On Sunday I condemned my mother to death

Chalice Well

Chalice Well (Photo credit: greenchartreuse)

Yesterday was challenging – no doubt about it.

Woke up on a (finally) sunny and not too cold spring Sunday and was planning a leisurely stroll to the beautiful Chalice Well Gardens here in Glastonbury.

At 9am my mother’s nursing home phoned: would I get down there immediately, please?  Things were bad.

My mum is 91 and has advanced dementia.  She barely eats, she barely wakes up for more than a few minutes at a time and if she gives a smile of recognition once a month I count myself lucky.  She is lifted around in a hoist from bed to shower to chair and is reliant on the wonderful staff at her home for every bodily need.  She has had numerous ‘near misses’.  I’ve lost count of the number of times doctors have told me to brace myself and prepare for the end, but here we were again.

I arrived in her room to find it bursting with paramedics and equipment.  Mum was fully conscious, with wild, staring eyes.  An oxygen mask was clamped to her face.  She was waving her hand about – apparently trying to shake off the probe or whatever it was attached to a finger.

“She has a chest infection,” one of the ambulance staff explained.  “Her oxygen intake is very low and falling.  She needs to be in hospital and on oxygen if we are to save her, but it’s up to you.  If you’d rather we left her here and let nature take its course we’ll respect your decision.”

Great.  9.15 on a Sunday morning and I was being asked to play God with my mother’s life.  The medics were, understandably, in a hurry.  They needed an instant response.

I fought my way through the forest of pipes and tanks and plastic stuff littering the way and stood with my mum.  Her eyes were still darting about.  She looked petrified.  I remembered the other times I’d been to see her in hospital over the past few years – turned into a human pincushion with drips and masks and whatever, surrounded by strangers.  I imagined the 45 minute journey by ambulance with sirens wailing to the nearest hospital.

Words from Conversations With God rang in my ears: “What would Love do now?”

“No,” I said.  “I’d like her to stay here.”

They nodded.  The mask, the oxygen tank and other equipment were whisked away.  The medics’ final comment was that she probably had less than two hours to live, so I decided to spend those two hours well.

I held her hand, stood where she could see my face and I talked.  I started with our life together – all 62 years of it.  I described the holidays we’d had, the houses we’d lived in, the gardens she’d created.  She was still conscious, still listening after all that, so I went on to talk about her own childhood, her friends, her marriage and anything else that came to mind.

Finally a locum GP arrived.  He said she’d stabilised but quite possibly wouldn’t recover.  He didn’t give a timescale.  He put into place a raft of palliative care that covered every eventuality and would ensure that she suffered minimum distress.

I left her sleeping peacefully several hours later.

Well what would you have done?

At times like this – times when we’re dealing with the very toughest choices and challenges – it can be easy to forget that life is a game designed to expand the universe.  I’m very lucky to have wonderful reminders all around me.

This is one: a post from the excellent Ask The Council blog that magically appeared in my inbox this morning.
Roller Coaster "Python" Theme Park E...Here is another: a post I wrote at the end of last year, dealing with the same question.  It contains the guidance I was ‘given’ when someone else asked me why life is so horribly tough.

Why do I believe Life is a game?

So many people have asked me, over the last couple of months, what this book of mine (Life: A Player’s Guide) is all about.
“Is it fiction?” they ask hopefully.
When I tell them it isn’t – that it’s stuff I really believe – they often look a bit confused.
“But you don’t actually, er, believe that life is a game, do you?”
I nod. “Yup. I do, actually. It’s the only way it makes sense to me. Why else would we put ourselves through all this?”
Their confusion grows.
“How exactly do you reckon that works then?”

Telling them they’d need to read the book seems a bit of a cop-out, but it isn’t easy to explain my whole philosophy of life in a couple of sentences. I’ve tried. People tend to glaze over or back away hastily.

That’s what led me to create the ‘mini ebook’. It’s only a few pages long and lets anyone who is vaguely interested dip their toes in the water of the whole Janonlife idea. After reading it, if they want to know more, there’s always Life: A Player’s Guide

The mini ebook is available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99 or equivalent (about 77p in UK) It’s called Life Is A Game: You Created It by Jan Stone. Alternatively, there’s a link to the free PDF version on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/janstoneauthor.

Maybe a few of my friends will be slightly less confused now.
The mini ebook might even help some of my blog readers to understand some of the ideas I mention in my posts.

Incredible Hulks

Everything has its shadow side. That much is obvious. After all, we are participating in a game based around polarities.

