Perhaps every blogger in the land should be using this forum today to encourage hope, urging reconciliation. I’m finding it difficult to say much right now. My mother is nearly despondent, and my heart is heavy for her. Every generation mucks things up, and every generation has those who fight for good. My mother has been one of those fighters in her own quiet way. (You can take a quick trip through that journey here.) This election was to have been a culmination of that courage at the end of her long life.
Mama was enormously pleased to cast her vote for the first woman nominated for the highest post in the land. She was included in a photo project of women born more than 96 years ago, before women were given the right to vote, a story that was carried by several news organizations. (Here is the story and her photo on the BBC.) She was also asked to participate in another project, which you can see here.) That the hopes and dreams of these women were not recognized in the vote breaks my heart. That the most qualified candidate for the presidency in history lost to the least is mind boggling. That this great country can’t elect a woman when so many others broke that ceiling long ago is beyond disheartening.
For a few more words, go on over to Wordless Wednesday. It’s all I can manage today. On to the ongoing story of being the daughter on duty.
I’m taking a break this week from the moving/not moving drama and will leave you hanging until next time. In the midst of the indecision, though, I have had to think hard about my own living in the various scenarios: what do I want for myself if Mama moves and how will I adjust to the possibility that she stays at home. What will be over and what will be next?
It is my decision that if she were to stay at home I will need to leave, and my sisters and I will need to make other arrangements for her day-to-day (and night) care. And to leave very well could mean giving up the foggy dream I have been incubating for some day in the future after Mama has left her own living. I am not unaccustomed to giving up what I thought would be—or might be—and I have always landed on my feet as I adjusted my expectations. In responding to indecision, I have had to get comfortable with those other scenarios, and I confess I got kind of excited about the possibility of an alternate plan.
Living cheek to jowl with my mother these past almost four and a half years, has also given me pause to consider what I want in my own late years. If longevity is hereditary, I will be around for a good many more years. Unless I meet accidental death, I will have to deal with some of the same discomforts I have watched Mama face, and I would like to do it with more grace than she has managed. How does one do that?
I got mail last week from a friend who spent many years caring for her parents, and recently decided she had done enough close up and personal care and that it was time to take care of her own life. She moved to a part of her state that fed her soul and she’s now working to figure out what is next. She is considering living in a yurt, without the creature comforts to which we middle class, first world dwellers have become accustomed. She wonders if getting used to less now will make it easier in her later years. She writes:
“[I am curious] if increasing my willingness to be uncomfortable (by abandoning the thermostat and other creature comforts) and experiencing my connection with the earth into which I will return, will make it seem like a natural choice to leave.”
It reminded me of the week I spent at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island a year ago in a tiny cottage with a small woodstove for heat and not much room for stuff. There was electricity, but it was out for nearly 24 hours after a storm, and even the emergency light quit, along with the battery for the provided flashlight. I did miss my computer when the battery died, since it was a writing week and I prefer the computer for that, but it was a good exercise in adapting to what is and letting go of expectation. I loved starting up the woodstove every morning, and keeping it stoked. (You can read more about my week at Hedgebrook here.) My favorite part of my dream if I stay on the property is to build a cabin in the meadow with a windmill for electricity, a woodstove for heat, a composting toilet, and a less-than-convenient water source.
My sister sent me a link to a blog post last week that included a quote by Norman Lear. When he was recently asked what he’d tell others who wanted to be as vibrant and productive as he is at (now) 94, he replied,
I think the two least considered small words in the English language may be ‘over‘ and ‘next.’ When something is over, [it’s] over. We’re onto next.” He said the “over and next” philosophy allows him to stay present and focused. “I live in that moment,” Lear said. “I mean this is it—this is the best conversation I could possibly be having, and it took me 93 years to get here.
I may not be able to choose this then, but I can now. And I do believe that for most of us, barring severe dementia, we are late in life who we have always been. Like my friend who wants to get comfortable with discomfort now, I want to learn to let go of what’s over—including what I thought would be—and move on to now and next.
In contrast, last week Mama said she did not want a sleeping pill. “It affects my vision,” she said. “I mean my hearing.” “Is it easier to blame it on the sleeping pill than on aging?” I asked. “I guess so,” she said. “Ok,” I said. I didn’t ask if it wouldn’t be easiest of all just to accept what is now. Pointless. It’s too late for her, but hopefully not for me.
A reader of the post wrote, “The only thing I can tell at the latter end of a varied and checkered life is that there WILL be change I can’t plan or prepare for. I will just have to live it when it comes.”
Turns out that is a good word for the country today too.