Friday, January 29, 2010

Another turn around the fractal

In my last two posts I wrote about the beauty of experiencing the miraculous, the healing and peace which lie within us.  I think that's what Lavender Luz was referring to when she referenced a Higher Self.  I got to experience that in unexpected places, there are lenses through which we get a glimpse of that Self.  They are also portals through which we connect with that Self.

I also learned that having this knowledge in my bones doesn't mean that I neglect anything in this life, the temporal, little me.  I have to live with integrity at this level too, and that involves being true--true to myself, my feelings, my experience.

When I was 14 or so I read a book that I think was Harriet the Spy.  I'm not certain if it's the same book, though.  In this particular story a girl keeps a diary where she writes down her true feelings about the people in her world.  The diary is found and people she'd had an unflattering opinion of were very angry with her.  An adult in this girl's life--a relative? a teacher?--counseled her that to live in this world, we have to lie.

So I think that notion is out there, in general culture.  American culture, at least.

In Scott Noelle's  piece about sociality, he put it in a nutshell: "Quite often the real purpose of 'being social' is to protect others from their own small-mindedness.  Such is the case when mothers are pressured to avoid nursing in public."

My father-in-law provided the latest demonstration. He yelled at my 8 year old son on Christmas Eve, for being too loud, after a solid day of his dog's barking and his yelling at her to be quiet. He is used to people tolerating behavior like that without comment.  I've been shocked by the way he's treated other adults: his son, his ex-wife.  I've seen him do it many times, but not directed at me. So I'd said nothing. But he crossed a line to do it in my home at my kid. I called him on it, though I gave him the courtesy he'd not given my son; I did it in private rather than in front of other people. I also considered very carefully before I sent him an email telling him what I'd seen him do, pointing out the irony of yelling at my kid for being too loud when he and his dog had both been nothing but loud. I stated the rule that in our house, when we want something we ask for it respectfully.

He's not "spoken" with me since.  Clearly, my job was to carry the burden of unresolved anger in order to spare him knowledge of his own misbehavior.  I decided I'd rather live with the discomfort of his not speaking with me to carrying the unresolved anger, and so let it settle where it belongs--on his shoulders.  It's his, let him carry it.

In light of this incident, I now see things clearly that were clouded before.  I live in a world where people want things of me; in this case my FIL wanted to be able to behave as he pleased in my home and have it tolerated without comment.  Raised in a hypocritical world, sometimes my own well of feelings and emotions rebelled.  I lived in a family that did not tolerate insubordination.  It wasn't flexible enough to acknowledge the times it was unfair or unreasonable; to belong I had to swallow it.  I was a compliant child, responsive to the threat of punishment and ostracization.

How does a child cope in a world where what is expected runs counter to his/her truth?  I see now that my solution was to sow doubt about the legitimacy of that Truth.  My solution was to blame myself.  If my feelings ran counter to what was expected around me, there had to be something wrong with my feelings.  So I had to question them, second-guess myself, demand a standard of 'proof' that was impossible to meet.

I see now that this was the best possible of solutions.  It short-circuited the intolerable contradiction between what I knew to be true in my very soul, and what was expected to get along with others in the world.  So I see that this is the pattern I’ve been living in.  If I couldn’t just live in it happily, then I was going to have to live in it unhappily, but thinking there was something wrong with me for being unhappy.  No one really cared if I was happy in it; just that I was compliant and didn’t cause any trouble for them…did my part of keeping their self-esteem intact by not contradicting them.  I had great fear of not belonging.

It hasn't served me as an adult, though.  However, as the example of my FIL shows, people are still expecting me to "protect them from their own small-mindedness."  And there is still a threat of punishment.

My marriage has been a replication of this pattern.  I stayed in it because of the possibility that the unworkable parts were my fault.  My worst fear was that our conflicts were a result of a deep flaw in me that kept me from letting myself be happy.

Now I see that unhappiness is a natural result of living within an unworkable marriage.  Furthermore, as I've separated my own conception of mySelf from the conception of the people around me, I see that being True inside is more important to me than avoiding disapproval.  I would rather carry the burden of disapproval than the one of violating my own internal integrity.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Sometimes, things just come together so beautifully. Sitting in the front room with Toni and Marti and suddenly understanding what I've heard all along about creating our own reality was a very profound moment.  It's very different from trying to alter your thoughts and "change your reality" through force of will.  We didn't do it through will power,  We did it through our receptivity, and our love, and we created a healing web that nourished all of us.

I had a dream last week, where I saw the strings, smoke, and mirrors of perception.  In the dream I was receiving intuition about a situation that seemed unsafe, all on a barely conscious level.  I saw the lens descend that told me I was just being neurotic, and having a self-serving agenda.  This lens screened out what I had seen which had put me on alert, and I second-guessed myself.  I saw the lens I was looking through, and how it changed how I viewed my available options.

