Friday, May 05, 2017

Yoga Zone

Right before I got sick in the beginning of the year I was feeling really good about my yoga. I do a very short practice but I came up with a few poses that moved well from one to the other and I was able to stay focused. Then I got sick and weak and out of the groove. I am back to a daily practice but it's never really been as good as it was.
I do a seated triangle pose. Instead of holding the stretch (which is a really good stretch for my shoulders) I get into the movement. It's like Pavlova takes over. I'm doing Port de Bras. Not a good Port de Bras. A flailing, spaced out Port de Bras.
I feel like part of yoga is about stillness. Your extend your arm and your leg and you stretch as far as you can and then you ... feel. You breath. And you feel. It's awareness and intentionality. It's not flailing.
For a few days I added music. Krishna Das chanting to be specific. I'm usually irritated by that kind of thing but he has such a warm, resonant voice. It helped. It exacerbated the Pavlova thing a little but I found my self holding a pose longer, for a few beats, or until the end of a phrase. I moved slower.
When I was sick it took me a long time to get dressed. I could barely get from the shower to the bed. The weakness was obliterating. I'm not that weak any more but here is a residual effect it seems. I get really spaced out. I find myself in a blank stare, often with a sock in my hand. I think we need a little bit of that kind of thing. Just zoning.
Spaced out.
Spaced in.
I'm not sure it's useful to have goals in yoga but if I have one it's enhanced awareness. I am no where near that goal.
Except every once in a while.
It's just me.
In the pose.
Wide awake.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


In the beginning of the first year that the mommie lived in the Hood she had a health crisis. One of the ancillary problems was she didn't want to eat or drink. I spent the day pleading and cajoling trying to get her to sip water or take a bite of apple sauce. After she ate or drank she flinched and pulled away. I talked to so many nurses and doctors about it. Her primary doctor at the time ran a blood test and three days later had his assistant call to tell me to push fluids. It will always be one of the most ridiculous things a health care professional has ever said to me. Was I supposed to water board her? Eventually I took her to the hospital because I was worried about dehydration. 
I was talking to a nurse there about the eating/drinking problem and she suggested that the mommy might have Thrush. I have since learned that Thrush is a common occurrence when people take antibiotics. Thrush makes eating and drinking painful. There were so many health care professionals taking care of her and none of them had thought to look in her mouth. I asked the next doctor to enter the room to do that, he diagnosed the Thrush and the treatment began. 
I took her back to the nest and hired round the clock home health care. (There's an entire chapter to be written about why I did that.) I noticed that she wasn't eating the meat or vegetables in a soup but she seemed to like the broth. I started heating broth and having her sip from a straw. It felt like it took me too long to figure that out. It felt like I was always playing catch up. I was always realizing something about her decline after the signs of it had been evident for a while. But I was surrounded by people who had the job of managing her health care. Why didn't they figure it out? Why did I have to ask the doctor to look in her mouth and see the condition that was somewhat probable? 
I have so many of those why questions and the answers are usually about resources and time and funding. There is an occasional somewhat beleaguered acknowledgement of the wrongness of the situation, which rapidly shifts to an affirmation that every one is doing their best. I'm always supposed to understand that I shouldn't be angry at people who are working so hard and I should accept that things just are the way they are. It's some kind of perverse sign of maturity when you're able to accept the unacceptable.   
I'm a sixties kid. I haven't trusted institutions for most of my adult life. But the extent to which I feel the elder care systems failed the mommie and me is infinite and I will never recover from that failure. I will find a way to hold all those feelings and carry on with my life but I will never not be furious. Ours is not the worst story. I've heard too many. 
The mommy was in the nest for Easter two years ago. I was eating ham and eggs for breakfast. She looked at my plate and asked what it was. I told her and asked if she wanted any and ... she did. 
It was a turn around moment. Eggs could now be added to the very short list of things she would eat. I called it the Easter miracle. 
But, ya know, it was really about the Thrush clearing up and her beginning to heal. People told me she wasn't eating or drinking because she was getting ready to die. She got well and lived almost another year and a half. 
The mommy died a few days before Thanksgiving. I sort of held my breath through the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years daze. I didn't mind other people celebrating but I couldn't feel any joy. I didn't expect Easter to be hard. But this year her birthday falls on Easter. It's just too much. 2017 has been a bit of a bummer so far. Too much snow in January.  Too sick in February. Toe infected in March. And just now a flu/bronchial thing has me hacking up a lung. 
I feel the need to write about the great care givers and the visits from friends and the things that have been good. But I just feel bad. I'm sad. I'm angry. I want to bake an apricot upside down cake and get ready to celebrate. I know my friends and family want me to be happy and I will be. I promise. Just not today and not tomorrow and ... I'm not sure when.  
Happy Vaisakhi. 
Chag Kashruth Sameach. 
Happy Easter. 
Happy birthday mommie. 

