I found an amazing book: The Little Book of Hercules: The Physical Aspects of the Spiritual Path by William Bodri. It brings together every spiritual issue and fascination and observation I have had.
I have always had a fascination with stillness, silence, simplicity, etc. Part of my interest in the Eastern Orthodox church has been its path of attainment of Purification, Illumination, and Theosis (Catharsis, Theoria, and Theosis). This book addresses how similar this path is to Buddhist, Hindu, and other paths.
This book also addresses the kundalini experience I have been having and how it relates to all these spiritual processes. Fascinating. It goes into a lot of detail as to how it works.
It does all this through the Greek mythology of Hercules’s twelve labors. The labors are common to all faiths. The labors are all about letting go.
What struck me quickly was on page 21. “[Y]ou have to learn how to mentally let go while still doing everything that has to be done.” This is why in many eastern cultures (including some Eastern Orthodox countries), it is not unusual for men and women to join monasteries or go off into caves and mountains for spiritual practice, after the kids are grown and the middle-aged adults are done with the householder phase of life.
This is also in agreement with my observation that Catholic and Orthodox monks and nuns that join the monastery/convent in their twenties are basically children play-acting in adult clothing. They are lovely, sweet, generous children, not grown-ups, because they have never had to sacrifice anything ever. Their lives of silence and stillness come at the expense of maturity and real-world competence.
Also, the people demanding obedience are usually the least spiritual in the entire community, managers and not spiritual leaders. They are the blind leading the blind. Being a pastor and having a family put an effective end to spiritual practice. Marrying people, burying people, going to endless meetings, hospital visitations, etc., do not leave much time for prayer and meditation. Also, the spiritual greats of all faiths (Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Hindu gurus, Zen masters, Desert Fathers and Mothers, etc.) have to be sought out. They will not demand your obedience because they don’t need the ego satisfaction. You have to hunt them down like dogs to get a word from them.
I can never seriously practice while Barry is still alive. On the other hand, I can meditate when I can. When he passes, I plan on going on retreat for a week or two. I need some alone time, desperately.
I go to Peckham on Thursday to see what they have to offer. I need to bring my driver’s license and SS card. I might have to juggle the caretaker schedule. I don’t know how any of this is going to work. Functioning for two is exhausting.
It just amazes me how I still “have issues” while pursuing spirituality and employment. I am pushing fifty and still have shame, shyness, etc. Wow. I guess that’s just my karma.
I’ll just keep inching forward spiritually and occupationally like a snail.
The other day, I was copying and pasting parts of my resume online, feeling all ashamed of not having worked (or even contacted my references) in years. Shame is my primary impediment to growth sometimes. It’s that fundamental feeling of “WTF is wrong with me that I can’t do something so simple?” I am so Asperger-y sometimes that social niceties escape me altogether. Not helping. One problem I have is that it just feels sooooo good to be alone that it doesn’t occur to me how unsocial I really am sometimes.
Meanwhile, the TV was on, like it always is. Barry had it on CBS This Morning. Someone was talking about the labor market. It turns out that the economy is improving and there are more jobs. I credit Obama for the momentum of the recovery that Trump is taking credit for. Companies are having a rough time finding reliable workers, given the opioid epidemic. The new qualification for employment is to NOT be addicted to opioids.
I suddenly felt like a real catch! I am college educated and not hooked on anything other than caffeine. My crack house is Biggby, an East-Lansing-based chain of coffee shops in MI, OH, and some random other states. When lost in Maumee, OH, attempting to get onto the turnpike, (on the way to WV last year) I had never been so happy as to find a Biggby. I whipped out my Biggby card, got a mocha, and got directions. I rock! Compared to people hooked on fentanyl or heroin, I shine like the sun. And there I was, feeling routinely ashamed.
It really is all relative.
I have decided to get a lawyer to hold the insurance company vipers accountable. This decision made me weirdly happy the other day. Why would starting a whole new pain in my ass make me happy? I had to think about that one for a while.
It’s because it’s about me. This is what I’ve been waiting for. For years. I’ve been saying, “It sure will be nice when my life is actually about me.” Now it is.
I can’t work until the insurance company starts to reimburse me. That means getting a lawyer is my job for the foreseeable future. I have a purpose.
