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Thread: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    I wanted to start and write a post telling you that I would be gone for a few days as my wife is going to have surgery and we will be out of town in an an urban area that offers specialist care not available here in midcoast Maine. Sort of an "out of office" autoreply post if you will...

    Then I decided as I read today's posts and see the honesty and vulnerability that people have taken the risk to share with all of us, I decided to challenge my "observe from a distance" attitude that I sometimes confuse with Uchiyama's "observing the scenery of life"... and write to you with what is really going on.

    My wife is having knee replacement surgery Tuesday morning. Knee replacement surgery is almost routine stuff for folks these days, I know, but at a personal level it is significant. Tam (my wife) is thirty-eight years old, hardly a replacement candidate, but has the left knee of an osteoarthritic eighty-year-old (her doctor's words) due to an injury which ended her performance career in ballet. She has endured bone-on-bone pain cheerfully for years, carrying, chasing, and raising three boys. In the course of the bloodwork and prep for her surgery (a whole other story), it was discovered (completely unanticipated and a surprise) that she may have cancer of the uterus.

    She is nervous about her surgery, and on top of that has the concern and fear related to the potential follow-up diagnosis. It also explains the many symptoms which we had both written off to fatigue and stress. When she is ambulatory following the first surgery, she will have a biopsy and follow-up testing in eight-ten days.

    As my wife sits on the couch knitting and reading quietly, I notice that I am the one who has been all emotions the last week. I am moved to tears constantly, and often just stare at the woman who has shared her life with me for almost twenty years. And I have noticed something. I am so afraid of losing this person, and of the pain she may potentially experience, that I wish I could take it all and absorb it into my body. Such a fine person should not suffer such pain and anxiety. But such is life - the first of the four noble truths.

    When we were dating, Tam shared with me the books she had read in childhood. One of them was The Velveteen Rabbit - and I today have noticed another thing - that as we both grow creaky and frayed around the edges, that my wife has become real to me - I have stopped seeing her, and fantasizing about her - as the twenty-year old French ballerina I fell in love with - more or less an object to be admired and physically pursued - and instead accept her and love her as a human being, with her beauty, her pain, her grace, and her fear. Once upon a time her fear and anxiety would make me uncomfortable and I would "clam up" or become emotionally unavailable... and I am still challenged by this. But today, I will sit with the fear and the pain because this is what is today, and I will sit for the sake of sitting and I will sit for my wife and all those who are suffering. I have never felt closer to her or more in love with her.

    My wife is tentative and afraid to share all her fears and anxieties with me, as she does not want to overwhelm herself, and because my reaction in our relationship to her expressions of pain and fear have not always been consistent, kind, or compassionate. Part of my Buddhist practice has been to develop and practice compassion for other sentient beings (and myself as well).

    I don't think Tam would appreciate the comparison to the Velveteen Rabbit. She is a proud and beautiful woman. And she, like many of us, is insecure. Ballerinas I have found in particular, terminally so. I would like to find a way to show her that, with the pain, and the scars, and the fear, I have never found her more authentic, more beautiful, more human than ever before in our relationship. And for the first time I am desperately afraid of losing her. Chuang Tzu has a bit to say about the transformation of human form through age and illness, and we are counseled not to cling to gain or loss. But right now i would rather follow the zen adage "when I am happy I laugh - when I am sad I cry."

    I apologize for sharing such personal thoughts with you. I wanted to share this event because it is part of my life and my practice as much as it hurts. I am going to sit with this tonight. And I will be thinking of you all during the week.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  2. #2

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Thank you for the post Alex.

    Gassho Will

  3. #3

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Hello Alex:
    I certainly will keep you, your wife and family in my thoughts. Having had 5 surgeries in the last 3 years I can tell you the body is amazing.
    Even with it's hitches and glitches. A book for chronic pain I can recommend: Breakthrough Pain by Shinzen Young (Insight Meditation teacher--his teacher is Joshu Sasaki Roshi (Rinzai I believe). (I forget, but there may be other recommendations way way back in blog archives here related to the topic of pain).
    I wish for Tam a speedy and full recovery.
    After my gall bladder was removed (at age 55) I realized that back in the day I would most likely have died from gall bladder disease or complications from it. That makes all this time now icing. I've already had my cake.

  4. #4

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Hi Alex,

    Sounds like you all have a wonderful marriage.

