Boy, am I doing a lot of sleeping and dreaming. As a matter of fact, my dreams are a hell of a lot more engaging than my life these days. It gets so I don’t want to get out of bed, because if I stay there and fall back to sleep, I will have more adventurous dreams that are more interesting than any of my daily doings.
My dream world has very specific landscapes that include a section that is some odd representation of the campus where I went to college; a distorted version of the part of the city where I worked for 20 years; a kind of Catskill Mountain vacation hotel where I once attended ballroom dance weekends; and a weird version of an apartment complex where I used to live. I am always trying to get somewhere among those places, but it’s usually a matter of “you can’t there from here”. On those excursions, however, I might meet up with friends, go dancing, play with cats, and come up with a good first line for a poem. But then I wake up, and it’s all gone where dreams go.
No matter how hard I try I can’t reclaim a normal sleep schedule. I often don’t fall asleep until early morning hours, and then I sleep until afternoon. My sleep got messed up more than a decade ago when I was taking care of my demented mother. A search of this blog for “caregiving” or “dementia” will unearth full details.
I have tried to get control of my insomnia (search “insomnia” if you are curious). Medical Marijuana worksto get me to fall asleep, but it is awfully expensive because it takes a double dose to have any effect on me.
There actually have been more than a couple of times when I didn’t get out of bed for more than 24 hours. To be honest, I there are times that I would just as soon not wake up. I kind of identify with a 1999 episode of Ally McBeal, in which “Ally’s favorite teacher from high school is dying, but she has a wonderful dream life which she would like to remain in. Ally decides to get a court order to force the hospital to put her into a coma.”
In my dreams, I have relationships, friends, hugs, interactions, adventures — kind of the opposite of life with Covid-19. (I do live with family, but that’s not the same as hanging out with peers.)
On the Late Show last night, Bill Gates suggested that it might be close to a couple of years before we can settle into some kind of normalcy. How are we all going to keep from going off the deep end before then? Will I even live long enough to see a “new normal.”
In the meanwhile, lacking motivation, energy, and inspiration, I continue to avoid my pile of half-done creative projects that are wasting away in the corner where I piled them months ago. And, also in the meanwhile, I have tracked down a former therapist and have started, again, trying to find my muse, looking for some fuse that will propel me out of this mindless funk.
Last night I dreamed I was driving fast in a small stick-shift car, and I didn’t have enough leg room. I have only driven a stick-shift car once, decades ago. I don’t remember where I was going or why, and it was dicey going. Well, there you go.
Dylan Thomas wrote the poem that begins “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It’s very easy to fade away into old age, to pretend all is OK, to try not to be a burden, to keep our pain and sadness to ourselves. I guess it’s one thing if you are old and terrifically healthy and still run marathons and such. It’s another if your bones acknowledge the wear of every year — and that is the situation with most of us.
Most younger folks have no idea what they might be in for because we often try to accommodate to their expectations of us. Well, I say that we need to own — and own up — to whatever fragilities we have earned. Let the rest of the world become more aware of what the realities of aging are for most of us. Maybe then they would be more patient when we drive more slowly, or take longer at the check-out lines, or struggle with hearing loss.
I refuse to pretend that I don’t need help getting up and down stairs or getting out of a chair, or opening a jar of pickles. For sure, getting in and out of a car.
My family, with whom I live, understands my struggles because I don’t hide them. My reality is not very gentle: my gait isn’t always steady, my fingers don’t always hold sure, my rest isn’t always enough. And I think that is the reality for most of us, and it is a reality that most of those who are still young will one day face. They might as well see it coming.
So I believe in complaining — in the sense of being honest about what it is like, for most of us, to be old. We should be brutally honest, rather than gentle, about admitting — as Bette Davis supposedly admitted — “Old age is not for sissies.”
This is what I think about as I lay, sleepless at 3 a.m.
But I think of other things too — the projects I would like to do if I could find the energy and focus, for example. I am realizing that most of my life has required a great deal of both, and I have always had to move fast, decide quickly, shift gears while still in full-speed mode. I never had much patience for long-term planning (not a good thing); I’ve never had expectations of perfection (a good thing). But I always had the energy and focus to get done what had to be done.
Now, I spend an awful lot of time sitting in my rocker/recliner, staring into space, not thinking, or planning, or hoping. I spend an awful lot of time awake when I shouldn’t be and sleeping when I should be living.
Life with Covid-19 sucks, and it sucks even more if you are physically feeling your old age, isolated from your peers, and disconnected from outside stimulation. Yes, that’s how I feel, and I have to believe that I am not alone.
