Thinking About Planning

All day I’ve been distracting myself looking at Planners. Paper planners. 

That’s because I’m not really here in my mind. My mind is in North Carolina with G whose father is dying. 

On Monday he left the hospital. He called a halt to all treatments. He said he wanted to go home. He’s not eating or drinking. The family is all there. They’ve said their goodbyes. He started taking morphine this morning. Hospice comes twice a day. 

Stella and I walk.

I teach my classes. 

I write, and meditate, and look at the Christmas tree which has lights but no ornaments on it yet. 

I light the menorah. 

Stella and I watch the news at night.

I’ve been looking at the Circa system in the Levenger catalog. I ordered the Junior size planner and it came the other day. I think it’ll work. We’ll see.

It feels weird to be “planning” my year ahead while looking at photos of a man who has no more need for a planner.

It makes me grateful for my life. 

I have a wonderful life. Even the other day, when I had to have a root canal, I felt so lucky. I have the money to afford a root canal. My endodontist is a complete pro.  The procedure was long but pain-free. 

Today I took my last antibiotic. 

Every night I sleep in a warm soft bed. Every evening  I teach yoga to kind, gentle, generous and caring people. The best people I have ever known. I feel so loved. So appreciated. 

There is no way to plan for this kind of life. This kind of life has to be built choice by choice.  Saying yes to some things, no to others. Saying yes to kindness and patience, and no to irritability and grouchiness. Even when I feel irritable and grouchy. 

It’s a trillion little choices that make a life. Until one day there are no days left in the calendar and nothing left to plan. 

I think all that anyone can ever hope for is that their love goes viral. That everyone they ever encountered felt their kindness, and then spread it to everyone they encountered, and on and on.

I feel this way about Owen. His love was contagious. I caught it, and I intend to spread it. 

On and on, for as long as I can plan.


Today I had to take Boomer to the vet for her annual shots.  As I sat in the waiting room a couple came in carrying a small dog. It looked like some kind of wire-haired terrier, small, white, with some black markings.  I never talk to people in the vet’s office unless it is clear that they have a healthy pet who is there for a wellness visit. I talk to puppy owners, mainly.  People with sick pets don’t want to talk to you. They only want to talk to the vet.

I had to wait for the results of Boomer’s heartworm test which takes about 10 minutes, so I put Boomer in the car (because she is kind of a pain in the ass) and returned to the waiting room.  All of a sudden it became clear that the couple with the little wire-haired dog was there to put their dog to sleep.

The vet tech started to explain the procedure to them, then left to ready the room.  The man began to cry and wipe tears away. The woman put her nose into the dog’s fur and wept. I began weeping too.  Soon they were asked to bring the dog into an exam room, and the door shut shut behind them.

Boomer’s heartworm test came back negative. As I gave the receptionist my credit card, I couldn’t see to sign the receipt because I was crying so hard.

Buddhists say that one of the main causes of suffering is attachment.  If we could just understand that everything is impermanent, our joys and as well as our sorrows, then we would be free from pain and suffering.

When we get our new puppy, we are so happy.  But when we have to put that same dog to sleep, we weep into its fur, and feel the most heart-wrenching pain imaginable.

Today I realized that I am not a very good Buddhist. I am VERY MUCH attached to the things that I love, and as a result I am in for a whole world of hurt.  I even suffer when I see the pain of other people because I realize that that will be my fate some day.

Psychologists call this “empathy” and it’s touted as a good thing.

But it hurts like a mother.

Trust 30: Day 1: 15 Minutes to Live

I have just signed a pledge for the  Trust 30 Challenge, so for the next 30 days, I will be blogging in response to whatever the prompt of the day happens to be.  Today’s was a doozey, and it took more time (and words) than I am happy about. Hopefully, in the coming days I will be able to make quicker work of them.

Trust 30: Entry One

Gwen Bell – 15 Minutes to Live

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.


2. Write the story that has to be written.

(Author: Gwen Bell)


I am totally speechless in the face of this challenge.  What if it were really the case? 15 minutes left?

Here’s what I would like to say to whoever is present:

Although my life was rich in many ways, and I did a few good things, I also end this ride with some regrets.  My premier regret is my timidity.  I wish I had been braver, I wish I would have risked more, I wish I could have dumped my old conditioning and realized sooner that I always had full control of my life.

As I have been driving around town this week looking at houses bent and dented and crushed by fallen trees from the recent wind storm, and pitying the people whose lives have been so disrupted by this mess, I have also been so very grateful not to have had to endure those pitying eyes myself.

I have deep, nauseating childhood memories of being pitied, and these memories still make me feel heavy and sad and afraid.

This fear of pity has made me timid and wimpish my whole life; it has held me back from doing the things I most wanted. It’s been my electric fence, and I totally believed I would die from its Zap.

So here’s what I want to say to anyone who will listen before I clock out: Be audacious!  Risk ridicule and pity and laughter and pointing and snickering and sneering and downright disapproval.  Go out into the world and do the thing you most fear doing.

The only thing you need to have in order to do this brave  “thing” is a deep bank account of Core Happiness.   If you are lucky enough to have someone open you an account early in your life, with a minimum deposit of respect, love and care, and then have them teach you how to invest that self-love, self-respect and self-care wisely in other people and worthy endeavors, you will be end up rich beyond your wildest dreams.

I learned the truth of this watching my mother live her life. My mother’s own minimum balance was all counterfeit.  She tried to finance her life on fake money.  It fooled a lot of people for a long time and it got her pretty far, but they soon found out that they couldn’t “spend” what they got from her because she was poor; she had nothing.  She was never there for them because she had no self-love, never practiced self-care  and had no self-respect.   She looked like the real deal, but if you tried to spend what she gave you, her checks bounced.

By some miracle, by the time I hit my 20s I had come into a little cache of real “happiness” money. It didn’t come from her, but I picked up a little here and a little there by associating with, and watching and learning from “rich” people: teachers, parents of my friends, and a few relatives.

And then when my daughter was born, suddenly my little “minimum balance account” started to miraculously double and triple in value.  I emptied my happiness account into that little girl, and in turn, she quadrupled my investment.   My daughter taught me the art of “Investing.” And by the time she was 3 or 4, I was overflowing in happiness.  I was a millionaire!

Now I end my life having lived the last 30 years of it totally off my “love and happiness” investment dividends.  I have so much happiness banked now, that I can afford to give it to everyone I encounter, my family, friends, yoga students, as well as random strangers. And best of all, I can never be “robbed.”

So here, in this last 15 minutes of my life, I bequeath all of my happiness to my family and my friends and my yoga students. I just ask that anyone who has received happiness from me, set up one other person with a minimum balance account and teach them the Art of Investing. (You invest by giving it all away!)

So I realize that I started this by regretting my timidity, and encouraging every one to be brave and take risks, so if this turns out not to be my last 15 minutes, but just a little “fire drill” I hope it has reminded me that I need to make it my life’s mission, for as long as I have left, to break this timidity tether, to wake up and realize that I am brave, that the looks of other people are not really pity, they could be love or concern.

And I hope that I have enough time left to learn to withstand the zap, clear the fence and not burden the people I most love with a legacy of timidity and fear, but leave them with an example of audacity, happiness and love.