This came at the same time I read a wonderful post my cousin Lori wrote about two weeks ago.  She illustrated it with a fractal, which demonstrates that the Part is contained and subsumed within the Whole.  She wrote:  "I already am all that I seek."  She linked to one of her earlier posts where she was discussing Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, with some other bloggers.  In response to a question about suffering she described a temporal self, and a larger, profound Self which encompasses the temporal.  As I read I realized what Toni, Marti, and I had done; in holding our lenses to the light, we had connected with our Larger Selves, which are in turn One.

I realize why I blog, and why I read others' blogs.  In my own writing sometimes, or in something I read, I stumble across a bit of glass that gives me a glimpse of connection with my Higher Self.

But there is still the temporal me.  That's right now following the contours and indentations of the fractal around the minutiae of worry about my son's adhd, gathering myself to do the things that set the wheels in motion to get divorced, and looking for work.  And, I think one of the insights I have received is that I have to tend to all of my selves, and can't neglect the temporal in favor of the Infinite.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Broken bits of glass

It came to me, when the three of us were sitting in the warmth of Toni's living room, that we view our lives, and our situations, through prisms.

It's an interesting relationship with reality.  A long time ago I used to think of it crudely as 'positive thinking'.  I understood that I was not to think 'negatively', because it would 'attract negativity' into my life.  This resulted in some strange mental gymnastics as I attempted to manifest Positive through my thoughts.  I experienced the concept as a matter of will power--trying to not want things too much because that was being 'attached' to the outcomes.  If a promising relationship was going well, I'd be afraid, and then I was afraid because I was afraid.  What I wanted was already doomed.

It was a strange back-door way of trying to control reality, and if that meant trying to control my perception of what happened in my life, I was going to give it my best shot.  This kind of put me in a bind because if I didn't like what was happening in my life I'd worry that I was being too negative about it and failing to perceive it positively.

Marti and I had talked about Presence in the car on the way to Toni's.  Her son's father, Marti's ex-husband, had died at Thanksgiving, and Marti had asked her son if he felt his father's Presence.  "When you're dead, you're fucking dead." was his response.

In contrast Toni was receiving reassurances of her son's Presence everywhere:  a song on the radio when she most needed to hear it;  a number on his football jersey surfacing in unlooked-for places.

She said she took comfort in our presences.  Indeed, it seemed there was a cocoon of grace around us as we talked and wept over her son.  I felt a comfort in the presence of these long-time friends that went beyond the sum of our parts.  Somehow we were all co-creators of a Moment in time where there is beauty in grief, where suffering is present but inexplicably more bearable.  I suppose that's what's meant by "the peace that surpasseth all understanding".

We each picked up a broken shard of glass, and held it so the light could shine through it.  And for a while, the vision we created was transcendent.  If we can have moments like these, we can endure much.

But, these moments are so perishable.  The light moves on, and we find we're holding a piece of broken glass, and the world that seemed magical in its depth seems flat again.

Perhaps this experience is what I was trying to achieve by will power when I was younger, and am still in the habit of doing--recoiling when I find myself 'attached' to an outcome.  It certainly doesn't come through will power.  It's capricious, and seems dependent on certain conditions.  The light we were shining with Toni was magical--yet it could have easily been, "when you're dead you're fucking dead."  It could have reduced Toni's experience of her beloved son's Presence to a series of coincidences.  It occurs to me that perhaps her son died because he despaired.  Perhaps his shard of glass revealed no hope--or perhaps the responsibility of our role in the vision created was too daunting.  Perhaps the magical moments seemed too far apart, or worse, based on just wishful thinking.

I think I can see it a different way:  that all around us are broken shards of glass.  And at any moment we can create something transcendent.  That can sustain me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"The Future's Uncertain"...

"...and the end is always near."

I always liked the rather dire portent of the old Doors song, "Roadhouse Blues".  I have a feeling that Morrison, Manzarek, Densmore, and Krieger's conception of "the future" may have been more abstract than mine.

I have trouble seeing my future mere days, even hours, ahead of me.  I mean this in terms of trying to make a decision that I think I'll be happiest in.  And these aren't earthshaking decisions, many of them, such as whether or not to stay married.  The example I'm thinking of right now is whether to volunteer for Scott's class on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  I honestly can't get a clear enough picture of myself in either scenario to guide my choice.

Is anyone else like this?

Already I have a history of ambivalence with volunteerism, in this case, at my kids' schools.  I've written some posts about this.  In a perfect world our schools would be so well resourced that I could blithely just let them do their job.  However, I'm all too aware that our teachers carry a heavy burden and it's not really fair to take advantage of their altruism too long.  I'm convinced I need to Do My Part, especially since the one year I gave myself permission to sit out volunteering Scott really suffered.

