spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
PictureOld tree on the shore of Lake Merritt / Alison R.
With the move to Oakland from San Francisco behind me, and escrow in the throes of closing, I see how fearful I have been. Dread became a constant companion, varying from low level in the background to in my face, full blown.

Mostly, I didn’t deal with my fear as much as rely on diversions – Buddhist teacher Tara Brach would call them “false refuges.” – I juggled 20 games of Letterpress on the phone as well plowed through online New York Times crossword puzzles on my tablet. Access to streaming Netflix hooked me on the TV show “Criminal Minds” with its multiple seasons, reliable formats and lack of commercials. And I took hits of serotonin scrolling through email several times a day. And of course, walking Foxibeau around Lake Merritt diverted us both.

Yet no matter my efforts, fear flamed up in outbursts. My real estate agent with my future in his hands got a fair dose. Often I would ask him what I was going to do when escrow fell through. As my friend, he said he hated to see me so “negative.” Sure, I trusted him and yet I couldn’t or wouldn’t believe everything would go as planned. All of our paperwork took place on the computer, and I was so rattled I would settle for the first signature that suggested itself when signing Docu-sign paperwork, the long-distance method which seems to have replaced side-by-side page turning. Without a reassuring agent by my side pointing to each blank to sign or initial, for all I knew I might have been buying the unit next door to the one I thought I was selling.

Behind fear about the sale of my property in San Francisco, I hesitated to make this particular move to a senior residential hotel as it really spoke to my aging and the probability of eventual dependence. In the past I chose not to act on my wish to receive more care and kindness. I tended to scoff at aging friends who went ahead and paid to be treated with respect. Now, I have done likewise. Still fearful of having made the wrong decision, I feel gratitude for the daily acts of kindness, even though I pay to receive them. And it is lovely to live across the street from a lake encircled by what one resident called a “rosary” of tiny lights.

In truth, I chose this spot as a destination my son would happily bring my granddaughter to visit. In the month or so since my move, he has not scheduled a trip although I’m sure I tempted him with tales of the lake, the gondola rides and Fairyland. My head accepts the facts of his life, but when I see the “kids” of other residents drop by to check on their moms or dads; my heart feels sad. I expect compassion will compel me to accept both the head’s reasoning and the heart’s yearning.  

And perhaps the wisdom credited to old age will show me how to be on this side of the Bay and connect with the other side like other commuters. I am already an expert at diversions, so I can connect to music or dharma talks with headphones or read an Oakland Public Library book while bowing to the vicissitudes of public transportation, grateful for my Clipper discount and the seats reserved for the elderly and the infirm.

And though only a month or so has passed since I conveniently lived within walking distance of the opera and symphony in San Francisco, I am learning to embrace aging. I haven’t yet refused the six-block trek to and from the19th St. BART, but I don’t plan to do it more than once a day. Weekends I might drive to and from city commitments, but I will be smart about when to venture bridgeward.

My prayer is that fear will be a teacher once I step back from the brink of panic and realize I have done okay so far. Well done, I am saying to myself.

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