It helps to think of it like a set of balance scales. Some of our experiences just wobble slightly either side of centre, but the huge ones have an equal and opposite reaction.

Today I’m thinking again about those special young people I talk about so much – the ones who are labelled indigo and crystal on one side of the scales; mentally ill and disordered on the other. I call them the Version 2.0 kids. You’d need to read Life: A Player’s Guide to understand why.

These people are NEVER in balance. They swing from one polarity to the other. Those of us privileged and challenged to be close to them witness the astounding wisdom, insight and light they are bringing to the world. We also witness the fury, frustration and terrifying outbursts of aggression and violence. They are two sides of the same coin.

At the time of writing, the world has just witnessed a particularly extreme example of the latter. Most of us may try, and fail, to comprehend what was going through the mind of young Adam, as he gunned down little children and their teachers. I’d hazard a guess that most of our Version 2.0 young people can understand.

At the weekend I ‘happened’ (no such thing as coincidence) to meet two people who had young adult sons on the autistic spectrum. Both described how their boys spend most of their lives holed up indoors, needing support and supervision and prey to massive swings from being brilliant, eloquent and enlightening to being abusive, angry and out of control. There are countless other families sharing this experience in silent desperation and praying that their kid doesn’t become the next mass killer.

As I’ve explained in other posts, these young people are stress-testing LIFE. They (and, of course, those of us who are close to them) are seeing how life plays out if there are no limits to the levels of enlightenment and ‘endarkenment’ that can be reached. Each of them is an incredible hulk, shutting themselves away for our protection until they can find a way to move beyond polarity and into unity.

Why is my life so rubbish?

About five years ago, a ten year old child in my class wrote me a letter.

‘Why is my life so rubbish?’ it asked.  The writer went on to assure me this was a serious question, to which she really wanted an answer, because she needed to understand.

Let me say for a start that she wasn’t exaggerating.  By most people’s standards, that little girl did have some hugely challenging issues in her life and they kept coming, thick and fast.  I understood, sympathised and promised I’d get back to her as soon as I’d discovered the answer.

I’m still not sure where the answer came from, when it arrived.  All I know is that I took some quiet time to sit down and wait for it, trusting completely that it would come to me, and in a form that a child could understand.  My muse just works like that.

Those of you who have read Life: A Player’s Guide will recognise this explanation as the analogy at the beginning of Part 2.  For those who haven’t, it goes something like this:

Imagine that you were spending a whole day at a theme park.  You could go on as many rides as you liked.  As you entered the park, you noticed a kiddie roundabout playing jingly music and revolving very slowly and safely.  Further on, there were all manner of white-knuckle rides, promising to throw you around, drop you from great heights, scare you witless, soak you to the skin and turn you upside down at considerable speed.

I asked the little girl what she would choose to do.

Her eyes shone.  “I’d want to try out all the scariest rides I could find!” she exclaimed.

“Not the kiddie roundabout, then?”

Her lip curled derisively.  “Wouldn’t bother with that!”

Next I asked her to imagine how her greater self had felt when planning her present lifetime – before she was born.  For that Self, I explained, the game of life is like a trip to the theme park.  Would it choose a lifetime of simply chugging around the kiddie roundabout in a safe, unthreatening existence, or would it be looking for all the wildest, most uncomfortable rides – ones that would test it to the limits, leave it shaking and trembling, allowing it to experience the ultimate in thrills and gain all manner of new experiences?

She nodded, slowly, understanding why some multi-dimensional part of herself had elected to expose her to all those white-knuckle experiences.  They don’t feel too great while we’re in the middle of them, but ultimately, we’re going to stagger away, feeling sick and dizzy, perhaps, but incredibly proud of ourselves for getting through it.

It really does get easier if we can remember that life’s a game.

Spiraling through time

Odd how, in the West, we have this idea that time travels in some predictable, linear way, moving inexorably from the remembered past, hovering briefly in the present and flowing into an unknown future.   It’s been suggested that the Eastern idea of time is more a circle – the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth flowing around like the snake biting its tail.  Can I suggest that time doesn’t truly work in either of those ways?  My perception of time – insofar as it exists – is of a spiral.

We are currently participating in a three-dimensional game called life within a matrix of time and space.  Because we’ve been at it for quite a while now, we’re beginning to see where it gets a bit fuzzy at the edges.  Scientists are discovering places, both down the microscope and through the telescope, where it doesn’t follow those 3D rules at all.  Seers and mystics – the genuine ones – have been doing this for generations.  Nevertheless, in our day-to-day lives, we tend to put such things aside, keep an eye on the clock and block out our more inexplicable deja-vu or precognitive experiences.

