Friday, December 30, 2005

Cleansing

Cleansing.  I spend a great deal of my time, between housework and laundry, on routine cleansing, but today I’m dealing with cleansing the after affects of some major stress.  I am doing an internal cleansing and a sage burning in a room, to start the New Year free of the old spirits.  Or am I?

I’m not sure if the hours I’ve spent this after Christmas week looking at jewelry online qualify as cleansing or escape.  Over the past few years, I’ve bought myself a piece of jewelry for my birthday and for Christmas each year, which I did not do this year, due to housekeeper meltdown drama, which ensued mid-December.  I am somehow providing myself consolation for what I have suffered recently, so there is the connection.  At middle age, I do feel better with jewelry and makeup on, what’s that joke from retail “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and accessorize”!  I just don’t feel very glam when I get up in the morning, and put on several years ago’s bulky fleece robe.  My naturally curly hair does not qualify as stylish for the past ten years or more, it’s ok when I fix it with some product, but in the morning, not ok.  I was lucky in my twenties; “big hair” was in (circa Farrah Fawcett and many others in the 1970’s).  Now I don’t follow the trends anyway, and find it kind of foolish anyway.  I see older women who are all decked out in the latest young girl fashions and to me they look older, not younger.  My wardrobe is not even under discussion here…I wear about 25% of my clothes.  Mostly I wear stuff I can exercise in.  I like to wear only one outfit a day (see laundry above) and most days, I try to do something I can call exercise.

So the jewelry will make me prettier, yes?  And affirm my worth?  I should clarify here that the jewelry I have ordered is decent quality but not “precious”.   Is that my feeling about myself?  I think probably it is, actually.  At middle age, I seem to have a larger inventory of assaults to my sanity to recover from, and at the same time, less stamina to do so.  

Perhaps I should burn that sage in my bedroom as well as the third bedroom, where the housekeeper smoked.  Bad vibes, bad vibes.  My poor kitty loves that room, and his eyes are all runny from the smell of Febreeze.  I’ve been in attack cleaning mode all week in that room.  Previously it was my office, and I spent a lot of hours in there.  I also slept in there for four months during some construction in my bedroom and bathroom.  So that room has “been there for me” in the past.  Must go shower, put on today’s accessories for my belated birthday lunch.  My gifts to myself have shipped, according to my e-mail, so it is only a short wait until I become prettier and cleansed.  Right?  Maybe not.  The symbolism of cleansing is a very good start.  I will meditate on this, which I think is a lot closer to the reality of cleansing, that it is a spiritual inside job.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Gift Hook

The gift hook, as in “get the hook” or what?  I think I know what he meant, when he confided that he left me the holiday flowers and champagne at my door, that there was a hook for him.   He said he felt anxiety last week about the whole gift and holiday business I guess.  Well, hello, he’s not the only one, but hey men are not so insightful sometimes.  He talked last night on the phone when I called to thank him, quite a bit about this “hook” he felt.  He said he wanted to look at his attachments, that he’d entered into relationships before by positioning himself as being needed.  He said he thought he wanted me to need him, so that was the hook to the gift.

My first clue that he was conflicted was the drop off on the front step, rather than a holiday hello that we had earlier discussed by phone.  Now I admit to being every bit as standoffish, every bit as conflicted, although I handle it in a different way, Mars and Venus and all.   I had gotten him a silly “stocking gift” - actually, I just got a whole lot of festive holiday type stuff at the bargain stores back at the first of December, and wrapped them up for various friends.  Sort of a caffeine jag at the dollar store type of thing.   I only got a few real gifts for anyone this year, and even those personal gifts were small and generally in the “joke gift” or “gift exchange” category.  So yes, I am also adrift in the world of attachments.  There are a couple of these “stocking gifts” which are now irrelevantly sitting out in the garage…holiday cheer the week after Christmas just doesn’t cut it.  Note to self, don’t do that “stocking gift” dollar store blast again next year.  

