Monday, March 3, 2014

Faithful Companions and Unconditional Love

Ever since June of last year, I have slept with death in my house.  The night my mother died, I felt it slide in under the door like a poisonous mist, creep through the air of sadness that hung palpable, on stealthy panther feet.

Since that time, I can sense when death is about, scratching out with its hoary talons to snatch someone else I love away.

I looked into my mother's eyes the night she died.  I told her she was the best mother in the entire world, thanked her for trying to make me into a good person, acknowledged her sacrifices in bringing me into this vale of tears, and told her we would be okay, that she could go.

A few hours later, she did.

My dog, Kruzer (named by an animal shelter and we kept it, not wanting to confuse him) kept vigil in the yellow chair beside her hospital bed the last week of her life.  He sat, sentinel, the night she died.  And he had to go outside, restlessly roaming the yard after she died, as if he couldn't contain his grief.  When the funeral home directors came to pick up her body, he howled as if his heart was breaking and then showed his teeth from the gate, knowing that they were taking her away from us, from the house, from him, for the last time.

Now I am giving him medicine to increase his appetite so he will be more comfortable.  I am coaxing him to eat a bite of food.  I am racking my brain to come up with ideas of natural remedies so I don't feel so helpless fighting against this.

But I looked into his eyes tonight and saw the same thing I saw in my mother's.  That he was already destined for another world, and he looks to me to say, "go," release him from the bonds here.

My husband says I'm wrong, takes very little I think or say or do seriously, and for once I hope he is right.  He dismissed my feeling the night my mother died that she was on her way.  And he is dismissing me now.  I hope he is right this time.

Some may be horrified that I am equating my dog's decline with my mother's demise.  I acknowledge this.  But my dog is a sentient being.  My dog has shown me unflagging, unconditional love.  No human has ever done this.  My mother came the closest.

It's something in the eyes.  The windows of the soul.  The soul escapes, even when the windows are closed.  For this, I weep.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Death, Dying, Endings and Me

It's been a strange day.

I have been living through this grief process shit now for over 2 years.  On June 13, 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She died on June 12, 2013, one day short of a year from that diagnosis.  One day short of a year to make decisions, know that the end was more than likely imminent, and get "her affairs in order."  Except she didn't.  In the midst of dealing with the fact that I can't call and kvetch or bitch or cry to her, I am having my guts ripped out dealing with the twisting in the wind of her estate, her dilapidated hoarder house, giving away her horses, discovering that her belongings were stolen, house broken into repeatedly, memory disgraced and disrespected, funeral not paid for, and the grave has no headstone.

Deep breath.

For the past three weeks or so, my dog has been eating less and less, and becoming more and more lethargic.  Today my dad paid for a vet visit with his vet for my dog.  Our vet four days ago told us it was a "sour stomach" and nothing was wrong.  My dad's vet says that it's elevated calcium and liver enzymes, and most likely parathyroid cancer.  Either we do an expensive blood test or we watch him get weaker and weaker and die.  So we did the blood test.  And now we wait a week.  And then go from there.  I want him well, but failing that, I want the absence of pain for him.

Meanwhile, I look at another sentient being who has given me absolutely nothing but unconditional love and watch him approach death.

I know that to live is to eventually die.

I get it.

This fact does not make it hurt any less.

And of course, life conspires to cry along with me.

A week ago I received Ariel Gore's memoir, The End of Eve and just finished it today.  I am bereft with sorrow for her, and reliving my own mother's illness and death, making the inevitable comparisons.  Intense writing at its best, this is a talented author's masterpiece.  She has always written in such a way that I felt her words, but this hit me on another whole level.  Highly recommend it.

Right now my life is full of changes.  It has been an overwhelming couple of years.  In the midst of all of this, I have discovered I am living a life I hate, and basically I want to escape being myself.  I am discovering what I really want to do, but also what has blocked me from it - an insidious self-hatred that poisons everything I do.  I am tired of trying to analyze its source.  I am more interested myself in the psychic surgery to remove its roots.  Failing that, I look toward the ultimate escape.