    I am terribly sorry to hear about your wife's diagnosis, but so many things are now possible with cancer treatments. My wife had a particularly nasty form of leukemia when she was just 30. Here we are 8 years later with 3 great kids and she has been in a stable remission for 7 years. Try to stay positive (but I know the fear can nearly eat you alive), and try to find someone you can talk to about this stuff so that it doesn't fester . . .

    I will keep your family in my thoughts.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  5. #5

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Thank you, Alex. Our loving thoughts to you and your wife.

    Please do share with us, when you feel it right, the course of the surgery and healing. It is at the most difficult times that we may discover the most important truths.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Thank you Alex. I'm not sure how to express it but your post meant a lot to me. I sense the richness of your life and admire it. My thoughts are with you and your wife.

    Gassho,
    Chris

  7. #7

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,

    Thank you for posting this. I hope everything goes well, both with this surgery and in the future.



    Quote Originally Posted by alex
    I would like to find a way to show her that, with the pain, and the scars, and the fear, I have never found her more authentic, more beautiful, more human than ever before in our relationship.
    I think I know what you mean. This year I've had several health scares with my fiance, including an illness -- meningitis -- that, at the time, I feared would kill her or leave her permanently disabled. (Thankfully that did not happen.) For what it's worth -- during her illness I felt a similar need, and what worked for me, was just saying it, exactly like I was feeling it. Just telling her, completely honestly, how I saw her and felt about her, and what her illness had allowed me to see, how it had matured me and my relationship to her. And it was a good thing. She understood. So, if you don't come up with another way, you might consider just saying it.

    All the best,

    --Charles

  8. #8
    Stephanie
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    A beautiful post. I too love The Velveteen Rabbit and especially the part about how a stuffed animal becomes Real. Gets me every time. Best wishes and hopes for your wife's recovery. The depth of the love you all share is a rare and wondrous thing and you are lucky, because that will buoy you both through whatever happens. I hope that whatever does, your wife will continue to feel comfortable coming to you in her vulnerability and that you will continue to feel able to come to us in yours. That takes a lot of bravery.

    A reverent gassho to you--

  9. #9

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,

    Thank you for sharing your post. Your love shines through. I wish Tam, you, and your children all the best during this time. My thoughts are also with you.

    Keith

  10. #10

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    I am hopeful for a speedy recovery . My thoughts are with you and your family.

    Gassho,
    Damian

  11. #11

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,

    You say:

    "I am so afraid of losing this person, and of the pain she may potentially experience, that I wish I could take it all and absorb it into my body."

    That noble self-sacrifice could deprive her of you. Would she want you to do that?

    There is another way of helping, profound and more safe. But it comes from another tradition, so I don't know whether I'm allowed to post it here, or whether - if allowed - it would incur disapproval from the wiser and more experienced.

    In following this other way, you should first ground yourself totally, and remain so.

    But, anyway, here goes:

    http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php

    Gassho

    Mike

  12. #12

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Thank you for sharing that - my best thoughts are with you and your family.

    Gassho
    Dirk

  13. #13

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,

    The love that you have with your wife is truly beautiful. You both will be in my thoughts. Tonglen (the practice that Mike referred to) is a nice practice. But it sounds like you are naturally doing the essence of it. Be sure to take care of yourself during this hard time so you can be there for your wife. It is easy to burn out in circumstances like this.

    Take care and Gassho,

    Linda

  14. #14

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    No apologies needed Alex.

    I was very moved by your post and hope things run so much smoother than you fear.

    In gassho. Kev

  15. #15

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,
    Thank you for sharing.
    Keep us posted. You two will stay in our thoughts.
    I have fond memories of my mother reading me the velveteen rabbit. such a great story. I may have to dig out my old copy and re-read that during my down time this week!

    gassho,
    xander

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Everyone,
    I would like you to know your words of support and wisdom really mean more than can be expressed via a keyboard.

    Each one of you has offered a thought or experience I would like to respond to individually but unfortunately cannot this morning. We are getting ready to leave and there are five hundred things that have to be done... our three boys will be staying with their grandmother.

    Jundo is right - there are some fundamental truths to be learned - I hate to apply that old cliche: "this will be a learning experience."

    I hate to sound corny, but I feel that I am not alone and that you all are standing with me. It is remarkable. This really is a lot about my fear speaking to me, and my exposure to change in life. What an opportunity to practice.

    I will write back when I have an internet signal and update you all.