And remind me not to stock up on chotchkies for those freakin’ hand made greeting cards either.  I’m retiring from the greeting card game.  They are fun when they’re done, and people seem to enjoy receiving them, but they take way too much time.  I have a whole box of bows, mini garland, special paper, gold tissue etc. that I didn’t use this year, due to the psycho meltdown of my housekeeper in mid-December, setting me into a dark non-festive mood.  A girlfriend told me the story of losing her nanny the week of Thanksgiving, so I guess the holidays just amplify all the emotions that we all have shored up inside.   Attachments, as my friend said, guilt, longing, nostalgia, you name it.

A final note on my gifting reflection is a fairly close girlfriend who sort of remembered my birthday, but not exactly.  She got the day wrong, no card, and gave me a import store gift, which was identical to the gift she gave me last year!  I do like it, and conceivably could use two.  But the feeling of my birthday not really being noticed is what stung a bit.  I’m not big on the inner child stuff but I do remember that from childhood, when my birthday was blurred into Christmas.  I felt cheated.   Of course I got her a chintzy joke Hanukkah gift, so I guess what goes around comes around.  I did make her a nice birthday card, and a special little gift I knew she’d like.   So maybe it doesn’t come around literally.  A number of other friends forgot completely, but hey it’s not like I’m making a little spreadsheet or something, hmmm, maybe I should….

The non-event of Christmas is fading from memory, as the ham and spiced apples are eaten up.  Ate the last slice of pumpkin chiffon bakery pie for lunch, and I don’t even like pie.  Bought myself a few sparkly presents online, as “consolation prizes” I guess.   The new year is ahead, and we’ll start anew giving to each other, sometimes giving generous gifts, sometimes not giving much at all, and sometimes giving a lot of misery.   Giving and receiving seem inexplicably tied.  We have a new year coming up, another chance to sort it out.

Monday, December 26, 2005

My New Outlook

She cleaned with a vengeance, no doubt from all the pain she held inside.  A full week after she moved out, thoughts of our troubled terminated housekeeper still fill my head, as I adjust to once again taking care of Dad and the house alone.  I still feel traumatized by her angry vindictive behavior the week following my giving her notice.  It was uber scary to have that kind of drama with a stranger who had a key to our home.  Not like a family member or a teenager, where I could just say “that Debra, what a temper”.  I’m gradually cleaning up her room, getting rid of the smell of smoke and cheap perfume.  I feel I need to burn sage or have a cleansing ceremony before I make that room my office again.   I feel disappointed and yet relieved in a way that the whole idea of a live in homemaker has proved to be so much more headache (literally and figuratively) than it has been worth.  “Good help is hard to find” brings to mind thoughts of my earlier life’s quest for lasting love.  Is finding a life partner or household help just a matter of lowering my standards or is this just my time to become more adept at being alone?

Alone seems to be the underlying theme lately.  This Christmas I was both the dropper and “the droppee” of bags of holiday greetings left on doorsteps.  My life and many of my friends’ lives seem to be so full of obligations that we can’t find much face time.  My eternal busyness is productive in some ways, yet chaotic and unsettling from a goal-achieving standpoint.  We have a nice, well-kept home, which is today still clean and decorated from Christmas.  Dad is doing excellent, considering his age.  Laundry is done, the refrig is full of tasty leftovers, and there is toilet paper if we sit down on the throne.  But my writing, my meditating, my reading, my exercise all seem to be last on my list, or just plain forgotten.  Most every day I feel frustrated and in need of escape, which I typically find through the Internet, my evening glass of Chardonnay, and my current obsession with the 24 TV series on DVD.  I’m busy all the time, but feel like I’m doing nothing of value.  So drilling down, I ask myself how can I not feel so frustrated with my life, just as it is?

