The Thought of Getting Out of Bed

Monday morning after a late Sunday night. The alarm ringing. I don’t feel like getting out of bed. But I must. But I don’t want to.

I turn over and try to sleep a few more minutes, not remembering if I hit the snooze button. The alarm rings again nine minutes later. I shut it off. I have an 8:00 meeting, which means I have to catch the 7:20 bus, which means I have to get out of bed. Now.

Curled up on my side, I roll onto my back—a slight emergence out of the cocoon of warmth and sleep. Steady rain pelts the windows, which makes the thought of rising even less appealing.

I try to sit up, to just get going. My head lifts, a suggestion of motion, but too much of me just wants to stay in the snug comfort of bed. No. I roll back onto my side. What if I didn’t go to work? What if I stayed here all day? How long before someone phones or comes looking? Continue reading The Thought of Getting Out of Bed

On Rereading “When Things Fall Apart”

When rereading “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön, I was struck by this: “It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown.”

The sentence could have been written specifically for me and my current state of mind. I was about to get up and look for my notebook to copy the words, but I hesitated.

The first time I read “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” was the overwhelming year my mother died, my marriage ended, and I quit my job. The year before, life had seemed dull and stagnant. Then everything came undone. Chödrön’s writing helped. Since then, I’ve recommended her book to at least a dozen friends going through their own difficult times. Continue reading On Rereading “When Things Fall Apart”

The Diagnosis and the Present Moment

Karen outside at picnic table
Karen, October 2019

Karen, one of my best friends, was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in September 2019. At the time, she was working as a consultant in a small town in Utah. In early March 2020, before COVID took over the world, we talked at her home in New Hampshire about how getting a difficult diagnosis has changed the way she views the present moment.

Martha Henry: How did you end up in a hospital in Salt Lake City on Labor Day weekend?

Karen: I’d been experiencing some physical discomfort for several months and then had a bowel blockage. Joe, my husband, took me to the emergency room on a Saturday night.

How did you know you had a bowel blockage?

I didn’t until they told me. It was very different from food poisoning. The vomit had different smells.

The emergency room doctor gave me a CT scan. They pumped my stomach and got me stabilized. The doctor was looking at the scans with a flummoxed face. We heard him say something about, There’s more going on here than just the bowel blockage. He was consulting with doctors from Salt Lake, who said, Get her up here!

They put me in an ambulance. I had nothing with me. We didn’t pack a bag. It was the middle of the night, driving miles and miles and miles. We didn’t know what was happening. Everything was surreal. We knew we were in an alternate universe. Continue reading The Diagnosis and the Present Moment

Why is it so difficult to be in the present moment?

Morning. Coast of Maine. Clear day after three days of fog. The horizon visible for the first time since we’ve been here. Blue water, blue sky.

I drink coffee on the shale ledge, watching the tide go out, waiting for the heron to come and fish for minnows in the shallows. The milk snake that slithers across the rocks on hot mornings is nowhere to be seen. Offshore, a lobsterman pulls traps from the back of his white boat.

When I think of a perfect morning, this is what I imagine. Here is where I’ve been wanting to be for weeks. Now here, the coffee half gone, the sound of breaking waves, the smell of beach roses and seaweed. The lone gull floating in the inlet takes flight, circles, and with a gentle splash, returns to the water.

Always seeing the world through words. Can I write and be present at the same time? Where are you as you read this? Continue reading Why is it so difficult to be in the present moment?