“Feel, deal, heal”

April 4, 2010

Nancy Slonim-Aronie is an outstanding workshop leader and the author of Writing From the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice.  I met her last summer when we were both teaching at Omega Institute, and I instantly loved her.  Since then, Nancy’s son Dan died, following a long and transformational dance with MS.  I asked Nancy’s permission to share with you a recent report from the trenches of her flaming heart to her friends and family.  I am deeply honored that she said yes.

Dan was a brilliant example of letting go of needs. His needs came down to bare-bone essence. As he got distilled he became more refined. Gerry called him a raisin, that the sicker he got the sweeter he got, that the smaller his body got the bigger his spirit became.

How to make my spirit bigger? Well I had the best teacher for how to let go. First, as you all know, he railed against god, called him a peckerhead (uncle al’s influence), screamed and yelled “Why?” and only over time (a lot of time) he started to give it up. And what a pleasure he became to hang out with.

One day I walked in the room and said, “Dan, I don’t know how you are doing this. You lost your ability to walk. You can’t hold a fork. You can’t use your Dragonspeak (the voice activated computer program) anymore so you have no privacy on the net, can’t even email on your own anymore, lost even more independence, you lie there in one position until we roll you over into another uncomfortable one, you’re in diapers, you have people poking and prodding and…” I went on and on and ended with “Why you, Dan?”

And he looked at me for a bit and his answer has become one of my favorite mantras. He said, “why NOT me?”

I remember grabbing the phone and calling Joel and yelling into the phone “ok your son has become a Zen master” and repeated our whole exchange. All three of us were laughing.  A major breakthrough, a leap, a new way of being in the world for all three of us.  So did he become a Zen Master or has everyone projected onto to him what they needed him to be and is that what a Zen Master is, anyway?

I don’t know. Won’t ever know but what I do know is we have had three Sundays without Dan.

The first one was cold and bright and Joel and I played tennis outdoors with a white-gold sun warming us, a flock of geese in V formation flying over and inviting us to stop and look and bear witness to Dan–as nature maybe? And then we rode up to gay head with one of our favorite CDs blaring and us belting out in harmony the Hebrew lyrics. Something unspoken but later corroborated was in the back of our mutual minds. We have to be somewhere so we better start down there. And then one or the other would remember no, we’re actually not expected anywhere. We’re not late for anything. We’re free. We were euphoric. We went home, climbed into the hot tub and that night watched 60 Minutes from our own house for the first time in 14 years!

As many of you probably know, Sundays were shower days for Dan. Ger would come in on the 4:30 and we would all go out to dinner when Dan could still go out, or I’d cook when I felt like cooking, or order in when Dan convinced us that the red dye in spare ribs from that weird place in vineyard haven was actually a way to build our immune systems and that in the end, it was a health food.  And then Joel slept there. Every Sunday night Joel slept at Dan’s. Except for the last six.

So how does it feel without Dan? Mostly fine, sometimes terrific and often verrry sad.

By mistake the other night when accessing my cellphone messages, somehow an old message from Dan popped into my ear. “Mah-ahm” is all I heard and it did me in. I wasn’t ready to hear his voice, although I knew I had saved some of his phone messages.

But since he wasn’t able to talk the last three months of his life, I had no desire to hear his voice. Especially by mistake.

The pictures and the cards that you all are sending are gifts that bring tears and memories and then stories and then laughs, that end in tears again.

All in all, remember we’ve had thirty-eight years to process this and even though it’s hard, it’s also perfect.

That’s what I wrote after three Sundays.  And I have been flat on my back with icepacks ever since: sciatica.

Dan’s got my back is the diagnosis. Sit down Nancy and grieve. I have a chapter in my book called Feel Deal and Heal. I always start the workshops telling people that we’re alchemists; we turn shit into gold. We take the pain of what happened in our lives and we dance it we sculpt it we paint it we write it. But the most important part I always emphasize from my lofty position as Teacher is that we have to FEEEEEEEEEEEEL it first!! That we cannot skip the SORROW.

So now I’m taking my own workshop. Starting with Sobbing 101.  I wouldn’t have done it if my back hadn’t gone south. This is the only way I would accept that I had to cancel workshops, lie down, and deal. And that’s what I’m doing. This is much harder than I ever dreamed. I thought the transition from form to formless would be a piece of cake. After all, I read Deepak and Eckert. It turns out theory is much different from practice. I thought I would just carry over the sadness to the next phase. But it’s a different kind of sadness. It’s missing the miracle I always used to expect, and all I have is a broken heart. After I grieve, my back will get better. I know this. I don’t know how long it will take but it will take as long it takes.  Of course Joel, who really is the Zen man, is even, balanced and putting one foot in front of the other without a glimmer of back pain.

Dan always used to say to me “slow down, turbo”. So I’m on the floor on the yoga mat with icepacks at my hips and three skinny books to hold my head in the Alexander Technique position known as Constructive Rest, constructively resting, sobbing and slowing down turbo.

Nancy Slonim-Aronie, March 2010

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