Not Knowing, I go on and on…

I am so happy to have undefined time!  Holiday!  One of the time wasters is following the white rabbit down that inevitable hole that is the internet. This morning, a Facebook spirit posted this:

It is a rehearsal with George Michaels singing Queens “Somebody to Love” (which is possibly the purest genius of Western music, just my opinion).  And there is Mr. Jones smiling in the background.

So that got me thinking about Bowie and the time I spent trying to look like him.  I spent some time during my teens doing a lot of psychedelic substances while wandering around back alleys with friends, who like me, had no place to go, their family homes having turned into fortresses clearly defined by their lack of comfort or welcome for the likes of us.  If we had become unrecognizable to our families they had also become unrecognizable to us. But we were seeking guidance from heroes who were children themselves, reading voraciously in a way our parents never had, Ken Kesey, Vonnegut, Carlos Castaneda, Solzhenitsyn, Tolkien, following Art and Culture, yet undefined, with a kind of devotion  found in cults. (No wonder our parents were afraid of us.)  But I was still just a girl, in love with a boy… so I looked up what I wrote about  David Bowie, here on LJ and found the following. (I edited a bit).

An artist questions… she is naked, so we dress her in what we understand, but we only show our own misunderstanding.

If we can bear the embarrassment, and this is the point when we can change, when we laugh and start open up; we realize we all are these frail and imperfect beings, naked in what we thought was our brilliance, vulnerable.

Our true brilliance is, …we are all like stranded aliens, homesick and searching. Looking for a name for ourselves and hiding in our lies. When a voice reaches out of the rubble left by our insistent need conquer anyone who questions us, it is a voice of pure desperate need.  George singing in joy, in desperation, “Find me somebody to love”:  These are the moments when even the Gods are gobsmacked.

And then I came to my friend (? I flatter myself), Sub Rosa, here on W.P. Her writing about art has challenged me in new ways and the work and writings she has exposed me to in her blog have lit a bit of a fire in me.  This poem is advice on how we keep the brilliance from shredding us to pieces. Have I reached the time when I can?

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I will end here because I am hungry because I now know what my desperate need is, not someone to love, but something… I have to tighten it till it reaches the pitch required to achieve escape velocity, just for my own satisfaction, as if it’s all I ever wanted.

Because no matter how horrible we humans are we do our best when we are lost and on the brink of disaster.

And now, in addition, I come to the loss of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher who so artfully made struggle for mental wellness lyric, and comic and true and made room for all of us to admit our vulnerability. When she was Princess Leia the boys pretended to love her tits, but it was her courage we all loved. As temporary as youth and beauty are, courage can grow and she showed us how.

(Side note, apparently sleep is the new way to stay young. Oh Gwenith Paltrow why must you?  I must admit I giggled a lot when I read that.)

A Year Ago Today

We had had a good night and morning.  She ate dinner: baked apple with raisons and pancakes as requested.  I decided I had to have a reasonable amount of sleep so instead of sleeping in the next room,  or next to her in her bed,   I slept in my own bed downstairs and woke up after a good solid six hour sleep feeling almost human for the first time in a month.

I gave her the puffer, the steroid one the doctor prescribed and helped her up.  She had taken off her bottoms in the night and I suggested we try a shower,  a procedure which involved helping her to a seat in the tub and washing one area at a time and rinsing with the hand held shower attachment, while patting dry her very frail body and tissue like skin, throwing  a towel over her finished parts so she wouldn’t feel chilled and then applying Oil of Olay body lotion, her favorite.

But that morning she said she was tired; her breathing was much better.  I told her I’d bring her breakfast at 9:00.  I did my Zen sitting and took her peppermint tea and bakery bread with some homemade jam.  She ate it all, said it was good and that she had no stomach ache. She didn’t want to shower or wash yet She wanted to nap,so I told her she could sleep and I’d check on her before 11:00.  That was at 9:30 or so.

I was just down the hall.  I decided I would bake cookies.  I would not be getting out much, looking after her, and cookies in tins would make good gifts in case anyone dropped by.  They are shortbread and I make them really small so they fit in small tins.  I have some miniature cookie cutters…

I talked to my brother on the phone.  On the whole I had started to feel a bit optimistic that she would be well enough that we could enjoy a family Xmas with my children and maybe with her new great grandson or daughter.

When I checked she looked like she was sleeping.  I went to pull up her blanket her legs were bare. In the last few days, when her kidney backed up and she was delirious from the toxicants she would suddenly have the urge to remove all her clothes, insisting she had to dress from some important event.  Often it would be in the middle of the night.  She would yell and insist I was a bitch, ruining everything.  When she finally would relent and take a drink of water and a bite to eat I would show her the time and that it was dark out, the middle of the night, remind her that she was sick. “So I guess I AM just crazy!” she’d say.  Exhausted I would shrug or agree, it made no difference really, not to either of us.

I wasn’t surprised to see her bare legs and the blanket pushed away. From my journal a few days before:

 Night before last was bad.  She was up wandering around naked in the middle of the night.  She wanted to have a shower but got too tired.  She had turned the space heater up high and her room was hot and dry.  At least she didn’t get a chill. 

She barely eats anything and so I made pancakes, a favorite of hers and she sat up at the table and ate almost one whole pancake.  She doesn’t remember one day to the next at times and how she fills in the blanks depends on how she feels in the moment.  Mostly she feels crappy.  When she doesn’t eat or drink or walk around her kidneys don’t work and she gets toxic and altered. 