Last year I volunteered on two separate days:  Mondays at Connor's school, and Wednesdays at Scott's.  I wanted to consolidate to one day--Get It Over With.  The theory is that the day is shot anyway, so I might as well limit the damage to just that one day.  At Connor's school I go in about 12:30 to have one of the language arts students read to me.  They're reading from a really interesting literature text, and frequently I'll finish the story later, at home, when Connor brings his books.  When Scott moved into a different classroom this year I was pro-active and suggested Mondays to his new teacher.  Some days he wouldn't need help, and when I was lucky those days coincided with days Connor's teacher didn't need help.  Whee! The Trillium gig is from 10:30-11:45.  It worked pretty well, because I could stop at my house on the way to Connor's school for lunch.

Sunday before returning from winter break I asked Rob if he needed help on Monday.  He said he didn't think so; how about Tues?

Oh no.  Can't do it.  I've been dyingwaiting for this week when they go back to school; I'd been living with this threat that my MIL might come to stay with us and I be her caregiver; and it was a very trying time-off anyway.  I emailed him back and told him Tuesdays aren't good.  Mondays are good.  Then the week fell apart anyway, with our lice issues and Rob ill with something (maybe from his winter-break Baja trip?  Jealous much?).

So, when I brought Scott to school yesterday we stopped by the nurse's desk for the lice check (clear!) and on to class where I asked if my help was needed.  He said no, and asked if Tuesdays weren't good...the intermediate classes (there are 4 classrooms with grades 3-5) have begun a Tuesday/Wednesday program called "Math Cohorts."  The kids are grouped in 4 groups, according to their abilities and experience.  Scott's in Lindsey's group, would I be interested in helping her?  He took me over to meet her where she eagerly snapped me up.  She would love to have my help.  I said I'd check my schedule and get back to her.

I've been worried about Scott's math abilities.  Any math computation skills he has are very limited, and rote.  He really doesn't think mathematically--doesn't seem to grasp the fundamentals.  It would be best for him that I volunteer and get a clear idea of how he does in the classroom and what she sees.

So which day is best?  I'm at Connor's school Mondays.  Is it best to have a commitment-free day between--as a bit of a reward and rest?  Do the volunteer-thing for Scott on Wednesday?

What complicates this is The Drive.  Scott's school is 9 miles and about 20-25 minutes away, and a 1000' descent (and a river crossing).  Between our house and his school is the Dojo, where I work off my membership by opening for the owners each day.  Since Gary's now home all day I not only open, I usually just stay, since I'm not comfortable writing at home when he's around (I miss those days when he was at the office and the quiet house was mine).  On days I volunteer at Scott's school I either make a brief detour on the way to open before I get Scott to school, and then hang out at a coffee shop in Scott's school's neighborhood, or I return to open the Dojo after I've dropped him.  Since Scott loves his sleep, it usually works out that we don't leave early enough for me to open first so I've been taking Scott to school, backtracking to the Dojo. Then I write for about an hour, return to the school to volunteer, then either back to the dojo, up to the house, or up to Connor's school.  There's still the final return trip to pick him up at the end of the day.  It's not very elegant, and offends something inside of me.

It's a good thing I don't seem to need my Alone Time the way I once did.

Now I need to decide which day will work to my best peace-of-mind advantage.

Wednesdays have a further complication.  I see my counselor, Sharon, at 5:50.  Her office is a few miles further south from Scott's school.  When I pick up Scott from school on Wednesdays I usually get him home just before 4:00.  I then turn around and leave about 4:30, and drive nearly the same route past the school.  If I leave later I get caught in some big traffic, oftentimes just trying to get down off our hill, which is a major bottleneck.  I like to use the time left over from the drive in her waiting room, thinking about the week and what I'd like to talk with her about.

My problem is, I'm simply unable to create two visions of me volunteering--one on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday, and see myself in each...and see clearly which will be the least uncomfortable.  I can't hold the two visions stable long enough to get a clear picture of which has the most advantage to my peace of mind.  I've been exasperated by myself many times in the past where I've had a minor choice to make, made it, and then when I'm living with the consequences of that choice all of the details that would have made a difference had I realized them before now are obvious, and it's clearly obvious I should have chosen the other path.  DAMN, I HATE THAT!

