JC’s Confessions #26

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

Ugh.

Folks who have been reading my blog regularly (thank you!) know that I have been dealing with a lot of loss and stress in recent years. I’ve been struggling to find energy to accomplish things and often feel like I can’t concentrate.

I’ve taken a lot of steps to cut down on what I’m trying to do in a day/week but there are still days that nothing of import gets started, much less done. I’ve tried to reach out for additional support but there are times when I can’t even manage to gather the energy needed to reach out and arrange to meet. Granted, the pandemic waves aren’t helpful, either.

I recognize from friends who study such things and from my reading that I am still grieving and that my brain is quite literally rewiring itself in line with my new reality.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try to shift my perspective. I decided to set aside some things I had been trying to do/worrying about and to give myself more grace/space to wait out the brain changes.

My doctor warned me it would be difficult and it is.

There have been little glimmers of hope. I’ve been able to arrange for some self-care appointments that I need. I’ve managed to post every day this month so far for Just Jot It January, although I confess I’m looking forward to February when that pressure I’ve put on myself will be off. I’ve made progress on preparing my chapbook manuscript for publication.

Overall, though, I am still struggling and struggling to accept that I’m still struggling, which is a large part of what I was hoping to do.

Maybe that is the way things must be for now.

I just need to accept it.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/27/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-27th-2023/

moving toward Christmas

I’m managing to do more Christmas preparation than I have in the last several years.

I have over half my holiday cards sent.

Yesterday, B and I went to the tree farm to buy our Christmas tree and wreath. Today, along with daughter T, we decorated the tree.

I love our Christmas ornament collection. There are ornaments that belonged to our parents. Ones we have bought on our travels over the years. Ones we received as gifts. Home-made ones by my grandmother, B’s mom, B as a child, our children. Handcrafted ones made by artists on four continents, including my friend Yvonne Lucia. Ornaments made of cloth, yarn, wood, birch bark, wax, corn husks, glass, paper, teasels, metal, ceramic, plastic, even eggshell. The angel on top of the tree is one I made from a kit with the help of a friend shortly after B and I married. The latch-hooked tree skirt featuring candy canes was made by my mother.

If our home suffered a disaster and our ornament collection was lost, it would be impossible to re-create.

Still, during the years when I was caring for my parents and in the immediate aftermath of their passing, as much as I cherish these ornaments, I couldn’t being myself to unwrap them, touch them, place them on the tree. Even when others had done so, I could only manage a few glances at them.

Dealing with grief and loss is an individual and unpredictable endeavor. Last Christmas, our first since the death of my father, known here as Paco, we traveled to visit daughter E and her family in London, so we didn’t have our usual Christmas decorations. I really wasn’t sure how much of the usual Christmas routine I would be able to resume this year, so I am grateful that I felt up to participating in some decorating.

Granted, Christmas this year will be quieter than usual. It will be just B, T, and I celebrating at home. I will be going to church on my own. There will be stockings and some presents to open. (I admit my Christmas enthusiasm has not yet extended to shopping.) We will have a nice dinner and dessert although we haven’t settled on the menu yet. We have decided not to make our usual number of cookies, most years dozens of cookies in at least a half dozen varieties. It just doesn’t make sense for three people.

I think one of the factors in my feeling some Christmas spirit this year was singing Lessons and Carols with the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton last weekend. Given that I spent so many years doing liturgy planning and music in Catholic churches, I’m not accustomed to singing Christmas music publicly during Advent, but I think this year doing so boosted my anticipation for Christmas and helped me to feel up to helping with decorating.

If I’m lucky, it will carry me through finishing the cards next week.

If not, I will try to remember to take the advice that I offer to others who are dealing with loss: Be gentle with yourself.

Maybe the fragrance of the Canaan fir, the rainbow-hued lights, the meaningful ornaments will help lift my spirit if it flags.

Christmas trees are beautiful, even through misty eyes.

SoCS: too much

I’ve got too much on my plate – and my blogging has been suffering because of it.

I’ve been busy with poetry, singing, family activities, and chores and a lot of the other things on my plate, like blogging and doing poetry submissions have been pushed off to the side.

As is often the case, it’s not so much that I need more time as that I need more brain power. While I thought that I had gotten through the alternating bouts of numbness and thought-swirl that happen from grieving, this fall has shown that I was mistaken. I have only limited time when I can concentrate well enough to write – and some days that doesn’t come at all.

I know better than to make promises about catching up on blog posts.

I do have a few submissions that will be coming up on deadlines that need to get moved up on the list of tasks – or to the center of the plate if I can make myself return to the original metaphor – and I will need to work on holiday cards, which are a high priority item for me.

I’m hoping that I will have a couple of poems published in December, so there will be posts for those.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get my mind in a more stable place and clear some of the items off my plate.

(She writes, really trying to do stream of consciousness metaphor…)

Stay tuned…
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “on your/my plate.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/11/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-nov-26-2022/

One-Liner Wednesday: Paco memorial

Paco and an Irish rainbow

Remembering my father on the first anniversary of his death.
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/14/one-liner-wednesday-he-was-a-fun-guy/

August 1st

When we were visiting in London last Christmas, daughter E gave us a calendar featuring photos of granddaughters ABC and JG. Most often, the photos were taken in that month the prior year, so turning the page for August brought a four generation photo with Paco from their visit last year.

The timing of that visit was a blessing, existing in the tiny window of their being able to get travel permission from the US and UK and before Paco’s final steep decline that led to his death in September.

I’ve been struggling this summer with the memories from last year, many of which have been difficult.

It’s good to have this photo with smiles that I can feel in my heart, even if my eyes fill with tears.

JC’s Confessions #24

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

Over the many years of caregiving and volunteering I have done, people have often advised (admonished) me to “take care of myself.”

