meditation · mindfulness

Christine’s Wrist-Spy Doesn’t Know Everything

Please note: Despite my whimsical title, this post is about grief. Proceed with caution.

A friend of mine jokingly refers to smart watches as ‘wrist spies.’ Since she says it without malice or judgement, I find it hilarious and I’ve started using the term on a regular basis.

As spies go, though, it has been failing this past week. It might end up having to come in from the cold.

On Sunday, I received a notification that my ‘Mindfulness’ minutes are down this week and I immediately said, aloud, “Shows what you know, Wrist Spy!”

(By the way, if me talking to an inanimate object makes you concerned for my state of mind, rest easy. I do it all the time and, so far, my wrist spy is the only object that talks back to me. And that only happens when I say her name…or, let’s be honest here, anything that sounds like her name.)

Seriously though, I thought it was pretty funny that my wrist spy was calling my attention to my mindfulness because this past week has been one of the most mindful times of my life.

As you know from last week’s post, my Dad passed away on May 6th.

I’ve spent the last week thinking about him, about his life, about our lives, and about what the world looks like without my Dad in it.

I had lots to do but I was never trying to keep busy to avoid thinking. Yet, I didn’t end up ruminating either. I just sat (or stood, or walked) with whatever came up.

I’m not trying to cast myself as a perfect model of emotional maturity and mindfulness here, this was more by fluke than by design.

And, it helped that the tasks I took on – writing the obituary, writing and delivering the eulogy – not only gave me some good structures for my thinking, they were also the types of practices I do to help me process big emotions.

I didn’t consciously choose those tasks to serve that purpose but my subconscious was clearly on the case this time.

So, instead of spending my time thinking about the fact that my Dad is gone, I could spend my time thinking about how he lived and who he was, and how his spirit lives on in his family and friends.

All of that thinking felt very mindful, very in-the-moment to me.

And when I started to cry, I just let myself cry until the worst of the feeling had passed.

When I felt overwhelmed, I breathed through it. Sometimes I did that on my own, sometimes because my husband said, “You’re breathing fast, try to slow it down.”

And, I found myself noticing everything so sharply and clearly.

I saw crocuses on a lawn when I was out for a walk with the dog. I looked at them closely – the petals, the colours, the leaves – and I had a flash thought that my Dad won’t ever see flowers like that again. He wasn’t big into flowers or anything but the thought still welled up. Instead of getting carried off into grief about the things he would miss, I, luckily, was able to choose to notice them for him. I paid close attention to the colours, the contrasts, the petals and leaves, and how they stood out against the dull grass.

A cluster of crocuses on a yellowed lawn
Image Description: a cluster of crocuses ( a few yellow and a few each of three shades of purple) surrounded by winter-worn grass.

And I drank my (many, many) cups of tea slowly, letting the mug warm my hands and letting the scent and taste wash over me.

I turned my face to the sun when it came out, feeling warmed and hopeful and bright, despite the circumstances.

I talked with so many people who knew Dad and I paid attention to the details they shared with me and leaned into the connection to him.

And, I did a hundred other small things that felt mindful and kept me present.

On Friday, as I was waiting before the memorial service began, I played some songs from a playlist that I created – Songs that make me think of Pete *- and I sat and breathed slowly and felt like things would be ok.

Ever since listening so carefully on Friday, a few lines from Itchycoo Park by Small Faces have been floating up over and over in my brain, reminding me of the good things in the world even during this challenging time.

(What did you feel there?) well, I cried
(But why the tears there?) tell you why
It’s all too beautiful, it’s all too beautiful
It’s all too beautiful, it’s all too beautiful

Obviously, I’m having a very different kind experience than the main character in the song m. His ability to notice the beauty around him hinged on the substances he took. I am looking for and feeling the beauty around me because the intensity of my emotions is making everything very vivid right now.

While it isn’t always easy, this vivid sense of awareness means I have been very “present” from moment to moment for the past week or so.

I’m feeling all the difficult feelings, I am acutely aware of my experiences, and I am sharply attuned to the beautiful things around me like crocuses and hot cups of tea and my friends rallying to support me.

And all of that adds up to mindfulness even if it isn’t happening in a way that a wrist spy can track.

My watch may be spying on me but it doesn’t know everything.

*Please note, some of these songs are from my Dad’s youth and hence some of the lyrics are sketchy at best. Please don’t judge my Dad for the songs he liked then and please don’t assume that he held every value (or lack thereof) expressed in every song. I included them in my playlist because they make me think of Dad singing them.

4 thoughts on “Christine’s Wrist-Spy Doesn’t Know Everything

  1. Thank you for this beautiful post, Christine. Your mindfulness through this is really amazing and inspiring. I was wondering if this is new—the way sometimes extremely difficult times can bring razor-sharp focus— or if it’s a well-honed mindfulness that you have been able to continue through these extra-challenging days. Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to share the experience here. 😊

    1. Thanks, Tracy. 💚

      I think it is a combination of both, really. I haven’t always been a consistent meditator but I have had to learn how to pay close attention to what my brain is doing at any given time so perhaps that practice has helped me hone a mindfulness that I hadn’t labelled as such before.

  2. I’m sorry about the loss of your dad. I won’t judge you for “Itchycoo Park” (“MacArthur Park”, maybe). I like that you made that song list. (And “A Letter From Camp” by Allan Sherman is featured in my next post.) I saw a film about people with dementia and how playing their favorite music woke them up and they became more interactive. As a result, I started my own playlist – to be played for me if I am ever in a hospital and not fully conscious and to be played at my memorial when I die. I’m glad you’ve learned to take your Wrist Spy’s “insights” with a grain of salt.

    1. Thank you! 💚

      Thanks for the leeway on Itchycoo Park! And MacArthur Park is definitely…something. The only thing that saves it is being able to remember my Dad’s warbling on ‘Never have that recipe agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain’

      I love the idea of that playlist you are creating. I remember watching a video about a elderly ballet dancer with dementia who was still able to respond to Swan Lake (I think that was the music) with the graceful arm movements she had learned so long ago.

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