Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Daily Blog

I remember well Ms. Dell Wilson. She was my high school, sophomore year, Literature instructor. I actually liked her. She was smart and, I know now, a really good teacher. And for a student like me that loved high school but despised lit class, she was a God-send.

Ms. Wilson would make us "journal" every day. I do mean every day. Usually for only 10-15 minutes, but we had to write. She didn't care what we wrote, but it had to be grammatically correct, with proper sentence structure, and a cohesive theme. Now, understand that Ms. Wilson would not assign a topic, unlike Ms. White, who would assign those esoteric and ambiguous ideas of "love" or "happiness" or "fear." I suppose being part of the human race should have automatically qualified me for speaking to those topics, but I wanted something more real, more practical, more tangible ... something along the lines US policy on the Middle East, or perhaps the legalization of marijuana. Those were topics that I could analyze and present some facts to support. But "love?" Geeeesssshhhhhh.

So everyday I had to come up with something to write about. Every day. Did you hear that, EVERY DAY. After about 2 weeks I had exhausted my arsenal of hot button political topics. What was left? What do I write about when the Arab Oil Embargo is only 5 years removed, the reinstatement of the draft is being discussed, and I've already talked about all those things?

This day she gave the standard 15 minute assignment. I look at my paper. I look at my pen. Nothing. It wasn't happening. So here I am two weeks into the semester, and I had nothing. Nothing. It was crunch time. Ten minutes left. Now, only 5 minutes left. A blank paper before me. Sweaty palms and a lot of fear as to what a grade of zero would do to my GPA. I had to do something ... anything ... but it had to be NOW.

So I wrote exactly what I was feeling, warts and all. I don't remember everything I wrote, but I do remember my first line specifically:

I'm tired.

That's it. That was my first line.

Second line was a bit more dramatic:

I have no idea what I need to be writing about.

Third line was a bit more personal:

I have a date Friday night with a girl that I really, really like.

Those lines I remember. I didn't number them but I treated each line as its own paragraph. And I kept writing those lines. While I don't remember all of them, I remember some others were along the lines of: "I wonder what this world will be like in 25 years?" "I have a test in math I need to study for." "History is my favorite subject."

Honestly, I believed I would get an "F" on the paper. It was simple. It had no depth. There was no analysis or development of thought or argument. It was just words on a paper that told what I was thinking and feeling in the most succinct manner possible.

The next day we have to do it all over again. So here I am --- again --- trying to come up with something to write about. And, again, nothing.

Then Ms. Wilson says something while she is sitting at her desk, out loud so everyone can hear. She is reading the journal entries from the day before and she calmly says, "Ryan, that was a very good journal entry you wrote yesterday."

That's all she said. She never looked up. She never made eye contact with me. She did not do anything but say that. THAT. 

And it clicked. 

In my mind, I got it. It all made sense. The point of daily journaling is to write, not to always develop a term paper with footnotes and arguments that looked like a legal brief. No, the point is to be simple and cathartic. Somehow, just putting down the words of exactly how I felt, what I feared, what I anticipated, and what I was thinking ... THAT is the whole point ... and it does ME good. It is not for anyone else, though that is a great thing when others can involve themselves in the expression, but the point is to write an express my own Whatever in a way that organizes my own thoughts and for my own benefit.

I can't help but think that blogging on the internet is nothing more than the culmination of Ms. Wilson's 10th grade lit class.

Thanks, Ms. Wilson. You done good ... er, uh, well. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mom is Getting Older

Yeah. I've been away.

I have spent the last two years trying to handle a world where I am the primary sole caregiver for my mom. It's been extremely difficult as I juggle all the things I need to do.

Funny thing is that it is harder than, say, a 5 year old. A young child will fall, wail, get up, and a kiss makes it all better. A 75 year old will fall and it's a ride in the ambulance, xrays, and 6 months of doctor offices.

Guilt. I suppose I feel more guilt than exhaustion, though the latter is certainly real. I feel guilty because I am unable to do it all, as in everything. I had always believed it was just a matter of scheduling, commitment, determination and planning. I even had some pride in myself that I could do more than my peers, tackle the tougher assignments, be more in-depth regarding a topic, and still have time to give to a few Good Causes to boot. No longer.

I'm lucky if I can just put out the daily fires that need to be extinguished, and I'm leaving the infernos still raging from the previous day, week, or even month.

Yet, I feel compelled to write. Not just for someone who may be reading this but for me. Yes, me. I need to put my thoughts together in some format that makes the world make sense again. I need a voice. I need a place to lament. I need that blank screen to scream, yell, curse, shout, cry, or just speak, even if it's only to myself.

I miss people.

Really. I miss people. That sounds strange to me; strange because it is my job to meet people, understand their unique situations and needs, offer solutions, give comfort, celebrate, or just chat. That's my job. I do it well. I talk with at least 30 people a day in serious conversation. But I miss people. Not people as in human contact, but people as in complete strangers who just strike up a conversation and enjoy the moment of that real connection. Or time with friends when we can sit and enjoy the meal without the worry of getting home in time to make sure the medicines are taken, the cat box is emptied, the food is stored away properly, or having enough drive time for the next medical appointment. No, I'm not talking about the employees at the grocery store who know me by name because I'm there nearly everyday to get food, prescriptions or cleaning supplies. Nope. I'm talking about conversations for the sake of conversations; laughter from the belly; sharing stories never heard before; feeling other people's hurt and not just my own.

I miss that. I miss feeling the humanity in others because I'm consumed with the demands of being a parent to my kids, and a parent to my own parent. There is no time left to feel -- I only have time to do.

I'm not my best for anyone: the rest of my family, my clients, or the causes I support. I'm my best for a situation for which I have no control and I am only along for the ride.

America is going to have to come to grips with my present reality as the Baby Boomers begin to enter the retirement years. Soon, my reality will be the norm, not the felt-sorry-for-circumstance-of-someone-down-the-street. Society will have to come to grips with the financial and emotional drain of aging parents. I'll leave that discussion for another time.

Now, don't get me wrong in all this. I am not complaining about task at hand because I'm thankful I can do this. I wouldn't trade this situation for anything in the world. It's been fun getting to know my mom in a whole new way. Frankly, I never knew she knew so many swear words, and that she could use them so quickly and so correctly in such amazing patterns.

What I'm saying is that one day, I'm fairly certain, my kids will have to do this for me and my care. I apologize to them now for their future anxieties. But what of others who have no one, nor the resources, to care for their aging relatives?

I no longer have the answers, the time, nor the energy I once had. Instead, I have a mom who needs me. And it's the least I can do.