    Thank you, and a deep gassho,
    Alex

  17. #17

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    good luck to you both

  18. #18

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Dear Alex
    you are not alone & my heart goes out to you and your family at this time. The only advice I can give is to surrender to the experience and go with the flow. On a practical level these websites may be useful for the knee replacement:
    http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Knee-repla ... sktab.aspx
    http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/ar ... icleId=501

    I do hope that Tam has an uneventful recovery. As for the threat of uterine cancer - I am so sorry, again on a practical level this website may be of use:
    http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=4655
    It's the website that I used when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and gives good balanced advice.

    I know that you are going through a roller-coaster of emotions at the moment and you have been kind enough to e-mail me over the last few months as I approached the second anniversary of my diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy. As I came to terms with my prognosis (which has risen from 30:70 to 60:40 surviving to 5 years)I cried every day for 6 months. Over the last two months I became tearful again, emotional & thinking sad thought anout my wife & kids. What can I say - its perfectly natural when faced with such potential bad news to react this way. It is what it is - if you can use it to bring balance to your life and for a brief while, put all those petty irritations into perspective, so much the better.
    If I can help - let me know.

    Kindest regards

    Jools

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Jools,
    Thank you for the information and wishes. The support of everyone here has helped tremendously. You are spot on about the emotions - I have been crying every day at completely unexpected times... we'll get through it and I will check in and ask for help. I will do my best to surrender to the experience and derive the practice from it that I can... I know the hardest time to sit is when one least feels it - and that is precisely the time to do so...

    In fellowship,
    Alex

  20. #20
    Senior Member Kent's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex, hope all is well. Gassho Kent

  21. #21

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    You're both lucky to have each other and you've somehow made the un-ideal seem ideal.
    Hope everything goes well. You've entered my thoughts too.

    Undeceivable

  22. #22
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Everyone,
    Tam had her surgery late Tuesday. The procedure went as expected and the surgeon was pleased with the outcome. We are in the hospital until tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday as Tam works with Physical Therapy to get around safely before we return home. She is experiencing the usual postoperative pain. It doesn't help that she was trained by Russian ballet teachers - the attitude towards pain is "suck it up", and I have observed her tremble as she attempts to deal with the postsurgical pain by breathing and focusing. Like me, she finds it hard o ask for help or say she cannot manage something.

    I have reflected carefully on your posts as well as the fear and emotion I was experiencing prior to her surgery. A primary feature I think was fear of loss > fear of change > recognition that things will not be the same > recognition that we age > demonstration of vulnerability > things will not stay the way I want them to. I have always been change averse, and the dichotomy in my life (when I believed in dichotomy; before nonduality - Thanks Ryokan and Jundo :shock: ) was that my professional life was characterized by constant change and instability, while I would cling to routine and "stratight and level" in my home life. I have recognized rationally and find appealing intellectually the notion that constant change is a central feature of Zen, Chan Buddhist, and Taoist philosophy. To experience it firsthand, to respond to its challenge is another matter entirely. It speaks to how I rely upon/lean upon/count upon/dump my emotional baggage upon people close to me in my life - in healthy as well as unhealthy ways. I must admit to you that I have realized that as long as someone close to you is there and provides an object for your resentments (real or imagined), I am able to justify anger or resentful behavior based upon the perceived lack of consideration of others for my efforts (the notion of a self which is taken advantage of). The moment I saw Tam vulnerable, in pain, and in need of support, I realized that with the (convenient) object of my resentment not available, I was left to confront my emotions alone. They were mine to embrace, and understand that it was entirely up to me to make a decision as to how to relate to them. I could objectify and personalize them, or treat them as clouds passing across the sky. When these emotions and resentments had nowhere to go, but to ground like lightning, they were stripped of their power.

    The three hours I spent alone waiting for news of Tam's surgery allowed me to be alone with these resentments / old behaviors, and make some decisions about them.

