Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.
A volunteering moment: A memory-impaired nonagenarian pats me on the butt. I just ignore it, since earlier today, for the first time, he actually conversed with me and willingly participated in a group activity. I can’t save the world, but today I make a sad old man smile.
Twice a week I volunteer at a geriatric facility that includes folks in assisted living (where I lead “Trivia” and other such group sessions) and a separate space for individuals who are memory-impaired (with whom I sing songs, share photographs and stories, go out for walks, and even play kids’ games). I think doing these things is my way of compensating for the fact that so much of this world is in such a large scale mess that I have no power to affect any of it in any positive way.
I don’t have the money to contribute to saving abused animals, abused environments, and abused people; listening to Sara McLachlan sing in the ASPCA commercial only makes my distress worse, so I avoid even doing that.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the horrors of the “big picture,” I cut out a piece of the “little picture” that I might be able make a little better. Maybe this geriatric facility is not the worse place in the world for elders to find themselves, but it’s no Eden, either. However, it is a place where I can make a difference without the effort impacting me in a negative way.
As a matter of fact, I’m always surprised at how much of the time I spend with these folks that I actually enjoy. Sometimes I even get inspired in crafty ways that I’d never expect.
For example, I noticed one woman had a really pretty quilted pouch attached to the front of her walker. It’s just big enough to hold some tissues, a few photos, and a pair of glasses. You can buy similar ones online for about $35. It’s a handy little item that I realized other women who use walkers would find helpful. So, I’ve been inspired to design my own version that combines crochet and fabric. Maybe I’ll try to sell them online. Maybe I’ll just give them as gifts. Either way, I now have the kind of creatively useful project that I like to work on at home as I sit around in the evening and watch escapist television.
In her post today on Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett confesses to having become a “cowardly” about dealing with the overwhelming problems in the world around her. She says:
Confronted with calamity – personal, private or global – I have always been strong, eager to understand and self-confident in my ability to do my best to help when I can and pass the word on to others who might have more resources than I.
Now, I’ve become a coward. If I cannot look at the photos, will not read the news stories, won’t listen to the appeals for starving children and abused animals, how can I possibly be part of any solution.
In a real way, it’s my similar cowardice that has led me to volunteer where I do. I can feel I’m helping to make the lives of at least a very small part of the human population a little better, in only three or four hours a week. And, as it turns out (as it so often does when you give of yourself), I get back unexpected appreciation and inspiration.
Although I can do without the nonagenarian’s pat on the butt.
It’s not even 20 degrees outside, but I’m sprouting a sweet potato vine on the kitchen windowsill. By the time Spring is really here, I should have a hearty vine that I can keep rooting from cuttings. And then I can hang the vines in a basket outside my window. If I keep rooting the cuttings, I can hang a basket indoors all year.
I need something to plan toward, look forward to — something other than the solitude of a long cold winter.
All kitchens should have windows
double wide, Windexed clear
if not into sunny vistas at least
into frames of sky
beyond a stand of trees bordered
by day lilies in clumps, maybe
a lilac bush or two, certainly
a bird feeder busy with wings and
morning light. Not to mention a deep
indoor sill where seeds sprout green
even when winter shrouds the pane.
I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.
For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.
So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.
So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.
So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.
What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.
So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.
Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.
So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.
I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.
If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.
Oh well, I’ll think of something……
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.
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).
(for lack of anything else to say, I’m posting here a poem a day)
wound in the sheet
–night winding sheet –
in the tight lined
of your wound mind
around my night.
c elf 1970s
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.
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.
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
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.
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.