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Wow, what a Debbie Downer ending to my first batch. Actually, reading the whole thing over makes me feel a bit maudlin. I really wasn’t kidding when I said that I have a hard time writing things that are positive and inspiring, I’m always afraid of drifting into sentimentality. I also wasn’t kidding about living with the guilt of being a part of Cleo’s demise. But finally writing that down and re-reading it makes me realize that I have changed. I would never agree to do that for a friend today, not unless it was absolutely the only option left.
I was feeling, dare I say, proud of completing the whole batch for August. I am not good at acknowledging accomplishments, but this one meant a lot.
But today I made the mistake of reading some entries from fellow 100 words devotees. I have been doing that off and on for awhile quite happily, but I should have known today was not a good day to do it. I have had waves of longing and futility washing over me, that threaten my self belief and make me want to chuck the whole writing thing in as a waste of time.
I am just starting up writing again and am honking and bleating and playing wrong notes as anybody would when picking up an instrument again after a long period of silence. But I’m prone to expecting immediate perfection and can see how that manifests in other areas of my life.
I am realizing how much trouble I have with just working on something for the pure enjoyment of it, and not for a purpose or specific outcome. I didn’t know I required so much direction and structure, but considering my shaky self concept in this realm, it shouldn’t surprise me.
I am reading Alice Munro right now. Trying to understand what is so great about her writing. She is one of those icons of Canadian Literature that just don’t do anything for me. I think she has even been referred to as one of the best short story writers in the world. Yet I am struggling through her short story collection,“Who do you think you are ?”, hoping to learn something, and finding the characters only mildly compelling. I don’t care about them, and for me that’s really the only reason to want to continue reading. Is it just me?
The make believe people have descended again. The “no man’s land” I talked about in my last batch is the place where they park all their trucks, and set up catering tents, and a honey wagon or two. The teamsters chauffeur people back and forth from “the set” in air-conditioned Dodge Sprinters. Star gazing, the human variety, has become a pastime here, as more and more “stars” choose this very un-Hollywood place as a backdrop for their stories. I don’t frequent the same places that the “stars” hang out, so my track record for brushes with greatness is pretty dismal
The man that used to live in the parking garage of the building next door is back. I was getting groceries out of my car, and he rode up on his bicycle, which was loaded precariously with bags and boxes and baskets filled with today’s haul of cans and bottles. He greeted me with “long time no see!”, and I asked him where he had been hiding. He got a job cleaning up around the fish and chip shop down the block at Fisherman’s Wharf, and he gets all the fish and chips he can eat. Things are looking up.
I only have a few minutes to get my 100 words in. I think there is something in the “rules” about a day’s grace, but I’m not sure. I was planning to get them done this morning, but I ended up going to the hospital. I can’t seem to avoid hospitals. I end up there even on my days off. Family emergency, but at least it was a different hospital. This one generally does not have people being arrested outside the front entrance on a regular basis, and no outdoor patio that is apparently a great place to buy drugs.
Johnny glanced at young Casey. She was busily filling and wiping the metal napkin holders, and didn’t seem to pay him much attention. When she had brought him his coffee refill, pouring slowly with both slender hands grasping the pot handle, he had commented that it looked like they were going to have an Indian Summer this year. She had smiled with no comment, probably thinking, silly old man, he guessed. Maybe Indian Summer was one of those sayings that Milly had warned him he shouldn’t be using in public anymore. It had been so long he couldn’t quite remember.
