What’s Your Limit?

The title of this post could refer to a whole host of subjects.  Alcohol, drugs, gambling, any addictive substance.  In this case though, it’s not about any of those tragic circumstances.  It’s actually about tragedy itself.  We’ve had to witness incredible human suffering in the past few years; natural disasters like New Orleans and Haiti, although there is a man-made component in both of those cases that could have blunted some of the suffering.  Better tending to the levies in New Orleans, building standards in Haiti.  I alternatively envy and pity Christians their chapter of Revelations in the Bible, complete with the Rapture – swept up to heaven, leaving the rest of us poor suckers behind wishing we’d believed when we’d had the chance.  It always bothered me, when I was a Christian, thinking of leaving people behind that I loved but who didn’t belong to my particular religion.  It seemed wrong somehow that a God of love would do such a thing to millions “made in His image.”  That was before though, back when belief was enough.

One thing about finding your limit is that the boundary keeps getting extended further and further away from you.  Just when tragedy has struck you or you and your family so many times in a short period that you think there’s no POSSIBLE WAY anything else could go wrong, something does.  Your “limit” gets expanded, whether you like it or not, and your choice is, cope or go crazy.  Going crazy isn’t an option for a great many of us.  We have children who need us, spouses we love who expect us to go on living with some sense of sanity, aging parents who we cannot abandon.  So, somehow we take it in, more and more, we swallow the tears, the anger – hell the rage, and we try to act “normal.”  Exhausted, spent, no appetite for food or sex or joy, even taking a shower becomes a major spa experience.  It drives some people to the “Tea Party,” where at least you can yell and scream and blame, blame, blame someone, anyone else.  Me, it makes me want a cigarette so much I can taste the smoke drifting over my lips, the slow, seductive inhale before the sweet release of the exhale.  I don’t smoke anymore, but I still miss it at times like this.  I suck on my nicotine lozenge instead, not a substitute by any stretch of the imagination, but something.

The Buddha sits gazing over the altar constructed for my mediation.  Serene, unattached, free of suffering.  How do you get there?  When you are drowning in grief from all quarters, my son upstairs with an IV now for nutrition – the tube into his small intestine wasn’t bad enough – that had to get screwed up too.  My strong, handsome, sweet, loving husband who fell back in his wheelchair a week ago and sustained a sub-dural bleed, contrecoup, meaning both sides of the brain bled just from him falling backward and hitting his head on the cement.  As if paraplegia and constant back pain weren’t enough, now he has constant headaches, nausea, and just in the past day a temperature too.  My 57-year-old brother-in-law dead, in the two hours between my sister going to bed, and getting up to pee, she finds him cold on the couch – far too cold to even think of starting CPR.  My father, violent and angry in his dementia now, hitting nursing assistants and staff who try to help change him from urine soaked clothes into something dry.  Up the Ativan, whatever it takes to neutralize his behavior.  My blind, 80-year-old mother going to the E.R. because she’s been so sick from visiting every day, hoping the antibiotic they prescribed will help.  Kwan Yin, she who hears the cries of the world, I hope her ears are still open because the cries are overwhelming just in my family.

What’s your limit?  People say, “your luck’s gotta change soon.”  The reality is, it doesn’t.  There’s no limit to the sorrow, and you keep bending and bending – face on the floor by now, wondering when that will drop out too and what will you be looking at then?  Know your limit?  Don’t expect to get off that easy.  Not many do these days.  There is no limit, not in this world.  Still, I hope for myself, my family, and all others:

May there be peace on earth, may there be peace everywhere, may all beings be free.

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