There was a time in the history of this weblog that talking to myself, here on these pages, got me through some rough times because there were folks out there eavesdropping with whom I eventually connected in a reaction of mutual support and camaraderie. That connection was the whole purpose of personal blogs, back then.
But it’s a different virtual world, now, and if all I do is talk to myself in these pages, that’s fine. I learn a lot about myself that way, and, although what I learn is not always pleasant, it’s enlightening.
This box marks the end and the beginning. What follows below this post is who I was. What precedes it is who I am and will be. With the Covid-19 Pandemic, with my achieving octoganarianism, came a sea-change, and this blog will reflect my life yet to be lived, as I persist.
If I have strong enough marijuana to ingest, I can sleep, but I still don’t fall asleep until 3 a.m. If that stops working for a while, I revert to taking night time cold medicine — double dose. (I can’t drink alcohol because of my Reflux disease, and I can’t get a sleeping pill prescription because of my age.) My brain seems to ignore the effects of sedatives unless they are pretty potent. It makes me wonder if some synapses in my brain have become immune to sedatives.
When I do sleep, I dream — elaborate scenarios, filled with people I know and people I don’t. One of the people I don’t know is a guy. I never see his face, but he is obviously someone I am close to, emotionally and physically. He hugs me, holds me, whispers in my ear. Obviously, I am compensating for these things I no longer have.
I have been missing that kind of interaction for more than a couple of decades. That is how long I have been without a relationship with a man — more because of situation rather than choice. My situation has also taken me away from close women friends that I have had for more than 40 years. And Covid-19 makes it very hard to be optimistic..
So I have a much more enjoyable dream life than my awake life. And so I sleep. A lot. Yes, it’s an escape during these depressing times, and yes, I take an anti-depressant. There are days I sleep from 3 or 4 a.m. until my daughter wakes me for dinner the next day. I need to find a prescribing psychiatrist to determine if I should be taking something else and to help me figure out the rest.
For now, I am addicted to sleep and the dreams that come.
Years ago, I saw an episode of “Ally McBeal” that featured an old woman who is dying in a hospital and was put in an induced coma. When they woke her up, she insisted to be put back in the coma, where she lived a whole other life as a happy, young wife and mother. She was much happier in the coma, and she was dying anyway. I get it. I’d rather be sleeping and dreaming rather than experience the dreariness of what my daily personal life has become.
I used to be able to amuse and entertain myself creating stuff — sweaters, upcycled t-shirts, learning to paint and draw, cooking….. Not these days. I used to dance for exercise. Not any more with my escalating arthritis and torn rotator cuff that will never really heal. I used to go for short late afternoon walks. Instead, I now sleep.
Maybe the results of the coming election will lift some of my depression. But not all of it. I have to figure out how to get rid of the rest of it. I’m assuming the psychiatrist will help.
But in the meanwhile, my life will be what it is, and my dreams will be my escape.
It’s so frustrating that my sleep issue is one that so many elders experience. We create vehicles that explore outer space, but no one has figured out how to solve the problem of elder insomnia (which must be associated with how the brain ages). And neither has anyone figured out how to make a removable partial dental bridge that actually fits and works.
I never worried about getting old. I figured that I would deal with it when it happened. Well, it happened, and I’m not dealing with it very well these days. Objects seem to fly out of my grasp. I’m constantly misplacing things. If I get down, I can’t get up without help. I trip when there’s nothing there to trip on. The technology that I used to use without a second thought now requires too much figuring out. It doesn’t help that, back in March, I accidentally sent my removable partial denture down the garbage disposal, making it unusable, and it’s taking forever to get a new one. I lose track of my finances and find myself owing more than I thought. My crazy sleep pattern doesn’t help, of course.
It wouldn’t have helped if I had worried about getting old before it happened. There’s no way to have known what it was going to mean for me. Everyone is different. My mother lived until she was 94, but her last 10 years were lost in dementia.
I wonder who those old people are who go out dancing, marathon running, paddling canoes. Of course, I’m assuming the Pandemic has put the kibosh on all of that now — unless they are the deniers. Good luck to them, I say.
I finally let my hair go gray more than a decade ago, and I was very happy with it. Only now, my hair is thinning. Not so happy, now.
The other day I took a magnifying mirror outside so I could see my eyebrows, which are also thinning – except for the long wiry white ones, which I plucked out. I suppose I could get one of those eyebrow stencils, that so many of the folks on tv seems to be using, but I think they look horrible. Not many choices here for me.
Over on Ronni Bennett’s blog, she has been chronicling what it’s like to get older. Exactly my age, she is now chronicling how she is dealing with the pancreatic cancer that is literally killing her. She is heroic in dealing with her situation. I wonder how I would handle it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful that I can still drive, blog, see the tv, chat on the phone with the one close friend I’ve been able to make in the ten years since I’ve moved here (more on that another time). Grateful for the support of my family, especially during this time of quarantine.