Even when Debra was here, and I had some precious “out of the house” time, I felt often disconnected with my prior life - to my former church, groups, many of my friends, my interests.  These past four years, my life has changed in such a major way, the whole foundation has shifted.   I’m the same person in some ways, but from my outlook at this moment, it seems that I’m not the same person.  I’m a new person who I don’t actually know too well.  I’m a person who is very productive as a caregiver and homemaker, but as a baby boomer who has always worked, these are sidelines not a whole life.  I’m left with a huge question mark when I ask myself what has happened to my actual life that I had before?  I just turned 56 last week.  This paradigm shift in my life is a bit unwelcome - I’m not retired, yet I’m not working either.  So what exactly am I doing?

Someone recommended Still Here by Ram Dass to me last year.  I was struck by the process that such a spiritual man went through when he had to reconstruct his life after a massive crippling stroke.  His story comes to my mind often.  My life adjustments are miniscule and largely voluntary compared to an experience like his.

I’ve just set up a personal schedule for myself in my Microsoft Outlook (how apropos the name for that application is) of writing, meditating and exercising.  Going with the flow, I set the schedule around my actual life.  Considering it is “New Years’ Resolution” season, I am trying to keep a healthy grip on reality here, and not over commit and just end up more frustrated.  I’ll end here since my writing, journaling and MasterMind time for today is now over.  I’m moving peacefully to my next task, which imagine that, is housework.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So many levels of bad

I walk into her room, formerly known as my home office.  It smells of cheap perfume, and increasingly of cigarette smoke, as the perfume wears off.  The smoking was a deal breaker; she knew that, so smoking in her room was just another parting shot.

A horrible Christmas story has played out at my house for the last ten days.  Mental illness, issues of finding quality eldercare, dealing with the cuts in the Bush administration in social services, her history of domestic violence, her poverty, the landlord tenant code and local police shortages in our city verging on bankruptcy are all unwelcome preoccupations.  This time of year is about joy, hope and love if I’m to believe my vinyl placemats!  I’m not a huge Christmas nonsense person, but I do like the lighter spirits, and the “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” side of Christmas.  I guess terminating a neurotic, depressive difficult person from a job as our domestic worker does not count as loving the unlovable, as suggested in a daily meditation I subscribe to.

I’ve got my hacking dry cough now, cleaning up her room with the leftover smoke and perfume.  So she got me.  Gotcha!  How grand for her.  Do I forgive her?  I feel sorry for her.  I think right now I feel sorry for me.  Her depression and pathetic life seemed to have rubbed off on me.  Maybe that was her true intention.  I couldn’t raise her consciousness, so she was determined to lower mine.  Funny how that works.  Now I look at this past year in my depressive pathetic life, and it looks pretty bleak.  This isn’t how I typically spin things, but this is how I feel tonite.

All the years I did office work, I always noted the opposing forces of order and chaos - what I’ve heard referred to as the “chaordic alliance”.   Nature is always in flux, nothing stays in either perfect order or perfect chaos, and it is always pulled in the other direction.  My experience, chaos trumps order.  My ex-homemaker’s hysterics have trumped my serenity.

There’s always chocolate, shopping and other “self distractions” as a friend put it.  Went to the library today, and stocked up on some spiritual reading, as well as a few videos to get me thru the next week of hoopla.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one going into Christmas this year with more than vague discomfort.  

Monday, December 05, 2005

Unglued

Is the craziness inside/outside my head that keeps me from sleeping, or is it the endless insomnia that sets the stage for the crazies?  Drilling down a bit further, what is the story behind the story?  Anxiety?  Control?  Frustration?  “Stress”?  Hormones?  El Nino?

I woke up this morning about 2:30 a.m. for no reason.  The cat was sleeping in the living room, and all was quiet.  I was cold, and my shoulder was hurting, but nothing major.  As I lay awake (until 5:45 a.m. when I finally gave up and got up…) I did hear a car alarm go off twice so maybe it was the culprit earlier and I just don’t remember.

I know I should stop drinking all caffeine and alcohol, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  Not just sure about those factors anyway.  Many nights I sleep very well and my caffeine and alcohol consumption is pretty consistent and (I think) pretty moderate.  Really!  I’m old here.  I’ve pretty much eliminated coffee, drinking a decaf blend about twice a week.  Mostly I’ve switched to Lipton tea.  Does have caffeine, but not as much.  My one glass of wine from what I read is not problematic.  I have been having just a shot of Port after my glass of Merlot this past couple nights.  Holiday stress?  Probably.