One day I was walking by a bus shelter close to the hospital where I work, and saw a frail-looking man lying slumped on the bench, bleeding from various cuts on his face. Many people had already walked by, and I have to admit, being almost late for work, I was wishing that I hadn’t looked at him either. I gave him a few shakes just to see that he wasn’t dead, and he stirred slightly. I decided to go over and speak to the two paramedics who were having a smoke and chatting in the Emergency entrance…(to be cont’d)
The paramedics promised they would check on the man, if they didn’t get any other calls. When I arrived in our department a few minutes later, they were still chatting. Looking out the washroom window I could glimpse the bus stop through the trees, and the man was still there. A steady stream of people walked by either taking a quick glance and looking away, or not noticing him at all. About 15 minutes later when I looked out the window again I saw one of the paramedics at the bus stop, shaking the man with his blue latex-gloved hands…
I am running out of time…and it’s only 7:30 in the morning. I was up late last night (at the hospital again), up early this morning to get the dogs walked, lunch made, throw dishes in the dishwasher, laundry in the washer…blah, blah, blah. I am trying to spit out 100 words now as I know we will be back at the hospital tonight. We go to the ‘urgent care centre’ and sometimes it is non-stop bleeding heads and broken bones, and asthmatics not taking their medication and driving themselves to the hospital while trying to hold on to life…
Yeah! We didn’t have to go to the hospital today. Things are getting better, so we don’t have to go on a daily basis anymore. The people at “urgent care” have renewed my faith in health care workers. We encountered many different nurses and a few different doctors because of having to go there for so many days in a row, and there was not one of them that didn’t show their unique version of compassion; either through providing a few good laughs to ease the tension, or unexpected kindnesses. It’s amazing the difference a well-timed hot blanket can make.
One night at “urgent care” a man asked the receptionist how he was going to get home. She looked lost for a moment, then asked him how he had gotten to the hospital. He had taken the bus, so she politely answered that they were unable to provide transportation home. He was not happy with this, and demanded a taxi voucher. It amazes me what people expect from our health care system, and that they have no appreciation for the fact that they can walk into a hospital and receive 1000’s of dollars of medical treatment that costs them nothing…
Each time I visit my mother in the “Nursing Home", I prepare myself to be greeted by a stranger, not the woman who raised me. The last time, a care aide was wheeling her down the hall as I came in, and I almost walked right by thinking, ‘that clown is not my mother’. The way they had made her up, she looked like one of those cheap dolls from the dollar store; perfectly round red patches of rouge, blue eye-shadow right up to the eyebrows, and heavy lipstick that didn’t quite stay within the thinning lines of her lips.
This visit was far more pleasant. I decided that I could not approach the situation consumed by my own selfish desire for things to be different. I was going to do my best to make the visit as enjoyable as I could for her. Not in a desperate way, as perhaps I had done in the past, trying to gain approval for myself. Just in a way that would allow me to acknowledge that she is my mother, who spent much of her life taking care of me despite many other far more interesting things she could have been doing.
I was desperate to bring her some food that she would really like. It’s a fool’s game, as I know I will never win. I can’t possibly bring her enough flowers and chocolate to make up for everything she has lost. This time I decided to let it go; leave it to chance. As I was driving toward the “home”, I saw a farmer’s market in full swing, and I picked up a home-made steak and kidney pie, and a huge piece of cake covered in fresh raspberries. This was more perfect than anything I could have planned in advance.
The woman who lives in the room across the hall, whose lower lip trembles continuously, stopped me each time I left my mom’s room. “Do you have a few minutes just to chat?” she would ask quietly. How could I say no? So a few minutes were spent with her each time I went down the hall to bring a cup of tea, or a glass of water. The woman next door, who has a wickedly sharp sense of humour, asked me if I was “going on a bus to nowhere”, and if I was, could she please join me.
I have just read an article about Frida Kahlo. Mexico City is celebrating the 100 years since her birth in typical Mexican style. She pops up in my life at times that are usually marked by a creative awakening. When I was reading about the colours she loved, I could feel them as a part of myself, warming my heart from the inside. Those colours expressed the pain and beauty of her life and their richness finally melted through and showed their brilliance. I feel them warm and full of life coursing through my body. I am almost alive again.
I am so tired right now that I can barely string a few words together into a meaningful pattern. I want to continue with the rest of the story of the man sleeping on the bus stop seat, or see where Johnny is going next, but I have been leaving my words until the end of the day, and have just been too tired to try anything different. I need to get back to doing them in the morning. I am definitely a morning person-my mind is more alert, and I seem to be able to let go more easily
One of my resolutions for this year was to stop living a lie. When I say “living a lie”, what I am meaning is that I want to live my life more honestly. I was brought up to believe that lying was not a good thing, yet what I actually witnessed was a constant chorus of misguided “untruths” told for the purpose of maintaining equilibrium. I think this has outlived its usefulness.
