Telling me not to worry is like telling the tide not to come in, the wind not to blow, bears to stop pooping in the woods, and my dog to stop barking like a maniac at the chickens when they get food scraps that she thinks belong to her. Worrying is an integral part of my DNA. Woven into my genetic make-up is the message “if it lives, moves, and breathes, it is worth worrying about”.
I worry about feeding people. Have they eaten enough? Did they like the meal? Is there enough dessert? I worry about people who are near, and those who live far away. I worry about whether I have done enough for the patients that I am responsible for. I worry about research commitments- did I read enough papers? In short, I worry about BEING enough for all who desire a piece of me. It’s not that I don’t want to give….it’s just that by being as thinly spread as I am, the jam on the toast is but a scraping. A ghost of the flavour.
So what is the solution? Surely it is not to tell me “Stop worrying”. I’ve tried that, and I worry that I’m a failure at ceasing to worry. Perhaps just an arm around the shoulder, and a squeeze- just enough to say “I understand; you are not alone; you are doing a good job, making a difference”. Love is sometimes tangible. But sometimes love has to be ethereal. Especially when one of the patients happens to be one’s own sister. I have to entrust the care of her to other nurses. Resist the temptation to cross boundaries. It is a sacred barrier. I must give up- lovingly give up the controls over her life and comfort. Perhaps her being there on the hospice unit makes me a better nurse. I treat every patient as if he/she were my brother/father/sister/mother. And then I eat knishes. The food that makes me feel as if I have been fully embraced by maternal Yiddishkeit. All of the worry melts away for a magical hiatus, as if time and space were swallowed up by a billowy, yeasty pillow of potato goodness.
So the solution? Keep worrying, and eat knishes PRN.
Another year- another beginning, with the hope of yet another clean slate, it should be G-d’s will. I stand, or sit, with my grocery list of character flaws that I wish to repair, and the good deeds that I hope to fulfill in the coming weeks and months. I feel like the child summoned to the principle’s office. I wonder to myself if the King of all Kings is weary with the annual squeaking of this unremarkable creature- my excuses, my whinings, the promises well intentioned, and yet so quickly forgotten. I recall the words of the psalmist- “for He knows our frame, and he remembers that we are but dust”, and think to myself, “here is another truck load of compost for the cosmic garden that is my spiritual life. I cannot let that be the focus, for today is the day that G-d is truly crowned “King” of my life. There is none of me, for today is all about Him- his sovereignty, His faithfulness, His incredible, passionate love for the little god-like creations that He has chosen to fashion in His image. My heart bursts with gratitute, and joy. One thing have I desired of You, and like Melech David, I will seek after it- that I may dwell in Your house evermore, to behold Your beauty and inquire at Your tabernacle. I choose to call you “Father”, and not the generic “parent”, for in calling you “father”, you are brought closer to me. I know that you are more than gender, and that your love transcends the tenderest love of mother. I just choose to call you “Father”, because it is all I have ever known. You know me better than I know myself, and you call me by a multitude of names- names that reflect my character and not the totality of my being. “Father” is just a start. Today you are both father and King, and ever so much more than those two facets of the jewel. You are altogether ineffable, to be forever adored, worshipped and praised, world without end.
I choose to commit to writing more this year. Some of it will be blathering, but perhaps, after sifting through the drivel, the odd pearl of great price may surface.
I spend a lot of time contemplating end-of-life issues. It’s my job. My calling. The burden and privilege that I bear if you will. Perhaps once again, I am drawn to the life of my “girls”- the honeybees for lessons on living the days we are given with grace and dignity. Honeybees are hardwired to live out their purpose from the moment they hatch until that final hour when they depart this world. They spend their days preparing for the next generation, from tending and feeding the brood so prolifically laid by the queen; carrying out the mundane and myriad housekeeping tasks; feeding the queen and spreading her pheromone to the rest of the hive through mutual grooming; guarding the entrance to the hive from foreign or robber bees and other potential marauders, and- finally-graduating to the exalted and elevated status of foraging for nectar and pollen. The foragers are the artisans of honey. They decide what flowers to sip from, thus influencing the final flavour of this intoxicating treat. How does this relate to end-of-life? Each one of us has a given pathway that we must walk. And we are all given tasks to accomplish- tasks that affect not only our own character, but the well-being of those we live with. Our choices along the way can be compared to the flowers that our entomological colleagues alight upon. Our choice of experience affects the flavour of our spirit/soul, and thus how we wind up nourishing those we encounter along the way. I am fed by my patients, and my patients are fed by me. There is not much that separates me from them. There is a saying that “all roads lead to Rome..”. In a group this morning, I remarked in an offhanded way that “all roads lead to hospice”. It took another person in the group to point out the truth of that statement. In the end, we are all going through the same door. Perhaps not in the same way, or time. Nevertheless, our destination is plain. And whether or not there is a world to come (which I sincerely hope there is), the sum of all these things is what I will be bringing with me, wrapped in the complex layers of my life’s experience. Experiences that have shaped and molded my character, and taught me wisdom that will- indeed, MUST-make the world and those within it the better for my having lived.
Object. Noun or verb? I object to objects being used to control or manipulate others. Objects can be exceedingly objectionable (and is that an adjective?) in those situations. English can be a puzzling language at times. To be given a writing prompt such as “object” is frustrating. My brain is overheating. The courtroom attorney of my imagination is screaming “Objection your honor. The object in question is inadmissible evidence.”
Alright. So my literary engine is coughing and spluttering. Time for coffee.
