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Me and Hillary quit our jobs today. Her departure was featured on the news, the crowd cheering their support. My exit was quiet; just a little wave. It feels awful to not have a job. Like Iím not part of the buzz. Like Iím old? Like Iíve done something wrong. I keep reminding myself that I didnít get fired; but the truth is I could tell that management wasnít trying to keep me around. It feels like failure. Ahh, THAT is the feeling I have. Shame. Geez, will I find work? What have I done?
The Job Interview. What a drill. All eyes observant, senses keen, judgments sharp. My performance was at 75%. I don't know why. I didn't choke, but I didn't glow either. I tell myself that if i don't get this, then it wasn't for me. Other stuff is coming. Working is such a big part of life until you graduate into retirement. Then it's ok to quit. Then you just wake up each day and live? I am slouch adverse. I can see my life devolve into petty decorator projects. OR, maybe I'll make an art bus and travel to campgrounds.
Dad and I had an emotional blow out today. He regressed to a child, screaming so I couldn't talk on the phone. I paced from room to room trying to get a quiet space so that I could order a geek squad to help with his computer. Dinner was ruined, cold and silent. When he asked me to reheat his food, I glared at him; big time hate glare. Later, I slammed the door when I left for a long walk. When the computer guy came, Dad explained the problem, "too many people using it." I'm the only one here.
Read an article about anxiety today. It sparked a theory of human behavior: Anxiety and worry are to the mind as an autoimmune disease is to the body: a functional system gone wrong. In childhood, we could keep ourselves occupied with long day dreams that strengthened our imaginative powers. Then we had to start paying attention, so that our natural impulses to indulge our imagination had to be thwarted. We tamed it so we could pay attention in school. Repression. Later, in adolescence, sexual fantasies reemerged as a powerful force of nature wanting us to procreate. Again, repression was necessary...
It's not just the mind bending confinement of being the caretaker. It's also the super exposure to something ailing in my midst; the proverbial itch that can't be scratched. All my life, this father has been there to support me, care for me, help me financially, have fun vacations with me, and now his slow passing cries out for some action and all I can do is witness his decline. Each day feels like a failure in some sense. He's no closer to the edge, he's not getting better. I'm not any closer to him. This is inchoate, persistent, stagnation.
Waiting to hear from my interviewer today. I've been rehearsing the phrase that will tease out the most pertinent information: HOW MUCH DOES THE POSITION PAY? Isn't it stupid that I have to act like the payrate is an afterthought? Like I'm going to sign most of my free time away just for the pleasure of attending to patients' social work needs? The games we all play. Meanwhile I have another dream developing in my head that could be so fulfilling. I'm starting to get religious about it. Mistake. No, it will not be bestowed on you. Go get it.
What a beautiful, fluffy, white snow fall this morning! I'm happy to have the physical labor waiting for me...the shoveling of the walkways. I'm enjoying anticipatory pajama time as I sip my coffee and watch the time sneak by. Later today I have my art therapy. I need therapy. I'm in denial of my anticipatory grief. The divorce is looming, Dad's losing the battle of enjoying his days because of the cancer. I miss the camaraderie of my co-workers. Geez...see! I need therapy. I went from beautiful fluffy snow to boohoo. Right in front of the audience.
I won the lottery today. I designed a tiny, much needed pick-me-up. I bypassed the creepy gas station where I over paid for "credit card" gas. I went next door to the liquor store a ordered $5 worth or lottery tickets. I shoved the ticket in my purse and went about the day daydreaming of how I would spend my fortune. Scenario one: Hire a full time nurse and take off on a cruise. Scenario two: Buy the building I've been eying for the past month and open the art studio. Scenario Three: meditate at a Buddhist Temple.
Just as I was complaining that I couldn't stand the burden of being a caregiver to my father; that being at his house day after day, sacrificing my own life to watch his diminish seemed like cruel punishment...now his life has turned a corner,he is confused. He is but a shadow of himself. I feel HE has left us and I am remorseful of my past feelings. I will miss him dearly. He was an authoritative, yet kind soul. So quick with wit and humor to patch up places of discomfort. He held my hand. I was lucky.