People think they know me, by making a story out of a collection of “untruths”. And I feel alienated because few people know the real story, including me.
I always thought that I would write something about the war. I have so many stories in my head, but nothing concrete really. I wish so much that I had recorded some of the stories that I heard during the time that I worked with the veterans, because my mind has not retained many details and that is what I need to write stories. Concrete details. Many historical facts I can research, but the personal stuff, and the actual events that happened to particular people can only come from those people alone. I guess that’s where creative non-fiction comes in…
I am going off on all sorts of tangents right now. I don’t have much time to think of something interesting, so I am just going with whatever happens. I am lying in bed with a miniature Dachshund on each side, each sleeping peacefully. Even in sleep they display characteristics of their distinct personalities, despite their blood relation. He is on his back, hind legs wide apart, head hanging to the side, total trust in the world. She is tied up in a knot, nose tucked under her rear feet. Sleeping, yet ever muscle is taut and ready for anything.
I used to be afraid of routine, as I thought it was not only boring, but could send you into a kind of stupor. I thought if you always did things the same way, you would no longer notice anything, become blind to everything around you, unable to see anything from a new perspective. I have been living my life in a strange rhythm recently, trying to let go of always looking outside for something new, trying to love what I am doing now. It is allowing me to see the everyday as being more extraordinary than I ever imagined.
In a class I took recently, I learned some interesting things about dog and human interaction. The teacher demonstrated that dog’s react to human anxiety, by pulling me into the centre of the “teaching circle” with a lovely Golden Retriever named Billy, and asking me to try to get Billy to sit. I tried several times, but Billy kept getting up and prancing around, her eyes darting every which way. She would not sit. Then the teacher tried, and Billy sat immediately and remained calm for several minutes. I am now less likely to accuse my dogs of being neurotic.
I was so tired last night that I fell asleep halfway through writing my words and woke up about an hour later with a terrible pain in my neck. Reading it over, I don’t really remember writing it, and some of the punctuation is atrocious- Lynn Truss would have to avert her eyes! Anyway, it is late and I am writing. I really need to change my time to the morning again, but right now it is not possible, so I will have to continue writing with half a brain. Hopefully by Saturday I will turn over a new leaf.
I stayed up far too late, trying to do my words every night, and getting up at 5:30 am. Yikes, that sounds crazy, but that is what I have been doing. I think I need to get back to Yoga, and exercising in the morning, and meditation…So many things, just to keep us safe and sane. I have to expend a lot of energy to clear my mind and my body of all the crap that I absorb each day. I feel like I take everything into my body and then I end up with no room left for myself
I have been sleeping on and off all day. I had something that I wanted to write about all week, but now I can’t remember what it was. Last night I was so tired that I fell asleep while leaning forward in the chair with my fingers on the keyboard and all that I could see on the screen when I woke up was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…I’m not making this up! I was too tired to laugh. The next time I woke up, the computer fell right off my lap upside down onto the floor. How can a person be so tired?
I have just realized that it is almost the end of the month, and I feel that I hardly got started on what I wanted to write about this month. Too many other things going on, that’s my excuse; too many trips to the hospital and trips to Victoria to visit my dearly bewildered mother. And I’ve just been so exhausted, which I have complained about at length in these pages… I was going to start a rant about the possibility that all these things are just avoidance techniques… but at least I have still written my 100 words everyday!
I love some of the terms that medical folks use to describe certain conditions. Some of them are so poetic, so layered with meaning. A common one that has been around for a long time is “heart murmur”. It describes an often benign, but sometimes deadly condition, which suggests a small, perhaps ethereal voice urging toward something. Another potentially deadly one, which I hear quite frequently through working closely with Speech Language Pathologists, describes a situation where a patient is aspirating food or liquid into their lungs without coughing as a reflex, and is therefore referred to as “silent aspirations”.
I will have to continue the story about the bleeding man at the bus stop next month, as I will need more than one entry to finish it. Johnny will be back as well; right now he is sitting in Sam’s coffee shop, contemplating faking his own death.
Another strange medical term is “man in barrel syndrome”. It describes a condition in which a person loses use of their arms, but their legs are not affected. It is a strange situation, as the person affected can walk and run and kick a soccer ball, yet are unable to feed themselves.
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