aging · Family · perspective · poetry · women's issues · writing

Shallow Measures

Didn’t have to say it –
read between the lines,
the “and you too”
as an afterthought

pathetic attempt to
cover truth – ugly
I was, unlike sisters
whose beauty raved

Only in flashbacks,
time gifting objectivity
do I see it wasn’t true –
depth shines through.

(Image from personal collection.)

adversity · aging · Family · health · poetry

Blessings

Mother’s feet scream –
agony of her miserable condition,
underlying disease eating her.
My feet, free of calluses,
paddles slightly bent and fallen,
carry on with forgiving kindness.

Husband’s knees are red-hot pokers
shooting knife-sharp volts
with every rickety step.
Mine are knots in spindly
trunks that bear movement
graciously, allot me flexibility.

Father’s back grew weak
faltering in the end, hunched,
as if he’d born a cumbersome burden.
My back, not without its moaning,
carries me proudly erect –
like the spring sapling, winter endured.

Uncle’s heart beats erratically,
ceasing despite its mechanical support,
his life a testimony to modern science.
My heart flutters with expectancy,
aches with disappointment,
and soars with each new birdsong.

Sister’s tension rises,
the stiffness in her neck suffocating,
headaches blinding her vision.
My neck, slung now like a rooster’s,
puffs around my face like an old friend,
allows me the comfort of perspective.

Brother’s mind has seized,
lost somewhere between today
and yesteryear – never certain of either.
Mine, a constant churning cog,
gathers information, spews ideas
and bends in the face of creativity.

My eyes have seen suffering,
my hands throbbed with desire to help;
yet each bears their cross stoically,
and so I watch with compassion
and gratitude for the life I might have lived,
had my own vessel not been so blessed.

(This is an edited version of an earlier post by the same name.)

disability · dreams · health · Humour · life · nonfiction · Rants · recovery

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

I’d go back to school, continue post graduate work, rally the troops to get me there, scrounge
the fees, find someone to carry the books (I no longer have the strength) – undoubtedly miss a few sessions, get behind, feel frustration building, consult with the energetic youthful instructor, become brain locked when I cannot interpret the email address she writes down for me, confront the fact that transcribing the required reading assignment in nearly impossible (which means the work will likely never get completed in the allotted time period), and drop out.

I’d look after your young children, give you a break, but my hand is not steady and if I drop a cup it will break and what if it shatters where the children are playing – barefooted because I couldn’t rally the wherewithal to get them dressed without that much needed tea – and now the shards are a real threat, and the children are laughing and bouncing around, not heeding my warnings, thinking it’s all a joke, and I have lost control, needing to clean it up and manage the children, which I cannot do because multi-tasking is no longer within my realm of possibilities.

I’d visit my sister, the schizophrenic, who lives in a group home, and try to be supportive, but my mind is still reeling over the children, and other accumulating failures, and I know I’ve let everyone down, and quite frankly, her current state of neurosis seems so much less troublesome than mine, and I have nothing to say that would aide her other than I know what it feels like to be fucked up and exist outside the ‘norm’, and right now I just want to crawl back into my cell of isolation and breathe again – so have a good life.

I’d get a scooter, try to go for a ride on my own – be independent – but I’d likely choose the back roads to avoid the traffic and, not having accounted for inclement weather, would find the pace too fast and be forced into some small town where (with my luck) they’d be having their Christmas parade and I would be caught between crowds lining the street and marching bands and in a moment of panic would duck into the nearest opening – a family restaurant from which people are constantly coming and going  and where I’d realize that I just need to get home – and try to exit  just as someone (equally as pressed) is trying to enter, and having lost all vestiges of my normally polite self, I would refuse to back up, choosing instead to rage at the poor unsuspecting woman, who only needed a quick place to pee.

So, when you next ask me what I do with myself all day – and aren’t I bored – be assured that I am not lacking in suitable stimulation, do not need to take on added responsibility to give myself a sense of purpose, am incapable of volunteering with any degree of compassion, and have accepted my current state of dependency as the most appropriate given coping capabilities. I am, at present, unable to navigate life with any degree of normalcy, am content to struggle with my own limitations, putter at a speed below tortoise, bear the silence of solitude, and stay home.  I am not broken, in need of rescue, or lost.  I simply am.

health

A Mountain of Grief

I exist in the spaces –
crushed and flattened –
between the rocks that form
this mountain of grief.

Each sorrowful fragment
petrified,  polished –
a collection of coldness
hardened and maintained.
I’ve never known how to grieve.

How do I shed the weightiness –
crawl out from the crevices –
breathe new life into myself?

Should I try to scale the mound?
Conquer my emotions?
Raise a flag to victory
and ultimate denial?

