A friend was visiting this weekend with terminal cancer. We sat around the fire in our backyard on Saturday night talking about at what point the pain becomes too great and she asks her husband to help her die. I got to work on Monday morning to find out a colleague, whose father passed away about 6 months ago and grandmother died two months ago, was going to be out of office this week as another family member suddenly passed away on the weekend. Then I got a call from another friend. Her best childhood friend had hung herself in the garage the night before. She had been suffering from severe depression since her husband died of cancer last year. She had promised my friend that she would never commit suicide as she couldn't orphan her young kids. Well, her kids woke up Monday morning and called a relative because they couldn't find mommy. And yet she had been doing everything right to get help and treatment for the depression. But the disease took over. The disease won.
All of this brought up a lot for me. During my postpartum depression the doctors screened me for suicidal thoughts. And my answer was the same; I wouldn't do that to my kids. And I feel so profoundly grateful that my disease never won. But since the birth of my first child I've had a hard time seeing a pregnant woman. Any pregnant woman. Even strangers on the street. I would get this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Panic would well up in my chest. I'd even find myself feeling sorry for them. How crazy is that? They are about to become a mother and experience one of the greatest joys in life... and I felt sorry for them.
But you know what? This week I realized something. In fact I didn't just realize it, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. It's been awhile since I've had that reaction seeing pregnant woman. The memory is still very much there for me but the edges of it have smoothed out. It doesn't sting in the same way it used to. And nor do all the tragic stories of this past week. Historically this kind of week would have consumed me. I would have taken on all the pain everyone else was feeling as if it was my pain. Now don't get me wrong, I've had my teary moments but I am not suffocating from it all in the way I usually would. In the Bhagavad Gita there are 5 horses that represent the 5 senses, and the trick is for the driver of the chariot to control those horses through the journey. The trick to life is to control our senses not the other way around. So maybe being able to receive all the pain around me this week but not have it overwhelm me is thanks to all the yoga. Maybe the sculpture in the image above that I bought many years ago, that for so long represented how I have felt about the world, has lost its gravitas.
I had this flash of thought that maybe this isn't a good thing. Maybe I've become an insensitive person. But I don't think so. I think maybe I've become a stronger person.