Life Sentences: Criss-Cross

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By: Fran LoBiondo

Our columnist, at one of life’s crossroads, has mixed feelings about it all.

At a crossroad between late middle age and early old age, that’s where I am. You know, the age where each ache and pain ceases to be just nothing now morphs into the thing that keeps me awake at night, imagining that it’s a looming calamity that might change my life for the worse.

Life has been a good life so far, all things considered. I survived cancer on the brain, open-heart surgery, the aftermath of an autism diagnosis for my son, and the loss of my Mom, who had a way of talking me down from my crises, real or imagined. 

I wish she were here. I wish I felt healthy and strong. And I wish fervently that I knew what to do next with my life. If Jesus is with me, guiding my path, I wish he’d be a little more specific.

I read this quote recently in a magazine:

“You’re wishing too much, baby. Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.” It was from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love: A Memoir.

A little harsh, coming from a bestselling author who travels the world eating, praying and loving. But maybe she has a point. I read that book, and some of it was inspiring.

In India, Ms. Gilbert studied Yoga intensively. One type of meditation was called Vipassana meditation. The idea is to find a place to sit, and stop. Let whatever happens, happen. Vipassana teaches that grief and nuisance are inevitable, but it all eventually passes, so hold your peace in the moment.

“I was bad at calming my mind, so one day I decided to try it for an hour.”

She sat for a while with no movement or agitation. But immediately, mosquitoes started dive-bombing her, but she stayed put.

 “The itch was maddening at first, but gradually melted into a general heat of pure sensation, very intense. That intensity lifted me out of myself and into perfect meditation, where I sat in real stillness for the first time in my life.”

After sitting still for two hours, she counted 20 mosquito bites, but they all passed away eventually.

I remember reading that passage, feeling her pain and knowing if it were me, I’d have been dancing the hoochie coochie, slapping at myself as I beat a retreat to the nearest bug spray store. But the story impressed me.

I studied with a local yogi, Dr. Parikh, every time I could. He often said as we were about to meditate: “You know, when you have an argument with your spouse or co-worker, just remember: If you scream and yell it will go away. If you lose the argument, it will go away. And if you do nothing, it will go away.”

That sounds like Vipassana meditation to me.

Okay, onto other topics.  I have noticed the golden brown leaves on our back lawn, and although I hate winter’s cold, I welcome the changes that October brings.

Writer Truman Capote said this about that: “Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that second beginning of spring.”

If Capote spent more time in New York instead of his birthplace, New Orleans, he might have come up with a more quotable quote. 

And now for Curious Events Days in October.

• October 11  is Bald and Free day.

• October 19 is Evaluate Your Life Day. Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to think about self-improvement. Stop procrastinating! Ask yourself:

• Who are you? 

• What do you want?

• Where do you want to go?

• How’s your diet and exercise routine? Wait, that’s a scary one, you may want to skip ahead to October 22, that’s Call Your Mother day. Okay, I made that up.

I have made one positive step toward becoming a gardener this year. In July I bought two small containers of small basil plants. At home, I placed them in two large paint buckets with drain holes, put soil all around them, watered them freely and watched them grow. I went out and picked the leaves for pesto and froze some of the sauce for easy-to-cook autumn meals.

I loved watching those plants grow, and my daughter planted morning glory seeds of varied colors, but they did not bloom until the day after she left for college. I sent her pictures, though.

If all this talk of improvement gives you the withering jimjams, just remember these wise words from George LoBiondo, dad, poppop, husband and very deep thinker: 

“I think giving up is underrated.”



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