And to further exasperate myself, there is even a shorter-term vision to consider.  I'm leaning toward Tuesdays, simply because there's one less zag on that day.  Even if I've already said Tuesdays aren't good, they look better now.   Next week however, will be a trifecta if I choose Tuesdays.  Monday is Connor-volunteer day; Tuesday hypothetically Scott-day, Wed I have to take Gary to the airport in the morning.  He's going to the Outdoor Recreation trade show in Salt Lake to do his thing as sales representative for the new company he's "working" for, as part partner and part employee.  There's no longer a taxi courtesy of his old longer is his airport parking covered.  So the plan for that day was to take Scott to school, with Gary along as company (and a stop along the way to open the Dojo), then take Gary to the airport.  Theoretically I could be back at Scott's school in time to volunteer, and the day would be shot anyway, so why not?

Peculiarly, I sense an answer, but it's certainly not coming from sounding out all the letters and piecing together a sentence before I extract meaning.  There's a kind of certainty that what I need to do is tell Lyndsey that Tuesdays are better, but next week WEDNESDAY will be better.  Since today is Tuesday and it's nearly 11:00, I won't be there today, or tomorrow.  Next week I'll be there on Wed, since I'll be on that side of the river anyway, and coming back that direction, but from then on Tuesdays it is.  This knowing is like looking at the shape of a sentence and getting its meaning, but not from the process of deciphering each individual word.  I guess that's the difference between intuitive knowing, and conscious-brain knowing.

With any luck, in the future I can get Gary to take Scott to school on Tuesdays, and pick him up on Wednesdays.

Thanks.  You've all been a great help.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My new full-time job


Between coming up with a strategy, going to the store, consulting with pharmacists,and researching online I've been doing little else today.

Connor was so upset that we were keeping Scott home that I decided I'd keep him home as well and subject him to the same treatment Scott was going to get (again).  With product that might loosen the eggs.  Just as well, since product flushed out some live bodies that had escaped detection when I'd run a prior search.

Makes me nervous about myself.  I had Gary check me, once the day before, and once yesterday.  He'd watched me combing Scott, so he knew what to look for.  I looked his scalp over too and found nothing on him.

I've got a long queue of piled up sheets, blankets, and pillowcases.  Bowls filled with boiling water, combs, and hair clips.  And that's not mentioning the pile of clean stuff I haven't processed and put away yet.

I feel just plain Beat Up.  Too tired to even get up and make myself a drink; something stiff and strong.  Lavender Luz, will you come over and make me a mojito?  Or Ailey, could you come make me a marguerita?

The week of the lice***

                                But his hair's too pretty to shave

The effects of difficulty can be cumulative.  I forget the efforts of the past 6 weeks when I consider how drained I feel, right this moment.  I don't even feel equal to the decision of whether or not to wake Scott for his half day of school (Fridays).  And I certainly don't feel equal to what the morning would require of me:

  • wake Scott; who was awake far too late last night (details follow)
  • shepherd him through the dressing process, returning several times to reawaken him (he loves his sleep)
  • listen to Scott and Connor bicker, intervene as necessary, while simultaneously urging them forward, while getting myself dressed, the dog fed and pottied--the morning juggling act
  • check for nits
  • try to leave early for school in order to open the dojo on the way so I can
  • go to breakfast with some long-ago co-workers who are nice enough but my duration at that job was very short and so I don't share much history with them but maybe I can keep up with the job market but isn't that a cynical reason to breakfast with these people who welcome me but I don't have much connection to...
Yesterday started fairly well.  I'd found nits in Scott's hair, and so had done another treatment with a product called Lice MD.  Since this was just before my appointment with Sharon I'd left the follow-through to Gary.

In fairness to Gary these things are really small, and similar in color to Scott's hair coloring, so they're easy to miss.  There was nothing alive and moving on his head.  I'm not sure Gary realized our city's school district has a no-nits policy.  Neither did we realize the depths of our son's altruism.

So, when he was playing at school during morning recess, his buddy had come over and hugged him.  In a fit of worry that he may have infected his friend he went and confided to his substitute teacher that he had had lice.  So the teacher sent him to the school nurse, who found the nits and called me, around noon, to come and get him.  I'd thought I'd gotten them all, and since I'd treated him I thought we were in the clear, and we probably were, except he called their attention to it.

I went and got him and spent the rest of the day playing needle in a haystack, literally.  We'd take a break, and I'd check him again and find more where I'd thought were none.  These things were too small, even for the nit comb to catch.  Again I bundled up coats, pillows, bedding, clothing, and trundled them to the laundry.  This is the 4th bed change since Sunday.

I did another check before bedtime and found a few more.  So this made his sleep location a problem.  He's been sleeping with us, in a king bed.  I don't want to have to launder it yet again.  I told him he'd have to sleep in"his" room, downstairs, with bunk beds.  Instant dismay:  the bed's not comfortable, he's scared, he doesn't want to be by himself.  He wanted to sleep with Connor (whose bedding I'd just laundered; I also found nits on him, but nothing live.) in his double bed.