To answer Mary Oliver's rhetorical question, what to do with my one precious human life?

Fix it or forget it.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014. Day One.

All in all, a better day than usual.

I actually slept a full 8 hours.  This only happened a handful of times in 2013.  Spending the first 6 months worried about my mother's health and watching her die, my decades of experience of shortchanging myself sleep held in me in good stead.  So sleeping 8 hours was a big deal.

I actually took the time to make a smoothie that contained 4 servings of fruits and vegetables, 20 g of protein and 3 g of fat.  It's my own design, but I did not have time to make it more than 2 or 3 times in 2013.

2013 was a year spent taking care of everyone but myself, in a lifetime of taking care of everyone but myself.
I am hoping to reverse this.

"The body is in need of no defense.  This cannot be too often emphasized.  It will be strong and healthy if the mind does not abuse it by assigning roles it cannot fulfill, to purposes beyond its scope, and to exalted aims which it cannot accomplish."    - A Course in Miracles

There is a Buddhist precept that reminds us to be mindful of how rare - and therefore, how grateful we should be - to find ourselves in a human birth on earth.  The body is part of that.  The Soul is an even bigger part of that.

Right now, I am going to focus on taking care of both.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.....

Goodbye, 2013.

You were a shitty year, and I am glad to see you go.

When you leave, you will take with you the last time my family was whole.  You will take my illusions that certain things matter.  You will drag behind your bedraggled ass my innocence, my ability to blame things on an earlier generation, and my desire to be something else.

So tonight as I spread out the Tarot cards to see just what I was supposed to learn from this fucked up experiment called 2013, I am not going to miss you.  I will not mourn your passing.

You are a bitter old bitch.  I can't wait until you are gone.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's been a long time since I have blogged.  Life has strewn me thin and thinner in places and much has happened.
Much of this blog has been discussion of my struggles with life, whether it be my depression, my physical health, or whatever.  And some of it has been my struggles with expectations of those around me and involved in my life.  Life has tried very hard to teach me not to have expectations of others.  That way, when someone else does the right, responsible or ethical thing, I can be pleasantly surprised on those rare occasions, rather than being in a dull state of disappointment continuously.  Often I forget this lesson and then feel devastated by life, et al, all over again.
In the past year, I have watched cancer take my mother's life.  I felt helpless as I continued to beat my head against the work post, giving too much of my life and energy to maintain status quos.  For this reason, I lost many opportunities to work out lifelong issues and spend time with mother before she died.  Sure, she lived in my house, and my husband stayed with her so she was never alone, but I owed her more than that.  I owed her myself.  And I failed.
In the past 10 years I have spent an astronomical amount of time trying to be a wife and mother.  Because my husband has never been much of a provider, and for 8 of those years has made little or no contribution to the family financial situation, I have been forced to work a great deal harder than the typical wife and mother. This has added even more stress to my life.  And I am not graceful under pressure.  So my home life has been less than idyllic.  All I can say for sure is that I have loved my children fiercely, and sacrificed whatever was necessary to take care of them.  My health.  My happiness.  My own interests.  My friendships.  My sanity.  My time.
All the same, I did the best I could.  I was not always able to spend as much money on them as I wanted to.  I was never able to spend the time I wanted to with them.  Since marrying my husband, I have often had to take his part of responsibilities in addition to my own.  My older daughter resents the last 10 years, when I stopped being a single parent and started doing something besides working and then coming straight home and focusing only on her.  So now she has told me that she has not been happy since she has had to share my focus and is moving out as soon as she legally can.  This happens to be the day after tomorrow.
So back to expectations.  I expected that if I sacrificed whatever I could, I would be the recipient of gratitude, not resentment.
So when I look back on my life, it's not real impressive.  It's full of dull aches, unrequited caring and compassion.  I am a warrior with fatigue that permeates ever part of my being, My health, emotion, physical, mental, spiritual, is teetering.
So now, having lost a mother, I am now losing a child.  Life has decided to do this to me in the space of 7 months.  I fear for my younger daughter, who is feeling abandoned.  My husband spends his time on the couch, watching football and sitcoms, and playing on his computer or iPad.  No job, no job prospects.  No financial support.  And is apparently incapable of providing emotional support, focusing long enough to have a conversation.  More expectations on my part, I suppose.
I feel that I am living in a nightmare.  This weekend I spend two days attending the estate auction of my grandmother, who died 4 years ago.  I keep waking up and wanting to call my mother and talk to her, cry to her, and be heard by her.  Only she was the one who could understand me.  Only she was with me from the beginning of my life.  Then my firstborn hates me, denies the 18 years I have spent taking care of her, and leaves me as well.  Meanwhile, the dead weight of my husband doesn't budge, seems blissfully unaware that anything is going on at all, and is only impacted by running out of cigarettes or me asking him to do anything other than lie on the couch.
I worry.  I worry about what is going to happen to my youngest when I finally work myself into a state where I can no longer take care of her.  I worry what will happen to her if I am not able to fully function as both sole responsible parent and sole breadwinner until she is fully an adult and can take care of herself.

