I am applying for jobs now. Today, I am applying to be a library worker for the local library chain. I am way over-qualified, but the hours would be perfect. And I’ve worked in a library before.
Barry tries to pretend he is fine–and then he coughs. He sounds horrible. Pretense over.
Today, his health care provider sent a letter to the Social Security Administration saying he is incapable of handling his finances, an understatement. She sent me a copy. In it, she refers to Barry as having end-stage Huntington’s. This is the first time anyone has referred to him as “end-stage”, as far as I know. Somehow, that makes it more real.
My shame comes from not keeping in contact with my references over the past five years since I graduated. I hate dealing with this emotional stupidity. I am fifty and still feel this way? Are you kidding?
What grants me courage is the whole not-giving-a-rat’s-ass from turning fifty and dealing with hell for the past few years. There is nothing any employer can throw at me that can make me go through anything worse than I already have. Once you just don’t care anymore, it is amazing how simple things get. Let Barry pretend. His pretense changes nothing.
I’ve been talking to Career Services at my alma mater, Davenport University. The lady’s name is Cindy Whittum (W). She came back to DU after being gone a few years. When I first went back a couple weeks ago, it was like a mini-reunion. I saw my undergrad adviser and also the librarian. I was happy to see everyone.
I went back a couple days ago for a follow-up regarding my resume. W told me about a possible tutoring opportunity there, budget-dependent, of course. And she told me what happened after I left last time. The librarian went to her, closed the door, and asked if I was looking for employment. Uh, yeah. While at her office Tuesday, W emails the librarian about tutoring or proctoring positions and gets a response while I am still there. No word about tutoring, but she told someone in charge she had someone interested (implying me) in proctoring. Proctoring tests would be perfect for me. Not many hours and I’d get my foot in the door.
I am so excited. I am actually being recommended for various jobs. The librarian remembers how dependable I was when I worked for her. I would do dishes at DU if I could get my foot in the door. I want to work in academia. Always have. When I leave MI, my dream job would be to work at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I have felt this way for years. They have a department that researches meditation. How cool is that?
The other thing that I have done is to get Barry one of those emergency buttons in case he falls down while I am running errands or working. He doesn’t need a lot of assistance; mostly he needs to be able to contact someone if he falls, because he has fallen in the past.
Just for a minute a few days ago, I felt the way I used to at school. It was weird. I feel like this is my future. It felt intuitive (which is huge because I am not very intuitive in general). Something is happening.
Hitting fifty is hitting me hard. I know that I have more years behind me than ahead of me.
Part of me is proud of what I have done. I got my first bachelor’s degree when I was 29. I was willing to go back to school when the economy tanked. (Michigan was in a one-state recession before the financial crisis of 2008.) I then got a BBA and then an MBA. I got my MBA while Barry had cancer. I helped him with that. I sold the house on my own. I moved the two of us. I dealt with a gazillion bizarro crises in 2015. I’ve helped Barry be straight and sober since 1988. I’ve had spiritual (mis-)adventures galore. I’ve overcome my need for anyone’s approval.
My panic and sense of determination come from what I haven’t done: a career. Most people my age are eyeing retirement and I feel like I am still preparing to do something when I grow up. But Barry’s health issues have pushed me to make moves in that direction. It no longer matters what shape he is in, how he feels, his opinion, what the insurance company does or doesn’t do, or whatever. I simply do not have the option of watching TV with him for another ten years as he sloooooowly goes downhill from the Huntington’s. I can’t wait until I am sixty to start working. I have been trying to transition him and me as easily as possible, but none of that matters anymore.
I feel very good that I have done everything I can for Barry. I’ve tried to do everything with him he wants to do. We’ve had the important conversations. We’ve made the choices. No one could ever be more prepared than us.
I am now outside my level of control. I’ve made all the preparations I can. Much of what happens from here on is outside my control. Nobody can say I didn’t do what I could
A couple days ago, I went to my alma mater, Davenport University. It was the first time I went to the new building. I was part of the last class to graduate from the crappy campus in 2012. It was a homecoming. I had never been in the new building, but I was instantly comfortable. My old adviser greeted me, as did the librarian I worked with.
I knew the career services lady from my time in the mid-aughts (000s). She is going to reach out in the community to help me find a job. She knows my challenges. I believe I will be working in the next few weeks. I have even notified Michigan Rehab Services and Peckham. The most likely possibilities are office work (especially a support role at Jackson National Life or other maybe a health organization) or tutoring at DU itself. I get the impression I will find as much work as I can stand. The challenge will be limiting my hours to a manageable level to accommodate Barry.
It became real enough to me to order one of those systems for Barry where he can press a button and 911 will respond. I just simply cannot guarantee that I or one of those Brightstar people will be at my apartment when something happens.
I turned fifty this past Wednesday. I feel like I have screwed around enough with my stupid self-esteem/shame issues. My life is now between half and two-thirds over and I no longer have the option of not working. Every cough of Barry’s gives me a tiny feeling of panic.
I get a weekly horoscope reading and this weeks was (in part): “IF YOUR BIRTHDAY IS THIS WEEK: You are at a turning point this year, choosing between who you have been and who you might yet become. This can be a very powerful time in your life, as you are more inclined to take the risks necessary for major change.” Could it be more right?
I feel like a snowball is rolling downhill in my life. It has been unleashed and I am not in control of it. Is this what being “over the hill” is about? My life feeling has gone like this: stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck, panic! I am usually bored or overwhelmed, so, yeah, that sounds about right.
My personal, internal drama regarding Barry is ending.
I have asked him if there is anywhere he wants to go, anything he wants to do, or anyone he wants to see while he has time. He said he wants to see his grandsons Austyn and Drew. Anyone else? Their father, Jeff. I am unsure of my ability to make it happen, given that they live in Algonac, almost in Canada. But all I can do is reach out.
My New-Age-y friend that moved backed to CA always used to ask, “Are you complete?” after people talked. That struck me as odd. Now it feels right. We are going to keep talking until we feel we have said everything we need to say. We will keep coming back over and over until there is some satisfaction, understanding, or whatever.
I feel like, when he dies, I won’t have a lot of regrets. I believe that he is going to keep going slowly downhill, until the aspiration gets seriously infected and then he will last a few weeks and that will be it. I think he can go downhill for maybe another year, if he is lucky and keeps holding on, which would be ugly in terms of his appearance and suffering level, but that is his choice.
My choices are over. I can only try to get his grandsons to come to Lansing once or twice more. None of this is up to me. And I am satisfied with my efforts to make him comfortable. And that’s all there is.
I am annoying myself. My brain is in two places at once.
Barry acts like everything is fine. Part of me does not truly believe I will be working. I have seen absolutely nothing whatsoever change for years. So I feel like I need to prepare for a continuation of the status quo: Barry at home,watching TV and his health slowly declining. No movement.
And then there is the other side of me. I went to Peckham Thursday. I am completely confident they can find something employment-wise for me in the next few weeks. I see a few trees where the leaves are turning already. I am seeing more lumps on Barry’s neck. He has a neurologist appointment in October and a dentist appointment in November. I have a hard time imagining that neither of them is going to notice what’s going on. Things could change quickly.
When it comes to working, part of me is like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I even thought about becoming a tutor at my old high school, but I don’t want to screw things up with a place as goal-oriented as Peckham.
Still dealing with the insurance company. I am sure they owe me a boatload of money by now, but I have been too much of a coward to look at all of this and confront them.
Part of me sees signs of change another part of me just thinks the first part is delusional. What will break the tie? It will be interesting to observe what happens.
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.