He crushed my soul with his criticisms and accusations. With his threatening body language and cornering strategies. The times he chased me, shouting over my sobs, while I tried to close a door between us as he pushed right through, a video camera in my face capturing my tears, my angusih.
He crushed my soul, and so it disappeared. Fled somewhere to lick wounds, heal. It has been lost to me now, for years, although I keep searching, calling. Did it hide in the safety of the forest outside his closed windows, finding asylum among the wild turkeys and grouse, the qentle deer, the lone tortoise, the wandering bear, the wise owls and crows, and the deep anonymity of night?
Did it follow me to this sacred ground, protected by family and the magic of love and caring? Is it waiting, now, in the dense forest outside my open window while I search for ways to bring it home? Does it remember the magic we made together, loosing the spirits of stones and burrowing things, crafting the wonders of chance into worth?
Grounded in Mother Earth, I reach out into the ether, feeling for some sense of soul, lost still, and dreaming of finding its way home.
I wote this in 2004, four years into being the full-time, live-in caregiver for my mother, who had severe dementia and the object of the abuse heaped upon me by myi brother. It is a reminder that I have been through writer’s block before.
I think I remember a time when I could focus on one thing at a time — a poem, a person, a pleasure — when the process was as important as the product. I’m trying to remember when the last time was that I felt that focus, that stillpoint. Oddly enough, I think it was was a decade ago when I used to go out on Thursday nights to dance the Hustle for hours on end. I would follow the lead with such total focus that all I was aware of was my blood humming to the rhythm of the bass and my body carving sharp arcs through the smokey air.
I think I used to know that same kind of focus when writing a really good poem, feeling the rhythm come, hearing the hum of swarming words. But that was when I lived alone, with long, quiet moments to feed my focus. That was when I would have hours of down-time at work, alone in my own office, with nothing to do but let myself succumb to the processes of dream timethink what happened is that I got really good at my job — multi-tasking, meeting deadlines, serving many masters. Scheme thinking. Quick thinking. No time to dream, alone, in a corner with a window.
I think what happened is I learned t.o care too much. I think what happened is that I let the world nibble away at my layers so that I lost my deepest secrets.
“The Many Breasted Artemis,” my shrink once noted, as I unloaded my distress at being expected to always be the nurturer, the feeder, the source of unlimited resources, the problem-solver, the responsible one.
I thought that when I retired, I would be able to find, again, that dreamy focus. Instead, it takes me until midnight to finally breathe evenly and deeply, to let go of all of the knowing. It takes me until midnight to finally feel the yearning for deep secrets.
But to have secrets, one has to have a life beyond the giving of care.
I’m waiting for my time to come again, when I will, again, simmer and stir, ladle, at last, into mounds of midnight words, that witch’s brew.
I haven’t posted here for a while because of my struggle witih all of the problems caused by my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder — including not being able to find any Sleep Clinics in my area that know how to deal with this problem.
Finally, I did a search for someone, anywhere, who is an expert in cicrcadian rhtythm disorders. I found one a Harvard and emailed him. Not only did he respond quickly, but he immediately referred me to his colleague at the Sleep Clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, and also gave me some advice about when I should be taking my medications — which depends on my specific circadian rhythm.
A telehealth visit with the Clinic was quicky scheduled, and, during that appointment, I found out that there are saliva tests I can take that provide data about my specific circadian rhythm. I was also told to get a test for my iron level, because I might need to go and get an iron infusion. I never knew that iron levels can affect sleep.
I received the test kit in the mail the other day. The process of gathering up the saliva is complex, and the results need to be immediately frozen and shipped out with an ice pack. The cost could be as much as $350 because Medicare does not like to cover it, but if I can fix this debilitating disorder it will be worth it.
I might have to go to the Boston hospital at some point, but my daughter said she will drive me.
Meanwhile, I went to my Primary Care to get my blood pressure checked, because the wrist blood pressure machine that I have was giving very high readings. At one point, the machine told me that my blood pressure was too high to even register. When the nurse took my blood pressure, it was higher than it should be, but he suggested that I try a few things before I am presdribed any meds. I admitted that salt is a big thing with me, and I had been binging on bags of Cheetos, which are even saltier that potato chips. So I am investigating other ways to flavor food, and I have severely curtailed my use of salt. But the readings I am getting on my home machine are still high. Blood pressure affects sleep, so I have to take this seriously.
