“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Charles Dudley
“On a spiritual level you will experience a different mode altogether. Your attention should turn to others and their needs; find ways to be of help and give time and energy to worthwhile causes. You must lighten your burden of questions and doubts and the best way to do so is by directing your attention to another direction, away from yourself.” – from my numerology report for 2011
A few years ago I was into numerology – numbers don’t lie, and all that. I’m not sure that I really believed all of it, but I did notice some uncanny coincidences in the reports I would find online and where I was in the epicycles. That part definitely resonated with me. At the time, Tarot.com offered numerology reports two years in advance, and I downloaded my report for 2011 long before the last decade was over. I read it and filed it away, and then around February I cleaned out some files and found it.
At first, the part about helping others perplexed me – selfishly I thought, if anyone needed help, I did. I knew I was depressed and, after over a decade of single parenting, I feared a complete breakdown. I stopped blogging and spent a lot of time watching X Files episodes with Aidan. And then my dad’s cancer accelerated, and with my siblings, I took care of him in his last weeks, days, hours, and minutes, and I thought, Ah. This is what the numerology report meant by helping others. I returned home a different person.
But I still didn’t feel like that was it, and my attention turned inward again as I grieved for my father and tried not to think about the fact that my 15-year-old son had decided to live with his dad, 700 miles away. Shortly after his birthday, Aidan flew back here with Nigel, and we enjoyed a short, four-day visit with him. I took some time off work, and we went to Crater Lake, where my mom is an Interpretive Ranger. We spent time with my sister, my niece and nephew, and had dinner with my aunt and uncle. We watched some more X Files and Aidan showed me the ropes with my new iPod. And all too soon I found myself driving him to the airport, going through the motions of waiting in line to check his bags and get my pass to accompany him to the gate. But because he is now 15, they would not give me a gate pass. “He just turned 15 last week!” I pointed out, wielding his passport. “He’s my son, and I’m not going to see him for over two months!” I pleaded, aware of the fact that I was probably embarrassing him. I knew that he would be fine on his own, but I really wanted to wait with him at the gate. They spouted off something about policy, and I turned away, willing myself not to cry. I took a deep breath and motioned Aidan over to some seats near the line waiting to go through security. We sat down and I told him that I had a letter for him that I had wanted to give him at the gate before he boarded, but that I would have to give to him now. I handed it to him, and he opted to read it right then, so I sat there as he read the words I had so carefully chosen to tell him how much I loved him, that I unreservedly supported him in his decision, and that if he ever changed his mind I would be so happy to have him back. He thanked me and hugged me, and then we waited in line, my heart in my throat, trying not to be angry at the airport personnel. When it was time, I hugged him tightly, breathed in his scent, told him I loved him, and kissed him at least five times. “I love you, Mom,” he said as I backed away, trying to smile.
I watched him as he went up to the counters, put his jacket and shoes in the gray plastic trays, took the full-size X-Box game console out of his roller as instructed by security, walked through, and efficiently repacked everything on the other side. He’s been in airports more times by age 15 than I had been by age 30. He’s a pro. I watched him sling his messenger bag across his chest, check the monitor to see which gate to go to, pull up the handle on his roller, and head off. I was so sad – yet so very proud – all in the same moment. I knew I had helped him by letting him go with love.
Back at the house, Nigel and I had dinner together, just the two of us at the table. We talked about how strange it would be with Aidan gone. We watched a movie together, and then Nigel opted to build some Lego. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I sat down on the couch with a National Geographic magazine, and, as if on cue, the phone rang. It was one of my good friends, another long-term single mom, who had been out of work for several months. She, with her daughter, had been living about three hours away in a larger city, trying to find work. She ended up losing her house and her car and decided to come back to southern Oregon to temporarily stay with friends-of-friends whom she did not know well. It turned out to be a negative environment, so I went to pick them up the next day, and my friend and her 12-year-old daughter came to live with us.
Nigel had been asking me for three years to let him have the much larger “game room” (as we call it), where he keeps his massive Lego collection, for his bedroom, and he was ecstatic to move his things out there so that T’s daughter could have his old room. I moved my desk out of the office and into my bedroom so that T could have the office as her room. Within days of being here she has lined up two job interviews and, through another friend, a car fell into her lap yesterday. I know she was meant to be here.
I also know that this is more of the help I’m meant to provide for others this year. That’s obvious. But the truth of the matter is – and I have told her this several times – that her being here is helping me just as much as it’s helping her. Nigel is benefiting immensely by having a friend in the house who matches his current emotional age. She’s a sweet and insightful girl who is happy to watch movies with him and patiently listens while he narrates whatever they’re watching.
And then there’s this – I never realized how much I would benefit from having a nurturing adult in the house, after all these years of going it alone. I never realized how much I needed her here until she came. I just wanted to help out a good friend in need. But the fact is that her mere presence has calmed my spirit and “lightened my burden,” just as my numerology report said it would. I suppose it’s a no-brainer that in helping others we help ourselves, but I never knew just how true that is until now.