the condition of my condition

It was 104 degrees in the parking lot outside of my doctor’s office this afternoon. I parked near the door to make sure that I only had to walk a few steps from my air conditioned car to the air conditioned office. The older I get, the more such heat really bothers me.

And, am I ever glad that, when I used up every last cent I had to build onto my daughter’s house so that I could move in and have my own space, I was able to include putting in central air. It’s been a life saver all this week as the temps have consistently risen along the east coast. I’ve only gone out of the house to get into the car and run errands at other air conditioned venues.

Spending so much time in the house has motivated me to do some cooking (chicken cacciatore tonight), work on my no-pattern sweater that’s knitted in sections of mitered garter stitch, begin making a special banner for my college class’ 50th reunion this fall, and do a few exercises on my wii.

I’m making a concerted effort to improve my physical condition. I’ve weaned myself off the anti-depressant I’ve been on for several decades, and I’m working on doing the same thing with my Nexium prescription. It’s a very slow process, getting off any kind of long-term meds, but it can be done without major withdrawl effects. To help getting off the Nexium, I’ve halved my dosage and started also taking digestive enzymes and probiotics. It will take me months of slowly tapering off before I’m ready to leave the meds behind. There are some horror stories on the net about rebound effects from stopping too soon. Patience and persistence, I tell myself.

I need to repeat that phrase often these days as I begin trying to lose some weight. My sciatica is acting up even though I do the prescribed stretching exercises several times a day. Carrying around fewer pounds should make some difference in that condition, as well as my always-high cholesterol levels. Patience and persistence.

On Monday I’m going to join the nearby Jewish Community Center so that I can join some exercise classes and participate in some social activities (i.e. book club). The membership is cheaper than any health club and it’s got better facilities and programs than any health club I’ve ever seen. This “identity crisis” in which I have been foundering (after 10 years of focusing on caregiving my mom) is slowly abating. Patience and persistence. And a really good therapist.

From here:

If groundhog is your power animal it is time to explore
alternative states of consciousness.
Pay attention to your dreams and try meditation.
Study a specific subject or area of interest.
Take up a Yoga class and learn to relax.
Dig beyond the surface to get to the truth of important issues.

I did a little online research and learned that it’s possible to tame woodchucks/groundhogs. I wonder if I could tame our resident one enough to let me pet her (I assume it’s a her because she’s got a little one following her around and males leave soon after the babies are born).

winding sheet

(for lack of anything else to say, I’m posting here a poem a day)

I wake
tight
wound in the sheet
–night winding sheet —
wounded
in the tight lined
yellow-sheet logic
of your wound mind
winding
sheet-tight
around my night.

c elf 1970s

a year to pay attention

This is the year for me to really start paying attention.

Creativity emerges from paying attention. Problem solving requires paying attention. Connections thrive on paying attention.

Until the middle of November, my mother’s fatal dementia, by necessity, was the focus of my attention for the past decade. It feels strange, in a way, not to feel that pull any more — to have no excuse for not paying attention.

Writing well depends upon paying attention.

And so I begin here, tomorrow, participating in a month long project, A River of Stones.

A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention, and the challenge of the project is to write a small stone every day.

I will start tomorrow. One small stone. And, stone upon stone, I will try to set a solid path out of the stress and sorrow of the last decade and into a more focused future.

________________________

I was starting to feel guilty about not posting frequently enough on this blog. Then I read what my son wrote on Twitter about his blog:

I write for me, and then stop writing for me. Anyone who reads in the meantime? Cool.

stasis

This is my response to Mag 30 visual prompt at Magpie Tales.

will it rot or not

That’s how I’m feeling about my life right now. I took my bite. So what. I wait for my mother to let go of a life no longer worth living and my son to find a life worth living with passion. And I wonder if my life has been worth living. Will the apple rot or finished being consumed with relish. And does the larger menu matter any more. These are questions that I ask as statements. Maybe the core of this metaphor is that I just don’t know anymore. As Eve found out, sometimes one bite is all you get before being tossed out of Eden.

independence

There is a lingering scent of bug spray throughout the house this July 4, left over from yesterday’s cook-out and trek down the street to watch the fireworks. I had the option of not hanging out in the 90 degree heat with the forty-something-aged parents and their young kids and not standing around in the mosquito and Japanese beetle invested night with the hundreds of others, necks craned to the sky. I chose to hang out in my own cool space, making periodic appearances to gather up my food and drink and interact a bit with the guests.