In regards to the Bukowski quote above, I know my original dream was to become a fusion of mind and soul, spiritually attuned while being grounded and stable.  However, lately I have felt like a soul who has lost her mind, and definitely her moorings.  Insanity does not feel good.  If I could choose to change my course - and I will fight like hell to do so - I regain my mind, and intellectualize my life.  I feel most comfortable with this.  It's as if the emotional shock has caused a gigantic regression in all my Aspergian traits and I need to disengage.  Problem is, I don't have the strength to do so, unless forced to do so.  I am scared of what is going to rip off that band-aid.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Updates on my life...

I dropped off the blogisphere after my attempt at the topic du jour exercise, and I do have the desire to drop back in.

At this point in my life I need a distraction from the stress and overwhelming, oppressive responsibilities in my life.

Yet I don't want blogging to be yet another responsibility, another "have to" in a long, long list of have-tos....

Yesterday I spoke with my mother's home health nurse.  She suggested that we look into Hospice at this time for my mother.  In the back of my mind, ever since I learned of her diagnosis last June, I have known this is a possibility.  I knew that people get cancer, that cancer can be fatal.  I knew that mother had this thing called cancer.  But I consciously fought against making that connection.

The home health nurse stated that people who get discharged from home health and into Hospice sometimes do get better and get discharged out of Hospice and back into home health.  The thing is, I don't consider home health to be for the healthy.  So Hospice, to my mind, are the people who are even farther removed from health.  She said she had this conversation with my mother two days ago.  My mother has not brought it up in conversation with me.  Of course, we don't have too many long conversations as she usually falls asleep when she is talking to me.  Staying awake is not her strong suit since she is now taking Percocet and morphine.  So I have no idea what to do or where to go from here except into the dark night with her.  And hope one of us keeps from losing her mind to guide the other.

In the midst of all this, life goes on.  Work demands more than ever.  If 12-14 hours was the accepted minimum, it is demanding 16-18 hours now.  I just don't have it anymore.  So I rush and I delegate more than I ever have, then I stress about what I delegate, so I stay awake worrying away and not sleeping the hours that I am not there.

My oldest is getting ready to go to her first prom this year.  She has fanagled  going to a prom as a sophomore, and she - with typical self-centeredness and lack of concern for others that marks all humans her age - is characteristically hateful and cutting whenever she does not get her way.  She wants the last money for the family's groceries to be spent on her nail polish.  When she decides she doesn't like that $8 nail polish after all, she wants fake nails bought for her.  Then she breezes in and has a meltdown because I won't give her my only decent make-up.  Then I have to keep an open ear, because whenever she is denied her way, she turns around and says something cutting and cruel to her little sister, passing on the misery.