The rituals of shopping and gifting have been pretty minor for me in recent years although I enjoy what I would call “joke gifts” like from the dollar store.  Antler headbands, Christmas CDs and holiday deco and generally stupid or festive stuff.  My handmade greeting cards are another story…they’ve been taking up increasing amounts of time over the past three years since I’ve been a rubber stamper…I’m not all that artistic, but I’ve gotten into it and made some very lovely ones.  Friends tell me how much they enjoy them…I guess anything handmade is becoming more unique in a mass-market world.  But making them is just so overwhelmingly time consuming.  Meditative when I actually get into it, but finding the concentrated time to produce them in quantity for the holidays is starting to make me feel really pressured.

My sane mind tells me that I’m ruminating about the stupidest things, things of no consequence.  Not just that little test about what will be important six months from now - but these things aren’t even important now!

I did ask for and receive a small consulting job - revising the content and “look and feel” of a friend’s website for their small business.  I’m excited about this project, yet sluggish mentally due to above overload.  Like my silver foil gift bag that I’m sliding the CDs into, I’m coming a bit unglued.

Monday, November 21, 2005

…and please let me not be neurotic…

A question for those of us who came of age the 1970’s - the decade of personal growth - are we really at choice in our mental health?  Perhaps we are the first generation to even consider this.  Our parents just seemed to hold everything inside and “deal with it” somehow, but whether through music, philosophy, pharmaceuticals or psychology, we have been looking inward for the past 40 years.  

Morris Schectman claims, “The essential definition of neurotic behavior is behavior that's no longer in context”.  Another quotation, attributed to no one in particular, states, “the neurotic builds castles in the sky, the psychotic lives in them and the psychiatrist collects the rent.”  And according to another website I Googled, if I wonder whether I’m neurotic - suffering from anxieties, phobias and compulsions - probably I am.

In 1999, I had a realtor who had previously worked as a therapist.    She used to call my “file” my “chart”.  “HA HA”, I said, “not just yet”, although finding an affordable condo that met my standards was making me crazy.  We became friendly during our search.  She gave me a great article on the upside of an ADD personality.  The article, undoubtedly a fragment of her former occupation, claimed that those of us who suffer from inability to focus can often be creative multi-taskers, which is not all bad.  

What I remember most about this woman was her comment that she had made up her mind not to be neurotic.  I have thought about this so many times over the past six years.  The condo has been bought and sold, and in hindsight, I had every reason to be so picky, and run her ragged.  But that’s another story.

My personal quest for sanity has taken me down a number of different avenues - some scenic paths, some dangerous roads and some dead ends.  Sometimes I have felt that the ironic cliché “you can’t get there from here” has defined my evolutionary journey.   Outside of my current spiritual path, perhaps the single most effective way that I have managed my own mental health has been through what I call “cognitive therapy lite”.  I have made almost a game out of it!  There is little in life that is absolute; one can interpret events in many ways, so this is about choosing a way to interpret things that is not damaging to your self worth or anxiety producing.

A silly example that illustrates the basic principle of cognitive therapy is to imagine yourself walking down the hallway in your office.  You say hello to a colleague, who ignores you.  One option is to take it personally, to be offended, or feel some version of worthless or inferior.  Or, in “cognitive therapy lite”, you may simply turn that neurotic thinking around, and say, HEY, that person may be hard of hearing, lost in thought, or having a bad day.  It has nothing (repeat, nothing) to do with me.  Whew, a neurotic episode averted!