Art Therapy is wondrous. First session: depict a feeling with color, shape and lines: I drew two paisley shapes, one orange, one fuchsia. Then I drew bold brash black and royal blue lines around them and in-between. Directive: make a picture about the feeling. With paint, I expanded on the paisleys. Two Koi emerged, one surrounded by aqua, swimming into a loose net, the other in dark blue straining against a course net. It was Dad's journey into death and my feelings of entrapment. Wow, our subconscious is always aware and trying to resolve our dilemmas and psychological pain.
Euthanasia for people is an act of mercy. Each hospice worker reassures us that the end is near...but it can't come quick enough after 3 days of watching breaths, grimacing at his involuntary gurgling sounds. We know he is drowning. There are three states that allow legal euthanasia: Montana, Washington and Oregon. It's been said by so many people in the field of hospice: We wouldn't let our pet suffer like this, so why can't we demonstrate compassion by saying a prayer, holding his hand and give him something to end his suffering? Everyone would be relieved. Waiting sucks.
I'm writing this not to be elegant, but just for the record, so I remember. It is very difficult to be a family member waiting on a loved one in the home to die. There is a level of anxiety that doesn't allow for involvement with anything else. So there's puttering, pacing. sitting and witnessing. Note, on top of all that, neighbors and friends keep dropping by and talking about their dog's teeth, and about childhood baseball experiences and on and on. We are captives. We are polite. We are wishing you would go away. Be brief with good byes.
Dad is in a semi coma. His eyes are open, staring into space. He can detect the human face and tracts me when I get close. Today, a gift...He took my hand and brought it to his mouth and kissed it! So sweet. Also, he purses his lips to kiss us. I don't think he knows specifically who we are. He is kissing life good bye. He has received so many blessings and he is showing his appreciation. What a wonderful exit. I do wish that he could choose the time to leave. He would have left by now.
Valentine's Day: Or how to ruin your life. Focus all your attention on what you don't have. Make believe that you cannot, will not, be happy until you find someone special. Listen to all the advertisements that validate that belief, so you know you are right. Spend each peak moment with the nagging sentiment, "If only I could share this with special person." (Way to put a dent in it!) Observe all the couples you know and believe each one is happy. Happier than you. Don't go anywhere, not to dinner, or a movie or vacation because you are single.
This is the day my father died. It happened at 5:30 in the morning. I had been up with him since 4:00 am. He was peacefully sleeping, but we continued his morphine to assist with breathing throughout the night. I built a fire in the family room fireplace, Dad's hospital bed nearby. He loved having a fire. He knew his days were limited, so he was going to forgo the cord of wood this fall, but was easily convinced to buy. Today the wood crackles and brings warmth. I hope he could admire the scene he left behind.
How badly do I want my freedom? Will I be able to give away my father's dog so that I won't have to be saddled with its care? Is this a test of character? Is there a right and wrong here? Will I fail? Will I have guilt? I have been striving toward independence for over a decade. Will I let a dog push me off the path? I have to be authentic. I cannot care for the dog. It doesn't fit. Someone else can care for it, better than I. I will find someone. Then I'll be guilt free.
The more I watch people deal with the straining circumstances of their lives, the more I realize that coping is THE shaping tool of our lives. Simply put, anything that works to increase comfort, avoid negative stress gets repeated and reinforced. Anything that does the opposite, is discontinued. Patterns, over a lifetime create unique individuals. Annoying behaviors have their origin in this formula: drunkenness, gossip or emotional eating, chattering, shopping, maybe even anger becomes a comfort to wear if it avoids hurt. Conversely, positive behaviors are discovered and repeated: exercise, humor, exploring, socialization,and thankfully,the arts: poetry, painting, music.
The funeral: It was all it needed to be. It brought family together. It memorialized Dad's life in a personal way. It was a social event for the oldsters. Stories of my father were shared by many strangers and friends. 'Twas a good closing to a life well lived. I'm reminded of the stock from which I came and am grateful for the upbringing, the values the support I received. Dad's ease with his circumstance and his continuous observations with curiosity and awe even of his own demise were a gift and a wise example of how death is done.