Such is the privilege of age — especially in my situation, where I have few responsibilities to anyone but myself. (Except, of course, my 94-year-old demented mother, whom I will visit in a few days to help with her care.)

It is Independence Day in another way for me. For the first time in some 25 years, I am off an anti-depressant. It served it’s purpose, and I was done with the lack of depth of feeling that is the both the benefit and the curse of those meds. It took three months to wean myself off, and I am seeing a counselor to help with the transition, but it’s worth it.

I’m writing more, feeling more, doing more. I’m almost done with the three-dimensional wall hanging that I’m creating for this virtual exhibit. I’m quite pleased with the result, and I have ideas for more such projects. And I’ve begun a sweater for my daughter like the one below I made for myself, but in another color.

I’m even feeling more sympathy for my poor mother, and, in a new strange way, I’m looking forward to spending some time with her, trying to ease her weary mind.

I am thinking a lot about being the age I am (70) and what I want for myself, which is seeming to be so very different from what I wanted even a dozen years ago. I am trying out some alternative ways to relieve the pains of joint and spine problems, and they seem to be working.

Today is Independence Day, and despite the turmoil and despair in so many other parts of this world, in this small space that my life takes up, it’s a good day.

Yes, it’s a good day for singing a song,
and it’s a good day for moving along
Yes, it’s a good day, how could anything go wrong,
A good day from morning’ till night

Yes, it’s a good day for shining your shoes,
and it’s a good day for losing the blues;
Everything go gain and nothing’ to lose,
`Cause it’s a good day from morning’ till night

I said to the Sun, ” Good morning sun
Rise and shine today”
You know you’ve gotta get going
If you’re gonna make a showin’
And you know you’ve got the right of way.

`Cause it’s a good day for paying your bills;
And it’s a good day for curing your ills,
So take a deep breath and throw away your pills;
`Cause it’s a good day from morning’ till night

torn by craft

I’m a writer. I’m a writer. That’s what I am. I’m also a cutter and sewer and looper. I want to do it all. I’ve always wanted to do it all.

So I’m writing. Mapgie Tales for one (a new one in the works). Entered an essay contest about death for another.

Pinned on my wall are pieces of what eventually will be a wall hanging for an online craft exhibit.

Maybe it’s because I started in therapy again, and that always gets my juices going.

Or maybe it’s because I’m cutting down on my anti-depressant.

Or maybe I’m getting manic in my old age.

Or maybe I’m avoiding thinking too much about the awful state my mother is in.

Or maybe all of the above.

So much to create. So little time.

missing my past

I google their names, the people I knew in my past — poets, painters, psychologists who kept my psyche stirred, my shadows swirling through radiant darkness; dancers who swept me across ballrooms and turned my nights starry, my limbs light and fair. Do they ever google me and remember?

even in shadow

Even in dark corners, good things grow.

I read this article in the NY Times by Bob Herbert and am almost overwhelmed by the clouds of darkness with which the GOP has shrouded the minds of so many of my countrymen and countrywomen.

Herbert writes:

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you’re all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you’ll never get to the G.O.P.’s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests — a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

The are dark times. Depressed and depressing times.

But then I read this article, also in the Times, and see a brighter side — small, still. But we are due for a new season of enlightenment in our nation’s political world.

David Leonhardt reminds us that

The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

[snip]

The bill is the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. It aims to smooth out one of the roughest edges in American society — the inability of many people to afford medical care after they lose a job or get sick. And it would do so in large measure by taxing the rich.

[snip]

Above all, the central question that both the Reagan and Obama administrations have tried to answer — what is the proper balance between the market and the government? — remains unresolved. But the bill signed on Tuesday certainly shifts our place on that spectrum.