Being minimally neurotic and maximally mentally healthy involves more than just cognitive therapy, but in this game we can start where we are.  Sanity in our increasingly complex world is multi-faceted, and as we age, we have a larger gunnysack of baggage that we carry around with us.   Life tends to be kind of rough on most of us, even the most privileged.  Opportunities abound to feel “less than” or “not good enough”.   Choose, like my former realtor, not to be neurotic.   Study, reflect on and practice healthy thinking until it becomes a part of you.   Exercise, pray, meditate, commune with nature, and get help - whatever it takes.   Do not become fussy, a recluse, a curmudgeon - some of the many versions of those among us who may still be functioning, but suffer nonetheless.  Life as John Lennon said, is not a dress rehearsal.  Bad things will happen, not everyone will like you but you can choose to accept life on life’s terms, and choose not to be neurotic.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Friends

I need some new friends!  Friends who like the same foods I like, who want to go out when I’m available, who ponder and discuss things I like to think about.  These new friends will not aggravate me by having annoying little habits or life philosophies that disrupt my peace.

You see, my friends IRL (in real life) require so much tolerance.  For some reason, they don’t see things the way I do.  They think that people get colds from being cold or that aches and pains come from eating white flour.  They vote Republican!  They are on special diets and let me know two hours before arriving at my house that they won’t be eating the food I’ve made three trips to the store for and slaved over preparing for half the day.  And people who flit in and out of town, and ask me “what’s new?” knowing perfectly well I am chained to my household and caregiving responsibilities these days, outside of a very short leash that reaches only to the gym and the chain stores.  

Where are the perfect people who don’t drink too much, don’t go off the deep end with whatever it is they’re into?  I’ve heard there is not much difference between hobbies and mental illness.  Not my hobbies of course, other people’s.  Where are the friends who don’t cancel out last minute with some lame excuse?  The friends who are hip, but not obsessed with “hipper than thou” one-upmanship that makes every conversation as comfortable as a root canal?  Or how about people who watch TV shows and movies that make me pity them?  

Then there are the prospective suitors - I guess I should be grateful that they still flirt with me a bit.  Occasionally I still have some chemistry with a man, and I sort of fondly look back at what a fool I was to get sucked in to the drama of the chase, for what, probably 25 years.  I almost wish I didn’t know how predictable that whole situation is.  The flirtation part at first seems so interesting and exciting.  Before long you both realize that you fell in love with a side of yourselves that does not really exist, except at the superficial level.  This doesn’t even count the people who consciously or unconsciously misrepresent themselves, slightly or completely.  The same old crap that broke up your last relationship will probably continue to do its devious work.  We discover that our new love really works best as a “dinner and sex” relationship, once we get past that stage, we are looking for new friends once again, and the cycle repeats itself.  

So what to do?  Throw over all of these imperfect beings?  Or give them a lot of flack and attitude when they are so clearly in the wrong.  How can I, just a mere mortal, educate these poor souls on how to act?   Do they not read Miss Manners?  Were they raised by wolves?  No Internet access?  Luddites?  

The worst of the matter is that I still love many of these people.  Some I admit I can live without, completely.  Some I just have to pace myself.   I have in years gone by, thrown people over for what now seem like relatively minor offenses.  I still find that some friendships ebb and flow, sometimes it is just a click, sometimes a strain.  Some people just seem to be keepers, warts and all.  Almost like family.  At 55, I am looking to build an extended family, since my blood relative family is quite small.  

So it really is all about ME.  It’s all about how harshly I judge them.  It isn’t about them after all!  So bring on the new friends and I will practice this “all about me” thing and take lots of deep relaxing breaths as they do what people do, and I let them.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tail Maintenance

Tail Maintenance

Anyone who has shared their life with a furry and adorable, yet sometimes annoying four legged creature can relate.  Pet-free people will not want to continue reading, since the details of this story would be considered Too Much Information.  Let’s just say one of the things on my very boring to-do list is to trim the feline equivalent of tail feathers on my longhaired cat.  The groomers call it a “sanitary cut” or some such.  For several years I have not been able to have him bathed and groomed professionally - he has become such a fighter when they attempt to bathe him, he needs full sedation and I can’t bring myself to do that.  During the 2003 firestorms here in Southern California, his white fur turned dirty gray during a roll on the sidewalk on his nightly walk around the house (on a halter and leash here in coyote country).  I tried out some of the dry and foam shampoos, which actually work pretty well.  He still hates it but we manage to do that occasionally without drawing blood.   Mostly we just live with the slightly scraggly look, outside of a weekly brushing.  

