Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | July 4, 2012

The Cognoscenti (take two)

“…the cognoscenti, those of us who recognize in one another a kindred chasm deep in the center of who we are.”  — Anna Quindlen

So many things are different now from this time last year. Re-reading the first few paragraphs of essay below makes me feel it even more deeply, how much closer to wellness I have navigated in a year. I am more myself, my old and new self, than I have been in quite some time, and even with more work to do, this feels like something to celebrate.
An illuminating moment at yoga last week reminded me of this post, so sharing it: both this moment of clarity and the one preceding it, both brought about by the practice of yoga.

Beloved friend & yoga teacher J. to class: “And now hold the pose (it was Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose), but with 25% less effort.”

After class I told her what an epiphany that was to me – “Hold the pose, but with 25% less effort”.

She said, “I was looking at your body when I said it.”

Me: “Really? ‘Cause I was thinking of it mostly in terms of things other than yoga.”

J: “See? That’s yoga for ya.”
Which, of course, is why I practice yoga. The buff arms. The reminder, always, to breathe. And the thoughtful, thought-less, balance it can bring. With 25% less effort.


From what I hear from the cognoscenti – the grieving, the lost –  a lot of us are searching.

We are ready for some changes, and maybe some things already are changing, but we don’t know exactly what’s next or how it will come to be, and gosh, we are so tired. Some days are just still so hard. For me, many days, it is hard to get out of my own way. I know there are things that need to be done; I even know some things that make me happy. But I have trouble doing them.

We have changed, whether we wanted to or not. Our old lives are over and our new lives aren’t quite here yet. We want to meet the person we are going to be now. He or she still feels like a stranger. A lot of us are surprised to still feel this broken, after this long. We felt, when partnered, comfortably whole, self-reliant, independent within the relationship. So it’s a surprise to feel that we’ve lost ourselves along with losing our loves. It is a shock to realize that an entirely new self must be built from the ruins of Before. And where to start?

I am coming to know that the answers to my new life, such as it is, will not be found in any of the dozen books piled by my side of the bed. The late night online surfing will not unlock any doors. Anything I am to learn, I now think will be found by clearing out the rock pile that’s fallen inside me. The answers are already in there; I just can’t find them yet. Further excavation is required.

I found a scrawled journal entry from a long time ago. A whole lifetime ago. Maybe two. There was Before, then there was Then, and now it is Now. If you get what I’m saying.

The date on the entry is July 3, 2009 – exactly two weeks before Jeff died. This means it was full summer, and we were in home hospice. Life was getting harder. Chemo had been stopped; our doctor had used the term “diminishing returns”. There were visiting nurses, outpatient trips to the hospital, subdued visitors.

There was also family time: good meals, relaxing in the garden, rambles down the railroad tracks. Sweet daylight naps. In the afternoon I would read The Country of the Pointed Firs out loud to Jeff, while gently rubbing his long feet as he lay in our bed. He would usually fall asleep within a minute or two.

The journal entry:
~~~Went on a rare (these days) expedition to yoga yesterday: new young teacher, talking about visualizing the sun, since it has been so dismal and dark here for weeks on end.

[Some will remember that 2009 was the summer that wasn’t, right up til mid July. Some will remember the very day the long-lost sun came back out. I know I do.]

~”Visualize your highest and best self,” she said, “Think about that for a while, and distill out one or two words to describe that self.”

~I pictured myself touching Jeff’s feet. Words that floated up were “giving” and “peaceful.”

~Some people shared their thoughts as we knelt there on the mats, but it felt incredibly private to me so I kept still. Then she said something very profound about asking the sun, the power of the sun, to help us with our intentions to sustain our highest and best selves throughout the gray day.

~By then I was crying.

~As always when I come anywhere near the truth.

There is another entry from the next day, July 4, 2009: a day about which I remember nothing except that Anna had to go to the fireworks by herself because Jeff did not want me to leave him alone.

~~~Oh yeah, now I remember the details. Came to me early this morning while lying in our own bed with Jeff, a very unusual place for me to be at 6 am now. If there is to be any sleep for me at all, I find it on the futon in the family room.

[Our room is so hot, so stuffy, because he is always cold now. Plus, one tiny variation in the inhaling and exhaling of my peacefully sleeping husband and my heart is instantly racing, palms sweaty, throat clenched. For this household to sputter along on even these few cylinders, I’ve got to get some sleep. So out to the family room I plod each night.]

~The yoga teacher continued. She said to visualize the sun in some meaningful, personal way. A bunch of images came to me as in a slideshow. I mentally chose the image of western sun slanting on Portland brick, and billowing gilded-edge evening clouds over downtown at sunset, as seen over the green tidal grass at the boulevard.

~The boulevard: As in walking around it.

Walking around Back Bay is a pleasant evening stroll, always my epic symbol of leisure time, ever since the old days at the bakery, when I’d metaphorically shake my fist at those satisfied people with regular jobs and obvious good time-management skills happily biking or walking the dog in the gentle evening glow as I sweatily drove home from another stifling twelve hour day.
But I digress.

~The yoga teacher then advised us to allow that version of the sun which we had created to help achieve that best self.

~Pretty wild. So clearly that means in order to sustain the giving, foot-rubbing self, I need to get free and walk around the blvd. at sunset. I mean, I knew that, but to have it brought to me and placed in my hands just so by my very own mind….which could have chosen any random images of sun and self….just…pretty wild. ~

Maybe we each do know what we have to do. We just have to do it.
Pretty wild.



  1. Hi, Carolyn! ~

    I’m a friend of Lisa Brandel and I found you through her…

    My eyes are misty and my throat is tight after reading this post. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Your insights are lovely and valuable — similar to what I’ve recently been thinking about my career and prosperity. I told a friend today that I pasted the words ‘easy money’ on my Vision Board — not because I’m opposed to working, but because I want less worry and stress about finances in my life.

    That’s what came to me when I read, “…but with 25% less effort.”

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

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