I don’t think it is something that I do very well.

I do try. I eat well (usually) and sleep (generally not so well, but not for lack of trying). I do my physical therapy exercises most days and speak with my counselor on a regular basis. (I love getting massages but the pandemic and other complications have interfered with what used to be a regular part of my self-care plan.)

I admit that the amount of stress, grief, and loss has been high for a lot of years. I would sometimes joke in recent years that it was too late for whatever stressor to give me gray hairs, although I notice that my eyebrows are beginning to turn silver and that my facial lines seem to be more indicative of sadness, unless I am actively smiling. (Or maybe this is straight-up aging, rather than stress-induced?)

(Hmmm…wonder if my extensive use of parentheses in this post is a form of denial, distancing, or hedging?)

But here’s the thing. When people want you to “take care of yourself,” the subtext is often to put yourself first, which is not my nature as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I will always care about what people close to me are experiencing and try to do whatever is in my power (and sometimes attempt what is not really in my power) to help. I also feel compelled to serve my neighbors, whether near or far, which, given the state of the US and the world, is a huge task, but I try to shoulder my tiny sliver of it as best I can.

It’s a lot.

I can hear some people’s brains clicking with (totally valid) thoughts about boundaries and such…

And maybe I’ll manage that wisdom if I am gifted with enough years.

Or maybe I will always be “guilty” of prioritizing the needs of others before my own.

Or maybe that is just who I authentically am.

SoCS: list

I’ve made a list of blog posts I need to write.

Well, in my head, not on paper or screen.

And I won’t bother all of you with writing it here.

But, #SoCS can get checked off soon…

I admit that I’m in a bit of a lull when it comes to writing these days, especially creative writing. We’ve been travelling quite a bit. I’m also waiting out a grief wave.

The bigger issue with blog posts, though, is that there are a lot of heavy topics about which I want to write, most of them follow-ups to previous posts. JoAnna of the Forest suggested that it is better for my health and well-being to mix in some lighter posts, so I’m hoping this counts!

Hope to be back soon with another post, at least…

[LOL – I wrote this post relying on my memory of the prompt from yesterday, which I misremembered as “make a list” but I think this works. Just change the first sentence to “made a note.”]
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “make a note.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/07/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-9-2022/

this Fourth of July

It’s the fourth of July, commemorated here in the United States as Independence Day. It’s supposed to be a “happy” day, but it’s hard to feel happy with our country mired in divisiveness and the undermining of our fundamental rights and democratic institutions.

I know I have been relatively silent here at Top of JC’s Mind lately. Part of it is a renewed wave of grief over Paco as we have entered the one year anniversary of his fall and final decline and the fact that I had deferred a large portion of my grief over Nana while dealing with his needs.

The larger share of my delays in posting, though, is that the posts I need to write about the Supreme Court decisions and the January 6 Select Committee hearings are difficult to write.

The Preamble to our Constitution proclaims that “We the People” are striving toward “a more perfect Union.” This Fourth of July is one of grief, watching my country lurch further away from that ideal rather than making halting, if messy, progress toward it.

SoCS: two

I have two sisters.

Two daughters.

Two granddaughters.

I had two parents, but they are both gone now. A few days ago, we observed the first wedding anniversary for them since Paco died last September. They celebrated 65 anniversaries together and this year would have been 68.

I can’t start recording all my losses. Too many.

I will instead, today, cherish the pairs that I still have with me.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “too/to/two.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/04/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-23-2022/

fits and starts

Ugh! There is so much stuff I want/need to do and not nearly enough brainpower to do it.

Admittedly, part of the problem is that I necessarily deferred a lot of things when I was involved with multi-generational caregiving for years and now there is a huge backlog that needs attention. Some are practical things, like dealing with the rest of the belongings of Grandma, Nana, and Paco that are still stored at our house and finishing the remaining work with Paco’s estate, including the final tax filings and, oh, our tax returns, too. Some are creative things, like writing blog posts and poetry, and the administrative tasks that go along with them, like getting submissions in, which I find both tedious and nerve-wracking. Some are educational, trying to stay informed about what is happening in the world and using that knowledge to advocate for social and environmental justice. And, of course, there are the errands, appointments, and household tasks that need doing, although I appreciate that B and T continue to cover a good chunk of the housework that I abandoned in recent years.

The biggest problem for me remains, though, that it’s difficult for me to muster the energy and concentration I need to tackle tasks that need critical and/or creative thought and decision-making. I suppose this is complicated by my INFJ-ness, which means that nearly everything for me involves deep thought.

It’s exhausting.

There is also the reality that I am dealing with several years’ worth of grief and loss. The difficult period leading to Grandma’s death in 2016 followed by Nana’s struggles with heart failure leading to her death in 2019 followed by Paco’s decline and his death in September last year left me with a lot of deferred grief, which I have only recently realized and begun to process. There is also the personal loss of proximity to daughter E and granddaughters ABC and JG, who live across the Atlantic from us. Overlaying these personal losses is the pandemic and the upheaval, suffering, and death it has caused. The death toll in the US alone is 955,000, which, as staggering as that figure is, is probably an underestimate. The world is also in the midst of a major ideological rift between democracy and authoritarianism which is terrifying and destabilizing. I have lost the sense that the US is on a positive trajectory toward “a more perfect Union” as our Constitution terms it, which adds to my sense of grief.

It’s a lot.

I know it’s a lot and there are valid reasons that I find my concentration and energy so scant. I know I should be patient with myself, as I would be with a friend or loved one. I know I should be practicing self-care and not admonishing myself for not having the wherewithal to power through all of this and “accomplish my goals” and “be my best self” and whatever.

I try.

Sometimes, I manage it. Other times, not so much.

Look. Today, I managed to write this post.

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