Personally, I like the fuzzy edges of perception.  I enjoy exploring the synchronicities and portents that take us beyond the mundane.  I think it makes the game more interesting.  That’s why I live in spiral time.

It works like this:  My lifeline has been bent into a spiral.  It may help to think of it like a ride down an old-fashioned helter-skelter.  While I’m on this journey,  something out there in the fairground – the candy-floss stand perhaps will catch my eye every so often.  Every time I complete a turn, that candy-floss stand will flash into view.   I’ll think, “I’ve been in this situation before!  This all seems very familiar.”

However if I look closely, I’ll notice that it doesn’t look exactly the same.  I’m in a different position on the helter-skelter now; I’ve covered more ground.  That means I’m able to perceive it from a slightly different angle.  Maybe I’ll spot details or aspects of it I didn’t notice before.

Life’s like that.  We find ourselves thinking,  “Oh boy – been here before!”  New people or places, perhaps, but they press the same buttons, dredge up the same insecurities and pose the same challenges we faced last time.

If life was a line, we could put it all down to co-incidence.  If it was a circle, we could put it all down to karma.  If it’s a spiral, though, we can look back to the way we dealt with this problem last time and see what we’ve learned from that.  We can also look forwards and see how this situation will look once we’ve found a way to overcome the challenges.  I’ll even dare to suggest that dreams and portents might help out here, once you’re ready to open to them and understand that it’s possible to look forward as well as back…

I’d love to know who else out there is living in spiral time.

Connecting to NPCs

“Why do some of those people have floaty lights bobbing about over their heads?” I asked my son, as I watched him playing a computer game.

“They’re called NPCs – Non-Player Characters,” he replied patiently, still managing to move his own avatar swiftly through the crowded medieval street.  “They’re there to help you.  Sometimes if you stop and speak to them they give you useful information, like suggesting where you could go to collect more EXP, or sometimes if you follow them, they lead you to a part of the game you haven’t visited.”

I noticed that he wasn’t stopping to speak to any of them, but I dare say he’d fully explored this part of the game several times before.

In our game – Life – those special characters don’t often  have shiny things dancing over their heads.  They have another way of getting our attention.  Usually they do it by getting in our face and making it hard for us to ignore them.  Since we haven’t (or not as far as we remember) played this part of the game before, it would make sense to stop and listen to them, wouldn’t it?  Maybe they’re going to show or teach us something we need to know…

I had an encounter with one yesterday.

I was in Bristol – a busy, bustling city in South West England.  I’d been Christmas shopping and the weather was not great.  In fact, by the time I reached the steep narrow alley that leads from the shopping centre up to the bus station, I was tired, windswept, wet and – above all – cold.  My one thought was that I wanted to get into the shelter as soon as possible and on to my warm, comfortable no. 376 bus.  I’d been skillfully weaving my way through the hordes of pedestrians, with an impressive turn of speed, when I came up against my NPC.

In front of me was this small, wide figure, moving ridiculously slowly.  She had two large bags of shopping in each hand and these were held out to the sides, so that it was almost impossible to get past.  Seeing a small gap, I moved to the left.  With immaculate timing but never a backward glance she veered in that direction, blocking my path.  I headed right.  Instantly she tottered over that way and again I was blocked.  I felt my frustration and anger starting to build.  As I made a final sharp twist to the left, she quite suddenly stopped right in front of me and put the bags down, bending over and gasping for breath.  At this point, she looked back and noticed me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, dear.  I must be slowing you up.”  She hauled the bags to the side and gestured to me to pass.

Ah, but you see I’d done it now – I’d stopped and listened to her.  And yes, she did have something valuable to teach me.  This encounter moved me beyond my narrow desire to reach my next goal, and expanded my perception a bit.  Now I was seeing this fellow shopper – quite a bit older than me, also cold, wet and tired and struggling to carry four huge and heavy bags up this steep path.

I relaxed, smiled and offered to take a couple of her bags up to the bus station for her.  We carried on – at her pace – chatting as we went.  By the time we’d reached the top of the alley, I knew all about her six grandchildren and the Manchester United pyjamas she’d wanted for one of them and been unable to find anywhere.

As I returned her bags and we parted, I noticed that although the weather remained the same, I no longer felt cold.