Venting: I'm angry that Dad died. I'm angry that my sister can't tolerate my presence, I'm angry that I've fallen behind on my classes and now I have pressure instead of enjoyment. I'm angry that Dad's dog has been deemed my problem, not our problem, I'm angry that Sister is still here, and I have to keep dealing with her. I'm angry that I tripped on the sidewalk and fell flat and there was no one to care; which spurred this present tirade. I'm really sad and feel alone now that I'm so far away from anyone that loves me.
I cleaned the house, set the table, lit the candles,and sipped some good white wine. I stirred and simmered the risotto. I took out the lovingly roasted root vegetables from yesterday's meal and set them to heat in the micro when the company, my sister and her husband, arrived. I arranged the pieces of roasted chicken on the platter. I found acoustic guitar music to play and enjoyed more sips of wine. I waited. Hours passed. Two and a half fucking hours passed and then she called, "we'll jump in the car if you want, we couldn't get away."
Life IS a challenge. So much courage is required to recognize imbalance in oneís life and to step up and hold the intention to correct it. Usually, itís tackling a hovering issue that I thought I couldnít do. Now I acknowledge the fear and hesitancy, then sit on it. It returns, I rehearse it, evaluate the need to act, explore a different tact. Then with ďfive minutes of courage a day,Ē I finally act. My voice is direct and firm. When itís done, itís never a big deal. I'm a little stronger, I stand taller.
Freedom: To sit, to stay, to fly away. To crawl out from under the rails of confinement. To decide one's fate and one's tomorrow without asking permission, without even the consideration of any being. To walk with independent means, knowing that choices won't have a lingering ripple effect. One day can be independent of the next. I know we are social creatures, but from my vantage point now, I think couple-hood is an automatic wet blanket on half one's dreams. It's a whole list of "no's" on anything your partner doesn't want to do or you to do. Why?
The drama, the perverse intensity of wrapping up the ending is startling. It screams for escape...I want to run out the door. But there is the pile of things to be dealt with, that I don't want . There's the judgement and annoyance that sis wants everything that is three dimensional. The whole process is excruciating in emotions and in length. I hate everyone. I want to be done. I want to go to my own little house and close the door and never see them again. Of course this is just more venting to keep me sane. Not really.
I am thankful to have an art therapist to help me during this difficult time. It's amazing how an emotion can be defined, explained and examined through pictures that are hardly conjured in my head and somehow present themselves by shapes and colors through paint onto the paper. The images help hold the space for feelings, for story, for planning the next move. Most helpfully, it anchors me to the feeling so I can learn from it, not run from it. It works like magic, like I've designed my own balm for the wound. It is a wonder filled practice.
The flying dog: it happens on Friday. I'll be pushing a dolly loaded with a cargo container for a 75 pound dog and the dog will be walking through the parking lot by my side until that agonizing moment when I have to put her in the cage and say good bye. I cry every time I think about it. Human emotions projected on to a dog. So, since I don't really know what she's thinking, I assuage myself by making up a positive story: like Bella is happy to be going on an adventure and will love California life!
There is a theory that friendships last about 8 years. I suppose that's to make the loss of a close relationship feel normal and make one accept that people change. What do you do about the loss of closeness with a sister? Mine and I have subtly chosen different paths; or just different emphases on things we used to do. Now, I don't care much for shopping, I think, what is the point? We both have accentuated our inner essences: I am fast and impulsive, she is (so) slow and methodical. We try each others' last nerves. It's very sad.
Emotional Independence. That should be a Beyonce theme song. Don't cave to drama. Don't cave to bad behavior. Stand up and leave the premises with a calm smile. Go have a coffee and ask yourself, "do I need this?" Once is unavoidable, twice is questionable. Three times you're out...of my life. Trust can't be built on erratic tantrum behavior. And when someone shows you who they are, believe them. No excuses. No fantasies. Just reality. Do not tolerate immaturity or boors or anyone that is manipulative. Be reasonably direct, ask for what you want and expect the same courtesy.
Another family is moving off the block. It's a family I never knew, so when the huge truck pulled up, I didn't experience loss. Actually, maybe I have hope. Maybe my make believe new neighbor next door and the promise of another adjacent to me will become great biking friends or dream group buddies or just a friendlier crowd. I still don't know but two of the ladies names around here. "Be the change you want to see in the world." Now that I don't have an erratic, temperamental husband to deal with, maybe I could host a block party?
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