Recreation Pants

“These are my recreation pants.”
~Nacho, AKA Jack Black

We have a “recreation pant” tradition at my house.  What exactly are recreation pants, you ask? Think loungewear. Think pajama bottoms. Think baggy, comfortable and elastic!

Recreation pants go on at my house when it’s time to  leave the problems of the day behind.  We will even announce to each other that it’s time for recreation pants!  It may sound  silly  to you, and it did actually start out as a joke. But the idea of putting on my recreation pants has come to mean much more to me.

The idea of recreation pants came to us after watching Jack Black ham it up in his irreverent and hilarious movie Nacho Libre. In the the movie Nacho, AKA Jack Black, wants to impress the hot young nun (yes, I mean nun). So Nach0 puts on his tight white stretch pants (think Saturday Night Fever pants). Then he poses against a pole and flexes his glutes for the nun. Seriously! It’s a bit of Jack Black comedy genius.

At my house, recreation pants still make us smile, but it’s not remotely about looking hot or impressing people.  Just the opposite.  Around here, recreation pants are all about being relaxed and comfortable and not needing to impress anyone.  Besides, who can look hot and sexy in old, baggy pajama bottoms anyway?

Recreation pants signify that I can let my hair down and just enjoy hanging out with people I love. Doesn’t everybody needs peeps that they can wear their recreation pants in front of without losing face?  I wonder if the problem with most politicians and public figures is that they NEVER think it’s safe to put on their recreation pants. Who among us can stay “on”  24 x 7?  It is impossible. At some point we all need to stop worrying about looking the way we’re supposed to look and saying the things we’re supposed to say. Sooner or later, we all need to don our recreation pants.

My true home is a place filled with people that enjoy my company – even when I’m wearing my recreation pants.  🙂

Safe Travels, Dad

My Dad

I spent a lot of time with my dad this weekend. Dad is 85 and lives in a locked nursing home unit. He is locked in because my mom is fading away with Alzheimer’s, and my dad cannot wrap his head around the idea of letting her go. Dad literally cannot conceive of allowing her to go without him. He has had multiple strokes as his body-mind fights against the inevitable.

Dad obsesses about my mom’s deterioration, he yells at her and even smacks her because she no longer knows who he is. All this craziness from a calm, gentle soul who adores his wife. This from a man who rarely raised his voice before my mom got sick. Now Dad tries to guard my mom. He constantly worries that someone on the nursing home staff will hurt her or kill her. His behavior has gotten so bad, that my siblings and I reluctantly moved him to a locked unit. Now Dad rarely gets to see the love of his life.

This move has been another heartbreak for Dad. And it is heartbreaking for me to watch. Now that he’s separated from my mom, he is rapidly deteriorating physically. This man who never took medications and was always strong and tough as nails is fading fast now that his last job – the job of protecting his wife – has ended.

I sat with my dad as he slept this weekend. I watched him sleep and thought about everything that he has been through. My dad is strong willed and tenacious; he doesn’t give up easily. As a young man, he pushed and worked and became the first person in his family to go to college. Then he pushed and he worked and he became an award winning engineer with patents in his name. He pushed and he worked and he went much further than his parents every dreamed was possible for him. And then life threw something at him that only got worse when he pushed against it. Life threw something at him that demanded surrender and allowance.

I have not seen my dad for about  6 weeks, and there has been a big shift in his appearance and his behavior; he has transformed in just a few short weeks. He has stopped trying to halt my mom’s deterioration. He has finally stopped pushing. He has let go. I sat and looked at my dad’s body that has aged so much in just a few weeks. I sat with Dad and watched his peaceful face as he slept. I sat with Dad and I knew that he will soon let go completely and leave this body and this life that had become so painful for him. I sat with my dad and I cheered him on; YES!  Let go, Dad. Surrender. Allow life to be however it is. Let go and leave all the pain behind.

This could be a story about the pain of love lost or the harsh realities of aging and dying in America today. My Dad’s past few years have overflowed with both of those things. But for me, this is a lesson in how life can deteriorate into pain and pure misery if I grasp at it and try to hold it still. My Dad’s story teaches me what can happen if I resist and refuse to flow with whatever life throws at me. It’s a lesson about how I can create huge problems and pain when I resist the change that is an inevitable part of life.

