Itadakimasu

Today, the first day of a new year, I set my intention. For three days I have had percolating in the back of my mind, how I wish to live, be, and embrace this coming year as though it were my last. What do I dare to do? How do I wish to live, not merely exist? Who has my cat become? LOL She has exemplified grace, acceptance and  true meditation though 3 complete household moves. As I live to serve her (in her mind, I project) she is teaching me ancient wisdom. BE HERE NOW.

BE HERE NOW

I am reminded that in each relationship, friendship, face to face, I can speak in a language that is understood by that person. Language is formidable, language is basic to our needs. As I uncover more of my abilities, sometimes I become confused by past or future incidents wafting through.

It has been a challenging journey to come to a place of knowing:

Major lifestyle changes, commitment, discipline, focus, endless journaling and self-talk, therapeutic helpers costing great deals of $, all this personal work to discover who I really am to begin with. What irony! All necessary  as I remain steadfast in my resolve to move forward and not remain stagnant.  I enjoy opening my network of kindness. I am Happier moving forward. That tells me I am in the flow.

Accepting the here and now doesn’t mean I am freaked out about circumstances today. I am cool aware of my up-coming challenges and prepared to remain calm in the eye of the storm. I have used  a wonderful vehicle to remain clear and sober, connecting with other like souls who I lovingly refer to as the “Walking Wounded,” long enough to uncover my true self, not the one layered onto me as a toddler. A friend of mine said it is a newfound self mastery.I

Itadakimasu is a word of Japanese gratitude that is said before each meal. If I think about a word other than English, it gives me time to be here now.

Namaste’ Ya’ll

 

 

 

 

 

Last Words

A friend of mine has been totally cut out of her father’s will. Her sister has been named executrix, and it looks like my friend will get nothing but bitter memories from her father’s estate. I cannot understand the reason a parent would purposely cut one of their offspring out of their inheritance. Who would do such a thing? What an awful message to send a person! It is awful to say to your own child, “I hate you SO MUCH that I am not leaving you anything.”

Remarkably, this is exactly what happened to my friend. She struggles with staying sober, and had asked for financial help from her father while going through separation proceedings with her untrue (i.e. cheating on her) husband of 20 years. When I look at her I see a beautiful, highly intelligent woman who has always underestimated her value and worth. She had the unfortunate childhood of that of an abused child with two alcoholic, insane parents. She has been traumatized for life. She is fragile and beautiful, unable to stand on her own, right now, needing to be propped up from one direction or another. It is tragic to witness. She has such merit! She has such a sensitivity and intellect as I have never seen. She constantly volunteers to help animals. If only she could help herself!

What a despicable world we live in, that pushes down the most brilliant of us, degrading us until we feel that we are worthless. But it isn’t the world, is it? It is the parent that tortures the child because they feel that the child outshines them. The child has the world ahead of them and may accomplish great things the parent wishes they had done. Many of these desires are not even recognized by the abusive parent. They are too busy hating and projecting their insecurities onto the child.  The envy and jealousy of a demented parent is a hard thing to overcome. I know from my own experience that one hateful parent can really screw you up for life.

I get really concerned about my friend, she is a mirror of where I used to be. It was only a few years ago that I felt suicidal and hopeless. Unsure of myself, I depended on the external to prop me up.I would rather be co-dependent with a loser boyfriend than sober and work on my emotional pain. Now, I am pretty much comfortable with myself as I am.Three years now, no boyfriend anywhere in sight.  Nothing is around to distract me from ME.  It doesn’t matter that I wear the same four wrinkled outfits, week after week. I gave up on wearing makeup a long time ago. It took too long to put on, and my time was better spent meditating for more long-term effects. What in the world has happened to me? At least I laugh frequently. You don’t expect me to take this life seriously, do you?  The material world can go to hell as far as I am concerned. The process of selling everything of value that I own to pay my legal fees to become my father’s guardian has become my mission.  At first, it was difficult to part with some of my “treasures,” things I had carted from home to home, and was so proud to own. Owning suddenly became less important.  Now, I view my “stuff” as a burden. It is all a burden if I don’t use it daily. There is so much that I don’t need anymore. Sure, it is tempting to buy something just because I want it, and I am not saying that I will deny myself the glory of spending my money that way I want to (eventually.)  I began sewing patches on my worn clothes, to continue to wear them and sell the best pieces. My siblings don’t know where I get the money to continue fighting them to protect my father. They are so ready for him to die, they can’t stand it. Their focus is on the money, while mine is on his comfort.

Our father was a generous man. He paid our college tuition, bought us cars, and generally speaking, we had everything materially that we wanted growing up. It blows my mind that a father would totally cut a child out of their will. Why? What misery makes a person do that?

