Cat-ologue

Ever try talking with a cat?
Not talking to, not talking at
but attempting to reach into
the cat mind and communicate?
Can’t do it
It’s not the same as learning
another human language –
even one like the tribe in Africa
that communicates through clicks,
because there are interpreters
and pantomime –
they are beginning to interpret
whale sounds, elephant language . . .
All you are left with
in the cat corner
is the pseudo interpretation
of behaviors and
short of a cat whisperer. . .
well, even that is behavior
interpretation  and showmanship..
I’ll come home to the cat’s meow
and mimic it –
I might be saying, yes,
I ate dog poop today –
how do I know?
He lets me know when he’s hungry,
angry, bored, indifferent,
glad to see me – oh-
and when I’ve spent too long
on the computer, reading, sleeping. . .
Spike the Cat, share those inner thoughts,
talk to me.
(that might be a tad scary though –
I mean, what if he’s been using me
all this time?)

Platitudes and Analogies

There are times I feel so alone with these diseases and conditions.  It’s usually when I’ve been around “normal” people for too much time.  They just don’t get me and I’ve ceased to try to make anyone understand.  Sometimes I’m in a good space, sometimes not – but it is good to know I’m not the only one going through these issues.  I can get too wrapped up in my symptoms, people  tend to say things that don’t ring true for me.  I’m searching for some good analogies that get me through the tough times. See if they ring any bells for you.

When the going get tough – the tough get going. Don’t shrug your shoulders at that.  We are a tough lot.  We have t be.  Nobody can wave a wand and make the symptoms of our lives of our lives go away.  Medical Science has a way to go.  We suffer in silence or not, but WE are not the ones who have to go through this.  All the platitudes “normies” give us will not sufficiently calm us when we are in a rough place.  God bless them for trying, they just don’t understand what’s going on beneath our skin.

You can do it one step at a time. This is true. We can’t get out of bed and negotiate our days without moving exactly one step at a time.  Nevertheless, when our insides are racing and we can’t think a rational thought, when all we see before us is struggle, racing thoughts, nightmares and silent screams, you might want to backtrack, not move forward.  It is hard to bring ourselves to center.  We can do it, but not without skills and understanding.  And as much as we can, utilize the support people in our lives.  These are the people who understand where we are coming from.  Things will get better one step at a time.

You are the only one who can heal yourself. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  However, we know we need help . . . even when we can’t reach out and get it.  I think it’s a phrase people say to absolve themselves of responsibility for ourselves.  We want to be self-sufficient, that is where frustration builds.  But sometimes we need outside intervention.  And though we are the ones who have to do the work inside ourselves, sometimes we need direction.   On the other hand, we are the conductors of the symphony of our thoughts, feelings, and actions that make up our lives.

Practice Joy.  When I am in the midst of adversity, joy is just three letters with no meaning.  I can struggle through the morass which can surround my life, but joy is something I rarely experience.  BUT, when I do, I rejoice in it and don’t take it for granted.  I don’t know how to practice it.  There is an artificiality in the word Practice.  I either wake up in a good place or I don’t.  Restarting the day sometimes helps, like when I look out the window and feel sunlight caressing my face on an otherwise gloomy day, its heat tickling my skin. Joy is a blessing always to be appreciated.

Nevertheless, there is always HOPE.  Nothing lasts forever.  Another Platitude but one of Truth.  We can put one foot in front of the other and each footstep gives us a new opportunity to step out of bad spaces and, at the very least, come to center.  With help, spiritual guidance, and the support of those who understand, we can change our circumstances. One Day At A Time.

 

Sifting through the Ashes

So many years since my parents have died and yet they walk through my life day by day, hour by hour.  Is this so for everyone? Sifting through our ashes, seeing the truths or remolding childhood witnessing into more truthful adult understandings. . . or should they be upended?  Aren’t my life experiences as a child as equal, or more so, than their adult counterparts?

