Mind, Body, Spirit. Life events have made each of the three a pointed area of focus at one time or another. When I was young, a label of “smart kid” was slapped on as haphazardly as a validation stamp on a parking ticket. That set me on a path called “mind.” From that point on, I invested heavily with time and energy, anything my brain could spit out. I found all confidence in that one asset, and over-achievement became my comfort zone. This brought forth a decent return–a sense of worthiness in my eyes, and those of others.
The brain injury of my late forties presented me with the opportunity to invest my intellectual currency elsewhere by stealing away my well-honed ability to think clearly and productively. But thinking, especially work-related thinking, was all I knew and could rely on with any degree of assurance, so the opportunity for a well-timed detour was missed. Instead, I used my remaining pared-down intellectual capacity to germinate and grow more brain cells. I used the most powerful positive thought I could muster to recapture those abilities the brain bleed had tossed out some months before. Most of my ability to remember, and nearly all of my ability to process complex ideas returned. Confidence in the intellect grew, producing a bumper crop of newly found confidence and reliance on the mind.
Cancer in my mid-50s finally pulled me off that path and onto another. Experiencing a brain injury and cancer as a one-two punch made me wonder if I was missing some sign from the universe that might result in punch number three if I didn’t get it figured out pretty quickly. So I set about doing that.
Somewhere in that space of time, I thought I might do well to abandon my workaholic ways. Just to see if that addictive over-focus might have been hiding something. And, boy, was it.
But the cancer was serious enough that I needed to mesh this “how-to-avoid-punch-number-three” investigation with some additional concern for my body. I read about healing it with diet, only, and set about a plan to do that. Pretty successfully as far as I can tell.
So of the three, Mind Body, Spirit: Mind–check. Body–check. One to go.
A year and a half later, with no apparent spread of the cancer that all three of my medical doctors had warned me about, I’m back on the immanent trail of punch number three, determined to stave it off.
Could it be that punch number three has to do with spirit? Those two sets of three could be so conveniently pared.
If it is spirit, and I’m on it’s path, it doesn’t look a thing like what I expected. I thought it was all quiet meditation and good works, and becoming perfect in the eyes of the unseen.
Instead, it’s shown up in my life looking more like the goats living in my garage.
People had warned me about owning goats. (But interestingly enough, rarely do they warn you about going in search of spirit.) They said that goats would find their way though any fence, eat stuff you don’t want eaten, and basically drive you crazy. My new soul-quest has not strayed far from the crazy-making capacity of Leo and Orion, the Nubian goats I adopted last spring.
Leo and Orion are twins who I bottle fed when they first came to stay. They were just months old, and in order to have them close at hand and out of the cold, I put them in the small pole barn that I had–up until that point–called the garage. One of their first days with me, they escaped and headed east, presumably to return to their former home of Cumberland some 20 miles away. Friends Dan and Anita stopped by just as I scrambled after them with some hastily warmed bottles of milk and two dog leashes. As Anita and I alternated dragging and bottle-enticing, Dan prodded them with a box-elder stick. They bleated like high-pitched fog horns all the way back to the garage.
Eventually Leo and Orion exhibited signs of abandoning their sought-for escape to Cumberland. Garage became home. Now there is a rhythm to each day; a rhythm I have yet to embrace.
Daily, the goats climb every shelf in the garage, including the ones set at roof-level. They unearth buried things, de-shelf things that have been put away, and poop in and anything not on a shelf. They pull the plug on their bucket de-icer, knock over and attempt to decapitate their food bin. If not in the garage, in the summer months, they might bask in their goat-ness by downing sunflowers and running rip-shod over near-ripe tomatoes in order to corner their very own Kale plant for a chew-through. A cool-weather detour in might entail caving in the lid of the compost bin with one well-executed leap, just in case anything in there might look better than garden fare.
The rhythm of my post-diagnoses days have had something of the same feel. Old memories are unearthed and too-harsh feelings–the ones I had so carefully pack away–are de-shelved. Fears burgeon to the rooftops and sit just beyond my ability to rope them in.
Heart and soul and goats are such funny little creatures. So maddening at times, with their curiosity and desire to strip stowed away packages of the tape and rope and glue that holds them together. All the structure so important to me is deconstructed at night while I sleep or in random moments when I have let down my guard. The next day, during “turnout” I try and make everything right again.
My life, and everything I put stock into, has been deconstructed–presumably for a glimpse at what’s inside, behind, or beyond the point at which it’s all pulled apart.
The Goats. They are not even billy goats, for God’s sake. They are neutered; affectionate and non-aggressive. I go out to their goat house (AKA my garage) several times a day, because they make their cute goat sounds and come running up to see me. They sat in my lap when they were younger, and would still if they could get away with it. I still recall the Simpsons’ baby sucking-pacifier sound they made when they drank from their nipple-capped coke bottles.
I believe there is an eventual purpose to pulling apart facets of the heart and soul. And that there is a time when things can be put back into newly labeled boxes and back up onto the shelf.
Spring will bring the new, upright Sunflowers and Kale plants and other good garden edibles. Fences will be made more secure. But more importantly, I’ll learn to balance what seems punitive and harsh, with the things that are just so right. Destruction, do-overs, and crazily high-decibel bleating that sounds eerily like “Ma” shreaked over and over will be tempered by dewy-eyed gazes, near vertical leaps into the air, hat-grabbing, dog-butting and other endearing qualities that make goats, goats. I’ll learn that life isn’t neat or tidy, that perfection isn’t expected, and that the most joyful times come when one surveys the ground with it’s dumped and scattered remnants of feelings and history and walks right over all the stuff. At least until spring brings the opportunity to recycle it into one garden or another.