Monday, March 13, 2017


The mommie was in the nest for a few weeks the first year she was in Hood River. She had a health crisis that resulted in some delirium. She was afraid to walk, afraid during transfers to and from the wheel chair. She was always worried that she was going to fall out of bed. Every night I sat with her playing a song on YouTube and singing along until she went to sleep.
One of her care givers was a guy. We were both crazy about him. He was very sweet to her.
I was trying to reassure her that she wouldn't fall out of bed one night. I told her I was there and he was there and we wouldn't let her fall. He heard me and came rushing in to help with the reassurance. My bedroom is small and he was a pretty big guy. He knocked my dresser and a pottery perfume jar fell behind the dresser and broke. He didn't notice and I didn't tell him. I didn't want him to feel bad. The pottery was a gift from my friend Marsha.
I visited my friend Jane in hood River a few times before I moved here. One time we drove up to Portland and met Marsha at the Saturday Market. We walked around looking at things and I admired the little pottery thing. I remember it being described as a perfume bottle but truth be told it would have been an odd one. The opening was quite wide. Marsha bought it for me quite spontaneously. I kept it with my other perfume bottles on my dresser. For years.
Part of the difficulty of that time was the invasion of my space. I needed the help but it was hard to have someone always here. Furniture got moved. Things were always a bit out of place. Things got broken.
I managed to dig out a few of the bigger pieces and later DeAnna moved the dresser and found the rest. Last week I glued it back together as best as I could. I was feeling really happy that I'd managed to save it.

As I was dusting the shelves to put it back I knocked a very delicate bottle over and the top shattered. Too many pieces to glue. Some things can't be fixed. Loss is constant.
I'm not that gloomy about it. I wasn't as fond of the glass one I'm not even really sure who gave it to me. And I am still happy about fixing the pottery.
As time passes, my feelings of loss change shape. I still have some amount of time every day when I'm thinking about the mommie and everything that happened and wishing I could have avoided some of the things and generally done a better job taking care of her. But I am adjusting to life without her. There are times when I'm happy.
I've always liked that line from Leonard. "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Poems, Lyrics, Words. Oh my.

A friend of mine is in a poetry class. She is writing some lovely poems, strong voice, interesting thinking. I wanted to know what her teacher was having her read. And immediately  thought about the poems I thought she should read. Of course should is not a word that applies to poetry.
I quickly googled Howl because I feel it is a seminal American poem and (sort of) forced her to listen to my bad reading.
As I was reading I heard it the way I imagined she might hear it. She is from an entirely different generation than me and even further from Allen. Those first few lines...

This was a poem that lit me up as a bored teenager. But why? Did I yearn to be destroyed by madness? Did an angry fix sound like fun? I know I was yearning for an ancient heavenly connection but why did I think this would get me there?
I really loved those Beat Boys. I really thought they were onto something. My feelings for them have become complicated with age and revelations of my own. Even without the presence of my friend I've wondered about my inspirations. Why did I like The Emperor of Ice Cream? It's fairly crude. Why did I did I like This Is Just To Say? No body better be stealing my plums.
A few nights later I was reading a book that mentioned The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Google. And again I was reading about wandering...