He is getting to be an old boy, around 12 (indoor cats can live to age 20) and is increasingly finicky about his food.  When he refuses to eat, the whole “body as a machine” thing is thrown off, and we have problems on top of problems, often at 4:30 a.m.  You cannot win against a cat on a hunger strike.  He has some sort of gastritis; a sensitive stomach and can only tolerate certain foods.  No Friskies or supermarket dry food for this guy.  He is now rejecting even the expensive healthy canned stuff I buy online, and the lightly sautéed ground turkey I cook for him.  Not to mention the frequent upchucking I have to deal with (enzyme cleaner, spray cleaners, portable carpet shampooer).  Hairballs, digestive problems, clawing furniture, shedding, just don’t let anyone say that cats are “low maintenance pets” which from my experience is an oxymoron.  

I have spent some time these past few days crawling around the floor, cleaning up the carpet, trying to give him his vitamins/hair ball stuff, and coax him to eat.  Insane?  Probably.  As a caregiver to an actual human also, I think perhaps the cat is my teacher.  My Dad actually is a bit better behaved in these areas, although there are some parallels.  From a woman’s perspective they are both sloppy guys to have around.  My Dad also has digestive problems, although he still does very well for his age, eldercare often entails some very similar considerations as I’ve been going thru with my little fur child.

Sometimes I think about walking out the door, and not coming back.  Both of them mess up the house, and don’t listen to me.  Even though I have fantasies of living alone in an ocean front condo, no meals to prepare on someone else’s schedule, no cleaning up messes I didn’t make myself.  I could just lock the door, head to the airport and travel to places that now I can just read about, but I’d miss them both.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Maria Alvarez

Maria Alvarez

I can barely remember Hurricane Katrina now that a couple months have passed.  I am a superficial spoiled American with a short attention span I guess.  At the time I was disgusted with the government’s slow response to all the suffering.  But I’m not a very political animal, not one to count on the government for much besides self-interest.  

I do remember seeing news coverage that our city had accommodated a couple of hundred evacuees, and televised some interviews in the Red Cross Family Assistance Center.  Maria Alvarez was interviewed, and identified as a caregiver.  She wondered aloud, “How could God treat us like dogs?” and then saying she realized it was to make us stronger, or words to this effect.

I’ve been recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and losing caregivers for about two and a half years now, as a family caregiver to my 95-year-old father.  It is kind of my biggest activity, outside of caring for Dad and the house.  So I jumped out of bed, and wrote down Maria’s name on a sticky note.  The next morning, I excitedly phoned the Red Cross, saying I wanted to interview Ms. Alvarez for a full time live-in position.

This was a pretty big deal for me - to say I’ve become jaded around the home care issue is a huge understatement.  I told a couple of friends about this, and thought WOW this could be so cool, that I could help out someone who could also help ME out.  What a perfect world it could be!

I got nice return call from an administrative person at the Red Cross, saying they would pass on my request to someone at the Assistance Center.  That was the last I heard.  Maria Alvarez, I hope you found a job and are re-building your life without too many difficulties.  I have found someone else for the position we offered, and I too am in the process of re-building my own life, a life that has grown smaller and smaller as a result of my caregiving responsibilities.  Not a dramatic loss like a hurricane survivor, but a small loss, that has also made me stronger.  Life, funny stuff.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Aging Hippie circa 1958 (on the left)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hell is Other People

Hell is Other People

While I’m old enough and awake enough spiritually to realize that life is not all about my having a good day, some days I let other people disturb my peace.  Yesterday was such a day, and an annoying reminder I have room for improvement in this area.

