The day after Christmas 2016

A couple weeks ago I woke up in extreme pain. It was a crowning touch for a year characterized by political disillusionment, fear about my future; the future of my family, my country, and the world around me.  

Having always been strong, and the youngest, I have lived largely without fear of limitation. Waking, as a 66-year-old Woodstock alum, to ageing pains and what has been discovered to be degenerative arthritis, it is an understatement to say I was discouraged.

X-rays, MRIs, steroids, scheduling spine consultations which won’t be concluded till February, and trying the wide variety of pills and powders, did nothing but squeeze me in to unfamiliar, uncomfortable, physical and emotionalshapes, and reduce my pain only minimally. Many of you I’m sure will understand this very well.

My youngest child, who I was blessed with the opportunity to single parent, moved the other end of the country over year ago and although we talk almost all the time she is still not at home and here to hug. Being unable to manage even a small tree not wanting to spend Christmas alone at home and in pain I decided to visit my mother. My mother, in her late 80s, is about a 4 hours from me in southern New England and I determined that despite my pain I was going to make it to see her for Christmas so we could be together as family.
Packing up my pain, pillows,  pills potions, personal belongings and minimal quantities of necessary clothing I went with a friend who was driving to near the same area and could give me a ride so I didn’t have to drive.

My mother and I love each other very much. We do of course have the usual problems that occur between parents and children or the historical issues that have to constantly be considered.  I dove into her elderly housing community and began to enjoy the fact that she is loved here, has many friends, and is very safe and happy. 

Those of you who have had to take steroids will understand that reaching full dosage at this point I had less pain but my mouth tasted like sour metal; ruining all water and food, and I felt like I had been given a high explosive for dinner and couldln’t let the pressure off.

 Christmas morning I begin tapering the dose according to recommendations. Christmas night at 12 PM I was in shattering pain. I knew going to the hospital could give me nothing that wasn’t already in the works and that I would spend the whole night in the hospital to end up back on the same waiting list for the spine specialist. Everything I can accomplish is already going to be coming about over the next fee appointments and consultations etc. I got very frightened of the idea that I wouldn’t be able to handle more days of sleepless pain and deal with things until something changed. 

At 12:30 AM my mother came into the guestroom and asked me how I was. I told her I was doing poorly I could see that she was as upset for me as I was. The next thing I knew I was lying back she was holding my feet and mumbling something. Knowing my mother I knew she was praying for me; something I don’t do that way but know that she is genuine in.

I remember thinking this is the only hope I have left I hope it works. I had not slept; more than two hours at a stretch or 3.5 hours in a night, for many days. The next thing I knew I woke up it was after 4 AM and I felt rested and the pain had diminished.  Deciding she would want to know I went to her room briefly just before five and told her that I was feeling much better and then thanked her. Her face filled with tears of relief.

There are many things one can think of a time like this. My choice is to remember that life holds promise so long as we have the trust and faith to put aside fear and judgment and accept it. First and foremost I am grateful; to my mother and whatever that power is that makes this true.  After centuries of war over simply disagreeing on what to call the origin of this force,  I feel no attachment to naming it. 

I do however gladly announce that it has visited my heart and my body and I am much closer to well and grateful. In fact by opening myself to it I believe I’ve become less stiffnecked and healed more quickly just by letting it in; a reminder that I am responsible in many ways for closing myself off and creating my own problems.

In this closing month of 2016 I choose to apply this lesson to my view of the world, current politics, and my concerns about the future.  I hope you will join me in believing that we, together, can remind ouselves and the world around us  that our willingness  welcomes the wondrous things which sustain us and give the true  beauty of life entry into our lives.  There is something here that really cares about us.

From my deepest heart, merry Christmas & happy holidays to all of you.

With love,

Alexander

So hope and beauty come

There is much to fear.
Banks contrive to steal money;
Carmakers engineer deceit;
Politicians abandon moral stances
for name calling and a bitter accusations.

Whose heart lives that is not weeping?
whence hope and where Solace?
when the oceans are poisoned
and our food twisted by science.

Still, I have only to stop,
the length of three breaths,
for small glimpses of goodness:

The face of an infant unmarked by travail,
an unexpected kindness,
the sound of strings in open air,
a sweet scent on a spring breeze.

So hope and beauty come,
somehow more vivid in silence,
in numinous illumination,
transforming a landscape,
mundane only a moment ago.

The Hammer

It’s easy to talk about how upset I am with:the new president,the threat of environmental destruction, cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Yet the truth is not so simple when
I am no longer growing stronger with every passing year,
No longer the first choice among job applicants,
or as quick or agile.

My heart is deeper, I’m sure I’ve grown wiser, and my experience is important.
Why don’t they seem to care?

It isn’t just me I’ve talked to the others. They get the same responses from the same companies after 65. They want somebody younger, someone who will stay longer, and cost less.

It’s a little frightening, and sometimes more than a little.
Instead of keeping up my house and improving things, I find myself wondering how I will manage my expenses, if I will be able to keep my house or maintain a car.

I’ve worked all my life; many of the years I had two jobs.
It’s not as if I want a lot; Just a few new clothes each year;
A car for transportation, with tires that are safe in the winter;
to be able to go to the doctor when I need to and pay for medicine if I should need it.

Lately, every year, it seems more like the world is looking down on people like me, People who don’t have enough money.
As if we should be ashamed,
as if we had been lazy, as if we hadn’t contributed so much for so long.

All I really want is to have enough to enjoy the days and the people in them without worrying about losing everything. I wonder if they notice, me and if they do why they don’t care?

I won’t tell anyone that I’m afraid; just talk about the insensitivity, irresponsibility, and greed that fuels their need to destroy the new deal, to avoid the expense so they can add to their already incredible sums of money.

There are ways to stop myself from feeling fear. Anger is the tool I reach for when the fear is not acceptable and like a hammer it smashes the world of which I am afraid.

Saturday reading Rilke

I have felt the extremes, the joy, grief, and fear that are filled with human concerns.

What I want most is to take the beauty and power of life, untwisted and natural life, unaffected life,within myself and to watch it cover the feet of those who approach my shores. 

Then, the power of their lives  washes over me and their inspiration becomes again mine.