bruised ribs. When I first read today’s Daily Prompt: Grit, I took grit to mean the quality of doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal, not letting any roadblock stand in the way. When I looked up the word in Wikipedia, I found this definition:

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.

Since I fell, the amount of time I work in the Greenbelt has reduced dramatically, and what I do there has shifted. I may slowly place a few burlap bags over a cleared area; spend time laying out a design for a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers that will be planted the end of October; or I may wander around looking at the squirrels, birds and the occasional butterfly. Thankfully, I can still use my organizational abilities to lead work parties so the work is advancing; it just isn’t me holding the shovel.

Yesterday, I read that it takes bruised ribs 4-12 weeks to heal, and that the older you are, the longer it may take. I can tell that I am getting better. There is evidence of that daily. Healing just isn’t occurring on my preferred time table.

While I am frustrated by not being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, I know that I am being given lessons in patience and accepting what is. It doesn’t mean I have to stop advancing towards my goal, but it does mean that I can’t do the level of physical labor that I want to be doing. It is important for me to realize that developing patience and learning to accept what is are also lessons in my life’s curriculum and that those qualities are as important as grit in achieving my life goals.

I have grit, and I am learning behaviors that will support that grit.

With Amma in Atlanta

Amma’s Chicago programs were over at 8 a.m. on June 23. Later that morning, I was on my way to Atlanta. I had attended her programs there two years before and was eager to go back. This year, Atlanta would be my last stop on Amma’s North American tour.

My friend Yashas was flying standby and was able to get a seat on my flight. He had investigated Atlanta’s public transportation and had learned that we could board the subway at the airport and it would take us to a stop in the same complex where our hotel was located.

After spending much of the Chicago area program walking in rural fields, I was unprepared for the jolt that came at being in a big city. It started when we got off of the subway and I found myself standing at the bottom of an immense escalator.

The escalator ended near a food court that was the biggest I had ever seen. As we looked for the way to the hotel where Amma’s program would be held, a man stopped us and asked if we needed help. He offered to take us to our destination. He led us one direction and then another; I felt as if I was in a maze. I couldn’t imagine doing this on my own and was grateful for his help. When we arrived in the hotel, he asked if we would buy him a sandwich. I was surprised, but was fine with it. He had definitely provided us with an invaluable service.

The maze ended on a floor of the hotel that contained a cocktail lounge. Many people were partying there (at least that was my perception) and it was loud.

The hotel was beautiful, but what a contrast it was to the Chicago fields. I read later that it has 51 floors although I never saw an elevator that went higher than 41.

The lobby was on the floor below the cocktail lounge. I checked in and then went to my room. When I shut the door, all of the sound from the hotel stopped. My room felt like an oasis. Even though the hotel was impressive and the staff were very nice, I longed to be walking in the fields.

The main part of the hotel had four sets of elevators, each going to a different series of floors. There were many conferences going on, some even on the same floor as ours. I continued to feel as if I was in a maze and had trouble finding what I needed to find. As I get older, when I am frustrated, I am more likely to get rattled, confused and overwhelmed. The next morning, even the sensory stimulation of Amma’s program (crowds, music, etc.) felt like too much for me.

Amma helps us learn to be calm in the middle of chaos. I was certainly getting the opportunity to work on that issue. Because of my overwhelm, I totally forgot that Chaitanya, Sreejit and I had plans to go to the Martin Luther King Historic Site during the afternoon break on the first day of the program. Chaitanya and I had gone there when we came to Amma’s Atlanta programs two years before and had both been profoundly moved. The afternoon break is short so we didn’t stay as long as we wanted to stay that year. We had resolved to return to the site the next time Amma came to Atlanta.

This year Sreejit went with us, as did four other friends. I loved being at there again. I was once again flooded with feelings and memories, since I lived through that era, and appreciated that this site gave younger people  the opportunity to learn about that time in our country’s history. I only took a few photos this year since I had taken so many during my first visit. The first picture below is of Sreejit joining the civil rights marchers in an interactive exhibit at the visitors’ center. The other three photos are squares of a quilt found in a Freedom Hall room dedicated to Rosa Parks.

Prior to my last visit, I did not know that Martin Luther King had been so inspired by Gandhi that he had traveled to India to learn about Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. I saw this quote by Gandhi in Freedom Hall’s Gandhi room. I wasn’t able to photograph it without the reflection, but decided to share it with you anyway.

As I was writing this post, a Gandhi quote I have treasured for many years came to my mind.

I claim to be no more than the average person with less than average ability. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.

Even though Martin Luther King and Gandhi never met in person, I love that Dr. King respected him so much. What incredible role models they both continue to be.

The photos below are of the place where Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King’s bodies are interred. I felt privileged to be able to stand there once again.

My time at the Martin Luther King Historic Site helped ground me and I was able to return to the hotel and enjoy the evening program with Amma.

It is my experience that when I am with Amma, life lessons come at a rate that is faster than in normal living. I often feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster but I know the challenges are also an opportunity for healing. During those times, synchronicities abound, and I never know what is waiting for me around the corner.

