My body and I have gotten along better since I stopped thinking it was me, all of me, and nothing more of me.
After 67 years of living and decades of healing I now think of my body as a space suit. It’s what I gotta have on to be in this world.
My body is a creation of this world. Transient, mortal, helped along by survival instincts the human body is eminently suitable for this world.
As my body ages, I’m more and more aware that my consciousness hasn’t. My consciousness (how I occur to myself, who I am for myself) is 25, even though my body is 67 and pretty beat up (life does that).
I’m too old to dismiss the temporary nature of this body. It gives me daily reminders. I remember when I could just not think about life being transient. That is called 25.
But I must also say that I am very happy despite the chronic physical pain and the progressive decline of some of my body parts and systems.
Used to get me down. Thankfully I’ve made progress with my mind. I choose happiness and self-agency every chance I get, every time I can.
With practice the happiness has long since become my baseline. Now that’s something to be happy about. I have so much to be happy about.
It’s not luck.
It’s a choice. My maker endowed me with free will, not so I would be good, but so I would be powerful in the face of so many challenges and setbacks common in this life.
I stand up taller, I stress and suffer far less when I have a choice, even if it isn’t total and absolute choice over absolutely everything. I look for choice and welcome it even when its scope does not change a physicality.
Subjectively my experience of life is qualitatively better, much better when I am “at choice.” Cheers me up even when it’s not objectively true.
My mind is often a brat, frightened, lazy and indifferent, argumentative. I had to discipline my mind first. Nor am I done.
But I’ve learned I can talk it into just about anything. So I create affirmations and repeat them over and over again. Meanwhile my mind is annoyed and incredulous at worst and at first, and at best amused.
In the end, my mind yields to my insistence. It bends to my will, my patience and my persistence. And when that moment comes, when my mind believes the words it is reciting, why then it’s just true.
Do you realize we are honoring the Labor Movement? The American Labor Movement, the mother of all movements in this country. We honor with a National Holiday those brave activists who fought and many of whom died for a minimum wage, working hours, unions. I’d bet phony USDs a lot of people have no idea what this Holiday is about. So I found a link, which I append below.
I want to celebrate this Labor Day by sharing a story with you.
A couple years ago, I was at a concert and overheard a young woman reciting how the system is rigged against her generation. Then she said there’s nothing we can do to change it. So, you know me … I butted in.
I blurted out, “Hey we’re still here. Call the rally and we will show up.”
“We can’t do that.”
“Why not? We did it in the 60’s. We’ll do it again.”
“But,” she said, “They might hurt us!”
“So?” I said. “They hurt us. Tell you what,” (I had a brainstorm right there at the Knitting Factory), we’ll go in front. I’d rather they hurt me than you anyway.”
Her face screwed up in this odd way. She turned back to the concert, which was a good idea after all.
So for several years I lost my faith in young people.
And in spite of everything, of all the pain we are in as a people, it fills me with pride to see them step up, for Bernie Sanders, for Black Lives Matter, and all the many courageous demonstrators on all the large and small front lines. Oh yeah, I’d still stand in front but my head would be held high.
Happy Labor Day. Never Forget!
I’ve known the expression “Up a creek” and it’s scarier cousin, “Up a creek without a paddle” since I was a little girl. But I didn’t experience this predicament until I was 40.
Even before I had the harrowing experience of being up the Big Thompson River in a kayak without a paddle. It’s about class 3-4 water. Truth is we should not have been there. I’d studied my guidebook and I knew this was Intermediate water. We needed to be in beginner water, way downstream.
But Richard met this guy with a steel pipe-lined rubber raft that looked like it was rated “Seal Team 6.” The stranger tells him it’s an easy half-hour ride. “Really, there’s just one shoot.” I’m there with my book. He won’t look at it.
Then we got in that Class 3-4 water, two 11 year olds (one of whom had never been in a paddle boat before).
Turned out that stranger told Richard true: there was only one shoot. It started where we put in, and ended where we got out.
I’ll spare you a full recitation of the experience, but for now suffice to say that yes, I have been up a river without a paddle. Harrowing.
I’m not white. I’m quitting that game and I’m no longer enrolled in the lies. There is only one race: human. There are shades across a wide swath of possible skin tones. My skin is pale. I’m a pale-skinned human. I am not white. It’s easy enough to see. Some unnamed shade of human skin, low on pigment and kind of unhealthy looking when I haven’t gotten enough sun. Kind of ecru with blotchy areas, sometimes I think it’s a very very pale pink.
Expect me to jump you when you use these categories. They are part of America’s systemic racism.
I will no longer subscribe or even tolerate these false and destructive constructs.
Pity Richard. He gets it the most. But he says he loves me intensely (his word). I am trying to contain any gratuitous complaining to an absolute maximum of two minutes. It’s hard for me to resist pointing it out, but there probably is little hope he’ll remember.
His Alzheimer’s is not getting worse. He is better than he was the first few months after his flare up when he fell 15 months ago now. I’m trying everything that has promise. The FDA came back “inconclusive ” on the benefits of Turmeric. Doesn’t that just prove it does help. They don’t want food to be curative. It’s bad for business.
Eat lots of curry.
When I was very young and newly on my own I had a boyfriend who I thought was shy. I knew from the abuse he took from his friends he was a virgin. I had no idea he was also, and perhaps mostly hiding a physical defect. I was naive at 18. It never even occurred to me. So when he finally marshaled the courage to have sex with me I was not prepared.
Right in the middle his penis made a hard right turn (or left turn depending on perspective). Like a double-jointed finger. I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly work. My naïveté was boundless when I was 18. I avoided intercourse and judging by his reaction, what I did instead left him feeling satisfied and happy. It was, after all his first time. There wouldn’t be a second time.
