Monday, September 09, 2019

Finding my balance...

I've been retired for a bit over two years now. I love not having to get up and go into Philly every day. It's a special treat not to have to ride SEPTA, which was always the weak link in my commute. I miss the people I worked with, but most of them have now retired, too -- and we are all in touch.

None of us is ready for the rocking chair, at right.

But I have to admit, I haven't yet hit my stride. My schedule is minimal: every Tuesday, and every other Wednesday, I  serve as a volunteer chaplain in hospice inpatient units. I love this work! Yet I have no temptation to look for a paid position.

My problem is that, barring a sudden disaster or diagnosis, most of what I would like to do can always be done tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or ... whenever.

And so not much gets done. My garden is like me -- colorful but weedy. My house is not the cleanest. I have read my way through several mystery series this summer, but the serious reading I had planned to do has not been touched. I hate cooking, so I don't spend any time on that.

I have managed to do a tai chi class in our local adult school at least once a week. But the gym membership has not been used in many months. I hope I can still find the membership card.

So, here I am, just looking for motivation. All advice is welcome.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Trump Effect

Well, it’s been a year since I last posted here. Maybe my three constant readers thought I’d died. But no!

Call it the Trump Effect. All I’ve done during the past year is watch the growing horror in the Oval Office clawing nearer to disaster with his tiny hands. I rode that wave of delight we all felt when the Democrats took the House. And I’m waiting desperately for Robert Mueller’s report (assuming we get to see it) and its nice, fat indictment for Trump. 

But neither of those things may happen. Meanwhile, as I obsessed about the state of the union, the blog remained unblogged, the garden grew weedy, and I totally failed to do any work on myself (aside from tai chi, which I’ve done faithfully). No meditation, no hiking, no yoga, no Great Courses (I think I left off in the middle of a course on the Gnostics).  I’ve become a dry leaf, rattling in a gale. 

So maybe it’s time to take myself in hand. Trump is not going away today, tomorrow, or the next day. Spring starts this week I’m trying for a new attitude. Yoga, walking, more veggies ...

Or at least I can buy some V8. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What will we call this time?

One side of my family is from the south, from coastal North Carolina. Among other endeavors, they grew peanuts, and every autumn of my childhood we received a huge bag of raw peanuts, to be roasted and enjoyed. On visits to see these relatives, I also recall being driven at night through the Dismal Swamp, which impressed me as eminently worthy of its name.

Like many of my other family members, those on the North Carolina side could be a bit eccentric. The one who sticks in my mind is Cousin Pearl, who at eighty had glasses like Coke bottles and rode a bike everywhere. In her house there was also a fascinating little room with walls lined from floor to ceiling by little apothecary drawers, in which she claimed to store “this and that. “ To this day, I have never learned their contents. 

Cousin Pearl was a wonderful conversation partner for a young teenager. One topic, though, was off limits: the Civil War. Cousin Pearl mentioned this painful period only once, referring to it as the “Late Unpleasantness.”  Though she was not born until 1880, Pearl had absorbed the anger and shame which must have come with the defeat of the Confederacy. 

Is this how many of us will feel, I wonder, in the aftermath of Trump’s presidency, always assuming we survive it?  Here we have a president with no observable moral compass, under investigation for obstruction of justice, money laundering, and possibly treason. He’s attempting to silence a porn star, lest she tell us the details of their affair. He fires non-political federal employees for political reasons. And he’s become Putin’s lapdog, even as we learn that Russian hackers have penetrated the command and control code of our electrical grid, and are likely once more to attempt to meddle in November’s midterm elections. 

Dear readers, it feels like the sky is falling. And this is only Trump’s first year. 

So what will we call this time? “Dark Ages” has, alas, already been taken. 

I was pondering this last week as I binged on season one of a Hulu series called Hard Sun. The main characters are two British detectives who unwittingly come across the government’s secret information that the sun, within five years, is about to go supernova (or something; it’s never quite clear), frying the earth and all her inhabitants. 

And so the question for the detectives becomes: knowing that the world will soon end, is there any point in worrying about law and order, guilt and innocence, accident or criminal intent? It’s quite an absorbing question, and I find the series riveting. 

And then I wondered: in the U.S. , with so much open corruption on regular view, and with new and fresh examples every day, how long will it be until right action begins to seem optional? Until morality ceases to matter to most people? We see this happening already, on the lunatic fringe, where hate crimes and hate speech are on the rise. 

When we look back on the Trump era, when it is finally over, what mark will it have left on us? What will be the name we call this blot on our national history?

I haven’t got an answer yet. I’d welcome suggestions. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I seem to have mislaid my waist .......

Yes, that's right. I am in search of my waist. It has gone missing!

I lost quite a bit of weight in my fifties. 18 months of counting points. No ice cream. No peanut butter. So much rabbit food that I nearly grew a cottontail and began hopping around on the lawn at night.

But when I hit my 60s, my body turned on me, like a villain in a cartoon.

And now my waist has disappeared.

It used to be in the normal spot, and I was able to encircle it with belts and skirts. Now the belts just laugh at me. A skirt recently suggested I was ready to try elastic.

Now, I could lament this loss of my waist. I could go on and on about yesteryear, and how I was once a size eight. Or I could resign myself to the loss of my waist, and somehow ... somehow ... go on without it.

I hope it has gone to a good home.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Death of a neighbor

My next-door neighbor, Carolann, was found dead in her home on the 5th of August, when the police, having been requested to do a wellbeing check, broke down her door. They were in her home for quite a while, so we hoped she was simply going to be taken to the hospital again. But no. When the police finally emerged, they informed the small group that had gathered that Carolann had died.

While there was no wailing or gnashing of teeth, we were all sorry to hear this news. We had all had dealings with Carolann's eccentricities over the years, and many of these occasions had me on my last nerve. Recently we let her know that we wanted to remove a dying tree on the edge of our property, to make installing a fence a bit easier. In the end we installed the fence around the tree, since Carolann would not permit our tree removal folks to set foot on her property, and declared that if any branches fell on her bushes, there would be trouble.

In retrospect, these are small matters, and all derived from Carolann's untreated mental illness, which seemed to have started with extreme hoarding, progressing to a paranoid refusal to answer the phone or open the front door.  Carolann had a physical disability, too, which she said prevented her from coming outside. She had been a great gardener, so turning over all her gardening to others must have cut her to the quick.

Her lawn and garden were maintained for a low fee by an old friend, but the rest of the house featured peeling paint and a tarp on one corner of the roof, which she could not afford to have fixed. I understand the inside of the house was stuffed full of whatever people hoard. No doubt some vermin had also found a home there as well.

After the discovery of the body, a lieutenant showed up to direct the removal. When another neighbor asked if he knew the cause of death, the lieutenant replied, "Failure to thrive." This is a term I have heard applied only to elderly people in nursing homes. Carolann was only a year older than I am. I knew her church was delivering regular bags of groceries, but the lieutenant remarked that these were all hoarded inside the front door. He found loaves of bread from 2013. Carolann hoarded the food instead of eating it, and essentially starved to death amid the bounty.

Mental illness can be lethal. In suburban communities like mine, it typically is treated quietly by professionals, and usually does not become obvious. But in Carolann's case, the lieutenant claimed, no legal intervention was possible. Carolann was neither overtly suicidal, nor a threat to others. She refused all the social services to which she was entitled. Help could not be forced on her.

Still, the little voice in the back of my mind says, Still, there must have been something you could have done.