Perhaps the most important event that occurred during my time in Atlanta began the previous year. I left home at 17 (I’m now 68) and I have had very little contact with my biological family since I was 21. My parents and younger brother are no longer living. My other brother and I email occasionally. My children spent some time with my younger brother during the years he was sick. They also attended my mother’s funeral and have had a few experiences with their remaining uncle but don’t know their cousins or extended family.

Just prior to last year’s Chicago programs, my brother wrote me and told me that his youngest son had written a blog post on Father’s Day; one that was about our father. I found it fascinating to read about my father from his grandson’s perspective. There was some information in the post that surprised me, so I wrote my brother about it. That began a process of us sharing memories with each other. At one point, he added his two sons to the email chain and I added Chaitanya and Sreejit. As a result, our adult children started communicating with each other for the first time. Much of this conversation happened during Amma’s Chicago programs. I did not believe that was a coincidence.

As this year’s tour approached, my nephew and Chaitanya corresponded again. He decided he and his family would drive from Florida to Atlanta so we could meet each other. We were all excited about that opportunity. They arrived late in the afternoon. Our time together was limited but we used it well. We talked and talked…. and talked. I felt very drawn and connected to them and very much look forward to future contact. Who would have thought that family healing would come after all of these years.

Geetha is a friend who used to live in Seattle, but moved to Amma’s Amritapuri ashram many years ago. During the foreign tours, she stands next to Amma and helps facilitate the thousands of people who come  for Amma’s hug. (Amma’s form of blessing is to give each person who comes to her a motherly hug. At this point, she has hugged 37 million people.) That night, when I arrived at Amma’s chair for my own hug, Geetha asked me how the family reunion had gone. She then told Amma about it. Amma smiled broadly and asked me a couple of questions. I occasionally bring questions to Amma but rarely have discussions with her aside from that. It was such a wonderful way to end my 2017 Summer tour.

I left Atlanta the next day feeling tired, but happy and full …. and ready to return to my work in the Greenbelt.

With Amma in Chicago

Last year was the first time I attended Amma’s Chicago area programs. I had heard about the Center there for years and was excited to see it for myself. The site had once been a Seventh Day Adventist college. When I drove onto the property, I found myself on a tree-lined street of homes, homes that had once been faculty housing. I burst into tears. I have been to many of Amma’s ashrams and centers but this felt like being in a town, a town dedicated to Amma’s ideals of compassion and service.

Many of the original buildings had been remodeled and a new program hall had been built. The property was very large and a good deal of it was farm land. There was a large echinacea field as well as fields devoted to growing herbs and vegetables. I had such a good experience that year. Attending the Chicago programs is now a top priority for me.

This year, I arrived at MA Center-Chicago on June 20. I knew I was close when, in the distance, I saw the big blue water tower emblazoned with Amma’s logo. When I turned into the property and drove past those first houses, I felt as if I had come home.

Amma wouldn’t arrive at the program for another hour, so after saying hi to my son and daughter, Sreejit and Chaitanya, I headed to the fields. One of the first things I saw was a butterfly. That greeting became even more significant to me when it turned out to be the only butterfly I saw that day.

Prior to going to Chicago last year, I had seen a short aerial video of the Center’s echinacea field.

Seeing that field in person was a major goal for last year’s visit and I was eager to see it again this year. I walked and walked but couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt confused. It had been such a large field; they couldn’t have transplanted it, could they?

I did find the hoop house. There were so many more plants in it than last year.

I eventually gave up trying to find the echinacea field and returned to the program hall. When I asked someone about it later, I discovered the field was further away than I had thought. After attending Amma’s meditation, I headed outside again. Before long, I was able to find it. Last year I had been fascinated seeing the many stages of growth, from buds to full flower. The programs were held earlier in June this year and I only saw three open flowers in the whole field.  A lot of nettles and milkweed grew along with the echinacea. Those plants draw bees, butterflies and other insects to the field.

These beautiful flowers also were growing in the echinacea field. If you know what they are, please tell me!

From there, I strolled to a field of herbs.

And then walked to the vegetable field. I really liked the signs they had created to show what was growing in the row.

This fall, MA Center- Chicago is opening a GreenFriends Montessori School. It will focus on nature-based learning and peace education. As I gazed at this field I imagined the children helping to plant and care for the vegetables.

Beyond the vegetable field, there was an orchard. This photo shows only half of it. The trees had grown a lot since I had seen them last.

After visiting the fields, I began to walk back to the program hall. On my way, I saw a bird trying to pull a worm from the ground. (Or at least I think that was what it was doing!) Then another bird flew over my head a few times. I felt like it was “dive bombing” me. Moments later, I saw a bird house that was similar to the ones I have at home. It was only four or five feet off the ground. As I walked by it, a baby bird was looking out of the opening. I think there was another baby behind it. It must have been the mother or father bird that had been flying at me, concerned I was going to hurt the babies.

*****

As I sat in the program hall that day, ideas for designing a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers for our Greenbelt Restoration site in Seattle started coming into my mind. I thought about it throughout the day. My dreams during the night were incessant, and were all about the Greenbelt. The next morning, I located the children’s program room and drew my ideas on paper. I looked forward to returning to Seattle and doing the research necessary to determine whether or not my plan was viable.