When I opened my e-mail in the morning, a girlfriend approached me with a business idea.  At 64, I think she is restless in her low paying “retirement job”.   It did not blow my skirt up, and it took two e-mails and some mental real estate to say “no thanks” in the nicest possible way.  Selling muffins to office workers is just not my idea of a 21st Century opportunity.  Watch, she’ll be on the Today show in a few months, and I can say I knew her when!

I was late for my Senior Fitness class (I’m 55 but this class is good and it suits my bizarre Dad-in-adult-day-care schedule) where a guy who I barely know, probably 20 years my senior asked me out for a drink.  In my one and only conversation with him, he said he was a widower, and I think his social skills may be a bit rusty.  These awkward phony ass rituals (not to mention the waste of time and energy part) are exactly why I have retired from dating!  I’m friendly to most people, but I have no interest in dating.  I am trying not to be a middle-aged woman who gains lots of weight, wears hideous clothes and lets herself go just to avoid the dating game.  I guess I would be described as a “failed heterosexual”.  I guess I need an “elevator speech” so I can be ready.

When I checked e-mail later in the afternoon, I got a rant response, regarding the salary I was offering from a Craiglist job posting. In my never-ending quest for a decent caregiver, I troll these on-line job boards, although in reality only a small percentage of domestic workers have Internet skills or access.    I recognized her e-mail/Web address, since I had Googled this woman when she had posted on Craigslist looking for work.  She lives in my neighborhood, but I am not interested in hiring any religious zealots, which as a “reverend” is her Web identity.   Reinforces my lack of trust for the caregiver population, and further convinces me that there are nut jobs out there.  

On Sunday I had joined a listserve on-line caregiver support group, and since I have some eldercare issues to deal with.  On my first post, I found myself counseling two members on fairly urgent matters, regarding their family members in long term care facilities.  While happy to help, I feel on a slippery slope giving advice. Each person’s needs are unique, and while facilities in general leave a lot to be desired, it is tempting to make blanket statements which may be interpreted as just negativity on my part.  A bit nervous about this venue, as a newcomer.

I clearly can’t control others, and as a “people person” I find that I am increasingly applying a “filter” of sorts when I interact with people in general.  Is this a healthy boundary, or is this isolating?  Not wishing to become an old curmudgeon, I seek balance between openness and self-protection.   Sort of like “Trust in God but lock your car”.  Today, I am wishing for a recipe for this balance, some simple instructions I can follow in my relations with others.   Or maybe I should just think about stuff like liposuction, it’s sure easier on the psyche.      

Monday, August 22, 2005

God Bless Them

My earlier draft post, more of a rant actually, I have saved to disc for more thought. I told a story to a friend recently, about sitting for an hour with some girlfriends, and probably 40 minutes of the time we shared revolved around a discussion of liposuction and other “work”. His remark was “God bless them.” Now, he is not an Evangelical, in fact we share some beliefs, around New Thought and Recovery. I guess he meant, just don’t judge, they’re on their own path.

This judging thing is perhaps my lesson hard learned during my third year as a family caregiver. I’ve always been an alternative sort of person, sometimes sidestepping, sometimes raging against institutions of our culture and the status quo. It is my desire to be a change agent in the senior services universe, where I am able. At least a vocal critic!

Through the years, I’ve operated largely under the radar, wearing sometimes a thin disguise of normalcy, while I worked and tried to conform, but my independent spirit always prevailed.

My latest cause is eldercare. My plan was to care for my father at home, until I could no longer provide the care, i.e. nursing care. We bought a house with a third bedroom, for the hypothetical “live-in”, which as an inexperienced family member, I thought would be a “nurse”.

In the past three years, I have learned more than I wanted to know about home care, who does the care, how the companies who offer home care operate, and as an added aggravation, I’ve learned how abysmal resident care is in long term care facilities (assisted living or skilled nursing a.k.a. “nursing homes”).

It is very tempting to rant and rave about all the dozens of people who have applied in response to ads I’ve run, or make social commentary on the culture we live in, and how caring for our elders has been relegated to such a fringe population.

Or should I, as my friend said, just say “God bless them”?