I loved that poem although not as much as Howl. I thought it was seminal but worried that my friend might think I was in danger of drifting off into the night. HA.
Lines from poems and songs and writing in general have always framed my thinking. My journals have as many quotes as my own writing. Possibly. Not because I don't think I say thing well but so often someone captures my feeling so precisely. Perhaps Joni most often.
I did wander a few reckless streets. I was searching. I did think hours of drinking and smoking and snorting were filled with connection. The grinding jaws. The hacking coughs. The stumbling to the bathroom time and time again. So full of shadows and silliness. I don't regret any of it but neither would I recommend it.
I am reading Frantumagia, which is an ironic book to read. It's like peeking into the files of a writer who has made such an effort to not have her personality connected to her books. And she has very good reasons. She feels the writing should stand on it's own merit. Now I'm reading her letters in which she explains this over and over and I feel ... wrong. But it's making me smile. Because I love what she's saying. In her first letter she writes to her agent regarding a book of hers...

...if it does not have, in itself, thread enough to weave, well, it means that you and I were mistaken; if, on the other hand, it does, the tread will be woven where it can be, and we will only have to thank the readers for their patience in taking it by the end and pulling. 

Sentences like that stop me in my tracks. I have to read them over and over. I go back to read them even after I finish the book. I search for them years later. Even the punctuation fascinates me. I'm not a student of punctuation. Clearly. I've changed writing because I fear making punctuation errors in long sentences. Sadly. I did warn my friend to not use ellipsis in the dubious but defendable way I do.
I have read The Neapolitan Quartet but none of Ferrante's earlier book, which of course now I want/need to read. Books lead to more books.
I do buy books because a specific writer wrote them. I just ordered the new Joan Didion from both Amazon and Powell's. Accidentally but obviously I was hyper to read her new writing, which I understand is actually full of old notebook writing. Another chance to sneak inside the thinking of a person I will never know but for whom I feel enormous affection because of their words. I always want to know them. Stripped as I am.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Siege

About a month ago I had a really good day. I'd been working really hard on my yoga, which is to say that I had a nice series of poses and I was slowing down. I was really concentrating. During my massage I was showing Guy some of the things I was doing and he complimented my range of motion. He's a structural alignment enthusiast so I was happy to be able to check in.
The next morning I sat down to eat breakfast, shifted ever so slightly and POW! A muscle spasm. I shifted and thought I was OK but noooooooo. Four days in my recliner switching from heat to ice and back. I watched more TV in those four days than I have in four years. Is that what happens when you get all braggadocio about your yoga? I guess.
I was able to get back to the pool for one swim and the next morning I woke up cold. My stomach was lurching around during breakfast. I got colder and colder. I could not get warm. Eventually I vomited. And then, because I wasn't having enough fun, I fell out of bed. I was so weak I had to call the EMTs to get me up. I could barely get up from the toilet.
I talk a lot about feeling lucky that I have my nest. One of the luckiest things about it is that DeAnna lives down the hall. She rarely left my side during the next few days of badness and by Saturday she dragged my whiny ass to the ER. Always a good time. I came home with three kind of antibiotics, potassium and two kind of anti nausea medicine. I had some kind of wicked virus and a skin infection. DeAnna set out my meds, which were so confusing to my barely functioning brain, made Jello, heated up soup. Just her presence was so comforting.
Tomorrow it will be two weeks since the virus hit. I am better but food still doesn't sit well. I'm still weak.
I am still longing for a normal boring week. No snow. Muscles calm. Belly settled. But. I'm starting to think normal has no meaning in my life.

