What Are You Hungry For?

How’s your appetite? What are you hungry for? Burger and fries, Italian, success or love? My friend doesn’t have much of an an appetite right now because the chemo to treat her cancer has caused some nausea and other digestive symptoms. When I talked to her a few days ago we talked about her appetite, and then the conversation moved on to what her life after treatment might look like. Would she go back to her job? Could she slip back into her life pre-cancer? After a thoughtful pause , she said “I think I’ve lost my appetite for my job and my “old” life too.” I translated and she agreed: she wasn’t hungry for it, she wouldn’t put it on her plate in the buffet line, it wouldn’t fill her up any more. This struck me as a good metaphor for making decisions and choosing what direction to take in life.

What am I hungry for? Money, recognition, creative space or satisfaction from a job well done?Which would fill me up, satisfy my hunger? Have my tastes changed and out of habit I keep eating what I have always ate? I’m not really sure how or when, but I seem to have lost my appetite for a lot of what’s on my plate. I’m sick of broccoli and want more green beans and cake! I want to have a fulfilling life, but in the land of plenty I am still hungry. I can order pizza for delivery, but no one is going to deliver a sense of purpose to me. I have to find my own reasons for getting up every day. Right now I have lots of questions and am taking some time to look at the menu and sample a few entrees.

Life is so complicated, and navigating relationships can turn into a real food fight. I’ve often been hungry for a 5 course meal, when the man in question was just wanting a light lunch. Sweet nothings. Female friendships have become more nourishing as I have gotten older.
I trust more, share more and make more time for friendships. I have my own relationship with food. I have a sweet tooth and variety is NOT the spice of life for me, I often get stuck in food ruts and eat the same things every day. As the years roll by I am beginning to think that variety could spice up my life if I explored my options. I hate the expression “I was bad, I ate x,y or z.” I have more than enough ways to beat myself up, so I am trying to pay attention to how I talk about food. Food is my friend. I need to eat to live.

And of course we have the toxic diet of Trumpism and the world news. I am nauseous, have no appetite and want to vomit from all the hate and violence. Women and men are reporting sexual assaults in droves, the flood gates are open. Yes “me too”, I am a victim of sexual assaults. The feast of power when famine is all around is no longer acceptable to me. I can’t swallow it any longer. I am fed up.

So what are you hungry for?

 

 

 

 

 

What Are You Hungry For?

I Remember

My husband Roger died 2 years ago today, he was 64. His death, his last breath is remembered by every cell in my body. There is no nucleus of grief, I experience it in my beating heart, my thoughtful brain, my grasping fingers and my feet as they walk my path. Roger didn’t die from cancer, or in a car accident, he died from Lewy Body Dementia. I think of dementia as a hungry worm eating through his brain, devouring his personality, his ability to control his body and his memories and emotions. His body looked solid, but I knew he was more an apparition. When I felt his cheek he was solid, but when I looked for the essence of Roger sometimes I could put my hand through his body.

Its so hard to say goodbye to some one you love and I had to say goodbye to Roger many times each day. I am still saying goodbye and I will never be finished. I remember and I will always remember my Roger in every cell in my body.
Love is always solid.

I Remember

Michael Row the Boat

Halleluja! The river is deep and the river is wide, Milk and honey on the other side. Can you hear slaves singing this spiritual during the Civil War? I learned this song as a child and I was comforted by the repetition and simple melody. Of course no one explained the origin of the song, we were too young to understand. Or were we? Maybe we were steeped in whiteness, and black skin and black history were simply too far from our rural Iowa experience. But that’s a different road, and I want to talk about the comfort I get from this song today.

The cadence and repetition feel like a pendulum swinging back and forth, back and forth. The feeling is the same I got when I sang “rock a bye baby”to Tyler. I fell asleep, he did not. So Michael rowed and rowed till he got to the other side. I will be getting on a very large boat on Saturday, but I won’t be rowing it. I am going on a cruise to the Panama Canal with stops in Costa Rica, Columbia, Grand Cay and the Cayman Islands. So I guess I will be getting to the “other side” when we pass through the Panama Canal. There could be milk and honey on the other side! Milk and honey, prosperity and abundance, I’ll take it. This trip is a “stretch” for me: my first cruise, I am leaving the country, and I can’t swim.

One day I came to visit Roger at Meadowlark Assisted Living and he was having a low energy day and was napping. I peaked in and his eyes were open so I laid down beside him. And before I knew it we were reciting nursery rhymes and singing all the childhood songs we remembered. Roger had dementia but childhood memories were intact. We went from “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to “B-I-N-G-O was his Name” to “Jingle Bells” and somewhere in our musical journey we sang “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore”. I know Roger got to the other side on November 1, 2015. To milk and honey forever…

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja
Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja

Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja
Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja

The river Jordan is chilly and cold, halleluja
Chills the body but not the soul, halleluja

The river is deep and the river is wide, halleluja
Milk and honey on the other side, halleluja

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja

 

Michael Row the Boat

It Plays The Same

Isn’t it weird the best “protest song” about Donald Trump is a rap slam by Eminem? You Tube it. He speaks for me, profanity included, I can’t say it any better. This is comforting to me, to be able to “hear the message” delivered in a way that is unfamiliar to me. The heart of the matter is not for sissies, but I really hear it and feel it. This makes me think about how we communicate, how we talk to each other. I am using “talk” loosely as texting, tweeting and emailing are ways we talk to each other.

There are some rules: Don’t interrupt. Don’t type in all caps, (Donald). and then that odd axiom about listening to what someone is saying. So wait a minute! Silence and listening, or pausing before responding to a text or tweet or hitting SEND, are as important as what comes out of our mouth? It turns out that what we don’t say is as important as what we do say. Sarcasm is a special way of talking to each other that is meant to communicate contempt and is usually easily understood by both parties. How we say something can communicate something other then the words we say. It’s so complicated and messy, it’s a miracle we can talk to each other at all.