I still have insomnia. Weed works, but it’s expensive. The only solution is to grow my own, and while I’m waiting, I bought some CBN – also expensive, but it’s the stuff in weed that makes you sleepy (supposedly). I guess that I will find out tonight. I started using medical marijuana four years ago, and I blogged about it then.
I usually don’t fall asleep until after 2 AM, so I waste time scrolling through FaceBook or stream something unredeemable on TV.
I am getting fed up with FB for all kinds of reasons, but what just annoys me is that folks are starting to write awfully long posts. GET A BLOG! I tell them. I find I never read through long FB posts. I often plan to after the first paragraph catches my interest, but when I go back and try to find the post again — FB has sent it somewhere out of my reach. So, fuck it. I’m about ready to sign off Herr Zuckerberg’s monster for good, even though I like the cats.
The Big Picture these days is like a Gordian Knot. From the domination of the patriarchy and its greed for power and resources, to the negation of any kind of true social and legal justice, fixing the Big Picture is going to take public persistence, strategic action, and (ultimately) creative cooperation to either unravel or discard the current system.
As a White, progressive, middle class extended family, we support working toward re-building our society into a world view that values all life, that prioritizes ethics, equity, compassion, and diversity, and that supports the development of the best of human potential to solve problems in ways that meet the needs of all sentient beings. We make an effort to find common ground – even with antagonists – as a starting point, and often that starting point begins in learning about, understanding, and accepting the truth of each person’s personal journeys and experiences. But too often antagonists don’t want to find common ground, and so there is no place to start or proceed, especially since we are living in a world that seems to have lost all shades of gray.
Decades ago, my (now) adult son was mugged and beaten by three men of color who robbed him of the meager amount that was available via his ATM. Because he was nurtured to understand the influence of the local environment in which these men most likely lived, he was able to move beyond anger and “hate”. As an adult, autistic and afraid of violence, he still lives his life committed to social justice and intersectionality. The road he travels is bumpy, indeed. But he persists in the best way he is able: by intelligent research,analysis, and writing.
When my grandson was 7 or 8 (he is now 17), he became enamored of firemen and their uniforms. Every week, he visited our local fire station, getting to know the firemen personally. Finally, they gave him a discarded uniform, including sections of the hose. He was so excited, he even wore the stuff grocery shopping.
I suppose his love of “costumes” was reinforced by the fact that we are a family with some history in theatrical performance, and his progression into costumes of “authority” was fueled by his feeling secure and protected when he wore them – fire fighter, EMT, detective, police, Dr. Who, Jedi.
So, despite all of his commitment to fairness, ethics, justice, and the goals of Black Lives Matter, and despite his acknowledgment that our system of policing needs to be overhauled, he cannot ignore his empathy toward the plight of some law enforcers – the cop who gets shot and leaves a wife and baby behind; the cop who doesn’t come forward and report unnecessary police violence because he is afraid his partner won’t give him the backup he might need in violent situations; the cop who needs his job to support his extended family.
In addition, my grandson is involved with an online game along with a young POC policeman from the Midwest who has become his friend. That cop has an unmarked police car that is his to drive and even take home. But he does not want to park that car in his driveway because he is afraid to make it public that he is a cop; he is afraid of his family being victimized by opposition forces.
The backlash my grandson gets from his “social justice warrior” friends when he tries to explain his feelings about the police, in his words, “hurts his soul.” But he perseveres in trying to explain why he feels the way he does.
We talk about these things over the dinner table. I tend to come down on the radical side of issues. He is a reminder to me not to forget that each individual has a personal history that is often ignored by critics – a history that might have room for some deserved “walk a mile in his shoes” empathy.
Many of today’s police are trained to believe they must be invincible and to accept violence in order to survive. In some ways, they are victims, whose own fears and bigotries have been co-opted to support a narrow view of law and order. My grandson reminds me that there often are understandable reasons why many of today’s police do what they do; there are understandable reasons why some folks are driven to rob convenience stores, at lethal gunpoint, for basic necessities. To keep our humanity, our empathy, strong, we need to be able to see some gray within all of the overwhelming “either/or” culture.
While Rudyard Kipling was a man with controversial political views, I am one of those who is able to look at art apart from the personal reputation of the artist. So I share with you a personally edited version of Kipling’s “If”, dedicated to my grandson. Edited pieces are in bold.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it all on you
If you can trust yourself when all folks doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And not worry if you seem too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings And move beyond the stress of loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all folks count with you, and some too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ of your soul beguiled, Your love of life will have no limit, And you’ll find your destined place, my child.