While I am not a Christian, I can’t help but wonder how a U.S. Senator Jesus Christ would have voted on the issue of universal health care.

look for me at TGB

I’m Ronni’s guest blogger today at Time Goes By, as she spends a couple of weeks in NYC at work and play, including participating in the Age Boom Academy.

From an 04/02/09 Time magazine editorial:

For the past several years, I’ve been harboring a fantasy, a last political crusade for the baby-boom generation. We, who started on the path of righteousness, marching for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, need to find an appropriately high-minded approach to life’s exit ramp. In this case, I mean the high-minded part literally. And so, a deal: give us drugs, after a certain age – say, 80 – all drugs, any drugs we want. In return, we will give you our driver’s licenses. (I mean, can you imagine how terrifying a nation of decrepit, solipsistic 90-year-old boomers behind the wheel would be?) We’ll let you proceed with your lives – much of which will be spent paying for our retirement, in any case – without having to hear us complain about our every ache and reflux. We’ll be too busy exploring altered states of consciousness. I even have a slogan for the campaign: “Tune in, turn on, drop dead.”

Read the whole piece here. and go over the TGB to get my take on it.

other person’s words

I am struck tonight by the power of other persons’ words.

Oh, I know, this web is a world of words. I spend too many hours meandering among miles of words that escape my head and ignore my heart.

Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By is the one blog I read every day because what she has to say always has relevance for me. And so I don’t know how I managed NOT to read an incredibly moving section of her blog until tonight. And it is a section that has deep meaning for me because it’s about her time being her dying mother’s caregiver.


“A Mother’s Last Best Lesson”
is presented in 12 poignantly honest pieces that hold the mind and touch the heart.

It’s not that I identify with Ronni’s experience; my attempts to take care of my mother have been very different. But she tells a powerful story, and there is something in me that is jarred by her revealing words.

There is something in me that resents not being able to do for my mother what Ronni did for hers. Oh yes, our circumstances are very different. Dementia makes it so. As does, in my case, situations of brutal familial disputes over how my mother’s care should be handled. I couldn’t win, so I abdicated because I have no legal power to make her struggle any easier, and I couldn’t bear to just stand by.

Ronni’s story made me realize that, after 8 years of caregiving being the intense focal point of my existence, I now find I don’t have a point, a purpose. I can get up in the morning, or not. I can eat, or not. Bathe or not. Go out or not.

I am finally “retired” from employment and living with a loving family and an almost-7-year old engaging grandson who is a joy. But I have forgotten how to be engaged in my own so-called life.

I am feeling like a work in progress that has had no progress for 8 years. In my past life I raised a family; held various challenging and rewarding jobs; was an vocal activist on behalf of various political and educational issues; and found power in the poetry of women’s spirituality. And I wrote. And I wrote. I was passionate about everything I did; if I didn’t feel passionate about it, I didn’t do it.

I have found myself in a “dark night of the soul” before and have labored, successfully, to find my way out, one step at a time.

Next week I am going on a week’s vacation to Maine with two of my closest friends. We will play Boggle and drink wine and laugh a lot. We will walk on the beach and read and contemplate and talk and laugh a lot.

And when I come back home, I will begin yet another journey to find the parts of myself that I have lost, to regenerate the parts of myself that have lost passion and purpose. I think I have found a new counselor who might be able to help me with that process.

Over the course of some 20 years of my previous life, I had the good fortune to have had as a friend and counselor someone who has moved on to assisting veterans and their families as they reconnect and readjust into full, productive civilian life.

He was a poet before he was a therapist, and his work and his words, now, still hold a great deal of healing power.

The word psychotherapist comes directly from the Asclepiad tradition. It means “soul attendant.” Psychology literally means “the order and meaning of the soul.” It didn’t become a science until Freud and his followers arrived out of the medical tradition. Modern psychology left the soul far behind and has not yet reconnected with its spiritual roots, though it needs to, because psychological healing occurs at a spiritual level.

The above is from an interview in The Sun magazine on helping veterans with PTSD, entitled Like Wandering Ghosts: Edward Tick On How The U.S. Fails Its Returning Soldiers. It’s worth a read.