Friday, October 19, 2018

fade to black

It's been a long time, and it is a mark of how unsettled I am, that I am turning to this blog to puzzle out what I am feeling. A few months ago my mother had a fall. She was hospitalized briefly while doctors tried to figure out why she was falling. Then she went home, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Then she fell again, and broke her hip. She had a hip replacement, and less than 24 hours later, a stroke. She was partially paralyzed and was sent to a rehabilitation facility to recover.  

Mom went home home from rehab. Dad put in a stairlift, got a wheelchair and an aide to come a few hours a week. We settled into a new reality. Dad dressed mom, made her meals, cleaned her. I occasionally went to babysit mom so he could go work. It was mentally exhausting, but I was doing my part. Then mom became worse. Aggressive. Violent. 911 calls. Paramedic visits. A couple of ER visits to try and get her calmed down. All her violence was directed at Dad. Mom is now in a psychiatric geriatric facility while they work out her medication. Then she will transfer to an Alzheimer's assisted living facility where she will live out her days.

It's been a confusing and difficult time. I have been focusing on the more practical realities -- insurance, healthcare, schedules. I've spent way too much time reading medical articles about stroke and about Alzheimer's. I've pored over information about Medicare and VA benefits. I've had 100s of phone calls from assisted living facilities who are sure they are a good fit for our family.

What I haven't done, or done well, is deal with the emotional upheaval. While  I love my mother, I don't like her. I haven't felt kinship or fondness or respect or any of the countless things other people seem to feel for their moms. I am fairly sure that mom has been mentally ill my entire life. She clearly suffered from depression, and was plagued by numerous health issues both real and imagined. My job was to be her companion, servant, prop. And I was supposed to make her happy. It wasn't all bleak; when mom was happy, which happened rarely, we had good times. But I always wished for a real relationship with her.

Now that isn't going to happen. I knew that before, but now the possibility is gone. And I apparently was holding onto that possibility somewhere in the background of my mind. Mom isn't mom. She is a sad old lady who has no idea how old she is, where she is, what she had for breakfast. Large chunks of her life are gone, replaced by delusions that are more real to her.

I am left with sadness, and with pity. In some ways we get along better now. I can treat her like I would treat any elderly stranger, with kindness and as much patience as I have. This person is not my mom and I am not her daughter. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

sitting with fear

The recent election has me very afraid. I am scared that we are headed in a dark direction, and that many people will suffer as a result. I am also, frankly, frightened of change for the first time in my life. I have always sought change out, and drawn energy from it. Now I see an element of risk with it, that change could involve loss and diminishment and even pain.

When I sit in meditation, the fear is palpable. I have been exploring it, trying to not run, not let distraction pull me from that feeling. But is is hard. So much harder than sitting with racing thoughts, with distraction, with pleasure. Because fear feels imperative -- I should DO SOMETHING. RIGHT NOW. It is so uncomfortable, and so primal. RUN. ATTACK. TAKE CONTROL. 

I feel an urgency that doesn't exist, except in my own mind. There is time to breathe, to pause, to reflect, to decide. I can take thoughtful action, or take no action at all. I know that intellectually, but it hasn't yet sunk in to my core. My body still doesn't recognize any sort of space for . I feel all the places that are tight, tense, the fast paced breath, the quickened pulse. Breathe it in, breathe it out. Try again.

There is also an energy there, with the fear,  an undercurrent. Like it could be transformed into something positive, if I could just understand how to tap it in a skillful way. 

Fear is in the driver's seat right now, for many many people, on both sides of the current divide. People voted for Trump because they feared loss, they feared change, they feared the OTHER. People voted against Trump out of fear of hatred, of bigotry of violence, of what it would mean for each other. We have fear in common, and we need to understand it, and to master it. 