I love you, Dad.  Leave this painful place.  Let go and go.  I will miss you so AND it’s OK to go now. Safe travels, Dad.

Blowing in the Wind

Lyons, CO

Wow – it’s been almost 3 months since I spouted off here in my Blog.

That’s a LONG time for me to go underground. But I have a very good reason for going all “Turtle” and disappearing from view – I moved cross-country this fall. Moving from one state to another is tough even for a flexible, go with the flow type chick like me. (My husband is laughing hysterically right now about my “go with the flow” description of myself. But hey! This is my Blog and if I want to view myself as easy going, he should just learn to hush up… 🙂

So, more about moving. Any change is tough – most humans do NOT like things in their life to shift around or change much at all. But I have always prided myself on enjoying change. I used to do corporate change management work, for God’s sake! This move cross-country was a change that I pushed for and WANTED. And yet… this move was unsettling to say the least (pun intended).

It always takes me awhile to find ground and establish a new routine whenever I move, even just across town. But, silly me – I thought a much anticipated, much desired change would be easier. Hah! Maybe it’s because I’m an Earth sign (Taurus); I tend to root deeply into each place I live. Or maybe all those therapists are right when they claim that moving is one of the top three stressors in Life for everyone. Even good change is hard and stressful.

After our move, I felt unmoored, ungrounded, unsettled, off-balance. Like the least little breath of trouble might blow me right off my feet. It took me weeks to feel at home and truly relax in this new place. I knew what I needed – I needed to find gound. Hah! So it’s time to practice what I preach all day long to my clients, huh God?! I’m supposed to know how to do this, right?

What finally worked for me? What helped me find ground and settle in this new place? Meditating and consciously grounding my legs and hips helped me immensely And walking in the mountains was a God-send for me. The energy of the Rockies is very grounding (go figure!). And oddly enough, the simple act of unpacking our treasures helped a lot. Having boxes everywhere is very unsettling for me.

Yesterday I came across an essay named Finding Ground that I wrote a few years ago And I laughed to myself as I read it – if only I could have accessed all the wisdom I expressed in it during my “unsettled days” this fall.

My new home is good – I’m the one grinning from ear to ear every time I look outside and see the Rockies. It’s going to be years before this “flatlander” takes living in the mountains for granted.

Life is good here. Probably because I am finally completely HERE.
Much love and hugs from the mountains.

I encourage you to also read  “Finding Ground”, with the hope that it might help you
face the chaos of change in your life.


Fading Away

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to my mom and to all the other families out there dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia…

Mom’s name is Eve and she was born in 1925. Even now in her 80’s, living in a ‘memory care unit’ and suffering from Alzheimer’s, even now my Mom is still feisty and opinionated and a bit of a rabble rouser. My mom may have been born in 1925, but she really resonated with the feminist ideals of the 1960’s. Even though her career was staying home and raising 4 kids, Mom instinctually understood the basic feminist message. Women need choices about how to live their lives, Women deserve choices. My mom understood that even as she allowed herself few of those same choices.

My mom’s name may be Eve, like the first woman in the Bible, but the name NEVER fit her. Mom never fit the mold of the “little woman” who is made from her husband’s rib and is subservient to her man and lives to serve him. No way! My mom complained about the silly rules that dictate proper female behavior from the very beginning; as a kid, she demanded to know why her 5 brothers never had to do housework while she and her sister were cooking and cleaning every week. And how come the boys got to swim in the creek, but she and her older sister couldn’t? Apparently it wasn’t proper in the 1930‘s for teenaged girls to swim in the creek, even when southern Illinois was 95 degrees in the shade. Can you imagine??!

Later on as an adult, my mom wondered aloud why men got to do all different kinds of work while women were expected to marry and become homemakers. And she thought it very sad that an intelligent and beautiful woman like her sister who never married was labelled a spinster and considered broken by this society!

No, my mom was NEVER a mild mannered ‘good little woman’. And I mean that as the highest compliment. Mom was actually more like Adam’s first wife, Lilith. You may not have ever heard of Adam’s first wive Lilith, but she appears in the Jewish Talmud and several other sacred texts. Most references to Lilith were stripped from the Bible. And what, pray tell, was Lilith’s crime? Well, Lilith refused to be subservient to Adam. She refused to “lie beneath him”. And when Adam balked at treating her as his equal, Lilith up and left Adam and went to live by herself. For refusing to cleave to Adam and do what he said, Lilith was condemned by her culture and turned into an evil demoness that ate newborn babies and sucked the virility right out of men. For “misbehaving” Lilith was rejected and labelled an uppity bitch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I picture a mix of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan when I think of Lilith.

