Sunday, July 24

zero sum

I was thinking about masks, how we wear them even when we’re trying hard not to. It’s an onion thing, I think, peeling them off one by one only to find another layer of them. When we peel the last one off, do we cease to exist?

The inversion was about getting rid of masks, or at least minimizing the number of them. I try not to have a work mask now, for the casino slavery, but I know there is one. Maybe, on the good days, it’s more translucent than any I’ve ever worn, but I still bite my tongue too much to think that I’m not wearing one.

Mom’s definitely receding. I saw her Community Care nurse and worker on Friday. They don’t make diagnoses or provide prognoses, of course. They concentrate on the now, on the care. An appointment with her psychiatrist will be next. He should be in a better position to provide insight into what to expect, what the timelines might be. I both want to know, and don’t. We’ll still be measuring in years, I think, but small numbers.

That led me to think about minimalism: What we need as opposed to what we want, or even what we think we need. My working theory suggests that the less we use, the more we have to give away. It’s the opposite of modern consumerism. For me, it’s still an ideal. I can trim more, perhaps actually develop enough self-discipline (a virtue I lack) to create more space for giving even when I am in a place where using much isn’t an issue.

One of the reasons that getting out of the casino is so crucial is just simply to not have to wear that work mask. I think maybe that I’ll be able to measure success, my version of it, by how few masks I have to own. None would be ideal, but that seems like a dream more than a goal. I’m not sure humans are meant to be mask-less. Or maybe capable is a better term for it, not capable of being mask-less. At least not in our culture. We can only strive to limit the number and make the ones we do wear as authentic to what we think our true selves are as possible.

When I die, I hope there’s no more onion left to peal. That’s a nice thought. For Mom, and for me, I need to remove myself from the equation of her care. She deserves something as selfless as possible, so I need to not be worrying about me. That will require some intense peeling which, in the end, will actually help me. And that’s how the universe works on the good days.

Thursday, July 14

at the intersection of art, magic, and lotteries

I read Stephen Elliott’s Daily Rumpus e-mail today and a tuning fork exploded in my heart like a pyrotechnic out of Michael Bay movie. It was like Jerry Bruckheimer had just burst out of my chest, alien-like, having epiphanically converted to making art instead of money.

Especially exploding-tuning-fork-like for me were passages like this:
“(John Mayer) was talking about spending more time on your art and less time on your updates. He said, Don't worry about promotion, trust your creation to speak for itself.
…and this:
“We were talking about the intersection of commerce and art. No one knows where it is. There's no choice except to focus on making the best art you can, the rest is mysticism, a distraction.”
This is something that I’ve talked about here before (click on the art tag in the subject cloud way down to your right if you don’t remember), but I always love seeing someone else talk about it, especially someone important and everything, and especially when they say it better than I could.

No, wait, that part just annoys me. And makes me want to be better. But in an annoying, exploding-tuning-fork kind of way. Good on ya, Mr. Elliott.

P.S. If you don’t subscribe to Mr. Elliot’s Daily Rumpus mails, what the hell are you waiting for? There’s often sex  and sex trade talk, and I get that some may not appreciate everything he has to say, but there’s so much gold in them thar hills too. It’s worth any work you may or may not have to do finding it. 

interlude (or, a cat and two scary apples)

In the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I want this cat on my team. This cat and the two geniuses that did the music.

Am I right, or what?

(Thanks to Anita Mcfarlane for finding it first)

Tuesday, July 12


So, the story goes that Mirm went out to do a couple errands. While she was gone Mom became anxious because of the stranger that came into the condo. It was the stranger that Mom asked to leave last Wednesday, even though it was Mirm that asked, and Mirm that went for air, and Mirm that came back.

Today Mom called to ask if I’d come into the condo briefly this morning. She was sure that she saw me, but I was at home and Mirm confirmed that I didn’t, and Mom was disturbed by the dissonance. Hell yeah, it disturbs me too.

Depending on the online resource I tap into, these are symptoms of either late stage five or early six, but I’m no doctor, and it’s pretty obvious that the symptoms are a bit interchangeable depending on frequency, severity, etc. The bottom line is that it’s both as bad and not as bad as I’d thought. One of Mom’s medications was changed, or rather her schedule for taking it was changed, and there’s at least a reasonable probability that these symptoms are related to that change, to the affect the change had/is having on her stress levels. The rest of the time, most of the time, there’s little change and the treatments she’s on have mostly arrested the progression for the last year. It makes me more thankful than ever that the life inversion happened when it did.

Mom’s stress jumps now when Mirm has to go out; when she’s alone for any amount of time. It’s like she looses her tether to the now when she’s alone and, in the absence of the anchor that company provides, her anxiety rockets – the panic of sudden confusion, as if abandonment were perpetual and unavoidable.

I don’t know, maybe that’s part of it. Maybe I’m out to fucking lunch. Trying to imagine this stretches my somewhat considerable imagination, and I know that I’m simply not able to actually get it. Selfishly, I hope that I never do, not completely. I’m also in active denial regarding the stage descriptions that I read online, especially the timeline they provide for progression. I hate time today. Living in the now is the only strategy I can respect at the moment.