I noticed that it became easier in my mind to do this when I framed it in a context of fighting for the rights of other caregivers. Part of me is so caretaking that I can’t seem to do this just for my own benefit. Caretaking is truly a perspective and not just a lifestyle. It infiltrates everything. That bugs me. I feel like I need to learn to be more genuinely selfish.
My view is that, right now, my life is 80% Barry, 20% me. When I get a job, maybe it will be 50/50. Gradually, it will be 80/20 in my favor. Eventually, Barry will die and things really will be all about me. Horrible but true.
Things take time. The tricky part is not truly knowing how much time you actually have to do something. We make assumptions because we have to. We cannot function without a certain bedrock of assumptions. What’s hard is to admit is that that is all they are: assumptions. Reality is change and impermanence. Timing is the issue and mystery.
But the shift has occurred. Past tense. And I am happy about it.
I need to be ready to come out swinging.
First, about Barry. Everyone I talk to is telling me how much more quickly Barry seems to be going downhill. I heard it from Lynn, my friend with a cat. She saw Barry with me at the Biggby’s (a local chain of cafés) a couple weeks ago after not having seen him since probably January. Then there’s Lori from the AA clubhouse, who maybe works there two or three times a year. And then there’s my parents, whom I saw at the family get-together this past week. They could hardly believe how much Barry had gone downhill from last fall (when we actually lived with them for almost a week during plumbing hell) till they got back from Florida in April.
I fight myself on the Barry’s-health issue. I am pretty sure I can see him go downhill a little at a time, but I see him every single day. I am always wondering if I am just imagining things. I need fresh eyes to tell me what they see more objectively.
And I am seeing things now. I am watching the lump on his neck grow. And yesterday, his right ear did not look quite right. First, it looked red, and then slightly blue. I need to observe this more closely. But the goal is never treatment, only pain-relief if it hurts.
I’ve been functioning on the basis that Barry could live another couple of years, spending a final chunk of it in a hospital and/or a nursing home. And now I am not so sure. I also feel like his internal clock is shutting off. For the past few years, he has always awakened at 6am, with his alarm set at 6:45. How he would wake at 5:58 or 5:59 (I would look at my clock when I noticed him get out of bed) was amazing to me. How on earth did he do that? Well, he’s not doing it so much now. The alarm got him out of bed at least once this past week and he’s been getting out of bed later than 6 regularly. So… something is happening.
And then there’s the insurance company vipers. I had a twenty-day elimination period, which ended on May 29th. And they are fighting me on that. They are saying that the Brightstar people had not faxed in the care notes. I do not believe that for one second. So I had them fax them in again. Bottom line: they have yet to reimburse me for one penny of my Brightstar expenses and I cannot continue to afford to pay out-of-pocket forever. I am going to a lawyer for a referral for a “bad faith insurance” attorney.
I cannot work if I cannot get reimbursed for Barry’s care. Period. There is no job I am qualified for right now that will pay me the $20/hour I am paying Brightstar. I’ve gone to great lengths to get qualified to work. What the insurance company has yet to understand is that they messed with the wrong chick. I am not some high-school-dropout, 80-year-old housewife. I am almost 50, with an MBA. Most people are too busy to deal with the insurance company. Not me. I have zero life until they start paying up. I have nothing better to do and all day to do it. I have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain by fighting them. I am not wondering if I should contact an attorney. I have actual physical proof they have lied to me in the past. Legally, I have what is called a “slam dunk.” I have documented my phone calls with them. I know when I called, what they said, etc. I have no reason to believe Brightstar is lying to me.
So, Monday or Tuesday, I will call the insurance company to see if they have received the care notes. If not, they are simply making my case. I am going Tuesday to a lawyer that told me that I should contact him for a referral if the insurance company continued acting in bad faith. I’m not doing this just for me. I am advocating for all caregivers that insurance companies are screwing with. I will be able to show others how to beat these vultures at their own game.
I keep having dreams and intuitions that something significant will happen this fall. I do not know what, but this autumn will be huge. I feel a pressing need to prepare now.
This past Monday, the lady whose house we have the Blessing at told us that this upcoming Monday will be the last time she hosts. At the end of the month, she is moving back to California to be near her daughters and grandchildren. Who can blame her? I know I would do the same in her position.