    I am grateful that I am able to be with this woman, who has chosen to be with me, so I can do whatever I can to make her recovery easier. This is the woman I have chosen to be with. The resentments I have held are creations of my own mind, they are my responsibility, they have no basis in reality, and I choose whether or not to give them life. For years I allowed them to dominate the landscape of my mind, and I crossed that landscape by passing through all sorts of crazy places and behaviors that hurt me and those that love me. Today is all I have in this life, in my relationship with Tam and my kids, and the actions I take today, the words I utter and the thoughts that cross the blue sky of my mind will set the stage for tomorrow. I cannot ask for anything more. And I am more than absolutely OK with that. Buddhism

    Seeing Tam vulnerable has allowed me to be alone with my emotions and choices. I have given my stormy emotions far too much substance and credibility in my own life - I am reminded of the Platform Sutra and HuiNeng's composition: "From the beginning not a single thing exists: where can the dust settle?" It is amazing how much power we can give to things that in reality do not exist; but we make them existent through our actions and choices (as well as choices which lead to non-action).

    What I was afraid of losing was the way things were. My struggle to keep them so was in direct contravention of the way. I am going to get out of my own way. I'm not all that important. And it is a relief not to be the center of the drama.

    We will move on to face the other health issues in time, and we will act accordingly when the time comes.

    Thank you for all your support and for listening. I'll keep you all updated. Sorry for the ramble. I needed to work this through.

    With a deep bow,
    Alex

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex,

    I am new here so I haven't seen any of your previous posts, but I found your perspective on what you just experienced to be very heartfelt and wise. I wish you both the best.

    Gassho,
    Scott

  24. #24

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Hi Alex,

    I am very glad Tam's surgery went well. You all must be pretty tired.

    Please remember that it's pefectly okay to feel what you're feeling. Yeah, there may be nowhere for the dust to settle, but when you're in pain, you're in pain, when you're in love, you're in love, and when you see a loved one suffer, you suffer too. Feel it, then move on. No mystery in that.

    My best to you and your family,
    Keith

  25. #25
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Scott,
    Welcome to Treeleaf and I am glad to meet you. Thanks for your support. I look forward to practicing with you.

    Keith,
    Spot on. "Feel it and move on." Your words are exactly right. Thanks for your support.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  26. #26

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Hi Alex

    thanks for keeping us in the picture. I hope all continues to go well for you & Tam. I am going to remind you of that quote you liked a few months ago:

    Be loving, kind and compassionate; focus your mind clearly in the present, hone it and hammer it until it is as dense as an anvil to develop mental equanimity; take great joy in your accomplishments and especially in those of others. Be present, be present, be present and be present
    You will have plenty of practice over the next few months - so keep honing, hamering and sitting.

    Kindest regards

    Jools

  27. #27

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Wow, so sorry I missed this earlier, Alex.

    I wish the very best for you and Tam. I'm so glad to see she made it through the surgery. You're both resilient and brave. Just keep moving along knowing that we're all there with you. And, really, thanks for letting us share this with you. I hope it does help you to know that you're not alone.

  28. #28
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Tracy and Julian,
    Thanks for your companionship. We are home now, and I will paste Julian's quote on my forehead :wink: . It is exactly appropriate.

    Thinking of my friends here at Treeleaf, I am indeed not alone.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  29. #29

    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Alex, i hope you and Your wife Tam are doing alright.

    it took me some time to read everything you wrote but i did.
    your words and feelings resonated with me on a very deep emotional level.
    about 4 month ago i lost my dog, she lived with me for most of my life... she was 14 years old ( the fact that my brother turned 13 not to long ago makes it clear how long has she been in the family ).
    i know it is not the same thing for most people. but my dog was really part of the family, it really hurts to this day...

    the only thing i could offer you is what someone already said , tell her what you really feel.
    but i also think that show her that everyday. and i dont mean be around her 24/7, i mean never forget what you learned this day... and know to enjoy each and every moment you have with her, whether by her side or not....

    having said that, i hope you are both doing well. my thoughts are with you, as i am sure goes for everybody here.

  30. #30
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Love and the Velveteen Rabbit

    Daniel,
    Thanks for your post and words of support.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zen
    i dont mean be around her 24/7, i mean never forget what you learned this day... and know to enjoy each and every moment you have with her, whether by her side or not....
    We have had Labrador Retrievers ever since we have been together. We had to put our first one down at age 10 due to prostate cancer - we lost a member of our family that day - the lab we have now is eight years old - how time flies - he is a great friend - we are doing our best to care for him so he will be with us as long as possible. But we aren't in charge of those things - which brings us back to your words - enjoy each and every moment you have with those you love, whether by their side or not -

    We are turning a corner I think. Tam is getting around much better and going off pain meds today. Now we face a biopsy late next week - one day at a time.

    Thank you again.

    Gassho,
    Alex

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