Isn’t the fact my father and I played a game where he blew his pipe smoke in my face because it  made me exclaim for him to stop but we both laughed just as valid as my understanding that it was the underpinnings of my attraction and addiction to tobacco, and later COPD and asthma?  Or my coming in drunk from some beer bash and sitting up with him for hours talking about the world, the universe, my present, later to realize he had been drinking too and it was a tactic acknowledgement of drinking as acceptable, even essential?  Just as Christmas brings misgivings driven both my the year we snuck downstairs to see an entire kitchen and bikes our size as well as the one when Dad knocked over the Tree in a fit of alcohol fumes?

As an adult, I moved back to Connecticut, staying in my mother’s room while looking for a home of my own. Within those walls, Mom and I made peace with each other.  I finally felt her life, what made her, why she was such an angry person much of the time, overwhelmingly generous at others.  I understood why she was angry with me, frustrated at my weaknesses, as she co-dependently made right my many, many mistakes. I forgave her transgressions. And felt her presence at the foot of the bed and with the Shirley Temple collection, the first dolls she ever owned.

Yet these two people gave us such treasures.  As a Minister’s family, we moved frequently, as my Mom did, from one Brooklyn apartment to another when the rent ran out.  So when Mom saw a tiny ad for a 250 year cabin on 50 acres a 17 hour trip away, she bought it sight unseen  so we would, no matter how many times we had to move.

Every summer she would take off work, bringing us up to our spiritual center for 2 months, Father joining us under his vacation. Now I look back to see how hard she worked on the cabin, making it safe and livable for us.  Understand, as a mother myself, the frustration she would sometimes feel as a single mom for such a long time.  Laugh at when she sent my wayward brother to the garden to remove rocks when he did, frequently, something outrageous.

Memories fill the furniture in my apartment.  A teacart given from a barn in exchange for a loaf of bread, now well over 150 years old. The carved, wooden screen behind it, a much beloved piece from my grandmother.  My “distressed” childhood dresser and toddler rocker. The cut glass pieces my mother so dearly collected in a beautiful collection. The painting of “Uncle Willie”, an old hermit who closed off his beautifully furnished  home, save the kitchen, when his wife died; we picked cherries from his trees, mom making pies, jams, and bringing them to him.

My adult eyes stare into the inward memories of my brain to remember. In some places there are causes for anger displaced.  In order, wry comprehension.  In others humble gratitude.  They were not perfect people but they were good ones, who moved beyond the strictures of their memories and life experiences to give us so many precious ones.

When do you say Goodbye?

She was by turns feckless or feral.
ferocious, fickle, self-centered.
Twelve years spent in her company,
unable to respond or defend.
captive, as she came to visit
several weeks at a time,
several times a year.

Schizophrenic, Bipolar –
voices keeping her company
more than her devoted husband.
Her only caregiver –
he wore himself down
to bare nubbins.
And I worry now he will soon
follow the same path.

She appropriated my life
told me there was a cancer in me
she had to cut out.
Humiliated me in front of family
relatives, her friends – while they lasted.
Spoke in a foreign language
my husband wouldn’t teach me,
about me, in front of me,
my knowing the words were directed ,
about me, in front of me.
Told my children she
was their real mother.

She died last night,
first came mourning,
now rage . . .
It’s been 20 years since I have been
her daughter-in-law,
since I have seen her except
when my children married,
or graduated from schools.
And even in these years I treated her
with a consideration and kindness
rarely shown to me.

This woman who made my life
miserable, terrifying, unstable –
who did so much to ruin my marriage –
twisting, turning truth,
confusing my children,
angering my husband so he wouldn’t
speak meaningfully to me for months.

Who twisted my children’s
understanding of Mental Illness,
refused medication or therapy,
made her husband of 60 years’
life one of horror and despair,
beating and berating him,
listening to those damn voices . . .

After all this time, and I mourn
for her, for my children,
for her husband and my ex-one.
Mourning the woman she was
and could have been
if she had accepted her diagnosis.

Listening to her voices . . . .
Still feeling a relative,
Mourning the loss,
even as the rage pours in.
Some nightmares you never forget.

Social Security Disability – Living in the System, or not

How many of us live terrified about money?  Not understanding it. Not knowing how to utilize it productively. Money is a vague anomaly, something that, for some, is easily quantifiable, for others a mind spinning process that brings little comfort, little stability.

