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.
There is so much in the world right now for which I feel compassion. I’m sure many others are also joining in this sense of compassion, too.
Media is filled with the heart-breaking situation in Ukraine. So much destruction. So much death and injury and hunger and lack of shelter. The incomprehensible targeting of civilians in their homes, of food warehouses, of people who are trying to flee besieged cities. The deaths of so many soldiers on both sides, compounded by the fact that Russia is not bringing the bodies of its dead back home to their families. The millions of internally displaced people and the millions who have become refugees in other countries.
Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to cause suffering. The omicron subvariant is sending cases higher in many countries, just as most had relaxed their preventative strategies. Now into the third year of the pandemic, the accumulated losses are staggering. Millions dead, their absence felt by their families, friends, and communities. Many millions more dealing with lasting damage, some with long COVID, others with lung, heart, vascular, and/or neurological damage that they don’t discover until after recovery from the initial infection.
There are other armed conflicts, droughts leading to hunger, other disasters that cause suffering, and always the unfolding disaster of climate change.
All call for my compassion.
There are personal things, too. The neighbor who just lost his mother. Friends and relatives in medical battles. On and on.
I try not to be overwhelmed or succumb to compassion fatigue. I offer help as I can and support efforts for peace and justice. I don’t know if the people for whom I have compassion can feel that support or not. Perhaps, with so many sharing in compassion, they can and feel a little less alone in their suffering.
Now that it’s (maybe) safer to travel, there are a few trips that I and/or family members may take this spring.
T is going to a high school friend’s wedding in Florida in April. Arrangements are all in place so this is the surest bet to happen.
The three of us have been wanting to get back to the western MA/southern Vermont area where B and I grew up and where we still have friends and relatives. Maybe we will actually make it when the weather is better and we work through a few health things that have been annoying us lately. At the moment, it’s snowing like crazy, a reminder that spring is not here yet.
B and I also are hoping for a getaway this spring. It’s been a while since the two of us could do this, first due to caring for our elders and then still having the pandemic hanging around. Granted, the pandemic is still with us, much as we all wish it were over, but the rates of infection are finally getting down to where leisure travel is possible. My sisters gave me a lovely gift certificate to a posh Finger Lakes inn that I want to use this spring, especially because our 40th anniversary is approaching.
Speaking of 40th, my reunion at Smith College is in May. We finally got word on March 1st that it will be in person. (The last couple of years had been virtual due to the pandemic.) We haven’t started the registration project yet but I’m definitely planning to attend and stay on campus, as is traditional. Our reunion will be the same weekend as commencement; it’s always great and energizing to be on campus with the students and a fuller celebration of the traditions, such as Ivy Day and Illumination Night.
I also have my fingers crossed for another trip to London to visit daughter E and family. We are hoping for June but it’s so hard to say right now if it will be possible. Will there be another variant racing around the globe? Will there be war ongoing? It’s so painful to think of the current suffering, much less project its horrifying dimensions into the future.
Way to go, Linda! Today marks the eighth anniversary of Stream of Consciousness Saturday on Linda’s blog, Life in Progress. I and so many others have connected with each other as bloggers through SoCS, One-Liner Wednesdays, and Just Jot it January, all thanks to Linda G. Hill.
Check out Linda’s blog and her books! Join us for SoCS and/or One-Liner Wednesdays! Whether you contribute posts or just read along, it’s all good.
Like much of the rest of the world, I’ve been watching coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I’m horrified at the destruction and loss of life and at the brazenness of the attack against a neighboring sovereign democracy.
I’m in awe of the courage and resolve of the Ukrainian people to defend their homeland. There are many ordinary citizens who have been given guns to defend their cities and villages. Apparently, some are making homemade bombs from instructions given on television. I don’t know that I would be able to do that myself and pray that I am never in such a terrible position that I would have to find out.
I’m also amazed at the courage of some Russian citizens who are protesting Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. There have been protests in 54 cities and many arrests. Some prominent people have spoken out publicly, including sports heroes. They are risking their careers and their freedom to speak out against the war.
I wish there was more that I could do to help the Ukrainians but I know I have no power to do so. I understand that the US as part of NATO has taken many actions to try to punish Putin and his oligarchy for this attack but they won’t directly intervene to protect the Ukrainian population. I’m worried that Russia will assassinate Ukrainian President Zelenskyy with the rest of the world looking on and unable to stop it. That they will put in place a Kremlin-backed dictator. That millions of Ukrainians will suffer from violence and deprivation for years as they try to reestablish themselves as an independent democracy.
“Whatever” is usually my first thought when the question is “What’s for dinner?”