Our challenge is this - fear is a teacher, but we have to be willing to sit and listen and learn.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Up and Down, Ebb and Flow

It's been a busy time. Lots of work, lots of play. We added a dog to the household, and that comes with an inevitable bit of upheaval as our routines change. She's a joy, but she's also a rescue with issues we need to work through. I stopped going to school, for good this time. I think. That leaves me with time to do other things, but I am usually so brain-dead after work that I watch a lot of TV, read a lot of junky books.

Its all up and down, ebb and flow.

We went to the beach a couple of weekends ago, for a long weekend. I got to walk on the beach, watch the waves. Same thing, ebb and flow. The tide come in, the tide goes out. The wind moves the sand one way, and another. We're all caught up in the same dance. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

suffering of our own making

This has been a month fraught with anxiety for me. Our car was stolen on the first day of the month. It was no prize -- a 2003 Honda SUV with almost 170,000 miles on it, with the scratches and nicks and dings that a city car invariably acquires. But it was paid for, and I was flat broke. So I worried.

Fortunately, we have insurance, and we never skimp on coverage. So by the 3rd, I had a rental car. A brand new GMC SUV with 2000 miles on it. It's shiny, a huge silver thing with tons of chrome. I hate it. It is really stupid engineering -- nothing about it makes any sense. It's huge, but has no room inside. I can't find a place to put my purse. I could barely fit my groceries in the way back. Still, it has heated seats, a nice stereo, a backup camera.

We went car shopping, test driving new cars. We found a car we love. It's perfect! It has none of the ugly unattractive qualities of the rental. It drives like a dream. We waited the 21 days the insurance company required. We were set -- suddenly overjoyed that we will have a new car. Except.

Apparently our car was recovered. It had been at the city impound lot since the 15th. So now I have a new wave of anxiety. How bad will it be? Do I want it to be okay? Do I even want our old beater back? or do I want it to be totalled? I go to the impound lot and they take me out to the car. It's not so bad. It's got a broken rear window and some jerk tried to scrape off the bumperstickers, doing some real damage to the paint in back, It's full of trash -- pizza, drinks, loose tobacco everywhere. The front seats are fully reclined.

I find out that the car sat, and we didn't get a call because the police made a mistake on our paperwork and so the incident number they recorded was an old one. So our car wasn't listed as stolen. Had our insurance not found it in the impound, lot database it would have been auctioned off in a couple of days. I fumed and fretted and spent some useless time being irked.

And then we waited. We had a lovely Thanksgiving. We waited some more. I called the adjuster and he said the car isn't totalled. It will be repaired. So no new car. And I have to wait some more, driving around in the perfectly decent, intolerable rental car. I almost cried. I felt thwarted and disappointed.

I have spent the month being irritated. I've been anxious. I've pouted. I've been spoiled and entitled. I've coveted. I've been dissatisfied. I've worried about money. Every bad moment I've had this month has been generated by my own thinking, by my own mind.

What really happened -- I had my car, then I had a different car. I have a different car and then I'll have my car back. My insurance company is paying for everything. Poor little me. I had some inconvenience. That's really ALL that happened.

A little dharma lesson, wrapped up in a Baltimore City bow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

mourning for Paris, mourning for all of us

The attack on Paris made me weep. I love Paris -- the cafes, the art, the history, the style, the people. If a place can be deserving of special grace, I would say that Paris was that place. But all places, and all people, should be safe from bombs, from guns, from hatred. No place deserves what happened on Friday. People eating dinner, dancing, watching a soccer match -- there is no place where this should end in blood.

I mourn for Paris. I mourn for all of us.

In the aftermath, people are calling for war. People are asking that we turn away the Syrian refugees, close mosques, bomb Syria back to the stone age. I have seen such astounding amounts of  bile, vitriol, just pure undisguised hatred in the last few days, directed mostly toward "muslims". People are afraid, and channeling all that fear into a single target. That the vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism has not diminished the anger.

The more we hate, the more we engender hate.

I mourn for Paris. I mourn for all of us.