My youngest reels from being a victim of her sister's hormonal maelstrom to watching her beloved grandmother sink farther and farther away from her to spending less and less time with me as I try to support the household financially single-handedly, show her the love kids need to grow up at least somewhat functional, and make sure she has clean clothes that match somewhat (her father is color-blind).  It is a testament to her strong personality that she takes each day as it comes, expresses her emotions clearly and appropriately, and keeps her spirits up.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

So pardon me while I regroup.  My posts, I hope, won't always be dark.  I will try to keep managing my depression while pretending to be Super-Boss, Super-Mom, and the part of Supportive Daughter.

And in the back of my mind, I will dream of the day I will be a real writer.

If I live through this.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nano Lexington Write In

Prompt: "A meal at an unusual time."

Snowflakes blew in to dot her eyelashes and make the white world even harder to navigate.  She looked down at her reddened knuckles, blooming in the pale of her cracked hands.  She winced as the bitter cold bit through her wraps, blustering under her coats as she bent down to pick up each piece of gnarled wood.

The woolen scarf rubbed not unpleasantly against her mouth as she breathed frozen crystals into its nap.   She inhaled, exhaled, thinking only of completing this task of gathering wood so she could go back into the small house and bank, once again, the guttering flame of the woodstove.

Finally, her arms could hold no more.  She trudged the last mile back to the dark blot on the landscape, the rough-hewn cabin built so many years ago by an anonymous antisocial, graying now in the twilight.  She shook her head again, shrugged the snow from her shoulders.  She hated how this whiteout world made the division of day and evening hard to discern.  Today of all days, she would have liked a few more moments of daylight.  But like so many things, it was not to be.

At the threshold, she yet lingered.  Desiring to get out of the stark frozen outdoors, yet not ready to face the truth of what lay inside waiting for her.  Summoning her courage, a mystical idea that she had been assured of by her foremothers, she pushed through the heavy oak door.

Once inside, she dropped the sticks in the coal box, long empty of the black ore, and half-fell backwards, closing the door behind her and collapsing against it, eyes closed before she looked through   damp lashes into the dim oil lamps that half-illuminated the cabin.  She inhaled slowly, steeling herself for the evening before her.

The stove was giving off a low heat, and she opened the iron door to insert only the driest of the twigs into the dancing flame.  Groaning, she straightened up and rubbed the small of her back with her splitting hands.  Living out among the wild had aged her past her thirty years.  Days, hell, nights like this brought this fact into sharp relief.  Again she shook this thought off and walked to the water basin.  Laid out next to it were the last of her root vegetables from the cellar.  This surprise spring blizzard postponed her setting out the seedling she had sown in the past six weeks.  She knew the wait for harvest of any sustenance would be delayed further into the summer as a result.  If there even was a summer.  Tonight she was not certain of anything.

No matter, she thought.  It won't change what I have to do tonight.  She sunk the knife deep into the flesh of a shriveled carrot, a dessicated onion, a darkened potato.  All she scraped into the warming pot on the wood stove.  Having dispensed with the rote mundane chopping, she sighed.  Her shoulders sagged as she willed herself to have resolve and move forward.  She moved towards the dark back entry of the cabin and stretched out her hand, feeling her way by memory in the dark.  She walked slowly forward leading with her hands, fingertips outstretched, until she encountered the smooth worn wood of the axe handle.

Even now, in the semidarkness of her home, she hesitated.  If there was any other way, she would choose differently.  She closed her eyes, shutting out the vision of choices she could have made years before.  She could not go back.

She hefted the axe and moved back into the lamplight.  In the next room she could hear her daughter, mewing like a weak kitten, waking up from a hunger-fueled nightmare.  No doubt she was reliving some version of what had happened the day before.