Lilith is the original feminist archetype; she’s a powerful female who KNOWS she is complete unto herself and she needs no man to define her or validate her existence. Lilith resonates with that same powerful anger that drives modern feminists like myself; we feminists look around and see how women allow themselves to be treated and we roar with rage.

Unlike Lilith, my mom never left her husband. She never left, but she roared with rage at the inequities of her married life on many occasions. She roared but she really never figured out how to make her own marriage less traditional. It took me years to realize that Mom was actually raging at herself and her own decisions as much as anyone else. I think Mom craved a small space of her own without the needs of a husband and kids drowning out her own desires. Like millions of women before her, my mom craved a space of her own, but never figured out how to take it for herself.

When I asked my mom in her late 60‘s what she had dreamed of being when she was a girl, she had difficulty even answering me. Is it any wonder? Didn’t 1920‘s society just assume that girls would want to grow up and be a wife and mommy? Give them dolls and teach them how to cook and clean, right? What a waste!

My mom must have felt such a conflict within herself for so long. She resonated with the feminist ideals of finding yourself and building a meaningful career and yet stayed in a traditional marriage and spent her days taking care of 4 kids and doing mind-numbing secretarial work.

Please don’t get me wrong; my mom adores my dad. She always did. But she dreamed of something more than marriage for herself and for her daughters. She cajoled and encouraged and pushed me to take a different path; to be more than a wife and mommy, to graduate from college and find work that I could make my own. I have her to thank for this career that I love.

So, after decades of denying any part of herself beyond wife and mommy, my Mom is slowly losing her mind. Is that just coincidence? I don’t think so. Ironically now as the Alzheimer’s progresses, she becomes a lot less like feisty Lilith and more like docile Eve with each passing month.

Today I watch my mom’s brilliant wit and intelligence fade away and I am sad. Sad for the loss of the outrageous woman who was my mother. I am sad that my opinionated mother cannot figure out how to hold onto herself and her opinions any longer. And I am very sad that my 11 year old daughter will never really know her grandmother’s strength or her powerful presence.

I am also sad because I look around the “memory care unit” where my mom lives and I see what the future holds for her. I do not understand why she clings to a life that consists of eating and sleeping and not much else. She is kept safe and fed as every week she fades a little further away, like an old photograph fading over time. And I wonder what the point of this slow fade to death is. Years as a healer have taught me that God always has a good reason for everything. But I really cannot figure out the point of Alzheimer’s.

I watched “You Don’t Know Jack” a few weeks ago on HBO; it’s a movie about Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia doctor that the press nicknamed Dr. Death. I watched that movie and I puzzled over how some people could condemn and despise Jack Kevorkian for helping suffering people to die. Granted, Jack is an opinionated old coot and he does not make it easy to like him. But his heart is huge and his intent seemed pure to me. I wonder if anyone who has watched a loved one suffer on the edge of living for months or years could condemn Kevorkian?

Is keeping my mom’s body fed and alive while her brain slowly dies a noble, caring act? Or would helping her to die quickly be more noble? At this point, I certainly don’t know what’s more right or more noble. Ironically, my mom was a big proponent of euthanasia before Alzheimer’s set in. She had a living will drawn up years before her illness became apparent. Yet today if you ask her, she will say emphatically that she wants to be resuscitated if her heart stops. Even as barren as her days seem to me, my mom still wants to be here.

Here she stays. I have trouble killing a bug, so there is no way I’m going turn into Kevorkian here. All I can do is watch her slow decline with sadness. I wish that I could somehow make it all better for her – and for me and my siblings. But all that I can really do is turn Mom over to God again and again and again. And try to remember that God has it handled.

Here and Now

Here and now it is sunny outside

I chop carrots. Mince garlic.

Heat oil. Salivate.

Inhale the aroma.

 

Here and now I am sad inside

I grieve. Shed tears

Ponder death. 

See pain all around.

 

Here and now I sit with it all

Breathe pain. Breathe sorrow.

Breathe garlic and sun

Open to life.