“There is no truth, only perception.” I used to say that a lot in my teens and twenties. I remember cutting class to read Plato at Stuyvesant Park in Manhattan in the ’80s with my other wild and philosophical friends. I’ve always loved looking for the truths in life. Last week I was caught up in the orbit of my personal world – my business, my birthday, my goals. Then the ball dropped, a complete change in perspective. My father passed away after a year and a half bedridden and on hospice care. My thoughts about him were in the background of everything I did or said. Would that be my fate one day? What kind of mental integrity might I need to manage that type of situation? What type of decisions did my dad face day after day while unable to sit up or move his own legs? They say “once a man and twice a child.” For us Buddhists, we believe we go on to our next life like a train that leaves one station only to stop at the next. After watching my mom in her final days and then my dad, I’m struck by how similar the end of life resembles the beginning: We need people to take care of us.
So often when we are in the prime of our lives, we’re busy reaching for money and other worldly goals. At the end of the day, all we really have are the people who know us and care about us. The ones who pray for us without even telling us. We have them and we have our own spirits – that subtle bit of consciousness that will travel into our next life. We can’t take our new Mercedes, our Netflix subscription, or our mother’s jewelry. We can’t even take the people we love. We can’t take our collection of books, handbags or shoes. Not our spices, herbs, essential oils, or precious roots. We can’t even take our soft, moist bodies. We take nothing but the work we’ve done on our own minds and spirits.
Today is Thursday, and it’s four days since I lost my father. Three days ago I found out a good friend is suddenly ill. It makes me realize, yet again, how bittersweet this world is. If only we could love and care for each other better.
I often talk about a crisis of authenticity in this country, maybe in this world. Some of us love our own selfie pics more than we love our real selves. Or we love the pics we don’t share, calling ourselves “shy” or “cautious.” We love attending weddings, funerals, and reunions more than we love or even know our family members.
I encourage you to love yourself and this world well while you’re in it. Learn who you are. Share a little more. Help a little more. Know your boundaries. Leave a beautiful mark on this bittersweet place.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. This photo is from my visit to the White House in 2015 with my dad. He was a Jamaican immigrant, U.S. Army veteran, and loved this country and his family dearly. He was 79 at the time and needed a stool for the long line and hot sun as we waited for Secret Service clearance to enter. He never took off his suit jacket or his flag pin. He was so proud. He will be dearly missed. I’ve decided to cancel my Fall Retreat Series to focus on my healing, my family, and my writing. There are many lessons from my father in my self-help memoir, “Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings.” More info at https://trishahjelroberts.com/books.