Looking at it from my perspective, I think my friend’s father hated himself so much, that he wanted to inflict that same pain onto her, his oldest child. What a disappointment he must have had to realize that she would have a life-long struggle with alcoholism. This illness was put there by his genes, she didn’t cause it on her own. It is hateful that the world views alcoholism as a lack of willpower or morality! If life wasn’t so painful, none of us would drink! Didn’t the Buddha tell us that life is painful? Damn straight, he did! I knew long before I read about it in scientific journals that the brain’s pathways are changed by trauma, and especially the brain of an infant’s growing up in trauma of a dysfunctional family. Another of my other friends has multiple personalities. He said, “Imagine if you aren’t safe with your primary caregiver? Your parent?” On the outside, he seems normal enough, he had a job, hobbies, regular looking, hard-working guy. But on the inside he had demons I’ve never met, that challenged his very existence.

If my girlfriend was a diabetic, and had gone into the hospital due to diabetic shock, would her father have cut her out of the will then? Lets all get honest about this. Is alcoholism a real disease or not? I am sorry, but plain old affirmations didn’t get me sober, and I doubt it would cure a diabetic, either. BTW a lot of type II adult onset diabetes can be avoided by exercise and diet. So actually, my brother’s coke-a-cola swigging and chocolate eating contributed to his disease. Didn’t he play a major role in that? No one is shaming him, are they?  Something is wrong here. Am I the only one who sees that?

Dysfunctional Siblings Create Hell on Earth

My idea of Hell is this:

Imagine you are destined to take care of your 92 year old parent who has dementia and can’t walk.

The most positive part is where you live. You live in a beautiful Resort house on the beach. The view is marvelous. And it might as well be, because you really don’t get to go out and have a life outside of the house. On the outside, it looks like a nice situation. But it isn’t. You are locked into a situation where you live in a gorgeous resort area, with a marvelous view, but the downside is you are without a life. Your hours are spent overseeing the needs of the parent, no matter that he has 24/7 care givers (they are paid, but not too bright). In spite of the appearance of living in a cushy life, you are constantly battling against two siblings who are intent on removing you from living there, have already stopped paying you for your work (an agreement you all made was for you to be paid, and for 6 months now, you haven’t been paid) and create a weekly crisis.

The attorneys you have to hire to fight back against the craziness of your siblings are costly. To abandon your parent is an option, but then again, not an option your conscience can stand to make. No one who had any sense would be overseeing him if it weren’t for you. He deserves to be taken care of.

Every dime you make by dumpster-diving and reselling treasures is spent on your attorneys. You haven’t had a 24 hour break in over 6 months. Plus, the pollen count gives you serious headaches, enough to make you want to contemplate suicide. The emotional stress of seeing firsthand the deterioration of your favorite family member is bad enough, but what about you? Who takes care of you? When do you get to process your emotions? Your mother died, unusual as it may be, that has helped the situation by removing one thing the two crazy siblings were wanting you to take on. They actually wanted me to take care of two invalids at the same time, not just one, but two. Further, they are intent on doing anything they can to limit your control of the situation. And, well, they have succeeded with that.

I am not paid. Not fed. No perks. Just a place to live. A place with an ailing parent, who will one day die.

Lull in the Crisis

Just let me take a few days off, and Dad seems to take a health dive. For instance, on my return from my visit with my first cousin, I got a phone call that Dad had fallen. Little did I know that there was a brand new, green Home INstead caregiver with him. She did know much. This was her first time elder sitting–EVER.

The caller, Ashley asked,”How do I get him up off the floor?”

“WWWWwwwhhhaaaaaatttttt?” I answered. What in the world? She is asking ME how to get him off the floor? What kind of elder sitter is this?

I was already annoyed that my car’s AC wasn’t working. On the drive down, I had experienced 8 hours of unairconditioned discomfort to Fort Walton in the sweltering heat, praying for rain. Now I was trying to prepare myself psychologically for the return drive in the sweltering heat. Somehow I had had to redirect myself from a wrong turn, wondering if I was taking myself miles in the wrong direction, make a U turn, sit at traffic lights, hot, with sweat running down my back, sticking my backside to the hot leather seat. I was already feeling panicky from my wrong turn. My arrival time had already shifted to a really late time. It was getting dark.

I stopped for gas and to call Ashley back after I though the crisis over.

“Well, if you can’t help him off the floor, you are gonna have to call the EMTs or get the neighbor to help you,” I said watching the gas pump gauge go over $50.00.

Nearing the $70.00 mark, the gas pump continued. Ashley asked for the neighbor’s phone number.

Jesus, I thought. I don’t have that phone number!

