Archive for November 27, 2016

Sammy and I Move Again

img_1531Sammy The Poodle and I have just moved for the third time in a year and a half. Our first move was from the house in Toronto, my home for 43 years and the only home Sammy had ever known. We moved to a bungalow in Kingston, then to an apartment. Moving to the apartment meant that we no longer had a door to a fenced-in back yard. I wondered how we’d manage. Sammy, being a dog, needs to go out once he wakens and before he goes to bed. In the early days of apartment living I felt sorry for myself having to dress and take him outside. But…once out there… it was inevitably interesting, often spectacularly beautiful. Even in winter, snowdrifts and red-orange sunrises turned the dog owner’s duty into a rendezvous with nature.

Sammy and I adjusted to life in a ground-floor two-bedroom unit. Sliding glass doors across the front provided Sammy with a sense of territory. He spent much of his day at those glass doors, watching other tenants, often with dogs, come and go. Constant activities took place within sniffing distance of his lookout. Clearly Sammy enjoyed a sense of territory and stability. The earth and grass were within his olfactory range and he could actually smell other people and dogs when the screen door was in place.

Alas, once I discovered life with a dog in an apartment building was manageable,

I started looking for an apartment higher up. Other tenants managed the elevator in this dog-friendly building. Sammy and I could manage too.

At last, a unit on the tenth floor became vacant. It didn’t take me long to sign the lease. From the moment I saw the view from its airy perch, I knew this was the place for Sammy and me. Lake Ontario, sailing boats, sunrises and sunsets: the ever-changing scene below would be a constant source of wonder.

The day of the move, first thing in the morning, I took Sammy to Harvey’s for the day. No need to have a bewildered upset Sammy witnessing his home being dismantled. Then I returned to meet the movers who were already outside the apartment building unloading cardboard boxes and wardrobes. At the end of the day, with our home for the last eleven months a hollow, empty shell, we returned to the usual building entrance, walked right past our old apartment door, boarded the elevator and began the slow trip to the tenth floor.

Once inside our new unit, I removed Sammy’s harness. His big brown eyes searched my face for some clues as to why we were standing in this strange hallway. Finally he cocked his head and took off for the furthest room, the bedroom. Sniffing thoroughly, he checked my bed, his bed on the floor, the chair and anything else that retained the smells he knew so well. Then he proceeded to the study where he evidently satisfied himself that this, too, was our place. Next he methodically sniffed the living room and assured himself that his water and food bowls had come with us.

He was accustomed to watching the world from the ground floor. I opened the door to the balcony. As you can imagine, it’s a lofty perch floats in space. Sammy rushed out, skidded to a stop, looked puzzled and began earnestly sniffing the balcony’s periphery. He’d never seen the world from this height.

Our first day in the new apartment was warm enough to leave the door to the balcony open. In the hope that this would help Sammy feel at home, I let him come and go as he wished.

As I write this, he’s repeatedly sniffed the edges of this strange perch. Right now, as we end this first day, he’s lying, chin on the ground, seemingly exhausted from the stress of moving. I understand this. I’m not feeling too energetic myself.

Walking Meditation: A Metaphor for Making Changes in Your Life

20150805174656-delicate-balanceThe mindfulness course
My left foot comes down solidly on the bare wood floor of the yoga centre. I’m wearing my black wool socks. It’s cold in this empty classroom. Our yoga mats are spread out in the middle of the room while we, the mindfulness class, circumnavigate the empty spaces. My right foot begins its conscious movement forward. The ball of my foot presses into the floor, my body tips forward and slowly, very slowly, the right foot lifts and places itself alongside the left. For a second or two, I was unstable. You could easily have knocked me over. I’m aware that I can’t move ahead unless I get off balance.

Transition, making changes
My mind plays with this metaphor for life: change and transition can’t happen without first getting off balance. With one foot in the air, I’m unsure and ungrounded. I have to risk becoming unstable in order to go forward. If I don’t risk unsteadiness, I can’t change what needs to be different. This simple truth emerges out of the walking meditation. For life to go forward I need to endure the discomfort of transitions.

The stressors of moving and making changes
Take my current situation: I’m about to move again. There’s nothing like moving to throw a person off balance. Everything that’s familiar – the view from the kitchen window to the position of your bed – everything combines to make your life feel precarious. It’s weeks of having one foot in the air. As in the walking meditation, I’ve been continually off balance, one foot in the air, over the past year and a half. If I hadn’t risked change and unsteadiness I couldn’t have moved forward with my life. Leaving the city, the neighbourhood and the house I’d lived in for 43 years as well as going from 55 years as part of a married couple to being an older woman living alone in an apartment, all of this had me wobbling, one foot in the air, stressed and unsure.

Tolerating being unbalanced
The full day retreat, part of an eight-week course in mindfulness, drives home the need to tolerate being unbalanced in order to take charge of my own life. Tomorrow I get the keys to another new apartment. Once more, I’ll be anxious and wobbly, but as far as I know, it’s the only way to allow my life to unfold as it’s meant to.