On the positive side, this all has nothing to do with Mirm. She remains a rock; a laconic, stoic one that I have to drag admissions of simple humanity from, but a rock nonetheless. So I‘ve scheduled an appointment with Mom’s outreach nurse for a week and a half from now. To talk about options, resources. They aren’t ready for me to move in to help, reluctant to give up the freedom they’ve carved out over the years, and I respect that. But Mirm, as tough as she is, is still 81. Hopefully there will be someone that can come in so that Mirm can do her errands, walk the dog, get some air, and still have someone there to provide that tether for Mom while Mirm is out.

I have to look out for Mirm seeing as she’s never been very good at choosing herself over Mom. If she’s not going to look out for herself, and she won’t, then someone has to look out for both of them. That only seems fair.

Or maybe nothing seems fair, but it is what it is.

Wednesday, July 6


Mom called this morning to tell me that she was having some problems with her memory. She wanted me to know. This happens once a week or so, and I can literally hear her blush like it’s a dirty secret. Every time. She’d just finished a big talk with Mirm, the kind that I think takes place more than I know but that Mirm simply doesn’t talk about, where Mirm explains the last couple years, and decades, to bring her up to speed.

This afternoon Mom called again to say that Mirm had left. Mirm had apparently walked into the bedroom where Mom was playing solitaire on the computer and asked if Mom wanted her to leave. And Mom said yes. She was calling me to tell me that she was okay. She thought I should know. That she’d stay at home. That everything would be fine.

In my head I was already making plans to get there, to move in right away. And at the same time I was spinning, trying to figure out what could have happened, what Mirm might have not been saying, wondering how it could have gotten so bad, mentally rearranging my life to make room for taking care of her full time.

The world receded a bit and my ears started ringing. Around fifteen minutes later, the gears not really meshing but the engine revving at high speed, Mom’s name popped up on my phone again.

It was Mirm. The aforementioned conversation apparently took place, although I still think I must be missing part of the context, but Mom had told her that she’d called me and Mirm wanted me to know that she’d just gone for a walk with the dog. Just for a bit of air. She said that everything was fine, that she would never, ever just leave like that. That everything would be okay, but Mom was having a bit of trouble this week. Maybe with some changes to her medication. Maybe.

The truth: It might not be a thing that we can fix with an adjustment. It’s a degenerative disease. There’s a progression that we can’t avoid and this… this might be that and not a reaction to a change in regimen.

We are such fragile things, and yet so tough, sewn together from bits and pieces, scenes and fragments of scenes, scents and colors, faces and eyes and the brushing of finger tips. I often despair a little bit, sometimes more, at the thought of Mom drifting away until she doesn’t remember me, doesn’t remember herself. That is the decline that most terrifies me. If I was deaf and dumb and blind I know that I could still tell myself stories in my head. But to lose that… That scares me shitless. I don’t know how she does it.

When Mom called to say Mirm had left, completely convinced that it was forever, she sounded so settled and sure. She reminded me of the woman who made the strong choice to send my Dad away so he could (or could not – they couldn’t know what would happen then, after all) get his own shit together, and so that she could keep herself and the little boy I was safe. There was no tremor in her voice, and I could only hear the fear way back behind the words she was saying.

For that moment I saw her face young again, as I imagine she expects to see herself in the mirror many days; a younger her, resigned and yet girded, prepared to survive whatever came next no matter what. What must it be like to receive that shock every day, to look expecting a face that matches the memories she has left  and find, instead, this woman that has seen so many more years.

I can’t help but wonder when the moment will come that I tell her I love her and it’s the last time she knows what that means. I’m not sure I’ll be strong enough for that moment.

There are new conversations to have now. There is Mirm to consider too, after all. It’s time for more honest talk and, perhaps now or maybe soon but unavoidably, hard decisions. And this too is love.

Fragile things, and yet tough. Everyday miracles, every one of us.

Sunday, July 3


Writers, good ones, ones that whisper things in the ears of our hearts and minds that wake us up for moments and hours and sometimes even days, tend to be somewhat to completely broken. Notice that? Functionally broken, perhaps, but broken nonetheless. They tend to see things that shouldn't be meant for human eyes, stuff between the lines, just outside the margins, behind the curtain. (Or, at the very least, they're sure that they do.) And the seeing breaks them in ways that never truly heal. They learn to walk and dialog and create and hope in spite of the perpetually open sores. At least for a while. Sometimes for long enough.

I've said before, but again: In psych 201 the prof mentioned studies that show that people prone to depression tend to see the world more realistically; they see no veils. Many people prone to depression seem to lack the ability to ignore what's right in front of their face in favor of the pretty lies that let us eat and drink and amass and horde ourselves into oblivion. 

There might be a correlation between those two paragraphs, but I'll leave that to you to decide.

And: At least I have that going for me. (Or, at the very least, I'm pretty sure that I do.)