Last night's TV programming are the current seasons of "The Office" and"30 Rock".  I'm a latter-day fan of The Office and the holidays have disrupted my viewing schedule.  I was really looking forward to  seeing it, but it was not to be.  Every few moments Scott was yelling that he was scared, he'd heard a noise, he was crying and didn't I care?

I felt about as ground down and full of self-pity as I have in years.  This was the perfect storm of frustration and weariness.  I was missing most of the jokes on the program that Connor was laughing at and he looked at me questioningly.  "I don't have a sense of humor right now, Connor."

I was downstairs talking with Scott again, when Gary went and talked to Connor.  Connor agreed that this night he'd sleep in the same room, in the top bunk.  "Keep the little guy company."

Scott was instantly relieved.  Spindly arms reached for me and I pulled his little body close.

"Will you be the grandmother of my children?"

(chokes back a snort of laughter)..."Yes, Scott, I'll be the grandmother of your children."

Decision this morning:  let him sleep; it's not worth the effort to get him to school for a half day.  Skip breakfast.

***they're still totally worth it if they're the reason my MIL didn't come to stay...

Monday, January 4, 2010

In the "Can't Catch a Break" category


That kind of changed the tenor of the evening.  What was supposed to be a sedate bedtime turned to a frenzy of combing, parting, treating, hollering "hold your head still" (dammit), shampooing, bed-clothes-in-dryer-ing.

Gee, I sure hope I don't have it too.

Even more fervently I pray they let me bring him to school tomorrow.  On what might possibly be my last day alone.  Maybe the lice will scare her off.

Shakes aching head. 


I woke yesterday morning to the phone ringing at 7.  I'd intended to get up at 6:15, but had shut the alarm off to close my eyes "for just a few more seconds."

It was Gary, to tell me to leave the cell phone home for the boys, since his mother had been rethinking her situation and might be wanting to be re-hospitalized after all.  It might take hours.

I'm still not sure of the circumstances of her being discharged anyway, less than 12 hours after her fall, fracture, trip to the ER and hospital admission.  Gary had said something when he brought her home about a possible option of staying in the hospital, but this was after they'd already left..  So, since she'd been discharged, to get readmitted that night would be an arduous process.  However, a night at home seemed to have convinced her it would be easier to be somewhere where she could get 24 hour care:  "She can't lift her nightgown to go to the bathroom.  She has to wear this Depends thing and she can't do that herself.  She has to have someone with her all the time."

So Gary wanted me to leave the phone so he could reach the boys if necessary.  He said he didn't know how he was going to do it all.

I don't know whether the force that was shaped like "you-should-not-be-leaving-when-he-has-to-take-care-of-his-mother" originated from me, or him.  He didn't ask me to not go, beyond implying it was too much for him to juggle her needs with the boys' in my absence.  There was a kind of hint that it was wrong to leave the boys.  This is a question I've had for years:  if I feel the presence of pressure on my decision to act, is it "my guilty conscience" speaking, or am I feeling the influence of something external to me?  And should I heed it?

Was I feeling the presence of an unspoken request in "she needs 24 hour care.  She can't lift her nightgown"--stuff that he as a son doesn't really want to do and it's awkward and distasteful for them both, but a daughter-in-law could do it?  Is the field being tipped toward me making the offer--"Here I am, Lord.  Take me."?  Or if I'm aware of such a force, does that mean it's the voice of my 'conscience'?  Certainly they're telling me that there is a big problem, and if I was to offer, I could make life a lot easier for them.  Especially since their 'problem' is within my skill-set.

And so I felt doubt.  Leaving the boys wouldn't be an issue had she spent that night at our house.   I began to feel doubtful about leaving could be hours, even though a good portion of those hours would be with them asleep.  But what about my need to go to Toni, and my perception that she needed to see Marti and I.  This would be our first opportunity since the memorial; Christmas stuff had gotten in the way after the service, then freezing rain and icy roads in the week following.  I felt a sense of being drawn toward her that was quiet, but persistent.  Yes, she'd understand that an emergency with my MIL would prevent me, but that didn't diminish the sense that I needed to be there, in Washington, with her.  A voice inside questioned that need--whispered shouldn't my mother-in-law's need take priority, was I not exaggerating the importance of seeing Toni...she and I had waited this long, why not wait another week?  Was I overstating the need only to escape an obligation?  What was "The Right Thing"?

It would have been really hard for me if Gary had straight-out asked me.  But since he didn't I took the conversation at face value.  I told him that I should take the cell with me--that it wouldn't do the boys any good to have it since they were going to be home anyway and we have our land line.  I told him he should have his mother's cell phone with him so they could reach him if necessary, and he could call to check in on them. He said he didn't know her phone number.  I said, "Well, she knows it, right?"  "She's got it written down on a piece of paper somewhere."  He didn't ask me to bring our cell phone over and I didn't offer.

We hung up, but my doubts didn't. Still, I proceeded to get ready; packed some hiking gear in case we would take a hike.  Wrote the boys a note with cell phone numbers and left it outside their door. Fed, watered, medicated the dog.  Considered again my course of action.  If I didn't go to Washington, and stayed, would it really make a difference?  He'd be within 15 or 20 minutes from home.  Gary's mom is well acquainted with her health system.  Yes, it's nice to have Gary with her, but if the boys did need him he'd be able to leave her there.  She doesn't need him to negotiate the admittance process.

The phone rang and it was Toni.  She wanted to know if we were coming.  I assured her we were, and decided to take the call as a sign that this was what I should be doing.

I drove to Marti's, about 10 minutes away, to have breakfast, after which we'd leave together.  I told myself that I would have time to change course if needed.

But as we ate, and I turned the car toward the highway, I felt no sense of fighting my way upstream, of swimming against a tide.

One week before David killed himself I'd been having breakfast with Marti.  She said that the police had come to her door.  Her ex-husband Sam, and the father of her 17 year old son, had been found dead in his apartment a few days after Thanksgiving.  He did not leave a note, and the toxicology report is still pending, but she had no doubts he'd killed himself.  They had been divorced for 15 years; his downward spiral had begun during their marriage and continued unabated after their split.  He drank heavily and repeatedly failed to show up in his role of father.  So his relationship with his son was complicated, to say the least.

It was while I was writing her an email a week later, to inquire after her son, that I received her message that Toni's son was dead by his own hand.

David's death has kind of eclipsed the other, but Marti and I had a chance to talk more about it on our long drive.  She's worried about her son, who confided in her that he's very depressed. He's having trouble sleeping, he's in a dry spell creatively, he's struggling in keeping up the facade of normal life:  school, his job.  He's been a person who's had difficulty forming warm relationships, and his step-father despises him.  The feeling is mutual.

She said she asked him if he thought his father might be with him.  The answer:  "When you're dead you're fucking dead.  That's all there is to it."  It occurred to me that I need to live my life with my sons so that if I did die, the thought of my continued presence to them would be a comfort, and welcome.  Marti told me about a movie, the title I can't remember.  It's about a 6 year old girl, who is in an automobile accident that breaks her arm and kills her mother.  The movie is about the desperate attempts of this child to feel her mother's presence, trying to summon her.  Marti broke down when she described a scene where this child is lying on her mother's grave, desperately digging with her little hands, sobbing.  "And then, a woman appears behind her...and it is her mother, who said that the strength of her desire had made it possible for a brief return.  And she held her, and they were together for only about 10 minutes, but this gave the girl the strength to go on and live her life."  It makes me cry as I'm writing this--the poignancy--of being reunited with her beloved mother who she needs so much, only to have her pulled away again...and that having to be...enough.  Marti expressed desire that there could be some way that a sense of presence of his father could comfort her son.

We cried together, 70 miles an hour down the highway.  The imagery reminded me of that heartbreaking scene in "Dumbo",where the baby elephant is taken to see his mother one last time before she is carted off in shackles.  This in turn reminded me of an interview I'd read on Fresh Air, on NPR, with Pete Docter, the director of "Up":

"Dumbo" is one of my favorites. It's just a simplicity, a wonderful simplicity to it. And as a kid, you know, I saw certain things about it, all the fun and, you know, pink elephants on parade and flying with the crows and things. And now looking back on it, it's got this added dimension to it as a parent that you know, when you have a baby and ma in the scene with the trunks, and they can't even see each other. They can just kind of hold trunks. I have yet to watch that without crying, you know.

In turn, this reminded me of thoughts I'd had about that movie. Something about Karl, and his grief about losing Ellie galvanized taking their home to their childhood dream:  Paradise Falls, in Venezuela.  And how he'd had an epiphany:  a sign from Ellie that at some point love was no longer about transporting the house--he needed to transfer that love into action on behalf of a boy, a dog, a bird.  His grief, and his honest experience of it, led him to a wholly new, transformed experience of love and joyous fulfillment that he'd thought was beyond him.

Marti remarked that it was curious that I'd taken Toni's phone call that morning as a sign that this was what we needed to be doing.  She said that she would have taken it as a sign that Toni wanted to do something else, and didn't want us to come.  However, for me, the conversation Marti and I had been having, and our total ease and comfort, was further  confirmation that indeed we were doing what we were supposed to be doing.

I'm pausing, and trying to find words to describe the persistence of this rightness.  Toni lives now in the home of the man she loved for 12 years, and ultimately left her 23 year marriage for.  For the first time I heard the story of how they'd met...her family visiting a mutual friend's down the road, and ending up here in this house we were now sitting in.  She had watched, anguished, as he went through 3 relationships in that time.  She told how she'd driven to his house 6 years ago and declared herself to him; said she wanted to get her youngest child through high school first (she was a sophomore then), but she had set her sights on him.  She watched him go through at least another relationship after that, dying inside.

I had not realized the force, duration, and persistence of this drive to be with him.  It's an incredible story,  and reminds me of my own drive, which persisted beyond logic, to be with her that day.  The day was a perfect cradle, which held the three of us softly, held the space open for what needed to unfold.  We lounged before the wood stove; every window revealing a scene of harmonius peace:  the peeling bark of an aspen; the texture of the brushy needles of a ponderosa.  Birds feeding; the sweeping vista of the Columbia River Gorge.  It's a view that savages Toni now...she can see where her son died.

The day held the space for our relationships to midwife what needed to be said. 



Gary is here from his mother's and plans to stay there tonight.  A home health physical therapist came to her house today.  A social worker will come tomorrow.  Last night was the second night that Gary stayed at her house; and at 8:30 he'd taken her to the emergency room.  Her splint was causing her pain.  They didn't get back to her house until after midnight.  Then he was up at 4:30 am with her because she'd undone her new splint and they had to struggle with it.   Everything, he said, is a struggle.  Things that should take a few minutes become big problems that take an hour to resolve.  They've fought several times.  I asked if she's safe, home alone right now, and he said she's lying down.

He said depending on what her options are revealed to be by the social worker he may bring her here.  I told him straight that if I've seemed distanced from this process, it's because I am.   I told him that given the nature of our relationship, his and mine, and hers and mine, he cannot expect me to take care of her.  I told him that he can tell her that we are getting a divorce if he wants to explain it to her.  He said if he brings her here he wants me to provide an equal amount of help.   He wants to set her up in our recliner chair in the front room, since our bed is too low for her, and the guest bedroom is downstairs.   I said this doesn't make sense; we're up in the middle of the night sometimes to let the dog out.  We get up early to get the boys ready for school.  It doesn't make sense to have her parked in the middle of our family living space.  I said that if he brings her here I will stay away during the hours that the boys are in school.  I will not bathe her.  And, I think it is a Really Bad Idea.  I pointed out their struggles at 4 a.m. this morning, asked if he wants to bring this into the middle of our home.

If we had a different kind of relationship, him and me, and her and me, this would be a completely different story.  My resistance to this is as logical as the number 4 following the number 3.  Caring willingly for her would be the result of history and conditions that do not exist.

It's an interesting juxtaposition, this new wrinkle with my mother-in-law, and the questions it posed for me in visiting my friend.  The answer was tuning in to internal guidance, which felt different, more subtle, than I'd expected.

We talked, Marti, and Toni and I, about David.  Toni described a longing that reminded me of the movie Marti had told me about in the car.  Little instances; a particular song David had liked coming on the radio at a time when she needed to hear it.  Struggling to set a clock, frustrated and angry because the minutes digits were stuck on a certain number.  Struggling and struggling with it, to glance up and see a photograph of her son in his high school football jersey--with that very number.  Longing for him while on a drive, glancing up to see a junction with another highway, numbered his number.  I cried out in recognition:  "It's just like the movie Marti was telling me about!  What you're experiencing is the equivalent of the little girl's mother appearing!  This is the form it takes!"  I pictured another dimension, a whole iceberg of a world, inserting itself gently into ours--the very tip manifesting as the team number for her son...a song on the radio.

And every moment, for me, confirmation, that where I was, with these two friends, was right where I needed to be.  And it seems that we all needed to be there, together.

It's a relief to know I made the right choice.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pit in my stomach/ updated below

God help me.

I'd just gotten home from taking a diarrhetic dog to the vet and then grocery shopping to be informed by Gary that his mother had fallen (again) last night, and broken her arm (again).  Only this time it's her left one and not the right, and it's her humerus, and not the forearm.  She spent last night at the hospital, and he's going to get her and bring her here.


"She can sleep in the recliner chair in the front room" <my writing chair!> "because she can't use the stairs."

"She says we can still go to our dinner at our friends' tonight...she can be left alone that long."

"Gary, that doesn't make any sense.  Her home is set up for her and is comfortable for her.  it's all on one floor and she doesn't have any steps to get in!  If she needs 24 hour care it makes more sense for you to go and stay with her at her house.  She has everything there she needs."

But Gary's in full ride-to-the-rescue mode and nothing will do but to put his mom here, in the middle of our living room, where she'll be sleeping (hopefully, if any of us get any sleep at all tonight) when I'm trying to get up to leave in the morning to go see Toni.  Toni's son died just before Christmas, and except for the memorial, freezing rain and company obligations have kept me from going to her.