Not that that is what I say…
For almost forty years, I’ve been the frontline person in the house for shopping and deciding what is for dinner.
It’s not one of my favorite tasks. I’ve tried at various points to enlist help and can sometimes get an answer if I give people a few choices of what is on hand. There have also been stretches of time when I did hand off meal planning to other household adults, especially during the illnesses of Nana and Paco when I was too overwhelmed to deal with such things – or even to care much about food.
While I have been trying to be better about menu planning and execution recently, I’m still struggling. I think part of it is that I’m still alternating between not feeling like eating or even thinking about food and just wanting to eat anything in sight but not caring much about what that is. It’s likely related to grieving and part of the more general problem of still having limited energy and decision-making capabilities. It’s still difficult to make myself do things.
Or maybe that’s just an excuse or rationalization.
[Non-stream of consciousness introduction. Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about the first thing that come to mind from the phrase “let go.” I drew a blank at first but then this topic floated to the surface, probably because it was on my list of things to write about in my series, JC’s Confessions, so what follows is the very dangerous intersection of writing stream of consciousness on a difficult topic. I do use a standard opening to explain JC’s Confessions, which will follow as a block quote before launching into the SoC portion of the post.]
In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now 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.
I have trouble letting go of guilt.
Even when I’m feeling guilty about something that is not my fault.
Even when it’s something I couldn’t possibly have known. Or remedied.
I’ve had family members diagnosed with conditions which took years to figure out, yet I’m the one who feels guilty/responsible for not having figured it out sooner, even though I am not a trained health professional, just a family member and caregiver.
It would have taken asking totally implausible questions to figure some of these diagnoses out. For example, it turned out years later that one of my daughters’ migraines had started as a child with visual migraines, which manifested as things changing colors. Who would think to point out to their child that, in almost all instances, color is a fixed attribute of an object? Yet, I feel guilty for not having realized this problem before the more serious later intractable migraine that took six months to diagnose, two more to break, cost her a semester of high school, and would later prove to be only a small part of a larger diagnosis of fibromyalgia, now known as ME, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Never mind that it took the doctors ten years to figure it out from the time symptoms first appeared. As a mother, I thought I should have known and been able to alleviate her suffering and help her.
I know that this guilt is totally irrational. I know that my family doesn’t hold me responsible for not being a super-doctor or God or some all-knowing being and getting them help sooner, but still, as hard as I try, there is a vestige of guilt that I can’t shake.
(I can hear those of you who were raised Catholic thinking that this is par for the course of Catholic guilt, although I think it is probably not only that.)
One of my more recent struggles with this problem is the fact that it took months of suffering before my father, known here as Paco, was diagnosed with heart failure, only days before his death. I tried and tried to get the health professionals at his facility to figure things out and treat him appropriately but I failed, robbing him of the peace, comfort, and dignity he deserved in his final months.
I know that I shouldn’t feel guilt on top of the pain, that I’m not at fault, but I still can’t shake the underlying sense of responsibility, failure, and guilt.
From the time I was very young, I have loved trees. When I was growing up, our house was in the woods, so I spent a lot of time playing and daydreaming among the trees – white and yellow birches, sugar and striped maples, hemlocks and spruce. Our grammar school had a naturalist who visited every week and I remember compiling a book of different trees with pressings of their leaves.
Today, I enjoy the trees in our yard. We have two maples, two cherries, and an oak. We used to have an ash tree but it was killed by the emerald ash borer and had to be cut down. I’m pleased to say that we did add a new tree last year, a dogwood which we chose because it is the flower for the birth month of our daughter E. (We already have an heirloom rose which is the birth flower of daughter T.)
T also loves trees and all plants so much that she has a master’s degree in conservation biology of plants. I don’t think that love of trees is genetic, but I’m very proud of her advocacy and caretaking for our environment here in the Northeast US. ***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “tree.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/12/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-11-2021/
Growing up in rural New England in the ’60s, I often heard people use old-timey phrases for surprise or delight, so when Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was “golly gee” or a similar expression, my mind immediately went to “holy mackerel” which I grew up hearing and which my parents continued to use throughout their blessedly long lives.
Part of the reason that “holy mackerel” was the first place my mind went was because my niece and nephew from NYC latched onto the phrase that their grandparents used and took it as a theme for gifts and general good times. Yes, you can find or have made a mug or T-shirt that says just about anything, including “holy mackerel!”
I’ve been thinking about Nana and Paco a lot this week. Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the US and it was our first major holiday without Paco – and without any family member in that generation. It’s nice to reflect on the good times and laughter and things that would make one or the other of them say “Holy mackerel!” with a little glint of the eye.