*****

As I am writing this post, I am struck by how little time I spent near Amma in Chicago. I met Amma in summer of 1989. In the early years, I spent hour after hour sitting close, mesmerized. At some point, I started doing seva (volunteer work) throughout the year, and during the programs. That era lasted more than 20 years. Now I find that I still want to be with Amma, but I want it to be in a way that I can be immersed in nature at the same time. I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I am allowing my life to unfold. I feel close to Amma whether I am sitting next to her, being held in her arms, or walking in the fields taking in the glory of nature.

*****

Some of my favorite experiences in this year’s Chicago program occurred because Eknath was there. I don’t remember when I first saw Eknath at Amma’s programs but it must have been 10-15 years ago. I still think of him as a boy but he is probably his 30’s by now. Eknath is autistic. I was once told that when he first met Amma he couldn’t talk. That changed long ago. He often blurts out statements that make everyone, including Amma, laugh. One time he told Amma she should have a boyfriend. Another time, he went to her during darshan (darshan is the time she blesses people by giving hugs) and told her he wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Amma called someone from the Western Cafe and told them to make him a sandwich and bring it back to her.

Another memory I have of him occurred in the Amritapuri (India) auditorium. One day as I was walking to the auditorium, I heard a gut wrenching wail. Some instinctual part of me knew that it was Eknath and that someone had told him he had to leave India and return to the U.S. He cried with a profound level of despair that couldn’t help but affect those around him.

He is probably best known for going up to people and pulling up both sides of his mouth with his index fingers and telling them to smile. He emanates joy. He usually has earphones on, listening to Amma bhajans. Sometimes he sings along. When Amma and the swamis are singing, he gets so excited that he starts jumping and jumping and jumping. Occasionally, the swamis keep their songs going much longer than they would normally. His joy is infectious.

Eknath was doing all of those things during the second or third evening program in Chicago. Someone handed him a microphone and asked him to sing. He sang “What a Wonderful World.” (Lyrics) I doubt I was the only one in the room that was crying.

Here is a video of Louis Armstrong singing that song.

Eknath was then asked to sing another song. This time he chose “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” but he changed it to “Amma Claus is Coming to Town.” (Lyrics) Needless to say, hearing those lyrics applied to Amma was hilarious.

I am thankful that Eknath is in this world

*****

Every day with Amma is packed with experiences. In addition, this year I’ve had the chance to be with my son and daughter during the programs. That normally happens only when I’m in India. Life is good.

1000 posts!

 

I first joined the WordPress community because I wanted to be able to “like” the posts my son, Sreejit, published on his blog, The Seeker’s Dungeon. I then decided to start a blog of my own so that I could surprise him by answering one of his Dungeon Prompts. The first Dungeon Prompt I answered as a blogger was I Will Know When I Know. I still don’t know the answer to the question I addressed in that post.

Never did I consider the possibility that I would love blogging as much as I do. And I never expected that I would reach the 1000 post marker. I think it is fitting that my 1000th post was one about Mother Nature helping me with my garden.

I have learned so much since I started this blog in 2014. Thanks to all of you who read my posts and in so doing accompany me on my life’s journey.

Shocking Revelation

I am still reeling from some information I received today. It just occurred to me to look and see if today’s Daily Prompt would fit for this situation.  Revelation is perfect!

For the last month, I’ve been looking forward to taking a Plant Identification course that was offered to Forest Stewards and other volunteers who work in Seattle’s reforestation projects. When I arrived at the class today, I discovered most of the students had been Forest Stewards for a long time and the others had at least some experience in plant identification. I, on the other hand, only know a few of these native plants.

Last month, Ananya and I had to choose the trees, shrubs and ground covers that we will be planting in our group’s Greenbelt site the end of October. We ordered nearly 400 plants. In the course of today’s class, I learned that those plants will be delivered to us unmarked. Not only that, most will be in their winter state so we may have only a twig to use for identification.

WWWWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTT?

The need for me to learn to identify our plants has certainly taken on a new intensity. As I sat down to write this post, though, a couple of other thoughts came to my mind. When we ordered the plants, we had to order in quantities of 10. We ordered 10 for some varieties and 20 for others. So even though we will have to identify 400 plants, there will only be 26 different types. That seems doable.  Also, sometime prior to October we will have the opportunity to take a Winter Twig class. I will make taking that class a priority.

I am sure glad that I learned this information today, rather than discovering it when the plants are delivered. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. And I don’t have to do it alone! Ananya and I will do it together and if we need help we will get it.

A Welcome Sight

On Monday evening, one of my teeth broke off at the gum level. The tooth was one that had a root canal, so I thankfully experienced no pain. One of my least favorite things to do, though, is to go to the dentist. I like my dentist, but that is beside the point. I don’t like to get dental work.

As I walked towards his office on Wednesday, feeling my normal dread, this rhododendron bush caught my eye. It is amazing how seeing beauty can shift my mood from dread to awe in an instant.