I invite any readers to open a discussion of what I wrote here (harkening to the style of the original “blogosphere.”) Or at least leave a comment.
In 1967, I was married and had a five year old. While others were in Washington protesting the Vietnam War, the most I could do was make a peace banner and hang if off a branch on the tree half-way up our driveway.
Their colorful protest methods were tailor made for the television cameras .For example, once they poured into the vast main concourse of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station 3,000 strong, wearing their customary capes, gowns, feathers and beads. They tossed hot cross buns and firecrackers, and floated balloons up toward the celestial blue ceiling. They hummed the cosmic “Ommm,” snake-danced to the tune of Have a Marijuana, and proudly unfurled a huge banner emblazoned with a lazy “Y.”
While Yippies were a radical bunch, their basic philosophy paralleled the movements today to establish equality in all areas of American life: We want everyone to control their own life and to care for one another … We cannot tolerate attitudes, institutions, and machines whose purpose is the destruction of life, the accumulation of profit.
The Yippies used mockery, ridicule and silliness to call attention to the wrongs of our society. Imagine how our current president would be affected by this kind of outrageous public contempt. What if a new generation of Yippies performed an exorcism on the White House, the way they did it on the Pentagon in 1967 at the “Be-in” protest against the Vietnam War.
This is how it went back then:
The initial conception of the protest had been to occupy the Capitol, but that might have sent the wrong signal to the public, suggesting that the marchers wanted to shut down the democratic process and thus were offering only more political negativity.
So, instead, they came up with the idea of an exorcism that would levitate the Pentagon 300 feet. Since the five-sided pentagram was symbol of the occult, representing evil forces at work in the world, the Pentagon was a natural symbol of the evil war and itwould serve as a far more resonant target than the Capital.. Time magazine later reported the intention of the proposed ritual would turn the Pentagon “orange and vibrate until all evil emissions had fled” and the war would come to an immediate end.
On the makeshift altar before the Pentagon, a number of competing rituals began simultaneously to unfold. Ed Sanders, of the rock band the Fugs, delivered an impromptu, sexually suggestive invocation punctuated with repeated calls of “Out, demons, out!” Allen Ginsberg declaimed mantras for the cause.
Two hundred pounds of flowers were trucked in and distributed to the crowd. When military police and marshals confronted the protesters, images of gun barrels blooming with daisies became the iconic photographs of the day.
As we approach November, I can’t help wishing there were a new version of the Yippies to dramatize the absurdities of our current Cheeto-in-Charge. I’m not suggesting that they disrupt the convention; rather I’m suggesting that for the two months before elections, a swarm of costumed political pranksters organize “guerilla theater” events to draw the attention of the public and the media to (my words) drive tRump even more crazy.
If he is even the least bit superstitious, I’m sure that anything smacking of magic and mystery will fuel his paranoia and insecurities. So how about an exorcism on the White House to rid it of negative energies — racism, bigotry, misogyny, elitism, etc. etc.
While there are no more Yippies, perhaps a gathering of witches:
ON MIDNIGHT LAST Friday, all over the United States, an alliance of magical practitioners called the Magic Resistance gathered Tarot cards, feathers, orange and white candles, pins, water, salt, matches, ashtrays, and unflattering photos of President Trump. The objects are prerequisites for a binding spell, an incantation typically used to keep someone from harming themselves or others, like a magical straitjacket.…
..Magic (and particularly witchcraft) has been a form of protest for decades, probably centuries, but protest magic has burst into the media and broader public consciousness only twice in recent memory: during the 1960s and now, during Trump’s presidency. In the ‘60s there were the yippies, but also the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—W.I.T.C.H.—a pointy-hatted wing of the women’s liberation movement.
In 2016, the anonymous W.I.T.C.H. movement was resurrected by a group in Portland, Oregon, inspired by the injustice they see in the world around them, and in their own backyards ….. Sometimes they hand out tarot cards at events, edited to include a message such as “A vote for the health-care bill will mean DEATH for millions of Americans” on the death card. On their YouTube channel, they posted a video of one of the rituals they performed before a protest: the “binding” of Donald Trump.
The exorcism of the White House can be done virtually on a specific night over Zoom or some other platform. With enough chatter about it over social media before hand, perhaps the mainstream media might also cover it. The point would be to make our Hitler-Wannabe nervous and insecure as he is surrounded by the notion that mysterious enemy forces, over which he has no control, gave gathered to erode his power and his sanity. What great fun to add some fun to ensuring that he loses the election.
These are the sites I used for background information: