I have a writer's temperament; I can spend hours looking out the window with words roiling around in my head and be sublimely at peace with the world. The world (or should I say, American type A expectations?) wrangle me like the screeching of a Victorian school marm's call to attention. My inner dialogue was born in a less tolerant era and I will do just about anything to avoid having to be called up short for daydreaming.
Consequently I have left off all the activities that I love to steer my tiny, old, leaky raft into safer harbors. I've been trudging through the long dark night of my soul. This is what I have been doing, basically, in lieu of writing my blog and reading and commenting on the ideas and musings of others. My God has never been one for 11th hour rescues so when my survival bids it, I go where the rubber meets the road...put my nose to the grindstone. I'm not sure if this kind of complete focus was that necessary but I felt threatened enough to resort to it and so with a possibly misguided sense of doom, I have gotten myself and my situation to a somewhat secure moorage for the time being. I have been working long, hard days and nights. I miss writing, music, fresh air...
That is not to say that I haven't written. I write everyday...sometimes lately two or three times a day...trying to keep my sanity and I'm fairly sure I'd never want anyone to ever read that drivel. I certainly would not want it wafting through the world wide web while I was still alive to to feel the collective rolling of eyes it would surely elicit. So to a certain degree I'm trying to change gears here to try and bring my dialogue up to speed for a wider audience. Bear with me.
Why was my last year difficult? Mostly it was hard because I made it hard. I fight myself tooth and nail as I was born to never understand who my enemy is, it seems. Much of my entire life has been tied up in pulling illness closer so I can witness my own myopic weakness'. I have, in an attempt to keep a roof over my head, embraced the career of Nursing Assistant. This is a field that the employment department deemed economically "fruitful" and was highly recommended an enterprise that a woman of my age should pursue. My experience as a library clerk is not valuable in today's market. Being a Nursing Assistant is a marvelously rewarding yet poorly compensated work for those who are good at it. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at it. I have 30 years invested in keeping people distant. You do the math. The irony of finding myself in this type of personal intimate care for strangers is not lost on me. That is not to say there are not some things that I excel at in this work. I find a great deal of satisfaction in making someone's day better in my small way but like all bureaucratic "designed life management systems" I am required to work within certain constraints designed to support and protect clients. An intention, however noble, I've witnessed to have obvious crippling effects on patients in some ways. It is not a perfect system and I am far from a perfect Nursing Assistant. Sometimes I just have to bow my head and apologize to my clients. They are so brave and deserve so much better.
I took on the Nursing Assistant gig not only because it was needed and I had a better chance of meeting my mortgage and maintaining my independence but because it was my personal goal to work with the actively dying. Having this experience is helpful in this goal. While that may sound somewhat morbid to the uninitiated it really comes from a place of sincere compassion within me. My Mother had a miserable and undignified death. She deserved much better than what she was awarded and mostly the circumstances were seeded in a system rife with ignorance and fear. I have made it my job to improve the passing of others in her name. I spent weeks in Hospice volunteer training and I find my volunteer work deeply satisfying. It is still what I intend to find myself doing eventually: palliative care. I want to educate and help comfort clients and families so they can ease through the ending process with a certain peace of mind. It is not like I have a tremendous altruistic bend; it is what I want as well. I choose this work as a dress rehearsal, of sorts...a way to stay focused on what is important in my own life while keeping an eye to the reaper. The end clarifies through its urgent inevitability the need to be present and in love with the life we have been given. The trick for me, at this point, is to not allow myself to be run ragged by the system before I get started on the real work that I WANT to be doing. Reading blogs and sitting at the window, pen in hand, is not going to get me from emptying bed pans to holding hands, clearly. So it is that I have neglected this blog and my on line conversations.
Now that the hatches are battened and I can own a marginal sense of security it seems I might need this larger conversation to keep me from going under with the weight of my commitments. I'm not quite sure where I go from here so I will just begin again and let the devil take its due....
Photo credit Michele Teyssier (I think!)