Powerful Teachers

People come into our lives for a reason. This is especially true of our teachers. I have known several powerful teachers in my life. The best ones, in my opinion, or the most effective ones, have been extremely unpleasant. The one before me now is a ninety-five-year-old aunt. She is irascible, irritating, and has a voice that sounds like fingernails on a chalk board. I am her caretaker.

Her knees are arthritic. Crippling, really. A few days ago, I’d ordered a walker/roller to be delivered to her. She’s somewhat of a hoarder and her apartment was, shall we say, unprepared for visitors. I went over to clean. “Don’t touch that!” she yelled, when I asked her if I could remove a pile of newspapers. Her kitchen floor was grimy. “Don’t put water on my floor!” she screamed, “It’ll be wet for hours and I’ll starve!  If you make it wet and I fall and break my hip, it’ll be your fault!” When I suggested we open a window (it’s hard to breathe in there), she vowed that if I did, she would drive her car into the river. I cleaned the floor with a spray cleaner and paper towels and left the windows shut tight.

One might see this behavior as a form of dementia. The thing is, she’s sharp as a tack and clear as a bell, with a memory better than mine. I pressed on, vacuuming over more high-pitched vocalizing. I then went out to buy groceries. When I returned, she had calmed down. She apologized, said she didn’t know what came over her. I was calmer, too. I told her that I was not going to hurt her and that I was not going to take anything away from her. The fact is, I had not spoken to her as kindly as I could have when she was in screaming mode. I actually yelled back and told her to stop acting like a crazy old lady. I’m not proud of that, even though it did stop the screaming for a minute. I had never, ever spoken to her like that, and I suppose it shocked her. It shocked me, too, but, as they say, she had gotten on my last nerve. When I left she was eating the frozen yogurt and graham crackers I had bought her. She asked me to hug her and I did. And I meant it.

But that was not the end. It was the beginning. During the screaming and long after, I was besieged by anger and resentment.  The walker I chose for her came. She sent it back and ordered a different one. The warm winter coat I bought her hangs in her closet. She won’t wear it. Nothing I do pleases her unless she orders it and I obey her orders to the letter. She commands. She never says please and rarely says thank you. She has an opinion on everything and those who disagree with her are stupid.  For two nights after the screaming incident, I tossed and turned and woke up each morning exhausted and pissed. This is not my usual state. I pride myself on being calm and kind.

Really?” said the Universe, and I think it laughed.  It does not let me stay comfortable for long periods of time. Here I was again, thrust out of my “comfort zone,” suddenly and harshly, and finding myself in the clutches of yet another powerful teacher. The first thing I try to remember (when I regain my equilibrium) is that I am to be grateful for my powerful teachers. It took a while, but I finally got what it was she was trying to teach me. The only way to “get” it, I have found, is to walk around in your teacher’s moccasins for a while. What I saw, and felt, was fear. It is terrifying to be ninety-five and losing control. I could feel what it was like to be unable to walk without pain, unable to drive, to shop for my own groceries. She was screaming because she was angry and frightened.  Here’s what I had to ask: If I live to be that old, will I be that frightened and angry? Will I turn that anger on my caregiver? Or will I be able to accept what is, no matter what? When the time comes, will I remember what my teacher taught me? Will I remember to thank her? Will my last days be ones of peace and joy in those around me because of what she has shown me?

We talked on the phone tonight, as we do every night. Our conversation was, for the most part, pleasant.  Her pain medicine was working. We actually laughed once.

There is a sign on the wall above my desk. I put it there. It says, “Choose.” I was looking at it as she went on and on in my ear, and instead of wishing our conversation would come to an end as I usually do, I chose to remember that she was my teacher.  Powerful and clear. Like a mirror.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at www.Amazon.com

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New and Out of the Blue

Not all of my teachers are from the spirit world.  Some are living, breathing human beings who live in my time and space. I met two of them this week and I learned something from each one that was new and out of the blue.

The first was a real estate assessor from my hometown. I engaged him to instruct me, to place me properly in the market, to tell me, perhaps, why my house hasn’t sold in two and a half years. He sat at my kitchen table possessed with a quiet calm, the kind of calm belonging to long time inhabitants of this area, the kind of calm that stems from a deep connection to the land and the water. He was deliberate in his speech, unhurried. For over an hour, he talked to me about the mortgage money market, local real estate agents, and a view of developments that was formed from forty some years in the business. He was up to date on everything from the newest laws, regulations and building codes, to developments in my own field – standards. He walked through my house, taking his time in every room, upstairs and down, measured the outside, and said he’d get back to me. A few days later, he was back. He came in, sat down at my kitchen table, and said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Delaney, but I do not have good news for you.”

He had done his homework and had made a discovery. My house had been assessed (from people looking at it from the outside) at twice the square footage it should have been, not only for me but for the last two owners. My second floor is unfinished and should not have been included in the square footage defined as livable space. Therefore: (1) I’ve been compared with and competing with houses, price-wise and otherwise, with those that have twice the livable space; and (2) For thirteen years, I have paid taxes on twice the amount of livable space that I own. The bottom line: I may have to lower my asking price again. But the county may have to repay me thousands of dollars in overpaid taxes.

The teacher looked at me and said, “I’m not going to give you an assessment. I’m going to give you some advice. Go see your lawyer.” He gave me a sheath of papers with all the facts and figures, and then charged me a third of his original fee. The last thing he said to me was, “Go to your lawyer’s office to make the appointment. They never return calls.” I watched him, dazed, as he got into his car and drove away.

The second teacher was the master acupuncturist I’ve been writing about for the past two weeks. The calm that surrounded him was of a different nature, the kind that comes from years of spiritual development and meditation. I had filled out a questionnaire for him that was designed to reveal the state of my general health and lifestyle. Again, I sat before a teacher who asked me questions and talked to me for almost an hour. He asked me when the heart throbbing in my ear started, and I was able to tell him exactly. It was just after my unpleasant and difficult encounter with the last person to make an offer on my house. (It’s always the house – my other grand teacher.) He smiled and I smiled. I also told him the nasal spray prescribed by the ENT doctor had done nothing to relieve the heart pounding in my ear. I’ve got it, I thought. The cause. The thing we were supposed to look for, the root cause of the physical symptom. He inserted needles into my hands and feet, and left the room. In a while, I felt energy move up my right leg, up the right side of my body, and into the trouble spot, the Eustachian tube. When he came back into the room, I told him. “My,” he said, “you are sensitive.” I was feeling pretty self-satisfied. We were going to lick this thing, and I had pinpointed the cause: the house, the bad guy, the ineffectual real estate agent. We sat down for the after-acupuncture discussion, and I was waiting for him to tell me what I already knew: It was that bad encounter that was the cause of everything.

He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Do you know how to do nothing?”


To be continued.


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Look for The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney at http://www.Amazon.com