This past week has been bizarre.
It was Wednesday. I had taken Barry to visit one of those respite care places. A potential buyer was coming by to look at the house. I went to Schuler’s to buy greeting cards, particularly one for my parents because they are heading back to Florida shortly. While at the bookstore, I had a salad. A busy day. I drove home.
I got home and there were cops all around. Barry comes outside to talk to me. He tells me someone shot into the house, through the living room into the TV, while he watching it. The police ask me questions. I have no answers. Apparently, down the block, a group of four boys were arguing over a girl. One of them pulled out a semi-automatic weapon and fired. The bullet went through my living room window and landed in the TV. There is no exit hole, so the bullet is still inside somewhere. A local station reporter interviews me. I allow him and the police to take pictures. I rake leaves out of nervousness. Someone says that a neighbor down the street caught the whole thing on their cell phone. A neighbor tells me to spend the night elsewhere, just in case. I call my folks and they allow us to spend the night. At first, Barry balks because it would disrupt his routine. Really? If he had continued with that stance, I would have spent the night at my parents’ house anyhow and let him stay at home.
The next day, I call the insurance company. The adjustor suggests that I take some pictures and email them to him. I inform him that I do not have a phone that does that. I also let him know that plenty of pictures were taken by channel 10 and the Lansing Police Department and I give him the police complaint number. He can likely access some of them online. He tells me I need an estimate for the window replacement. Friday, I get one from the window guy. The potential buyer was looking for a larger place, incidentally.
I have been having window drama and TV drama for the past few months. One window is missing a slider. About a month ago, the TV died and (guess who?) my parents got me another one. Then, a couple weeks later, the satellite stopped working. Seriously, what are the odds that the bullet would go through the window and land in the TV? Guess what? My parents have gotten me another TV! There are layers of irony here.
If Barry had been standing in front of the TV, getting up to use the bathroom, he would be dead. Can you imagine the irony? Living through cancer, having Huntington’s, and then being taken down by some unthinking punk’s bullet?
Some New-Agey friends are going to do a blessing on my house. One of them said she thought there was something that didn’t want my house to be sold. I agree. I have had a nightmare for the past year. I call people to help with the house, never to hear from them again, even people I have never had any problems with. Then there was the BB that came within six inches of my head while I was sitting in my chair watching TV. But what does this mean? Is there a spirit in my house that wants to keep me and Barry there? Threatening our safety is not the brightest means to ensure our desire to remain.
There may be lessons to learn here, but I am not sure they are mine. For me, the fundamental problem was that some hot-headed idiot has access to semi-automatic weaponry. I do not believe for one millisecond that the “right to bear arms” in the Constitution has this in mind. Owning a gun would not have kept us one bit safer because this incident had nothing whatsoever to do with us. If I was pro-gun-control before, I am even more so now. The NRA is so full of crap it is not funny. What is funny is my NRA window sticker from the car my parents ever-so-graciously gave me. That thing has got to come off. The police asked if we would press charges. I agreed to do so. However, I am not a witness. I am a victim, property-wise. Barry could easily have been killed. But, in the end, all I want is restitution. I want to see the face of the idiot that shot into my house. I want to be in that courtroom. At the very least, he is guilty of discharging a weapon into an occupied dwelling. What kind of defense could be possible? I don’t even know the age or race of the gunman. As Jeb Bush says (frighteningly casually), “Things happen.” When every moron is armed, he is absolutely correct. It is the total disregard for life that gives me chills. Perhaps someday, something will happen to him. But I’m sure no learning would occur. Why start now?
I have no answers.
If there is a lesson for me in this, I am curious as to what it might be.
A potential buyer is coming by the house tomorrow! This is huge. This is the first nibble and an indicator that the real estate market is making a (painfully slow) comeback.
If an offer is made, I will likely take it, unless it is unbelievably low, like $20,000. Whatever it takes to get out of Michigan.
Also, I have been seeking respite care for Barry. I need someone else to care for him. At least a few hours a week. Barry said that five hours at a time is too much because he would get anxious. I explained to him how miserable I have been and that his being anxious is a small price for him to pay for me to begin my next phase of life. In other words, I said, “Deal with it. I’ll get you reading material and try to make you comfortable, but I’m done putting my life on hold indefinitely for you.” A few hours a week is not enough for me to start a career, but he needs to get used to someone other than me taking care of him. As he continues to decline, my ability to care for him will diminish. He may as well get used to it now. It’s not pretty. It’s called “Huntington’s Disease.”
This house stuff has triggered every imaginable shame issue I have. I suck at housekeeping and am now making up for it. I refuse to be stuck interminably because I can’t deal with this or that issue.
So I keep moving. I keep busy, focusing on what I do have some control over.
The possibility of moving just became very real. Fortunately, I have already gotten rid of a ton of stuff. One U-Haul ought to do it.