Friday, January 20, 2017

No Good Very Bad Day

I'm not sure exactly why but right after the mommy passed I was very sensitive to sound. I couldn't watch much TV or listen to the radio. No music. Definitely no news. I've gotten back to a little NPR in the morning and Rachel at night. I try with music but I usually get too sad. I may have some kind of auditory/tactile synesthesia. I feel noises in my body.
So there's a media black out today. I am participating. However. It's not hard. I still need quiet. I really can't tolerate the news today. But I find myself having difficulty understanding how I feel.
This isn't the first time I've felt miserable about a new president. Reagan. Bush one. Bush two. It isn't the first time I felt like things were hinky. Russians, FBI, gerrymandering. Something feels off. She had more of the popular vote than anyone in history. Just hold that thought for a minute.
I think it's likely that he'll be impeached relatively soon because he has too many problems but then it's Pence and the Republican senate and congress. I mean. It's bad. It's going to be bad for awhile.
But how do I feel?

I'm sad because the mommy is gone but I'm angry and hurt because of how hard it was to take care of her. I got cards from a few of the organizations that "helped" and people were complimenting me because I was such a great advocate for my mom. OK. But why did I have to be? I've lost all faith in systems. I've lost a lot of faith in people. There were stand out people who helped us so much but there was a lot of wrongness.
So I feel like I'm already on the ground and the jack boot awareness of this new regime is just another thud. It hurts. I'm angry. But I already was. My mother was (essentially) kicked out of the last two homes she had. Both times she was dying. Just hold that thought for a minute.
I started a new book yesterday. There is an epigraph from Santayana.

Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.  


Rachel keeps saying this is not a time to stop paying attention. She's right. There is work to do. There has always been work to do. I'm not going to march because I can't walk. I'm not going to wear a hat because why does everything with women have to be pink? Why are there always cats? I get the history of women crafting together and I get that things need to be fun but ... pink? Why?
I will find a way to be part of the resistance.
But this day.
This is just no good.
Very bad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Was I?

I stopped reading right after the paintings by Alice Neel and right before the poem by Fanny Howe. I found that amusing but the real reason I was going to sleep was because my stomach hurt. I'd eaten badly and my stomach was letting me know. I felt like I might vomit and I wanted to try and sleep before it got worse. It worked. Sort of. I was awake an hour later, feeling a bit better but bad enough to try sleeping in the recliner for awhile.
When I first get in bed it's the princess and the pea. I have to have everything just so or I can't sleep. Once I'm asleep it's all good. I woke up at one point with the remote to raise and lower the bed and a book wedged into my rib. Hadn't noticed.

I wrote that about a month ago. I usually have an idea for posts that more or less arrive at something resembling a whole idea. I have no idea where I was going with this. It's a description of an average night. I'm reading something. In this case The Paris Review. I don't know why I found it so amusing to stick the book mark between a painter and a poet but I did. My stomach bothers me a lot. But sometimes it's my knee. Or any random joint. I almost always go back and forth between the bed and the recliner. Why did I think this was an interesting start to a post?
I thought about deleting it.
My thinking is muddled. More muddled than usual.
I did delete a half a sentence that I think might have been about a dream. The sentence was about a little stuffed Kermit that Mandy gave the mommy. When the mommy was zonked on morphine she held that frog and seemed to be trying to understand what it was. I can clearly picture her hands wrapped gently around it, moving slightly.

I was looking to the normal rhythms of life to distract me. But life hasn't been normal. We've had piles of snow. There's ice on roads and sidewalks. I can't get to the pool or any appointments.
In some ways I like being house bound. Swimming will always be my preferred exercise but my yoga practice is getting deeper. I now have a house bound routine, which includes reading in the afternoon. It feels so luxurious to read in the afternoon. I did it school but I had assigned reading.
The other day I was reading and I hit a page I couldn't seem to take in. I started over and started over and was just about to bag it when I realized that the first sentence was: Everyone has a mother.
Grief is odd. There are days when I feel like I'm trying to conjure it up. Like I feel I need to do more and I'm not ready to stop. Like letting go of grief is letting go of her again. Too soon. There's too much chatter. It's gritty. But when I feel sad, just sad, when the tears come I know it's real. And then I let it roll over me.
So maybe it was another story about the last days of the mommy and how it still hurts. Maybe that's where I was going. But it was also about me finding pleasure in an odd moment with reading. Because that's the way it is now. Small pleasures. Memories. Tears always in my eyes. The search for comfort.    

