I almost never make my bed, unless I’m having a party and people need to lay their coats and purses on it. The way people do at parties. After a lifetime of making my bed, I finally ran out of steam for it. I don’t know if not-making-my-bed is an unconscious belated rebellion against my mother — who always insisted not only on a made bed, but a bed made just so. I’m not rebellious in other aspects of house-keeping, so I wonder.
Every morning I fix breakfast. Sometimes the anticipation of breakfast feels like my happiest moment of the day. Is that sad? It’s early in the day to peak. Breakfast is always oatmeal with ground flax seeds, soy milk, and seasonally available fruit —just now blue, black, raz, and straw berries. Sometimes a bit of the ever-seasonally-present pear. It’s an embarrassment of riches. And always one Brazil nut. For selenium. It’s hard to get selenium in a vegan diet, but Brazil nuts are packed with it.
I make myself a cup of earl grey tea, boil the water in the clear glass electric teapot. steep the tea in the big mug with images of shoes a fellow performer at Beach Blanket Babylon gifted Anna when she left that company to move to New York 17 years ago. I inherited the mug, and like it, because it’s big and weird (with shoes) and reminds me of Anna. Not that I need reminding.
I sit down at the kitchen table, which is also my desk. I use my big desk calendar for a place mat. It doesn’t have a plastic cover or anything over it, so part way through the month, if you look at my calendar, you know someone eats there. Tea stains and smears or splatters of tamari or bing cherries. Sometimes I need to move a bowl or cup if I want to see what I have on the docket for the day.
After breakfast, I not only wash the morning dishes and put things away, I obsessively clean my counters with a vinegar and water solution. It’s non-toxic. It only took me about 50 years to figure out I didn’t need to buy a commercial cleaner. There’s nothing wrong with a clean kitchen but sometimes I wonder about the amount of pleasure I get cleaning those counters.
Life feels so out of control. Is it wrong to clean them several times a day?
Maybe I need a therapist?
Three things wake me early these days.
One. My mother.
Two. The GOP-TRUMP-NRA-FOXNEWS-&PUTIN crime ring.
Three. My own aging. Not my current age of almost 71. Rather the not-so-distant future. For instance, fear of ending up in a skilled nursing facility.
I’ll tell you honestly. I would rather die than live for ANY length of time in a skilled nursing facility. (This article reveals the terrible numbers — which are bad enough — but doesn’t reveal the abysmal quality of care). I don’t know who could help me do it (die, that is), if it came to it.
I wouldn’t want anyone to go to jail for helping me, so we either need to get new and much better laws (like they have in some European countries) so that voluntary dying is an option, and/or much much much much better nursing facilities for those of us who age out, but don’t die quickly, and don’t have the family or means to live our remaining years at home when our independence has deserted us.
This is pertinent to ALL of us baby boomers who aren’t incredibly rich and don’t have oodles of children. These two areas — nursing homes and assisted dying — should be near the top of our list of things to change. That is once, of course, we have accomplished removing Trump and the GOP from power, and worked to re-build the institutions and democracy they have busily been dismantling over the last two years. That work comes first. I hope I don’t become skilled nursing facility material before we’ve got things back in order and can move on to nursing homes and assisted dying.
Back to number One: My mother. In two short months she went from almost complete independence to complete dependence. It’s heart-breaking. That said, she is ever the trouper, taking what life deals her, and getting on with it. She knows she had an amazing 97 year and 11 month run.
It’s not over. But the easy part is over. This part, the 98 year old part is hard. Today she told me, I’m bored to death; I’m just existing, every day, just existing. I’m pretty sure you won’t want to hear this. My sister and I both have to push our tears back into our heads when we hear this. I’m telling you, if I don’t keep a close eye on a million different moving parts of Mom’s situation, things can easily go south and haywire in the blink of an eye.
Some days it looks like she’s got another good year or two here in a body, on the planet. It looks like she can almost win a game of bananagram on her own. It looks like she’s still smart enough to worry about the right things, and attempt to direct her children and grandchildren to arrive at the understanding she already holds, to make things better for us. Like she’s always done.
Other days, she seems so fragile — her memory, her body, her “chi” — that you’d think one strong breeze could blow her over and take her out. When she’s like that, I crazy love her. Other times, when she’s too frustrated and too bossy, she makes me crazy. I do my best to be her advocate.
I’m glad I can be there for her. I’m glad my sister is my ally in all of this, that we have each other’s backs. That we’re on the same page in so many ways.
I don’t want to have regrets. I feel good about what we’re doing most of the time, except when it feels not enough. A month ago, when my sister and I were in Phoenix together we bought Mom a few new clothes to replace some of her shabby old ones. She tried the new ones on and loved them! We’d scored! Man, were we happy!
Last week we found out that all of her new clothes and some of her old ones have been stolen from her closet. Probably at night. But we don’t know for sure. It creeps me out and makes me sad and angry, and feeling like I can’t protect her enough. I just bought a security camera to put up on her wall. I’d love to catch the thief. I hate that I have so little compassion for this thief. I don’t really want her to lose her job and go to jail (though part of me does). I consider the option of restorative justice. If/when we catch the culprit, I want her to return Mom’s things and to never set foot in Mom’s room again. I want Mom safe and respected. I want control!! Good luck to me.
Every morning I start early worrying about Mom. Then I start worrying about my own old age, about what’s going to happen to me if/when I am frail and vulnerable and someone is mis-treating me and stealing from me. It’s 4am or 5. I try to go back to sleep. By the time I get up I’ve usually progressed from worrying about me and Mom, to worrying about what Trump & Co. are up to.
What to do?
Besides case-managing Mom, I’m doing some work with this organization (Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity) to help imprisoned asylum seekers get out of jail. My friend, Montserrat and I are hosting a fundraiser on August 4th to raise bond money for an imprisoned immigrant. Let me know if you’d like to come to our event.
In September and October, I want to register voters and help get out the vote.
I’ll probably keep not-making my bed, and probably keep obsessively cleaning my kitchen counters. I should probably also see a therapist.
ps. ~ Here’s a little gift for you that came to me by way of Facebook. Posted (in a shorter version) by Monika Winkelmann. (Monika is German and lives in Germany. She participates in the Zen Peacemakers. My friend, Anita met her on a Bearing Witness retreat at Auschwitz, and brought Monika to one of the women’s groups I facilitate when she was visiting here). What if we all knew we have the power to make choices, including the choice to bless the world with our own particular gifts?
Choose to Bless the World by Rebecca Parker
Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—
can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind’s power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting
Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.
Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.
You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?
Choose to bless the world.
The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
A moving forward into the world
With the Intention to do good.
It is an act of recognition, a confession of surprise, a grateful acknowledgment
That in the midst of a broken world
Unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.
There is an embrace of kindness that encompasses all life, even yours.
And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
A holy disturbance,
A benevolent rage,
A revolutionary love,
Protesting, urging, insisting
That which is sacred will not be defiled.
Those who bless the world live their life as a gesture of thanks
For this beauty
And this rage.
The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
To search for the sources of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing, and liberation.
More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth
The chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility waiting.