How advice is given is as important as the nature of the advice itself. One must try to build up, and not tear down. Honesty is a precious commodity- especially when packaged in a desire to see another succeed.
Such an ambiguous word. Divided can have both positive and negative connotations. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The division of labour within an organization makes for greater efficiency. Division is usually a more difficult mathematical operation than multiplication. If it were not so, teachers would not bother to teach students the trick of turning division problems into multiplication ones.
It is one thing to divide a pizza into 12 pieces in order to feed a brood of hungry children. Division in this case implies fairness- a guarantee that each child will get equal portions. It is another thing to have divided opinions in a room seeking consensus of thought and action. Dividedness results in hung juries, fractured relationships, and instability. To be divided is not to be united. And that can be bad, or good depending on the situation. Am I sounding divided enough?
For most of my life I have sat on the fringes. Too afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool. Fearful of my own inadequacy. And yet secretly longing to take risks that just might evolve into success. Wanting to write, and yet all the while wondering if I had anything relevant or worthwhile to share with my readership. No more.
I am now becoming. It does not matter if what I write is read, or cast onto the scrapheap of words discarded. I will fill the screen with worlds of words. And whoever chooses to read them is welcome to enter my dimension.
It is a different landscape from the familiar, comforting, pastoral and predictable scene so lavishly splashed upon the canvas of our medias. Not a Downton Abbey. No wistful back glances at lives lived in a simpler age. My world now interfaces with an ever shifting set of morays. Where the talk of medical-assistance-in-dying is now casually tossed off in everyday conversation. Where life now is a series of commodities, liabilities, assets, and economic black and red. I question whether there is meaning for all, or only for the few who can afford the luxury of searching for it. So many die without hands to hold. And we are living in a generation that is increasingly estranged from traditional family bonds. We construct and deconstruct our communities at will- blood is just as thin as water. And I am left with the one question that I came into the world asking- “are you my mother?”
Are the bonds of family love unbreakable? Or are we all just in the process of becoming? We come into the world learning how to forge deep and lasting bonds of affection, only to have to endure the tearing and shattering of those same bonds through death, abandonment, and countless incarnations of loss. Death by a thousand cuts.
I do not mean to sound grim. I do not feel dejected. I am at a place in my life where there are far more questions than answers, and I am willing to hold them. I have a husband who is the salt of the earth, and so much to be grateful for in the way of friends who have chosen to include us in their lives. And yet, there are some wounds that will never heal. They are integral to becoming.
It’s a new year. Time for resolutions. For reviewing one’s life, endeavoring to cull the bad habits and inculcate worthy pursuits into the daily routine. And here comes the problem. The minute that I decide that a given trait is “bad”, and needing to be tossed on the psychological scrap heap, becomes the moment that such a character flaw burns itself into the skin of my consciousness. I suppose that one can compare it to going on a diet. Some foods are ‘evil’ and others ‘virtuous’. But the moment that such foods are categorized as such becomes the moment that insufferable cravings are born. Before I knew that cream cheese was ‘bad’, it had no special appeal to me. I could take it or leave it. Now that cream cheese is off limits, I can’t stop thinking about how I can sneak it into every recipe I make. It is the same with character traits. We decide that certain things are desirable above others- it is good to be unselfish, kind, generous, and loving, while it is bad to be reserved, reactionary, slow to respond or cynical. Whatever the trait may be, if we decide that it must be excised, it malignantly transforms and metastasizes. Perhaps it is the very act of labeling something as ‘forbidden’ that makes it so very irresistible. If butter and sugar were good for us, would we gradually grow tired of them? If it was deplorable to eat salad or be seen ladling soup at a homeless shelter, would we see people surreptitiously volunteering or flagrantly growing vegetable gardens? And if people are genuinely good inside, would we be more forgiving of lapses of judgement knowing that we too have hearts of gold and feet of clay?
I had better start using this blog. It seems an age (alright…it has BEEN an age) since I last sat clacking away at the computer keys for anything other than yammering away on Facebook. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say- it’s that LIFE interferes with my creative juices by throwing curve balls in my direction. Like a bowel obstruction. Or a research project. Or knitting. Or Netflix. It is easy to follow the path of least resistance and succumb to the siren call of audience membership. Entertain me please- I cannot summon the energy to activate myself. Enough whining already. Like the FB meme says “life does not have a remote control, get up and change it yourself”. So here I sit, at the close of an old year, with my one and only blog post. A feeble attempt at literary repentance. Therapeutic prose. Or perhaps it is just the dawning realization that I need to get off of my bony duff and write. Just like I need to use the gym membership to get in shape. I am paying for it regardless. I may as well get my money’s worth. By exercising the muscles between my ears, as well as the muscles covering my endoskeleton, I may find myself in better shape by this time next year.
Death walked into the room and strode up to the woman lying upright against a sea of pillows. Surrounded by her family, having said all that she wanted to say, she surrendered to a narcotic embrace, slipped her hand into the shadowy reaches, stepped out onto the dance floor and held Death firmly at arms length- for she alone would lead the steps in this final waltz. The rabbi stood at the end of the bed, witness to the tapestry of her life; her children, the threads on a 48 year old loom unraveling.. Two sons stood, sober, with kippahed heads, clutching siddurim. Not knowing what to say, or how to say it outside the context of holy letters and ancient prayers, three heads bowed in a trinity of silence. The daughter, of a more intuitive nature, keeping vigil- loving and hoping with every breath that THIS was not the…