I am still tired all of the time, despite sometimes sleeping for 10 hours. I am not a happy camper, but I will follow through with the Clinic’s suggestions and see where I wind up.
Because my daughter is strugglng with A-Fib and asthma, I limit my excursions out into the pandemicked world to avoid bringing anything home. When I do go out, masked and careful, it’s to run errands, and I come home exhaused. Mental? Physical? All of the above.
How bad do I have to get, mentally, to get help? Now I am bouncing off the walls in some kind of manic episode.(Not the first one, as of late.) My daughter thinks that I am getting to be bi-polar — or maybe I have been all of this time but have been able to manage it. But now it is all out of control. We are still looking, but I am getting very discouraged. I need to find someone who will both do therapy with me and help me manage my meds.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that I’ve really been crazy for all of these years.
If you read this and have any knowledge of available psychologists or psychiatric nurse practitioners who are still accepting new patients, please let me know.
I want to go to sleep and never wake up. (Don’t worry, I won’t do anything about that; it’s just how I’m feeling).
It has been three months since my last post. I have spent these months searching for medical help with my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. None of the so-called “sleep” doctors I’ve been to ever mentioned the possibility of DSPD. In desperation, I just sent an email out to a neuropsychologist because the stress has affected my usually-easy-going temperament, and I don’t even like myself any more.
Also, during these few months, the family brought a rescue dog home. He was smart, sweet, and cute, but he would not stop biting when playing. He went back to the rescue. So, last week, they brought home a cute, sweet, gentle rescue kitten, who is still sequestered in the upstairs bedrooms because their current prissy cat refuses to have any of it.
My plans, after the holidays, is to go the shelter and get a senior cat who just wants to snuggle. I need the companionship. I need the touching.
I need to find a way out of his personal sleep hell. It has affected my digestion, because when I eat depends on when I sleep. When should I take my meds? I often don’t even know what day it is. It’s making me crazy.
ADDENDUM: My daughter just told me that when I got home from the store yesterday, I left my car running in the driveway. It’s a good thing my grandson noticed the car’s lights were on. I am definitely losing it, fast.
It’s 3:30 am. By now I have usually taken my Remeron and also 35 mg of marijuana and am on the verge of sleep. Last night I did that, fell asleep about 4:30 am, and slept for 12 hours. Which means I got up in time for dinner. Their dinner was my breakfast. Enchiladas. That’s what I had for breakfast.
The truth is, I never know when I’m going to fall asleep even though I go through the same routine every night. I take my Remeron at 11:30 pm and take my marijuana edibles (THC/CBN) between 12 and 1 am, with the lights down low. I get ready for bed at 2 am and am in bed by 3 am.
But that doesn’t mean I will necessarily fall asleep right away. There are nights (days) I don’t fall asleep until 6 or 7 am. There are some mornings when I’m still awake while my son-in-law is up getting ready for work.
For a while, it was “asleep by 3:30 am and up by 12:30 pm.” And I could live with that. But as time goes on, my sleep schedule gets more and erratic, and I don’t know how I’m going to be able live with that.
And I am having a hard time productively using those night hours when I am awake. I guess, psychologically, for me, night time has always been for sleep. Or dancing. It’s like I’m on my old dancing schedule: I used to go out a 11 pm, dance until 2 am, and be asleep by 3 am. Sometimes, now, I actually put on music during those dark hours and dance. But it’s not the same. Nothing is the same. I am caught in this limbo of a non-life.
Since I have an overwhelming backlog of yarn, I started to crochet a sweater from what seemed like a simple pattern. Made continuously from the top, down. Half double crochet all the way, with some increases. What is making me crazy, is that every time I make the indicated increases and then go to check the number of stitches, I get a different number. It’s making me crazy at 3 am. So I ripped it all out and am starting again, and I’m still never getting the number of stitches I’m supposed to have. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Eating on this crazy schedule is also a problem. If I wake up around noon, no problem. I have “brunch.” And then dinner is around 5:30. By 10 pm, I’m hungry, so I have a snack. And around 1 am, I’m hungry again. So, maybe a banana and chocolate almond milk. What I need to do is stock up on some yogurt.