“Just look in the phone book under Jack Carmichal!” I said, feeling like yelling. God, it was hot here. Was I in Hell? I shifted over into the shade, watching the numbers continue up on the pump’s gauge.

Did I have enough credit for that amount? I didn’t have any cash. That was gone. Do you wash dishes at a gas station if you can’t pay, I thought forlornly. This could be trouble coming.

From tutu to Crypt Keeper

Used to nursing my own shin splints, foot fractures and assorted blisters, taking care of my 90 year old father is quite a bit easier. I used to live in a crime ridden area of a city where there was drug dealing, prostitution and gun shots as a norm on Saturday night. Looking out my upstairs window, you could see the craps game going on between two units. The players placed a sheet of plywood on the ground and circled it, playing craps– out in the open daylight. That took balls. I was the only one who wasn’t making any money in this nefarious neighborhood. Yes, I did feel at odds with where I lived. I felt like it was only a matter of time before I got hit by a random gunshot. 

Reluctant to lose my independence, I continued to teach ballet long after an automobile accident impaired the nerves in an arm and leg.   Major nerve damage, soft tissue damage, herniated discs, whiplash, and ADD were results of the crash. Pain was constant. I lay in traction twice daily, for years, trying to regain the curve in my neck. My neck curved in the opposite direction of normal. The herniated discs in my back were the hardest to deal with. I could no longer demonstrate the dance moves that I used to. It took a couple of hours after waking for me to be able to walk with out flinching from pain. Alternating heating pads and ice packs throughout the day was a way of life. I drove to work with ice packs on my back, knee, ankle, neck or all of those, on my way to work. Using massive doses of advil, zostrich and salon pas until my waistbands on tights kept reheating, even after washing. I managed to limp through teaching for a decade after the automobile accident. It wasn’t getting easier. It was getting harder. Jumping up to teach a fouette cold, I ripped something in my leg. It nearly made me swoon. It took my breath away, it hurt so bad. But I had to continue, I was teaching a student an entire role that she would dance in an hour, with an orchestra, in a last minute replacement for the original girl. In spite of a torn meniscus along with a horrible bone spur on my heel, I had to finish the year. I was behind in my mortgage. There was a lot at stake. Like many people in 2010, I had been working on a mortgage modification for two years. I literally couldn’t stand on one foot, or straighten the other leg. Even though I was crippled, I faked my way through teaching and finished the year as best I could. Ah, the glamour of ballet! I tell you all this just to inform you of how dedicated I was. I wanted to keep my home.  Never, never, did I want to quit. What would I do? Who would I be? Where would I live? I had lived there 30 years. This was all I knew, ballet and the self perpetuating cycle of poverty and pain.  Well, the universe took care of all that and everything went away within months.

To be continued… 

Two years later: foreclosure, business closure, debts engulfed me like a tsunami, I had to move out of the hood. I had to leave. My only option  was to live in my childhood home. It was available. In fact, this country house had been neglected for a decade. No one wanted to live there, isolated from the rest of the world. At least I could live there, instead of sleeping in my car. I still had a 15 year old car. Like dad had always said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I was still drinking lemonade.

 

 

 

Transition, Passing Away

Today my cousin Carmen died. She had been quite ill now for two years, in and out of hospice often. In her 70s, I don’t really consider her to be old. Dad is 90. Now THAT is old. We all knew her passing was  eminent, yet when it actually happens, life feels different. A veil of sorrow descended on me. Another gracious and glamorous woman in my life has gone away. There have been so few that I admired like Carmen.

When I was a child I used to play with her daughter, Ettienne. We were both very bossy and strong willed. Sometimes we hit an impasse as to who was in charge of our playing, who was determining what we were going to play and how. We both had strict ideas of how we thought things should go as we played. I remember the friction was only occasionally, and I was aware that I didn’t want to fight with her. 

Carmen was glamourous. Tan and shapely  with streaked blond hair and very sparkly eyes, she was a knock out. I idolized her looks. She also had that heavy , low Southern drawl that we all took for granted. She was eloquent, well read and the empress of her home. She had a command of English that bespoke good breeding and education. Yet, Carmen was down to earth, too. She taught an African American kid reading after school at her house, she took in ailing animals, especially cats. She took risks. She did what she thought was right whether it was “proper” or not. 

Now that she is gone, I treasure my memories of her. She wrote me a letter about two years ago when I was having an awful time. I had closed my business, lost my home and was about to move back to my childhood home. She wrote about how Etteinne and I had washed our doll’s clothes and hung them out on the bushes to dry. This upset Etteinne’s Grandmother with the impropriety of it all. 

