Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Gift, or Weeding the Garden

The problem with being a rock, and, by that I mean, offering strength to someone you love, in the absence of their own, is that you are a rock, and, given that outward appearance can seem eternally unchanged, you simply blend in unnoticed, that is, until gratitude rears its ugly head. There is no greater enemy of friendship, or relationship, or love, than gratitude. It simply creates an unpayable debt, and a debt, to the diminished or weak hangs on them like a stone collar.
She is afraid of me now, not that I can blame her given who and what I am, because her gratitude is held in conjunction with all that is wrong in her life; in all the sadness and suffering that I have stood her through; that sadness and suffering that she now wishes to expunge like hair clogging a drain. I can no longer be seen as hope, as I represent nothing but her despair, and she begrudges me that, though it is not of my creation. “I don’t go backwards,” she is fond of saying, and for a woman who has thrived living in the miracle of the moment, she is now sliding backwards into a future she is imagining; a future contrary to her past, a future painted with previously unwanted colors. She can no longer stand next to me, in this forlorn world of her past, and runs forwardly backward, believing she is well again, her footsteps carrying her towards death’s door. She does not see this. She has donned, once again, the blinders of hiding, recreating who she always been (even when denying it) into a persona just a bit different, just a bit more distant from her core; a planet orbiting itself. The truly terrifying aspect of this is that she cannot see it; she, who is so self-aware, cannot perceive the not-so-subtle changes. And I am left to remain what I am, allowing her to stumble, but not to fall; letting her almost break, while bearing the weight of my own terror, not silently, but rather, withdrawn into what kindness I can muster, which oftentimes, unfortunately, carries the flavor of frustration.
As for me, I do not believe that I can adequately describe the weight I bear. It most certainly carries some of my specious certainty that I know, or at least have learned, what she needs, and how best to supply it; I do, however, allow that she has more than a little grasp of it herself. She is, however, strong-willed enough to press ahead with full, formidable force…denying, it seems to me, that her illness is equally as powerful…to the level of her former energy; this, I fear, is hurting her, both with her perceived happiness, and her new found lack of awareness. She looks, oftentimes, haggard to the nth, and fortifies it with uncharacteristic temper, sometimes to the point of outright mean.
All this, of course, has been augmented by her allowing me to taste of what was and could be. That I embraced it with my whole, open heart was perhaps, unknowingly selfish, yet it was also given purely. It was, for me, a bitter pill to swallow; to have tenderness withdrawn. Perhaps, that is not accurate, for she does not live without tenderness pouring outward from within, yet it often seems now that her tenderness is somehow mildly forced…more of a longing than a desire. Still, I would eagerly offer her kisses, or foot rubs, it matters not which, with the full brilliance of my love, yet I cannot find a genuine smile any longer.
Yet I grow, albeit begrudgingly. I can allow consciously for the possibilities beyond my purview, but my intuitive sense is the stronger. I have not often been wrong, whether in foresight or hindsight. Yes, I know that sounds a lot egocentric, but I have learned that my intuition, my gut, and yes, my empathy have rarely betrayed me. I do not carry my gifts with the same kindness that she does, but I trust them completely, and I cannot relinquish what I see. Still, I know that I will be there, whatever is to come, whether it actualizes as happiness, or collapse, for she still talks of the wonders we could do, while leaving me to do them alone.
I have to allow her own process of healing, and, to an extent I am, but my despair often brings me to the point of tearful withdrawal, an endless repetition of retreat and approach, which as methods go is an abject failure. I have always found my way, and I believe I will again, yet I find myself begging any who or what to renew my strength, so that I can choose to smile again. Her despair is equally painful, and I never forget that; sometimes however, I cannot paint that for her.
She has always offered her gift without condition or clause, and has always believed that the gift will be received as it is given. This cannot be true, as, more often than not, it is received as the deer sees the headlight, and once seen, there is no escape. I don’t mean to imply that none have received it, and broken free, but even for those capable, there is no possibility of resisting the light of the beam. It freezes you warmly into better; opens you to standing still in the moment of glow, without the benefit, to all but a few, of seeing the pace or power of the vehicle. She has no sense of the consequence, if there is one. She only sees the better, and that is good enough for her. For most, it cannot be sustained in her absence, yet she cannot see that the result is never the full extent of her gift; she is happy with knowing that, at the very least, they are the better for it, though never the best. She offers possibilities. Realizing them is entirely up to the recipient; holding on to them is elusive for the majority. It is like talking to God for three minutes, never to remember the conversation, but perhaps leaving with afterglow. Yet when they fail, or alter the truth of it, it cuts her to the quick; hurts her so deep and long. When they deny the truth of it, she fires back with undeniable truth, whether they acquiesce or not. The truth of what can be is sacred to her. There is no compromise. Truth, like love, just is.