“Please just leave me alone! No I don’t want to sit up and I don’t want to eat anything!” on being asked to eat anything at all after a day of refusing food.
“I had gotten so much done and you came and shattered it all!” after helping her out of bed after she spent most of the day there.
“She’s just as bad as the nurses!” to her friend who dropped by in reference to me.

The doctor is coming at 4:00pm to check her cough. 

I bruised (cracked?) a rib climbing under the bed to get her slippers. I have a cough now too.

Yesterday I got out the photo albums.  After she ate a bit and drank some water she got into looking at them and telling stories about the pictures, most of them correct as far as I know. I moved my S.A.D. lamp to the front room and turned it on.  I think it helped too.  I think I will have a shower and tune out everything for a while. 

…A friend’s sister is dying but she doesn’t use the word and instead speaks about the specifics of her cancer. None of us are prepared for this stuff in our culture. I have come to appreciate rituals concerning death as a way of buoying up the ragged heart but how to convey that in a way to anyone that doesn’t just sound like bullshit?  I just try not to talk too much.  Try to listen.  It’s hard.
When I touched her I knew.  I just knew.  But I didn’t believe it.  It was like I had been running down a long road without turns, with only a horizon for so long and then found a sudden drop into nothing and yet kept running.

It was surreal.  Everything that followed that day was both fast and slow.  Calling 911. The EMS, the cops, a fire truck?  I don’t think so.  I was babbling.  Eating cookies like I was gulping air, drowning.

We had to wait for the Coroner. At one point it was thought her doctor could come. Instead the Coroner was a young woman who came.  She just looked too young to be a Coroner.  People would tell me what was happening and I would nod appreciatively but not really hearing them.

While we waited I offered the police and EMS cookies.  I had made a lot of cookies.


I got hugged by a woman EMS. Every few minutes I would have this impulse which had propelled me constantly for the previous two weeks to go and check on my mother.  She just looked like she was sleeping, so tiny in her big bed.

When they were taking her out of the house on the stretcher in the closed black bag, I hung on to one of the cops in a sort of grabby-hugging way, really he kept me standing up. My sense was that the floor had dropped away. I apologized to him. He said it was okay.

In the last few years as she grew more frail and more dependant and angry I wished her to see past feeling out of control, to see the care and attention and effort on her behalf, from a lot of people, not just me, as NOT just examples of her own loss of power.  Care is good.  Lots of people don’t get much care shown to them in their lives.  But mostly I wanted her to say she loved me and not in a barbed, accusatory or manipulative way as it was so often said.

I lived away from her for twenty years and mostly felt I had escaped the worst of our mother/daughter relationship. Part of that was learning to sit zazen, to watch the stories that came up lose their power over me, evaporate in the fresh air and sunshine of awareness.   I haven’t always done well. In the years that  my kids and I lived with her I had a sense of what we shared and how we could manage, without ever being really happy, to be happy enough.

The last days the small shows of approval that came, when she took a few bites of a meal, when she sighed with pleasure at a warm wash cloth and a soft towel, a smile for a cup of tea, I would be overjoyed.

I did get the chance to tell her how much I wanted her to love me and how much I felt my heart would break at times for want of it.  I broke down and cried like a baby in front of her. And she soften to me after that and two days after that she died.

That was a year ago today.

Sometimes I Just Bake Cookies…


I have been imagining all the things that I could do now that I am no longer responsible for anyone else.

I still have my crossing guard job and within the three hours a day I am occasionally responsible for getting people (I wish more children walked to school) safely across the street.

Some adults think it is hilarious that I am crossing them. “I feel like a kid again!”  Some think it’s annoying.  I scold them when they are too impatient for the light to change and head out ahead of me on the red. I don’t tell them I have years of looking after people who were either looking forward to being independent, or looking back on the loss of it and so no stink eye of the type one might expect from a teenage is going to thwart me…

I didn’t look after kids or my mother for the approval I would gain.  That was good too because being a caregiver is really hard and often criticized by those who have never been one but know a lot about it from watching television. Although it was nice when  appreciation was expressed, it came, less often than it would in a television sitcom but more often than I probably remember.  (And I am sorry for this, truly.)

I just like knowing what needs to be done and then doing it.  It feels good. There, I said it.  I am not a self sacrificing saint or anything like it. I am just a person lacking in imagination.  Maybe. Maybe that is it.

So while I would like to sell everything and go and stand on the front lines of some injustice, other than getting hurt I don’t think I can contribute much; Or finish the two books I started to write when I was younger and smarter and able to drink more than one cup of coffee a day without a gastro-disaster; or finally finish that enormous painting I started (what was I thinking?) that is facing the wall as if the painting was ashamed and not me, it kills my back to stand and paint; Or try to learn to speak French, something that I found easier when I was still drinking wine, *sigh*.   None of these things will likely happen.

The anniversary of my mother’s death is rapidly approaching and I promised myself I would give myself a year before making any major decisions.

I am no longer responsible for anyone else. I come home exhausted and eat one of the frozen meals I made on the weekend and then do some hand sewing while some really violent Netflix show plays. It is the only way I can watch some of these programs.  If I actually look at the screen too often,  OMG, PTSD.

So I bake cookies when I am unsure, maybe I’ll manage a trip to see my Old Teacher over the holidays, bounce my grandson on my knee. And follow my favourite blogs, those that make the world still seem a place full hope and beauty and adventure, and good will for all.