"If you want to find Buddha nature, love someone and care for them."
-- Dainin Katagiri
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us
to an understanding of ourselves.”
― Carl Gustav Jung
So, at this point, I'm her right hand man -- literally. I have moved in with her full-time to provide the necessary care as she faces the significant pain and discomfort of a post-op rehab that may require 6-8 weeks of life in a sling.
In a relationship that has thrived for three years as we each maintained our own living spaces (I think a lot of marriages would still be alive if that was seen as an acceptable option), we are now sharing her place 24-7.
It's been intense.
Having committed to facing sickness, old age, and death as life-partners, we did manage to co-habitate during the first couple of months of the pandemic. But, at that point, we were each able bodied. Besides the various aches and pains of two folks whose average age is now on the high side of 70, we were each in relatively good health. We could be alone together quite well.
This is different.
Now, Migdalia looks like someone stomped on her shoulder then bound her up in a strange torture device that seems intent on poking her in the ribs, no matter what we do. She also has to sleep sitting up. She's black and blue and swollen and dealing with the effects of all the drugs required to allow them to punch five holes in her shoulder, insert a variety of cameras, medical instruments and paraphernalia in to her body, then stitch her up -- and send her home.
Hercules vs Hydra
One of the first challenges we faced was contending with the gazillion velcro straps and clasps of the sling/brace that is going to be her constant companion for the foreseeable future. The next morning, it had to be removed for a brief period of physical therapy and then replaced immediately.
I'm pretty sure that before the insurance companies and other profit driven corporations came to dominate health care in this country, Migdalia would have awoken that morning in a well-staffed hospital, and a skilled physical therapist would have arrived to cheerfully support her through the ordeal. Now, after a fitful night's sleep propped up by pillows in a makeshift hospital bed, she had me: a similarly exhausted old coot with about ten minutes of "training," and a couple of pages of confusing and contradictory instructions.
It was a Herculean task.
Each of us is quite used to doing things "single-handedly" and taking the lead in moving through our lives. So, now that "single-handedly" had become literal for one of us, Migdalia and I immediately butted heads over how to most effectively use our three good hands. Me, an Aries, white working-class cis male and his beloved, a fiery New York Puerto Rican female from the projects in Harlem, huffed and puffed for awhile, getting nowhere with what had become a tangled mess of velcro. A helping hand only helps if it helps. It wasn't. I soon realized that we had to really slow down, take a few deep breaths, and learn how to communicate a lot more carefully -- or the many-headed Hydra would have her way with us.
Thankfully, like Hercules and Ioalus, Migdalia and I were able to put our heads together and prove that two heads are better than nine.
The Theory and the Practice
So, this is it. It's showtime.
Migdalia and I are having to learn how to move through space and time in very different ways, individually, and as co-conspirators. We are having to learn how to communicate more skillfully.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Mindfulness doesn't have the elbow room to be mere theory. It has to be a moment to moment Practice. Rather than spin out or bounce off of one another, we've already seen the need to be more adept at taking the foot off the accelerator and tapping the brakes. We've each had to make a special effort to listen deeply -- to ourselves and one another -- and to speak clearly and carefully as we navigate ahead.
This is a good thing.
It just takes Practice.