Or, one by one,
should I examine
and relive the losses
counting them till my head spins
and my heart beats no more?

Lacking the strength to do either
I sit and feel the hollow agony –
the overwhelming numbness
that precedes movement.

I live in the cracks
of this precariously constructed
shroud of stones –
a self-imposed prison –
and pray for resurrection.

dreams · health

Accepting Self

Desiring reconnection with life,
a longing for purposeful normalcy,
I push forward, intentionally ignoring
advice to the contrary.

Original intention well-meaning
(but not thought through)
minimal exertion is what’s called for,
but I feel inspired to do more.

Former strength now lost,
new awareness on the periphery,
hindered only by this cloudy head-
executive functioning currently disabled.

Bottom line is I must come clean,
stop overstating my capacity,
accept the unpredictable,
and recognize my limitations.

Embrace the lesson of constraints
and stop sabotaging the journey.
I am what I am, not a former definition
based on a life now redundant.

Naked, I fear that someone will see me –
I fear that they will not see me –
desire for acknowledgment,
a very human condition.

I need to ignore the obstacles,
wholeheartedly, without compromise,
reveal myself – no longer hidden.
I am, after all, what I am.

life · mental-health · nonfiction · recovery

Accepting Success

My husband always tells me that I am failing my way through life with an A+.

It started when I returned to university to upgrade my degree.  I would sweat over every assignment, proclaiming uncertainty about the expectations and certainty that my efforts would fall short.  I would get the paper back with a mark in the nineties.

Despite my high marks, the insecurity persisted.  When I graduated from the Faculty of Education, I didn’t even notice that it was with distinction until my stepdaughter asked me what that meant.  Surprised, I responded:  “It probably means that I was the oldest.”

The assumption behind all this angst is that I am not capable, and that every task is designed to trip me up.  Of course, this is nonsense, and when I spell it out like that, my rational mind can see that it is.  Yet, somewhere inside me is an insecurity that my success is phony; that I am a fraud.

I am working on moving towards an easier approach to life.  I am trying to be consciously aware of how I complicate things with insecurity, and replace those thoughts with simplicity. I’m trying to take a step back before responding.  Reassessing a situation usually does reveal a simpler solution.

 

Family · health · life · Love · memoir · relationships

Acceptance

“I know what I want to give my Father.”  Dee looked at me through her veil of blonde hair.  Her face always bore such sweetness, yet the young girl I knew was so intense.

“Tell me.”

Dee was dying.  This was her third dance with cancer, and the doctor’s said it would be her last.  I visited daily, at her request, and we talked about fears, and dreams, and spirituality.  Lately, it had been on her mind that if her life was to be a short one (23 years), then she had to make it purposeful.

“I have decided that the best gift I can give him is to accept that he loves me, even if he doesn’t show it the way I’d like.  What do you think?”

Dee and her father had been fighting since the news came.  He wanted to take her home, but she refused.  She wanted to die here, in the town she had been living the past four years.  He couldn’t understand her unwillingness to fight in the face of death.  He wanted the doctors to do more.   She wanted him to let it go, and to be more emotionally available to her.  We had been discussing their relationship during my past two visits.

“I think that is an amazing gift, Dee.  I am forty years old, and I haven’t even been able to do that with my own father.  That’s the best gift ever.”

* * *

Dee had me thinking.  What would happen if I were to accept my father, just as he was?

Dad’s 75th birthday was coming up and I hadn’t yet bought him a gift.

He had asked for my acceptance once, and I’d said no.  It was the night he shared with me his awful secret.  He sat the family down and told us all.  He said that all he wanted was acceptance, and when he turned to me I said I couldn’t do it.  I said I needed my Father, and what he asked of me was too much.  I stormed out.

So, on his 75th birthday, I wrote him letter.  I apologized for that girl so many years ago, and I told him that I never really understood his problem.  I told him that I knew he loved me,  and that I loved him too.  And I said that when I got past all my self-righteous anger and frustration, I had to admit that he was probably the best teacher I ever had in life.  If it hadn’t been for his struggles and the challenges they presented for all us, I might never have been the person I was.  If there is a divine plan, or higher purpose for life, I wrote, then he accepted a hellish existence in order to give us the opportunity to grow and evolve.

He cried when he read it, and he called me up after, and said I had an odd way of looking at life, but that he appreciated it.  He appreciated it that I was willing to accept him as he was, but he wanted to be better.   Did I think it was too late?

I told him what Alan Cohen said:  “Look in the mirror.  If you see yourself looking back, then there’s still time.”

* * *

Dee’s father liked his present, too.  His anger had broken the next time I saw him, and he even let me see him cry.