Pop-tarts or poetry?

Recently I asked a single mother of four how she nourished herself. She replied, "Does this Pop-tart I'm eating at my desk count?" I imagined what her mornings must be like as she tries to get everybody out the door with their necessary belongings and then get herself to work on time. A fleeting sense of sadness came over me.

Frankly, life is hard. There is no getting around the fact that we all have difficulties in our own lives that require huge effort. I work with people who are facing life-threatening illness. I have a recently married friend who met her love in mid-life. She just had a stroke and will be in a wheelchair forever. That mother raising four children as a single parent faces difficulties that are unimaginable to me. Avoiding pain and suffering is not possible for any of us.

Sometimes the situations in our lives seem to take over and we go on autopilot to just make it through the day. We don't have time to take care of ourselves or worry about being nourished. Yet, if we don't pay close attention, we lose the opportunity for growth that these situations give us. We can find ourselves feeling depleted of energy and emotionally empty.

I decided to send my friend in a wheelchair a CD called Beauty recorded by an Irish poet, John O'Donahue. His voice sounds like singing and his words have the capacity to lift me up and transport me to a different world. I hope they do the same for her. Her ability to walk will not change. Being with beauty for a little while will feed her heart and her soul as she struggles to accept her situation.

Since we all experience pain and suffering of some sort, the only recourse we have is to use whatever situation we have to transform us. Nourishment can come in the form of 20 minutes sitting in nature, reading a meaningful book, or visiting www.ted.com and listening to inspirational lectures. We can be nourished using whatever creative talents we have: Painting. Cooking. Knitting. Photography. We just need to make the time. Notice a cardinal sitting in the tree. Notice the color of this autumn sky. Watch children playing. Vow to smile more often.

You have an obligation to feed yourself good stuff. Nobody else can do it for you.

So I've been thinking that maybe I will take that single mother some yogurt, crisp apples and a jar of natural peanut butter.