Perhaps it is these walls, plastered with memory, painted with soiled sadness; she cannot be happy here; she cannot be happy in what she has always done here. Yes, there are moments, but they exhaust and deplete her. Perhaps it is nothing more than the memories carried in these breezes. She cannot escape the cooling melancholy, the goosepimply sensations of involuntary dread. But these breezes have stolen from her, carried away what she gives elsewhere, carried away to give it elsewhere. She embodies joy everywhere but here. The world becomes lighter, everywhere but here. Being her is negated within these walls. She needs certainty. These walls imprison her in fractal, particulate vagaries. They need fresh paint, the colors of new moments. Perhaps when all is settled she will not have lost the permanence of these walls, and they will bring her new vision. She talks of it, but only in conscious, pragmatic tones. These walls have excised her will; she cannot do here, or will herself to do, and when she tries, it only lasts until she depletes, and she is only left the energy to voice all that is wrong and untrue. There is a sense of failure in her when she is here. She runs away, I think, to prove to herself that it is not her fault; that she can offer better choices, and that they will hold if she offers them to fresh hearts and minds. She is mildly wrong about one thing. She is not an experiential learner; she is the teacher, and benefits from instantaneous result. There is nothing instant in this home. She needs the here and now to restore; what approaches, certain or uncertain, offers her no respite and no renewal. I am the rock, but I have also become these walls. I am sad.
The old woman has died; died yesterday morning, at the proper time, with the knowledge of comforting, worn out uselessness. I only met her once, and our entire dialogue, beyond greeting, consisted our individual perceptions. “I am confused,” she said. “Me too,” I replied. She slipped in and out of clarity as easily as she slipped in and out of sleep. She was 97 years old, and dementia was a natural, constant companion. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman; artist, author, pioneer. Yet it was her, and by that I mean her, the younger, not her the deceased, that gave her a final, peaceful clarity. I did not witness their interactions, yet what I know is undoubtedly true. The dying woman saw before her a younger woman who bore the natural gift of joy that her loved ones needed. She saw the younger woman as nobly wise as herself; as strong as she was. She could leave her family in equally good hands. And she knew all this clearly, despite her dementia, in the grand moments of lucidity that she was gifted. I don’t know if she, the younger, taught her to dance in open joy, but she most certainly gave her the reality of dying with a smile, perhaps unseen, but a smile, from knowing that all would be well after her final breath. She died happily knowing.
Her body has betrayed her; stolen from her the peace of knowing that success and happiness would come. She is drained, depleted, and she is fighting with an unbreakable will. She needs the quiet to find that will, and she has found it. Unfortunately, it exists in an alternate universe, unconfined by these walls. Her drives have become more primal, and in the reptilian realm of fight-or-flight, flight has won the battle. In order to restore, she needs to give every aspect of herself…heart, body, mind…to those who are lost, or sad, or hopelessly confused. And I’m certain that the old woman’s son, his sons and daughters, and all the strays are the beneficiaries of her untethered will. Their worlds are brighter, more joyous, more open to wonder, than they have ever been. This is a very good thing, but it has a precious cost. She gives to restore. She helps and heals and brightens. I cannot fully describe her offerings, because they are boundless. Her flight has led her to this offering to novices. Her other life no longer exists, but in vague recollection. Admittedly, she does not have the strength to do both, or to be here, or to be there. She gives, but never takes. OK, she does receive, but that is different than taking. Taking is the other half of giving, and neither can exist fully without the other. It took me most of my life to learn this. Lennon was right. ‘The love you make is equal to the love you take’…or the other way around…same result. She cannot restore, fulfill, until she learns this. So she marches forward, eschewing the sleep she desperately needs, denying herself the care she needs. The joy of giving supplies her the illusion that she is better. She is draining faster than before, and I am powerless to do anything but let her march.
Anyway, I have my own internal battles to wage. I will find the truthful answers. I will love her always, as purely as I always have. And most of the time that is good enough to work. It will again.