Apr 08 2009
Tom’s daughter Oakley came for a visit last week with husband Len and their year and a half old son Arthur. Arthur was such a joy to observe; he sees life anew, with fresh eyes. As a train went by, he watched with wide-eyed wonder and exclaimed, “More choochoo!” He wanted us to make it come again. (A day after they left, for good measure, the Universe brings us another wonder-filled baby visitor, 6 month-old Julian, with parents Jay and Emily.)
I’m in pain from my hysterectomy and wince as Tom helps me out of bed. Then I look at Tom and smile, grateful that he is in my life, helping me out of bed. I look at him the way Arthur looked at the train. My wide-open baby eyes drink him in. “More Tom!”
I lived alone for most of my life until I was 50 and met Tom. Ten years later he is still a surprise to me and I see him with fresh, grateful eyes…most of the time. Sometimes he and I will be busily buzzing through our day, and one of us will wake up to that, tap the other on the shoulder, look into their eyes and say, “Hello.” Stopping in the middle of our busyness we become aware, “Oh, You’re here.” And then, “Oh, I’m here.”
There’s a cartoon which shows a man sitting at his desk, with a glazed look in his eyes. In the next frame his eyes are wide open, his whole body alert. In the 3rd frame he has resumed his glazed look. The caption reads: “Herb has a brief but intense near life experience.”
Since my diagnosis of uterine cancer and subsequent surgery, I have been having more frequent “near life experiences”. I am experiencing life through baby eyes. It’s much like lucid dreaming when you wake up within your dream and know that you are dreaming. This is lucid living; waking up in your life knowing that you’re alive.
People who have had near death experiences report that upon return they see their life in vivid technicolor and have a renewed zest for life. Any life calamity can do the same. It rocks our world and we are jolted awake. “Wake up, you’re alive!” In that way, our life calamities can be a great gift.
Brian Andreas, the creator of Story People, created a Story People drawing with the caption: “Most people don’t know there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss your life.” These wake-up angels are among us, cleverly disguised as calamities (and babies)!
The brain is designed to categorize, habitualize and go on automatic pilot. That’s why it takes something new and out of the ordinary to wake us up to the Present Moment: something like a baby, a long-awaited love, or a calamity.
As the Titanic was sinking, the band was playing “Nearer My God to Thee”, and the people on board were singing along. No doubt they were feeling vibrantly alive. I imagine the people in the lifeboats were feeling that same vivid aliveness. Voltaire said, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” We must not forget to sing and dance and be fully awake and alive in our Life.
But not to worry…if we do forget, life will obligingly send us one of those angels to wake us up so that we don’t miss our lives!
Baby Eyes (1991)
She looks at me with soft, wide eyes,
my 5-month-old niece.
In silent stillness
we gaze at each other…
“I see you.”
I drink in
the simple sweetness of
and Being Seen.
A smile slowly lights
her almost perfectly round face.
I smile back.
A sweet giggle escapes
her cupid bow lips
and pierces my heart
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