Spilt milk!

artist- Roger Hutchinson

artist Roger Hutchinson

A bowl of cereal, a new caregiver and a stack of notebooks filled with bills and correspondence – what did these things have in common? They were all in the right place at the wrong time. . Too early in the day to have gathered my defenses, I sat wide-eyed and speechless as a bowl filled with milk and cereal, slipped out of my new assistant’s hand only to land upside down on an ordered stack of paperwork and notebooks. It was a moment when my patience and desire to be in control were challenged beyond words.

I spend a lot of energy creating ‘systems’ that keep the details of my daily life, both items and routines, accessible to me and the people who assist me. When someone has worked with me for a while these systems become familiar, reducing the amount of time necessary to give directions or search for things. It all appears logical and routine until a new person is added to the team.

Certainly the one most challenged is the new assistant. Already on the spot, it is easy to see the anxiety rise as new tasks are introduced.

At least that what I must say to myself. So many details in life are not in my control. If I focused on this fact for too long a wave named ‘overwhelmed’ could quickly wash over me. So I sit in my beautiful home taking deeper breathes to settle my nerves as I help to reassure my assistant and clean up the breakfast spill – one simple direction at a time.

‘I learn whatever state I’m in, therein to be content.’ What an amazing woman, Helen Keller. Her wisdom is my encouragement and for this I give thanks.

Dreams

IMG_0890Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may go.
Louise Driscoll

 

Awake at 4:30am, I wonder what has stirred me?

These past weeks I trained several new caregivers. Many hours have been spent sharing personal details and staying very alert to our every move. This type of training is much like dancing – together we learn the steps and build the trust needed to lead and follow.

Then there is the introduction to my life. Where is my family? Why did I move to Asheville? Do I like to shop, read books, watch tv… Questions begin to slow when I explain my vocation — an Episcopal priest, where I have lived — from the East Coast to the West Coast, my  schedule — time for quiet, prayer, writing projects, workshops and meeting friends for food and fun. Most caregivers are not accustomed to working with folks like me, active people who live with a disability. It takes a while to get oriented. My job– to be patient. Be patient and remember to protect the space for my dreams.

I have a dear friend who once asked how I managed to have any privacy and time for myself. She watched my life as it always seemed filled with people. People, who by necessity, must be in my rooms and touch many of my belongings. She could not imagine how I might find a way to have private time and space. “No one caregiver knows everything about me.”, I replied. “Somehow I am able to create a space that allows for privacy and solitude.”

This is not to say that finding private time is easy. And so I return to my opening question:

Awake at 4:30, I wonder what has stirred me? It is my alarm for peaceful time alone. When most of the world still sleeps, I awaken ready to revisit my dreams. My eyes open to discover a moment when images and ideas can rise to the surface and find expression.

This time is never taken for granted.  It has to be honored. All of the people who assist me with the details of my daily life rely on my ability to find these moments. It is time to remember my dreams and find ways to bring them to life.

I welcome this opportunity and give thanks for a new day.

An Unexpected Decision – an unexpected goodbye…

It has been difficult to write on a personal level this week. When emotions run high it is not always easy to focus!

My move to the mountains continues to bring daily blessings. The land is remarkable, the people kind and the future filled with possibilities.

I am beginning my third month in Asheville. There have been an abundance of details to cover. As many of you know, I have not been alone in this journey. My beloved companion, Lilly, has held her own while trying to adjust to the myriad of changes and watch over me. We have not been strangers to changes over the years. Each move or new caregiver has been a challenge taken with the assurance that we could always adjust with one another near.

This move has been different. Lilly has sacrificed her sense of peace as she has tried to figure out what I needed both physically and emotionally. Our schedule has been foreign. New caregivers have continued to come to our door, raising her anxiety about my safety and support. She has never missed a beat with these changes before us but no matter my effort to assure her, she has met these new people and situations on high alert. Her most common action has been to stand between my assistant and myself as if to be the protector. Her loss of appetite has been a real concern – there have been long days in the veterinarian’s office to re-hydrate and continued focus on what food combo would work to encourage her to eat.

During these days of stress I had begun to wonder if she would be able to adjust to this transition. Wishing I could make it alright, I struggled to push away the consideration that Lilly might need to retire and enjoy the freedom of just being a dog. It has felt too soon – I have felt too alone. But to see her struggle made my needs feel selfish.

No one could have convinced me that I would be faced with such a hard decision so early in my new journey. I carried the thoughts of her needs close to my heart while I continued to make home for us. Last weekend, as if my struggles were heard in the heavens, I met a couple who were immediately drawn to Lilly. In a short period I had shared a bit of our story and they expressed an interest in helping any way possible. I left them, Lilly by my side, feeling a strange sense of relief.

As I said in the beginning of this reflection, my blog has been quiet on the personal level this past week. I was too emotional to see this truth in words. After a couple of visits with these new friends, Lilly spent this weekend away – running with other dogs on land fenced and plenty, sharing her natural care-giving with a kind couple and enjoyed the contentment of being a dog. Tonight they came to gather her kennel, bed, toys and blankets. If the week goes as well as the weekend – we will have found her new home in these mountains and begin yet another new moment in this journey.

It is one more goodbye. A goodbye so unexpected. As goodbyes accumulate they become less easy to ignore. There have been many tears rising from deep in my heart. Tears that continue to wash the sadness with a sense of comfort. Even though I know it is the right thing to do, I get irritated with having to be the adult yet one more time.

Standing at the edge of another ‘unknown’ – I can only trust that the one, who has always brought me strength, is ever near. In the words of Julian of Norwich, I rest in the knowledge that ‘All Shall Be Well’.