Monday, January 02, 2017

First Monday

Just kidding. I was on a roll with those titles and I couldn't help myself. It's just a Monday. Nothing special. I've been looking forward to ordinary days. I feel that the rhythm of ordinary days will heal me.
It's a perfectly good Monday. Except it's snowing quite a lot and I couldn't get to the pool. I didn't feel too bad about it because I had things to do. I did set the journal and a pen on the table so I had no excuse this morning. I made some illegible chicken scratch while I ate my eggs and watched the snow fall. Did my yoga. Ritual full filled.
Last year I made a big effort to make sure all of the mommy's friends knew where she was. She got a small stack of Christmas cards and I spent the day sending a letter to everyone to explain where she wasn't. A moody, weary thing to do but it's done.
It was supposed to stop snowing a half an hour ago but nope.
That's it.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

First Day

When I was 17 the mommy made me a cross stitch that read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. K glued it onto a piece of paneling and framed it. Despite the peripatetic nature of my early adult life I managed to hang onto it. I always tried to always hang it where I would see it first thing in the morning. I don't look at it every morning but I know that it's there.
I didn't actually like it for a long time. I mean. 17. My mother made it. So uncool. (Heh) And I'm not big on aphorisms. It was a saying that was on t-shirts, posters and buttons everywhere at that time. It held the feel I associated with the sixties. Hopeful. Open. Ready. Now it's 2017. I feel none of those things. I feel watchful. Braced. Reserved.
The goal yesterday was to clean the nest so that today would start ... clean. But instead I played in plant dirt and everything is a bit dirtier.
Earlier in the year I started the day with a bit of yoga and some writing in my hand written journal. It was my attempt at creating a ritual. I ate breakfast at the table and not in front of the computer. At some point I lost the beat. Recently I've been doing yoga again and doing a better job of it. I still haven't done the journal and today the table is covered with unfinished plant projects so ... maybe tomorrow.
I don't do resolutions. I never commit to anything I don't think I can really do. I wake everyday thinking about things I need to do to feel more engaged in life. Well maybe not every day. Some days (maybe most days) I stumble along from start to end. But I try to engage.
Because my birthday is in the middle of the year I drove myself crazy in my young adult life doing critical reassessment every (bleepin) six months. How was I doing? Teeth gnashing. Hand wringing. I was never doing very well. My birthday is near the solstice and there's another one of those near the holidays. Six month self awareness alarms. I don't remember when I stopped.
I do like a ritual acknowledgement of passages. I like ritual in general.
For the last few weeks I was aware on the day that the mommy left that it had been another week. And then it had been a month. I think this will wear off. And then, too soon, it will have been a year. Her ashes were combined with K's and put in a really pretty biodegradable pouch. Today that pouch will be placed in the French Broad river near the places in North Carolina where they lived after they retired. That was where they were the happiest. They can start the year as particles and waves. Onward to the big next thing.
The word happy still feels like sand in my mouth. What I wish for everyone is a deeply immersive love. Some people find that in romantic relationships. Some with family. Some with pets. Some in mediation or prayer. It wasn't easy taking care of the mommy. It was hard. I complained. But it was immersive and there was  love. I feel so grateful to have had the end of our story be so filled with playfulness, sweetness and love. If we have another story to tell together (some how, some where) it will resonate with the songs we sang to one another and the inside jokes we told.
But now I need to sweep up some dirt. And wash some dishes. There's already laundry in the machine. It all feels like perfectly lovely things to be doing on day one.
It's snow/raining. My friend calls it chunky rain. So far it's not sticking.
I'll read. I was trying to wait until I had finished some magazines to start a new book but I thought it was good to start a book on the first day. That's my resolution. Work to do the things that seem correct and then do what feels best.
Into the river.
Onward to the next big thing.