Two days earlier, the small creek by the cabin was roaring.  Spring had flirted with their hopes, melting the snow and coaxing green shoots of daffodils and wild onion from muddy ground.  Her daughter had laughed, jumped and run, despite having spent most of winter sick with cold, flus, pneumonia even.  She had smiled to see the child so happy, even while warning her not to overdo, not to go too far from the house, to stay in sight in case she had trouble breathing again.  She herself sat in the watery sunlight, allowing herself to lean briefly against the bark of a tree that had been there as long as her family.  She closed her eyes, lulled into thinking that they may just make it, they just may survive.  The weather would grown warmer.  She would plant again.  And the rest of her family would return.

She must have fallen asleep, as the cold, settling into her legs, awakened her.   She listened for her daughter's laughter, her voice, and heard nothing.  Startled, she sprang up, almost tripping by the uselessness of her numb limbs.  She called her daughter's name, again and again, and heard nothing.  She raced through the woods, the skeletal trees mocking her as she looked frantically for the child.

Out of breath, she stopped, leaning forward and trying not to be sick around the sinking stone in her stomach.  As she gasped, she heard a small rustle.  She rushed in the direction of the sound, adrenaline both propelling and sickening her.

At a small clearing she stopped.  Her daughter lay on the ground, bleeding from a gash in her leg.  As the crimson flowed, a creature stood above the child, lowering its gaping maw to feed from her wound.

The woman went cold.  Her own blood thundered in her ears as she grasped a jagged rock at her feet and leapt towards the creature, her makeshift weapon making contact with the side of the creature's head.  The creature went limp and the rock came crashing down again and again until there was no more movement.

At this her daughter began crying in a slight wheeze.  The child's body was wracked with each breath.  The woman went to her daughter, keeping the creature in her peripherial vision as she tore her own shirt and bandaged her daughter's wound, which was turning black and charred where the creature's saliva had touched it.  Pulling on her daughter's arm, she coaxed her to stand and carried her back to the house.  Once in her own bed, the child began to cry and clutch her abdomen.  Neither had eaten in days.

The mother tucked her child in and told her to stay in bed.  She made her way back to the woods where the creature's gray form lay in the gathering twilight.  She bound the creature's limbs with strips of cloth torn from what remained of her shirt.  And she began dragging the creature through the woods and back to the shed behind the cabin.

Once in the dark shed, she felt for a stub of candle her father had left there.  She lit a match from a book and pulled the chains from the eaves.  Once in a more prosperous time, her family had hung venison and other game from these chains.  She wiped away frightened tears as she thought about the being she was about to chain.  What would her father say if he could see what wild game she had captured?  What would he say if he could see how far she had fallen, how desperate she had become?

She turned back to the creature and choked back the bile that filled her throat.  Swallowing her disgust, she reached and grabbed two limbs, manacled them with hooks and links, and then pulled the chains taut.  The creature's gray countenance winced and then went still.  She located the rope and tied the lower limbs tightly together too.  A small voice in her head, not unlike her mother's, whispered not to make the knots so tight that it cut off circulation.  She almost laughed, scorned this voice.  Circulation?  Do these creatures have circulation?  No, she could not care.  She could not feel.  This was survival.

Then why did she have no stomach for it?  She turned abruptly and made her way to the cabin.

In the dark, holding the axe, she cannot bear hearing her child cry for hunger any longer.  It was time.

She lifted the axe and walked outside to the shed.  She could see the silhouette of the creature in the moonlight reflected from the snow.  She almost faltered, then she thought of her child's charred limb, the angry slash of crimson gaping even now.  She lit the candle, and the creature's countenance, came into view.  She stepped forward, not thinking of mercy or forgiveness.  She had to do this.  It was time.

The creature turned its face to the mother.  Its eyes sought her eyes.  A single tear trickled from the wrinkled eyelid.

The woman shut her eyes.  And brought the axe down.  It was time.

(c) 2013 Terre Brothers Johnson, short story from writing prompt.  Rough draft.  No edit.