doing good

May 22nd, 2011

I’ve pulled up one of those plastic stackable chairs alongside the humming hulk in the middle of the icy room. My daughter is lying inside the cylindrical chamber. We are both relieved that her head is peeking out at my eye level. A white fleece blanket covers her. Beneath it, she is holding a teddy bear handed to her at the last minute. She wears head phones tuned to Radio Disney. Her eyelids flutter.

From time to time the technician tells her something. I think he’s telling her what will happen next, but I can’t hear it. I only hear her answer. What she says is okay.

Neither of us is wearing metal. The clasp on my shoes, I was told, doesn’t matter.

The machine starts to make clicking sounds, then a growling heave and a sledgehammering smash. Over and over. On my lap is a New Yorker magazine opened to a story – I always read the fiction first. Three lines in and I look up at her, marooned. I watch her breathe. It’s beautiful.

She was anxious and afraid before we arrived for the MRI this morning. But this moment now is oddly comfortable and serene. I don’t mind the chill or the noise or the time. I know what to do, I know where to be, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.

I feel a kinship with every mother who has graced this station, parked in this plastic bastion of stillness, a steady eye in the tempest of uncertainty. We don’t know what will come of this – and there’s no reason for undue worry, it’s just a stubborn pain – but right now we are doing good. Right now is the only place we can ever do good, and this is as good as it can be.

Before we arrived I started to think about the difference between doing well and doing good. The “well” involves a subtle and insidious comparison of one outcome versus another, numbers and grades, finish lines, success, mediocrity, failure. Of course we all want our children to be well and to do well. We want the same for ourselves and our lives, as measured against goals and ambitions, as compared to others, always and ceaselessly compared to others. Sometimes I am far more concerned with doing well than doing good, and that’s no good.

Hours like these – so wholly purposeful and riveting – shift my sights away from my puny obsessions and toward the great immeasurable good, a single moment of undistracted presence. Over the din and out of nowhere I hear her say, like a benediction, okay.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat, LA, Sun., June 12

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  1. Holding you & Georgia in thought & heart… sending Love

    Comment by Theresa — May 22, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  2. I echo Theresa. So much love to you and your family.

    Comment by Emily — May 22, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

  3. With you there–your C Road is good for me–will be good for you and your daughter–sending Love

    Comment by Kay — May 22, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  4. Love to your family.

    Comment by brigid — May 22, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  5. What’s the latest?

    Comment by Debra — May 22, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

  6. Love to your family as you wait in the “meantime” .

    Comment by Kelly — May 22, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

  7. Karen, you & sweet Georgia are in my heart and in my prayers. So much love to you. ♥

    Comment by julia — May 22, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

  8. Knowing and practicing what you know and practice is as great a gift and treasure for your daughter as the MRI machine and she can and will use it much more often.

    I am hoping there is a KMM book in the future with your straight talk approach for teens who need to enrich themselves with access to the great quiet.

    Comment by Bill — May 23, 2011 @ 4:05 am

  9. Keeping both of you in my thoughts – any updates would be appreciated!

    Comment by Mimi — May 23, 2011 @ 5:40 am

  10. Sitting with you both in spirit.

    Comment by J, Connecticut — May 23, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  11. Love and light to you and all close to your heart.

    Comment by Jennifer — May 24, 2011 @ 6:08 am

  12. Karen,

    Relatively new follower of your blog and only check my blogs every few days so …. this is what I read today.

    Before I go back and read your prior posts, just let me tell you that I have been where you are, except my baby girl was still a baby (11 1/2 months), they had to sedate her, and I wasn’t allowed in the room.

    The waiting, I found, was the hardest part.

    Once we knew what was wrong, we could DO something.

    Know that I will be praying for you and if you ever need a shoulder or an ear, I have a spare of each.


    Comment by Sharon Colomb — May 24, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

  13. To all our well-wishers, thank you. Sitting still has much to recommend it. The results are “unremarkable” and so she goes back up onto crutches with a followup in two weeks. That is good news.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — May 24, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

  14. Thinking of you, and saying a little prayer. And hoping things stay “unremarkable”.

    With love

    Comment by Christine @ Coffees & Commutes — May 25, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  15. When you think of it, life is just one long healing from one thing or another or a whole slew of things all at once. We heal from injury, from misperception, from impatience, from untold unkindnesses. The healing itself is grace and not even one moment of that is to be missed or undervalued, yet we do manage to miss a lot. And even to that we can say “okay”.

    Comment by Connie — May 26, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  16. Wishing you, and Georgia, good.


    Comment by Stacy @ Sweet Sky — June 16, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

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