There’s this little thing called motivation, why am I talking or W.A.I.T.. Am I trying to tell you how much I love you, or trying to convince you that you are wrong and I am right? There are times when motivation to listen and and try to understand is dangerously low. Of course in the heat of an argument all bets are off; I don’t want to listen to you and I want you to understand me and see I am right! Words can build someone up, or tear someone down. Considering how powerful words are and the maturity needed to handle words with care we could use a “speaking” license just as much as a driving license. A yellow light means proceed with caution whether you are driving or talking, a red light means stop or shut up and listen. If the light is green, proceed but still look both ways. I am talking now and I need to be aware of speaking respectfully and honestly. Yelling and screaming at someone could be ticketed as reckless talking, endangering the hearts of others. Talking too fast for conditions, speeding through a conversation, drunk talking…

Rap and/or tweets can be the vehicle to carry a message. What does Eminem rap and what does Donald Trump say on Twitter? We don’t have to listen to either one if we don’t want to, but both are attempting to communicate with us. Eminem says that Trump is “orange” and doesn’t give a “shit” and when I figure out what Grump is saying I will let you know!

 

It Plays The Same

New and Improved

You have 15 updates, my IPad informs me. How can I have so many updates? I just updated a few days ago. It seems in the world of apps everything is always being updated or improved. The shelf life on computers is very short, there is always a better model (details leaked) waiting to be introduced at a big news event. In the world of advertising “new and improved”is standard sales talk. Fashion is quickly out of style and there is a new style that is trending. Phones are constantly being updated and pretty soon “Beam me up Scotty.” will be reality. Old or older models of phones and computers are referred to as “fossils” Think about it; we may be dated by anthropologists using the Apple phone( 6,6s …10…infinity) uncovered in layers of rock.“They must have lived in the IPhone 10 era, just before climate change destroyed human life on earth. Hard to believe that some doubted science and fought for “fossil fuels”.

So absolutely, new and improved is good in medicine. Self-improvement sounds like a good idea, we can always improve and change, but what about the belief that may be underlying our drive to improve, our belief we are not “good enough”. There’s a problem with feeling we must always be improving and bettering our lives. As humans we are flawed and perfection is not attainable. There are some people who believe they are perfect, but they are crazy! I can get so focused on “fixing” myself and believing I am 10 pounds away from perfection I forget to pay attention to today and withhold self-approval. I will be O.K. when the scale registers what I have deemed my goal weight, when I can speak 3 languages, climb mountains and be a professional singer and banjo player. As if!

I am realizing the “I’m not good enough” belief is not really all that motivating for me. In fact, it can be an impediment to realizing positive change. Maybe it would work better if the starting point were “I love and accept myself just as I am.” and I want to make changes that reflect my self-love. I don’t mean I love myself in spite of the fact that I am ugly, stupid and fat; it means I stop labeling myself as ugly, stupid and fat to begin with. I don’t have to earn “good enough”, I am already good enough just as I am. This is quite a stretch for me after years of most definitely, most decidedly not being “enough”.

So what do I do with all the time I used to spend on improving myself and failing to improve myself and beating myself up for lack of willpower? I probably have to stop saying I am really bad for eating that cookie and relax my shoulders and my body and explore how GOOD ENOUGH I truly am. Wish me luck…

New and Improved

To Give Care

There is no interview, no resume is required, and that dreaded question about your strengths and weaknesses is not asked, but before you know it you are hired for the hardest job of your life: you are now a CAREGIVER. Someone you love, whether it be your spouse, your parent, your sibling, or your child, is ill or injured and needs to be cared for. If you had read the job description you would never have applied for the position, especially if you are caring for a loved one with dementia. The hours are 24/7 and the grief is daily and deadly. Sleep is optional, heartbreak is required. The position requires bottomless patience and cheerfulness. On a positive note , no one will check your references , but if you were tempted to lie on your resume it WILL come back to bite you in the ass.

Roger is riding in front of me on the bike trail and I think his calves are huge! I can’t keep up with him on the bike or hiking trail. He slows down because I yell “Wait up!”. Coming down the hiking trail he usually got very talkative and this is when I learned how Roger became Roger. He described his childhood Christmas ( he loved the tree lights) and what he and his brother did for Halloween (think a pillowcase full of candy) and his father (S.O.B.). We compared our “favorites” and things we hated. We talked about cars; Bugs, Superbees and Chargers. He was surprised how I recognized cars as well as any man he knew. It’s an odd talent I have. We talked about work and the crazy people who inhabited our work lives. We bitched, we laughed and we listened to each other. We got angry with each other sometimes, but it usually ebbed away as we hiked down the trail. These memories are “new” for me, they were buried under years of caregiving, decline and grief.

I remember the “before he got sick” Roger more and more. I can see that devilish grin, that goofy look and hear him say “Hi Dinker.”, his version of “sweetheart. Roger had a temper that could flash like a flame thrower. He would scorch a few acres and then get steely quiet. We were both so imperfect, so human. He put my engagement ring in a bag of jelly beans and insisted I try all the “new” flavors. I didn’t swallow it , so we got married. Memories of Roger as he declined and was swallowed up by dementia are still very raw, but I can feel the memories shift to our life together before dementia struck.

Was I a good caregiver for Roger? My resume for being a caregiver would never have got me an interview. My skills were lacking and I doubted my own commitment, would I?could I? do it. My life experience? I loved Roger fiercely. It turned out this was all that I needed.

 

To Give Care