I have been wondering lately what an authentic life would look like. I feel like authenticity requires knowing oneself and one’s desires. I am not there.
I spent my twenties and thirties repressing my feelings out of necessity. I no longer can repress my feelings, but they are only now starting to rise to the surface. It may be years before I really get in touch with them fully, if I ever do.
Why wouldn’t I get in touch with my feelings? Because parts of me are dying. This past summer showed me how I am dying inside. What is dying? My hopes and dreams and the person I used to be.
What do you call someone whose soul is gone but their body is still animated? A zombie. I am not the person I used to be. I don’t know what I will be eventually, either. I have no idea what I am anymore, if anything. I am nowhere. I am stuck in that in-between state.
People tell me that this is a phase and that it will not last. Eventually, Barry will die and I will move on. This never-ending responsibility will end. I used to believe them. Then I got the questionable mammogram. The assumption had always been that I would outlive Barry. This summer, that assumption came to an abrupt end. I miss that assumption. It’s amazing the things we take for granted, such as existing.
I think about Barry’s Uncle Bob’s wife. I asked Barry what her name was and he cannot recall. I could just as easily die that anonymously. My only memory of her is of her sleeping on the couch, much like I do. She died and Uncle Bob lived another five or ten years. I’m sure people told her that it was just a phase. They never told her that it would be her last phase, ever. She didn’t take care of Uncle Bob until he died; she took care of him until she died. Death parted them and he was the last one standing.
It takes a lot of energy to build a new life. The bottom line is that I will never have that energy until Barry passes. As long as there is a one-way flow of energy out of me and into him, I will not have the energy needed to create a new life for myself or to deal with repressed feelings that may arise. I give and he receives. It really is that simple.
Trying to act authentically given these circumstances is hard. I know little about what is genuine or not. I have figured out a little bit, however. For example, I do not feel like a wife. I am a live-in caretaker. Period. The only thing I could think of doing to honestly express that is to take off my wedding band. Barry hasn’t noticed. Why would he? He is still being taken care of.
I am the one not being cared for. I have to take care of myself to a certain degree or I will not be functional at all, even physically. Then I would be truly dead, not even a zombie. Part of me wishes I cared about that. Is not caring part of being an authentic zombie?
I am becoming more Zen. I’ve been meditating more and reading Crooked Cucumber, which is all about Shunryu Suzuki, a pioneer of Zen in America. He was so simple and had a dry sense of humor. For example, when he had cancer and was dying, he said something to the effect of, “If you had a limitless life, it would be a real problem for you.” Hilarious and humbling at the same time. One thing I read yesterday was his idea that we all have just the right amount of problems, not too many, not too few. It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t know what it even means. Nobody ever has more than they can handle?
My life seems to be heading in the Zen direction and I’m not sure why. There are no real sanghas in the Lansing area, or many in Michigan in general. Also, I lack the flexibility to sit in a full lotus position at all. Not even on a good day. Most of my friends are still Christians. I don’t get it.
Zen appeals to me in ways Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t. The simplicity, dry wit, ruthless realism, etc., all hold appeal. I don’t know much about the Zen approach to death. I am far more familiar with the Tibetan perspective on death. The Tibetans have clearly thought things through to a degree I find impressive, with their 49 days between death and rebirth and the various bardos. It reminds me of the Philokalia of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is in-depth and addresses humanity in ways that was centuries ahead of its time. But Tibetan Buddhism’s art seems overly ornate for my taste. That is personal preference. Like Orthodox iconography, Tibetan artwork has an unreal amount of detail and absolutely every nuance means something. But Zen’s simplicity is all-encompassing. And Zen, as near as I can tell, has a strong Taoist bent, which I totally respect. Why reinvent the wheel?
What I am looking for is structure and a frame of reference. I may only be like this until Barry passes, but I feel like I must head in this direction. I am physically unsuited for it and have no idea what I’m doing. I’m too old to romanticize much of anything. So, I may just be the worst Zennist ever. So, yeah, this is probably what I should pursue.
A couple days ago, the satellite receiver died. Drama, drama, drama. We have been without TV since then. They should come tomorrow and install the new one, which arrived today.
My concern was the idea of being without TV for days on end. Would Barry be okay? TV is his life. All he does is sit in his chair with the TV on.
My other concern was for myself. Would the quiet get to me? It’s easy to talk about silence but another thing altogether to be immersed in it.
Everything has been fine. For Barry, I’ve gotten him WWII magazines.
What has surprised me has been the ease that this has given me. Meditation has been easier and I have been able to get a lot done without any distraction. Part of me wondered how well I could handle things if Barry were gone and I was living in silence and solitude. Now I know: fabulously! I have felt empowered to do the things I normally want to procrastinate on.
Tomorrow, the guy should come and get it working sometime in the afternoon. Then things will get back to normal. Good for Barry. Okay for me, I guess. At least I know now that I can handle the silence.