It affected me more than I thought it would. It felt like one of my few supports was being yanked out from under me. I feel like everything I need is evaporating and changing before my very eyes. Meanwhile, I plod along being a caretaker forever, not experiencing change in the only area that would actually help me. Everything changes except what I most desperately need to be changed.
It just ups the urgency factor. I am determined to use every available moment to prepare for my next job. I will definitely have no excuse for not being prepared, given the sheer amount of free time on my hands. My life is over half over and I feel like I have wasted most of it doing things that “seemed like a good idea at the time.” Talk about famous last words.
I want to tell young girls: Do what you want while you are still young and healthy enough to do it. Will you screw up? Definitely, but the ultimate mistake is to be the good, obedient girl who doesn’t realize that life is passing her by until it is too late. Your fears are simply programming to make sure that you act in other people’s best interest. When I first got into Al-Anon, I heard a great quote. “If your family is crazy and you have their approval, what does that say?” Amen.
Friday, I finally had my neuro-psych eval. Ugh.
It was hard and tedious. Listen to three words, do some things, and what were those words? The psychiatrist seemed highly expert and clearly wanted to get it over with. He flipped the pictures very quickly. The solo part was a fill-in-the-bubble. I was able to do 338 T/F questions in about ½ hour. Some of it was checking me to see how tin-foil-hat I am. Questions like, “People are following me,” and, “People are reading my mind,” are entertaining. Don’t get me wrong. I believe there are people with psychic abilities who can read minds. I am not one of them and, even if I were, I would seek someone more interesting than myself to read. Someone really might be reading my mind right now and I can’t imagine caring any less about it. Imagine someone with their eyes closed hard, their fingers on their temples, saying, “I see she is thinking about…a cat. A gray one. Definitely a gray cat.”
I think, in general, he was impressed with me. I was there early, paid close attention, and was all business. He seemed particularly pleased with my language comprehension. This may be where being a tad Asperger-y pays off. He referred to the guy from Michigan Rehabilitative Services. I bet he called him as soon as he was done with his part. We finished the part requiring him in a little more than 3 hours, which I think must have been really good (because I was told to give 4-5 hours for the whole thing and I was completely finished after 3:45 time-wise). He seemed happy.
I hope this helps MRS to find something for me. If nothing else, I proved that I am good at test-taking, which, of course, I already knew.
I just want to get on with the next phase of my life.
I was thinking about my family the other day and thought that maybe part of my function might be to, at the very least, not contribute to the dysfunctional crap and maybe even to undo some of the insanity.
Then it hit me: I think that is what I am trying to do in every area. There is a biblical proverb: “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Meditation’s purpose is to observe the mind and to learn how not to react to it. Self-control is that time gap between having a feeling and acting on it. Every time I meditate, I am un-training myself. Buddhism is the deliberate undoing of all forms of religious thinking. It is ultimately subversive. Buddhism doesn’t say, “Think this, not that.” Buddhism says, “That opinion is just a thought. You will have another one in a second. So?”
I have spent many years learning about systems thinking and corporate culture. In times of great change, like what we are living in now, those who eventually win are the ones that know what people want and can guide their fellow humans into creating new habits. That means undoing old habits. Most people are creatures of habit and, if you can get someone into the habit of using your product, you now have a market base. But all of this means undoing people’s old habits, often so slowly that they don’t realize they are being retrained at all.
I think my gift is one of asking questions. Why are you doing this? Why do you believe that? Is this really a risk worth taking? Have you thought about how others will respond? Most people operate on automatic pilot and have never thought of these questions. Sometimes, I really piss people off by my questions because I will push them until they say something out loud they didn’t want to say. “You just have to take it on faith!” means that they just lost the argument. Facts and reason are not on their side and so they assert faith instead of logic. Another good one is, “Because that’s how I was raised!” because it translates into,”This is what my mommy and daddy told me, therefore it is true.” This is why I don’t get along with religious “authority figures”: independent thought is anathema to them. I don’t take their pronouncements seriously without fact-checking them first. I am submitted to logic, reason, and science, not their self-professed “authority.”
I am subversive and looking for a job. I’m not sure that’s a great combination. I do not blend into corporate culture because I see through it. I understand the techniques and goals. But if what you want is someone that can give a fresh reality-based perspective or get you to see what it is you really want, I’m the one for you. I am going to have to find a place that is all for independent thinking and not mind control. That’s all there is to it.