Somehow from somewhere revulsion snuck in, and I quickly and repeatedly found I couldn’t deal with it. So it was actually worse than being a virgin. It was his worst fear, rejection. I get why he can’t forgive me. I was naive. And stupid.
Today and for about the last 25 or so years, it would have been no big deal. But at 18, I knew almost nothing about intimacy and love and how the best sex is all about being authentic, and not at all about looking good.
I smacked down the first man I ever really loved and I still feel the loss to this day. I’m talking about it because it’s true and it defies my ego. Take that ego.
In actuality I repeated the smacking down and the being smacked down for a lot of years. If it hadn’t been for alcohol it might have run my whole life. But it didn’t. Turned out I was a problem drinker, to say the least. Pretty soon I found AA. And AA was just the medicine I needed to force me to look closely and as honestly as possible at myself. Saved my life. I’m lucky that way.
Still regret lingers on, unbidden but relentless in it’s own way. Oh yes, I have sins to list. An abortion when abortions were illegal. There were abusive self-involved assholes along the way, but at the time I wasn’t capable of intimacy. When I dated a mature man it didn’t last long, and I was lucky the fellow was honest enough to tell me why he wouldn’t see me again. Looking back on my early adulthood, I see I missed a lot of happiness.
No one ever told me the truth about life. My parents were wrong in so many big ways, I had no role models. Instead I had negative role models who showed me how not to live.
Chronological age: 19; emotional age: 12 going on 13. I was dangerous. I created unhappiness. I walked away and started over again and again and the same sorry melodrama played out enough times to finally get my attention. With a little help from my friends.
I was miserable. The greatest day of my life was when I realized I was creating my own unhappiness. I wanted to be treated with respect, but braless as a matter of principle guaranteed being treated like a slut. That was a good day. I was 23 years old but about 16 emotionally. But I woke up and started charting my own course in life. It took a long time. But I made it.
Progress isn’t all epiphanies. There are more hard climbs than sudden revelations. Like everything in this world, it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. And even though sometimes it seems impossible to keep on, I can say from first-hand experience, never give up. Never ever give up. I suspect it is for this we are here.
It seems like the darkest, roughest parts of the climb out of my self-made purgatory were the final stages. Then came the epiphany. And the epiphany was the realization that I made it.
So I share this in the hope it might tip someone off to avoid suffering and choose happiness. Or not.
Today Richard called my attention t a corner in our bathroom where he wants me to be very careful.
“Look here. See? There are about six little ants.” I looked but didn’t see any ants. “I’m feeding them.”
“You’re feeding the ants?”
“Yes, but be really careful because they’re really tiny little guys. You can hardly see them.” He squatted down to show me. “See?”
For a second or two I was speechless, then I came back to reality, wherein my husband is 79 and has Alzheimer’s.
I told him he can’t feed the ants, and his face fell in disappointment and surprise. “What do you mean I can’t feed the ants?! Why not?”
“Because they can’t live in the house. They have to live outside.”
He was stuck, so I offered, “You can feed them outside, on the dirt.”
Richard soon wandered away. I doubt he will recall our convo. I guess from now on I’ll have to keep an eye out for suspicious crumbs?”
I hate Alzheimer’s.
Sky blue and hard as diamonds, my mother’s eyes could impale me and leave me pinned to the wall for all to see. It was no use trying to lie or whine, and having a smart mouth could get you a slap on your cheek. But it was her eyes that withered you, and cut you down to size.
Later on, when Dad got home from work there would be a real spanking. My father couldn’t suffer anyone being disrespectful to Mom. Possibly the worst part was the looks I’d get from my siblings, “Mom hit you?! What did you do?” We all knew Dad was free with the backhand, but Mom? If Mom slapped you, you had really done something awful. There was general outrage, and the shame was worse than the belt.
When she fell last Easter, she broke her pelvis in two places. My brothers and I took turns looking after her, so she could stay at home while healing. One afternoon as I was preparing her lunch, we got on the topic of how she was treated this last time in the hospital.
“Well, she opined, it really kind of ticks me off how they treat me. They always think you have to be brain dead just because you’re old.” She slaps the arm of her chair for emphasis. “It usually takes a few minutes, but pretty soon the tone of the conversation changes. They figure it out.”
My mother is 88. She puts a brave smile on it, but I’ve seen her without her teeth. I’ve seen close up her skinny legs, just bone and sinew, and skin that ripples like little waves. I’ve felt her bony arms and seen her flex the tiny muscles underneath the empty folds of skin. She makes a muscle and shows me, “Look, I’m still strong.” She’s my mother, or what’s left of her.
I remember her when she was a tall pretty redhead, with a butterfly tattoo provocatively located at the edge of her cleavage. Now its colors have faded. It lays flat against her chest, shrunken to an indistinct smudge. The breasts are all but gone. In this moment I love her so intensely, I want to hug her really tight. I’m afraid I would hurt her, but she sees the love in my eyes and smiles.
Life takes no prisoners. That’s for sure. But my mother’s smile still lights up any room she’s in. She has an unquenchable inner fire that has always inspired me to keep fighting and never give up. These days she seems more spirit than body to me, her whole being held together by the simple force of her determination to keep on living. She laughs, and I imagine I hear her bag of bones rattle and shake like dead leaves in a good wind.
And then that inner fire comes on in her eyes again, that light in those eyes. Now that bright light reassures me. My Mom’s not going anywhere, just yet.
Coffee stains that stripe the wall
hid behind the bed
whisper tales and messages,
echo in my head.
Coded in by gravity,
drip on drip on drip.
You could almost miss them.
Stories scribbled by the dead.
Going to? Coming from?
Hardly matters today.
It’s time to go. I know I know,
but I just can’t look away.