"It's ridiculous, Gary.  If I had a broken arm and was in pain, I'd want to be in my own home where I know where everything is, where I can watch TV if I want to , and where there are no noisy kids!"

Just when I thought I was done with boundary issues, here comes a really big test.  Many is the time she's tried to turn me into her personal physical therapist.  She is very dependent, but the polite fiction her self-image depends on is that she's very independent and no trouble at all.    I can maintain the fiction for short bursts, but I'm depleted now after 2 weeks of the boys being home, and just thinking I was free after the company left.  Her self esteem is very brittle, and when it cracks she's explosive.  Now she's not at her best, because she'll be in pain, and I'm not at my best because I'm exhausted.

I have a bad feeling that the task of Making Her Comfortable is going to fall to me, since, after all, that was my professional bailiwick.  But it's been 10 years + since I treated a patient, and she would have been one I would have cringed to see coming through the door.

One of the first tangible benefits of divorcing Gary will be that I am free of any daughter-in-law obligations to her.  Clearly I've waited too long.

Wish me strength.  I'd better go.  I've got a bunch of unexpected work to do to get a spot ready to receive her.



Back from dinner at our friends'.  Gary never made it there.  He’d told me to go ahead with the boys, he'd meet us there, but I really didn’t think he’d be coming.  He ended up taking her to her house, and I’m not sure if it was because I’d protested so much, or if it was because she ended up wanting it.  He came home and got some of his stuff and went back to spend the night.  I’m planning on, or I WAS planning to go see Toni finally tomorrow; the roads are finally clear and safe to travel.  So I’m feeling uncomfortable with the decision in front of me.  Basically I’m running out on Gary and leaving him with the dueling responsibility of the boys and his mom.  I won’t be available, if I leave, to offer my suggestions for making her comfortable or setting her up with a system for getting up and down from chairs…plus if I leave when I was planning it means the boys will be alone in the house for a while; it means Gary has to come up here to get them or else bring her up here.  I’ve left the boys alone in the house before for a couple hours; I’m planning on leaving here around 8 or 8:15, so they could be alone for a few hours.  But now I’m uneasy…if something bad happened it would be sure to happen when I’m gone when I “should be helping my mother-in-law”.  So maybe I should have been more sanguine about her coming here.

So I’m struggling a little because I know the ‘acceptable’ thing to do; I know the ‘expected’ thing to do.

It’s like years ago when I was visiting Denver and my great aunt Mil suddenly called my grandmother, her sister, and said she wanted them to come over.  I was supposed to go to a friend’s for dinner, and then to another friend’s for the night.  There was no other night I would have been able to see them.  They didn’t ask me, my dad and grandmother, to go with them, and I felt like they wanted me to offer, but I didn’t.  I’d just been over there earlier that day with my niece, and she (Aunt Mil) had seemed fine.   When I asked my grandmother what was wrong, why she wanted them, she said she didn’t know, all she had said was she wanted them.  Later my father talked about how hard it was to get her into the car to take her to the hospital…I could have done that.  I never asked, but I’ll bet they were all disappointed in me for sticking with the plans I’d made and not canceling them without a second thought. So I could be there to help.

I don’t know if I really feel bad about that or not.  I got to see two friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I had a satisfying time with each of them.  Weigh that against sitting in an emergency room for  however long it takes, and my presence wouldn’t have changed the outcome of that.

I could have made things easier for them;  I guess I weighed that against whether or not they really needed me.  I suppose if she had said she was lying on the floor when she called and she thought her hip was broken I’d have canceled my other plans…I guess I made a decision that it was something they could handle without me…if I’d felt my presence was necessary I would have stayed.  I did feel my presence was necessary with my sister

I stopped over there at my MIL's house, with the boys, on the way home from our friends'.  She was asleep, under the influence of pain medication.  Made a few suggestions to Gary about how to get up from one of the few chairs that might be suitable for her to sit in.  Her place has really deteriorated since I saw it last; cluttered, dirty, bad smell.  It's really not a good place for the boys to be in for an extended amount of time.

So now I have my friend Toni, who is bereaved, who I was planning to visit. And I have Gary, who I could help by staying home with the boys, or going over to MIL's and adding in my professional .02 as far as positioning her.  I really want to see Toni.  Basically, the sticking point I guess is that this adds some extra effort to Gary’s life to juggle his mother and juggle the boys.  And they won’t like having to be over there all day, most likely, so if I choose to go to Washington that decision means some discomfort for them.  Which probably means discomfort for Gary too.  And I’m sure it’ll seem like his discomfort is my fault because my presence would have made things easier.

Oh my aching head.