Monday, 17 March 2014

Solitude, Cafe Moments, and Finding Your "Pocket Bliss"...

Summer of Love, 1967
Vineland, Ontario

 I sat up, rubbing the nightmares from my eyes. One, two, three, shazam! I squinted them open a  crack - damn! Still double bunked with three other brothers. I pledged to re-commit to my letter campaign to Children's  Services.

 I leapt  to the edge of the bed, put on my "sneaky slippers", and  played hopscotch in slo-mo to the door. I knew the floor like a musical instrument. Each piece of hardwood a key with its own pitch - its ability to creak, annoy, and wake up, or its silence - its ability to whisper, embrace stealth, and to keep a secret.

 The Mission? To make it downstairs to the TV unencumbered by Big Brother (any version). I grabbed Orr and the Bruins from the hockey card collection and locked the door to our second-floor bathroom. The door was secured shut by pulling out the drawer in front of it. It provided, I calculated, about 14 seconds of secured access until a scissors-armed sibling could  scratch and pry it open. With an active defense, one could keep the viking at bay for an unlimited period of blasphemy, threats, and well, pure juvenile entertainment. I have learned since however, that there is no such thing as an "idle" threat. It may be a week later, a year, or decades, but eventually, you will catch them pouring Red Bull in your IV line, or some such shenanigans.

At baseboard level behind the door was the heating register - that glorious provider of toe-warming, navel-gazing comfort. I settled in, back against the cupboard door, feet up against the register - And thought about, absolutely… Nothing.  I wondered, would I have time to do this when I grew up?

The furnace shut off; I got up. I always got up  slightly confused - was the brief period of bliss nullified by the more intense disappointment when the furnace turns off? I recognized these experiences many years later as what I called “coin massage regret”. In brief, the experience that the ending of the coin massage often brought more disappointment - enough to seemingly cancel out the joy experienced during the short massage.

I walked over to the stairs and perched myself on the top step. I could recognize my Mom’s perfume anywhere - I call it “Ode de Cafe”. It seemed like such an easy conclusion. For years as an early riser, the coffee smell - the smell of fresh ground coffee meant "mom was up". The absence of that gorgeous smell meant that mom was either on strike, working to rule, was testing our independence - or all three :-)

She proceeded to sit down in her easy chair and gaze out the window. Her fingers wrapped around the cup like it was Aladdin’s magic lamp.What was she wishing? One can only speculate: "If only all the boys were like Blair" (I repeat, just speculating).

She took the smallest of sips of the brown nectar, her head rose, looking towards the heavens as if to give thanks - then squeezed her eyes shut for a few seconds as if to lock in the sensation. I resisted the urge to check on her to see if she was okay, content that I had witnessed her in this altered state many times before and she had always come out of it okay, in time to make us pancakes.

As expected, Mom did "come out" of her caffeine induced elevated state and made us the most delicious batch of pancakes you can imagine.  I don't recall any specific instructives passed on to me  about "smelling the roses" , or anything relating to solitude by  Mom but there has been clear recognition on my part that I appreciate many of the same things that my mother does - and that many of these involve an inward looking approach that works well with many activities I enjoy.

Don't underestimate the power of the coffee ritual. In  mom's peak moments, she not just enjoys the equivalent of my dopamine moments, I have no doubt that in those moments of bliss in the early mornings, she was planning her battle strategy for the day, whilst enjoying the solitude as much as someone at the cabin lakeside.

Is that what this has been about? The coffee high? Not necessarily. Maybe it is more about the discovery and continual cultivation of those things in life that give us great pleasure and that we can call upon virtually anytime, anyplace. I want to  call this cultivating "pocket bliss". No, we didn't develop any skills nor provide you with any tools to do that, that is beyond the scope of this blog. What is within its scope,  is a reminder to discover those activities that give you great pleasure when you are by yourself, focusing on the activities that require little overhead. I.e., you can take with you when you go :-)

We like to ignore its  instructive reality, but having a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's is no different than the aging process on steroids. You are gradually going to have things taken away from you one by one. Your task now as a "pocket bliss" seeker is to seek out and cultivate activities that you can take with you wherever the Parkinson's adventure (or any other adventure for that matter) takes you.

Bon voyage,

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