I tried once calling her when I moved back home, and Charles answered the phone, saying she wasn’t there. Then he hung up on me. I was really startled. Then I heard that Charles had dementia. How sad now. Who will take care of Charles? I imagine he is crushed. It is a sad time for our family, yet one that is unavoidable. 

We will all meet at the church and the graveside. We will say our goodbyes and shed our tears. Does she know how much she will be missed? I don’t know.

 

The Cure Closes ACL Festival in Rain

Heavy rain the final half hour of the cure’s 2 hour show was the sign that cinched the cancellation of the third day do the ACL 2013 festival. It didn’t matter that I traveled with a terribly expensive flight from Georgia to Texas for the three day music festival, rain was more powerful than man. Doggedly determined to involve myself in living and at least viewing performing arts, I packed a knee brace and gear suited for festival going. Being

officially disabled now for two years, but in pain for fifteen, I had acclimated to availing myself of services offered for assistance, whether a wheelchair or an aisle seat, making it possible to travel. This wasn’t easy. It wasn’t nearly as easy as when I was healthy, but it was a compromise that I made. That was the price I paid for working after the car accident. Never again could I wear high heels. Never again could I walk, skip, dance, run without dire consequences.

I was shown how to gracefully accept help by a lovely group of Canadians who fought over who would push my wheelchair through the Chicago Art Institute. They had learned the awful truth of growing old, of injuries, I had not. Behind my back they commented that it was a shame I was in a walking boot (modern day cast)instead of bejeweled evening shoes at the ballet. They were so kind. They taught me a love and compassion for myself that I had never encountered. I nearly backed out of going to Chicago, and was glad that I didn’t.

My mission is to live my life without regrets. I have never regretted taking a trip.

The ACL Music Festival was a new type of trip. An affectionado of alternative rock all my life, the festival was a candy store of music that appealed to my tastes. But what about the walking? Well, that was a concern. Even though it was a “5 minute walk” away from the park, there were two major hills to scale. I had a tremendous, painful blister on my heel after the first day. Thank goodness I didn’t have to carry a chair. While it was super nice of my hosts to offer me a folding chair to use, it must have weighed 30 poulds. Well, actually it wasn’t that heavy, but it sure felt heavy to my nerve damaged arms.

The hardest walk was the detour I took in the dark and rain. After The Cure played, we all walked out in the rain and dark. I got lost and rambled around many blocks for 45 minutes until I arrived at the right house, rain soaked from the waist down. There were streams of rain surging through the streets and sometimes I was wading through 4 inches of water. I was tired, wet, annoyed and hungry. I had stopped in a gas station to buy two chocolate bars and some Perrier. The pile of people (mostly in their 20s) under the scant awning of the gas station were singing, laughing and having a grand time. Their happiness was infectious. It was a pleasure to remember the young abandon of singing, semi drunk on life. They were cute. Oh Dear! How old I sound!

By the time I got up to my room, I had a major blister on my thigh from my knee brace. Ignoring blisters is something that you do naturally if you were a ballet dancer. I was surprised at how tender my skin was and how quickly the blister grew. This was definitely not the highlight of the trip. However, now I have another happy memory of how I struck out and spent two days hot, blistered and sunburnt and still believe that I had a good time. It was all fun. It was an adventure. There weren’t a lot of people with grey-white hair like mine there, to be sure. I may be really old on the outside, but I still remember how to appreciate singing in the rain like a 20 year old.

Tales from the Crypt

As a child, I was enamored with the the writings of both Dickens and Poe. Both wrote of the plights of orphans, hardships and bizarre circumstances that I could relate to. Little did I know that my life would play out a strange tale in itself. It all depends upon one’s perspective, doesn’t it?

For instance, in the Poe story, The Fall of the House of Usher, the hero has a strange affliction of deterioration and spent nerves that described perfectly the Epstein-Barr syndrome I had for a few years. This disease that attacked me came from nowhere and left me weak for months. Even though the current opinion of doctors was that no one could get Mononucleosis twice, I believe in fact that I had long sessions of it 3 or 4 times. Severely ill and weak for months impacted my life greatly. My doctor was currently on the famous CDC staff in Atlanta. The CDC was the authority on germs, illness and physical diseases. But what I had, they didn’t, know. Dr. Carlos said that he was unsure of what sort of virus I had. It mimicked Epstein-Barr, but he was not 100 % certain. He said that the reason he was unsure was due to the fact that viruses mutated so rapidly that it was hard to determine what it was.

“Huh?” I thought, “He is the authority?”

It really didn’t matter too much since there was no “cure.” I had to out live it.

Life was miserable for many months. Every little sound grated on my nerves. I was weak and had no energy. There was no strength to do the most simple tasks, much less take ballet class. Physically weak, I somehow continued to teach ballet and struggle through. In the end, I outlived it.