And when should I take my vitamins? If I take them with dinner, will they increase my energy at night so that sleep becomes even more difficult?
My isolation has become toxic. I don’t even see much of my family. We used to at least have dinner together, but the “dog experiment” messed with the old patterns. It was an “experiment” because, while we all loved the dog, who was very smart and was already learning to respond to commands, he was not able to be “cured” of biting. We know he just wanted to play, the way he might with other dogs. Except that he had not been around other dogs to get the message from them that biting them was not OK. It all got very complicated, and he had to be taken back to the Rescue folks.
So, the family will be looking at more middle aged dogs who tend to be couch potatoes. And, while they are looking, they are fencing in the yard, in anticipation of finding a dog that is a better fit for this family.
Meanwhile, here I sit, at 4:14 am, not sure what to do now, except to just stay up for the rest of the night and try to make it through the day.
I binged watched some stuff that is streaming: Evil, Midnight Mass, Chuck, and now I’m watching Why Women Kill. Maybe I’ll just watch more tv.
Maybe I’ll look on Pet Finder and see if I can find an older cat to keep me company. Their mean prissy “don’t touch me” cat can just suck it up. And if they finally find a dog, he will have to suck it up too. My comfort/happiness/ is just as important as theirs.
I just don’t know how I’m going to manage living like this.
Combine that with the dark early morning hours when I am alone because of my DSPD, along with the upheaval in this house as my daughter and grandson focus on training their new dog while trying to accommodate the existing prissy cat, who wants none of it. She doesn’t like me, this cat. Never has, and nothing I try to do changes her mind.
I miss the touch of a living creature. My own old cat died about 8 years ago. It wasn’t a great life for her here; she was confined to my two rooms because she attacked the two other cats that lived in this house at the time, and she refused to develop even a tolerance of them. And they were here first.
I live in a house, but it’s not my house. There is a cat who lives in this house, but she is not my cat. There is a new dog who lives in this house, but he’s not my dog.
I am grateful that my daughter and family welcomed me to live with them as I advance in age. It was my best alternative.
But I miss the soft purring on my shoulder, the silky fur brushing my forehead, the rough tongue licking my cheek.
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.
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.
All around me. All around my insides as well as my outsides.
I am used to being able to have some control over my life of 80 yeas. I get it that Covid 19 is in the driver’s seat right now. One of my “talents” has always been that I am able to find some pieces of myself to hang onto even in the midst of various forms of chaos; but I can’t seem to find any of those pieces.
As grateful as I am for the support and protection of my family, that all comes at a cost. And the cost is my sense of self at a time when very little is making sense at all. My reality has succumbed to the total chaos that rages all around me.
I am bummed that I don’t seem to be able to handle any of it. Mindfulness? Meditation? Forget it. Chaos rules my mind. I just want to sleep until I can wake to a better reality. And so I sleep. A lot.
I used to be able to gird my loins and launch myself into some creative craft project that would, at least, surround me with a brain buffer. I used to be able to take that chaos and re-purpose it into pretty decent poetry.
Is it so terribly hard now because I am old? Because I have used up my finite resources? I feel totally depleted. I don’t know who I am or why I am.
My late once-husband, who tended to be single-minded, once told me that he wonders what is at my “core”; he saw me like an onion. The layers get pealed back and there’s nothing at the core. And this is how I saw him.
.House cactus. You stand firm and fundamental in your solitary nesting place apart from your leafing, budding sill-mates. You remind me of someone I know
So, I am an onion. Each layer is a period of my life that I created and lived and survived. My layers are what I am. Does that mean I have nothing at the core? Nothing solid, impermeable? Does it matter?
Maybe it does, if I find myself adrift in a chaos that is being absorbed by whatever is left of who I am. Do I even have another layer in me, or is that all there is?