I look at numbers and my head spins. That portion of my brain which controls numbers has permanently gone on vacation.  Has always been basking in the suns of Antarctica.  My father used to help me with math homework until “Modern Math” was established.  He bought a book on the subject and I remember nights when both of us would be crying trying to figure it out.

When I was a Paraprofessional in the schools, kids in grades 4 and 5 quickly learned to go to someone else for help.  If they needed to write, do geography, jump through hoops, learn history, read, they knew to search me out.  Math?   Computers they taught me. Why get things marked wrong when help had been asked for?

I have always found myself in trouble with my finances.  This year I am facing problems way beyond my abilities.  I was on Social Security Disability, very deservedly so. I was not one of those milking the system . . . I am someone who doesn’t understand the system. Never good in Math, Traumatic Brain Injury made it even worse.

I work as a caregiver/CNA.  Some cases are paid out of pocket, some as an employee, others as an independent contractor. Trouble is, how do you keep course over a year, month by month, week by week, what is too much or not?  How do you tell a client you can’t work for them anymore because you just discovered they are going to start paying by another format?  How do you handle it when someone, in June, decided to pay out of pocket but in January, determined a 1099 would be more to their keeping?  It isn’t a fair system. I know, I know, who said it had to be fair?

I don’t have the ability to work 40 hour weeks, if you can find a job that gives you that. Even 20 hours can, many times prove more than I am capable of. I am in a great deal of pain on a constant basis. I need the benefits offered to the disabled – the medical benefits.  I don’t abuse the system. I don’t use Food Stamps or other benefits because I pay for them myself.  I need Medical Benefits and to qualify for Social Security. I’ve never filed for unemployment benefits or welfare.  If only Social Security helped you understand the process and then, if needed, provide the help necessary to comply with in the system.  The system would be so much more organized and understandable then.

I contributed to the system for many years.  To go from being a national Business Management Consultant in Human Resources and Management Development to someone on Social Security over the course of a working timespan is humbling. What many don’t understand is, the vast majority of the working disabled are trying the best they can.  But they are in a system that penalizes you if you work even slightly over the set limit.  Problem is, you don’t know in the beginning of the year what your earnings will be, or maybe in what form as in my case.

So now I am not on Social Security. I need to apply for re-establishment which can take 3 years if granted at all. To obtain it I need to work less or not at all.  If I work not at all, not having Social Security, I can’t pay my bills or eat.  My family is talking about taking me in to their homes. I’m 60 for God’s sake!!  As much as I love them, I don’t want to live with them any more than they want me.  This is the American culture where each generation provides for itself and lives separate from the others.  It would be one thing if we did things the natural way and lived multi-generationally but we are not, and don’t have that thinking pattern.  I have lived by myself for almost 20 years.

So tough choices all around.  Happy New Year! (and I still don’t understand the system)

 

 

 

Driving Miss Debbie

Here I am . . . 60.  Don’t feel like I’m 60; don’t often act like I’m 60 ( How is a 60 year old supposed to act?); just know I have a physical body that is ancient combined with the emotional standing of a teenager.

The car had an accident a couple of days ago.  It was strictly at fault.  The fact that I was an idiot going just a little too fast and happened to glance (seriously, no more) at the phone, was of no accord.  Trouble is . . . it is the 3rd accident in less than a year. My family is having “serious talks” with me about whether I should hand in keys and take the bus in a not too public transportation friendly town.  Besides which, I am a home health aide /CNA and have cases all over the area, almost all out of town.  Some cases are 2 hours, some 10, some early morning, some not ending until the evening – how can I not have a car? Unless my very poor self can do a “driving Miss Daisy” kind of thing.

Then I have to contend with Social Security Disability.  I work very part time – generally 2 days week. Yet there are times when I fill in for someone one vacation which seems to put me over the top of allowed earnings – not by much, but the totals add up.  And as I have been exceedingly poor in Mathematics since birth (couldn’t count the slats on the crib until I was twelve), running over is easy.

I need a keeper.  Just like the olden days when women sat around and embroidered – not that I could do that either.  Its gross motor movements for me.