Reflecting In The Ocean of A Coffee Cup

At the end of 2013 my mom came to visit me. She was supposed to stay a month but the trip was cut short when my grandmother–her mother–passed away. She flew back home on Christmas day.

Hawaii gets in you and stays with you–it truly does. I think my mom’s journal entrees reflect that but they say a whole lot more. She read them to me and I thought they were fantastic. I thought some readers might enjoy them; some might even find them therapeutic. Thankfully, she gave them to me to publish. Enjoy!


3 Journal Essays

by Guest Writer,
Mary Vaeni

Journaling – Saturday, January 25, 2014


Mary Vaeni

Today, after a cup of Kona coffee, I feel wonderful for what feels like the first time in a long time. Maybe it’s the coffee – a very big hit of Hawaii that comes with that brew – and maybe it’s the cd’s I have been listening to by a Buddhist teacher (don’t ask me his name.) It definitely helps to be headache-free today AND to be at the beginning of a 3-day weekend. But whatever “IT” is, I definitely want to go with “it” because it won’t last long – nothing does. The loss of my Mom last month was a gigantic reminder of that.

But I have less trouble accepting her death than I did my dad’s – maybe because he went first and gave me some experience with great loss – and because I could see the loss of Mom coming (didn’t see Dad’s “coming” even though he was 93, etc.) I remember Dad saying once, in surprise that he had lived so long, that maybe he was of a new breed – one that couldn’t die . . . and he actually wanted to – die that is. Well, I too thought my parents would live forever – not in any logical way, but just because I had them in this life for so long. (Mom died at age 93 and I am 66. Dad died 5 years ago. I had both parents with me in this life into my 60’s.) And I did not want to lose them. But Mom was so clearly losing ground each year and more so in the last year – loss of mobility and advancing dementia – although she did know me right up to the last time I saw her. I am so happy (tears not withstanding) that the last time I saw her, the last thing she said to me as I was ready to leave was, ‘I love you, Mary.’ — Perfect.

So I grieve her loss, but feel less horrible about it than when my Dad died.

From here forward I want to put together the photo albums and the stories that tell the history of my Mom and Dad – for posterity (or whatever – but for the love of them more than anything.)

I also am listening to the Buddhist guy on the CDs and am sure he is right that paying attention to the spiritual is important. I do it intermittently (heck, I do everything intermittently) but do appreciate the “little by little” method for change that he describes.

So right now I want to focus on how I can improve my spiritual life – little by little . . . And my physical well being little by little . . . and my emotional well being. But let’s start with the spiritual realm. It probably powers everything else anyway.

Meditation is so revealing and stress-relieving, if there is 1 thing I can do that will help, it is meditate more. So in continuing the spiritual journey, and true to my trinitarian roots, I will set 3 goals for myself this week. I want to meditate at least 3 times. I want to go to church (tomorrow.) I want to attend the UU discussion group on Wednesday night (starts at 6:30 – for god’s sake don’t forget.)

Reflections on Snorkeling Experiences

I told someone that snorkeling is a form of therapy. While doing it your mind is on the swimming, and breathing, and navigating rocks and coral, and watching the beautiful fish, and looking for more, and once in a while coming up to take in the surrounding beauty – and doing all of this constantly, constantly. So there is not time for thinking about anything else. It doesn’t matter that your mother just died. Your mind doesn’t have room to contain that thought along with thoughts about breathing, swimming, seeing, navigating – it’s all just too much. So for a while – as long as you snorkel – you forget everything but what you have to remember and want to remember in the moment.

Snorkeling as meditation: It now also occurs to me that there is a strong connection between snorkeling and meditation – honestly! If nothing else, both activities have you focusing on breathing. In-breath and out-breath. At least for me every snorkeling inhalation and exhalation is conscious because I am doing it through my mouth and it is important to ‘get it right’ or I risk getting water in my windpipe (if my lips aren’t tight around the mouthpiece or if the snorkel tube dips too close to the ocean.) So . . . focus on breathing.

And I’m not so much thinking about stuff either, other than navigating, looking, enjoying, and breathing. So, as in meditation, it is respite from the usual stuff running through my head – not that the time spent is worry-free – have to worry about possible immediate dangers – but not the usual fare.

Swimming with Dolphins – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Jeremy and I were at 2-Step – one of his favorite snorkeling places – the one where you have to step off of rocks – (hard lava, actually) – into the ocean. There is no sandy beach leading into the water here. As I was preparing to step from the rocks into the water with all my snorkel gear on, I heard this woman who just came out telling her friend , “I swam out to where the bottom drops off, but couldn’t stay out there. I started having a panic attack and couldn’t breathe.”
And I think, ‘Oh, shit. I have panic attacks at the drop of a hat. I can’t go out there. For sure I’ll have a panic attack, too.’ Simultaneously I think, ‘Wish I hadn’t heard this woman.’

But I get into the water and,very shortly, I reach the place where the bottom disappears. I have swum over a cliff in the ocean. Looking down I see nothing but bright blue and rays of sunlight being reflected back up out of the deep on this sunny day. And I am not panicked at all. The sight is stunningly beautiful. I am in awe of what I am seeing – a bottomless ocean and sunlight. Then, vaguely, I see some possible forms very far away down there, and they come up, getting clearer and clearer, rolling over in unison so that I see their white bellies. Then they are on top of the water bobbing along, a chorus line of dolphins – and they are all around me and the other snorkelers who are out there to see them. I shriek to Jeremy, “Jeremy! Look – dolphins!” Of course he has seen them too, but I can’t contain my surprise and delight. Like a kid, I shriek.

We swam with the dolphins for about 2 hours that day. If I had been afraid to swim over the cliff in the ocean, I would not have had this amazing experience.

One take-away for me is that things that can be scary can also be alright or, even better than alright, an opportunity for something amazing.

It would be great to think of each new day as swimming into the unknown where wonderful things may appear and you might have the time of your life.

I know there are dangers in the ocean, too. It was dolphins who swam up out of the deep, not sharks.

And not every experience is going to be filled with sunlight and dolphins.

But some of them will be.


2 thoughts on “Reflecting In The Ocean of A Coffee Cup

  1. so much here for me, ms. vaeni, thank u so much. amazing how we can be in such denial concerning the mortality of those who brought us into the world. my dad passed a bit over two years ago. i took care of him from august ’05 on, but really took care of him 24/7 for his final three and a half years. in retrospect his ultimate demise should have been easily recognized but it took me by surprise. i am just now getting over it, actually. were it not for my girl, into whose bosom i would wail for months when i would wake up at night and realize he was gone, i really don’t think i would have made it. after losing my mom during the ’05 weather event one mite have thought the second loss would have been easier, but it was almost as if i didn’t have time or situation where i could grieve in ’05, literally struggling to exist day to day, and it doubled down in 2011.
    ur comments on spirituality and on venturing into unknown situations and the possibility of wonder and beauty being there were particularly moving for me. again, thank u so much.

  2. Just read your note. I’m sorry to hear about your loss of both Mom and Dad – yes so difficult. I’m glad my writing spoke to you. It is at least some comfort to know that we are not alone in grieving. I’m impressed that you took care of your Dad 24/7 for over 3 YEARS. What an incredible gift to your Dad.

    For me the juxtaposition of the joy and wonder of being in paradise along with the grief of losing my Mom while there was especially powerful. It pushed me to reach deeper and think about things differently than I usually would.

    Take good care of yourself.

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