out with the old (year, that is)

just to be different, and because i haven’t written for a while, i will attempt to list positive items from the past year in my VOE exile. notice i did not do my obligatory scrooge rant this year, on purpose. just trying to keep it upbeat, for a change of pace. don’t faint. here goes:

*i saved some money. not a lot, and definitely not enough to cover any personal medical expenses that may come up, now that i’m without health insurance. but whenever i can, i put some in savings and leave it there. so far, the family accounts are covering household expenditures, so i’m not spending my own small reserves yet.

*i didn’t have to go do slave-labor in the heat or cold. granted, there weren’t any jobs even if i wanted to, so i didn’t feel as slacker-ish. i did get to catch up on some reading, to keep a few neurons firing. i think i must have read 30-40 books, late at night. it’s my one escape. and i still have a roof over my head, under which to read.

*i intentionally acquired two positive habits to replace some dead-time. the first was to walk/work outdoors in some form every day. my old work-mates will be scratching their heads in bewilderment, but here in the VOE it’s a challenge to want to go anywhere out *there*.

the second was to work on sorting/consolidating/disposing of accumulated hoards, mine and household. almost everything i own now resides in my one room. i’m also assembling emergency preparedness kits. i successfully accomplished incorporating these habits into my daily/weekly routine. i’m about to add a third, when i think of it. i thank my son for this idea, and for bearing with me as i gave tedious accountings.

*i volunteered in two different endeavors to get me outside of myself. the first was with the borough garden committee, which maintains much of the town landscaping. we initiated a small arboretum this year. they also run the town farmer’s market, which i happily supported.

the second was tutoring ESL with a lady from colombia. it started as a whim, but as it turned out, we became good friends, and are helping each other with our respective languages. our sessions have turned into fascinating linguistic conversations and cultural explorations. even gastronomic ones!

*speaking of which, i got to experiment with recipes. the other inmates seem to have survived them. it’s one of the few creative outlets i have here. i have to buy and use healthy organic ingredients to meet various dietary requirements, so that’s a plus for me, too. if left to my own devices, i’d live on….i’d rather not say!

*since i don’t have any personal friends here, past or present, i got to know many local small business/industry employees from all over the map. my social network is lowly but very diverse! name a country or an orientation, i probably know a representative.

*i started this so-called blog, also thanks to my son, and use it as a venting outlet to take some of the burden off my long-suffering brother, who to his credit was very diplomatic and patient as usual.

*my attitude still needs rearranging, but i’ve tried my best to stay detached and just learn from this experience, so as not to repeat it myself if possible. i’m not going so far as a resolution, as that would be asking for failure. but i continue to try to apply lessons learned and avoid self-destructive behavior of my own.

*my mother’s doctor/specialist visits are fewer, her meds (and their cost) continue to be reduced, and her vitals are at least stabilized for now. so panic mode is on hiatus for the time being. the less said, the more fortuitous.

well, the medicine closet of horrors is now somewhat exorcised of its more medieval torture implements (such as an assortment of frightening ancient douche-bags?!), and that’s as much positiveness as i can handle right now! so i leave the old year on that cheery note. this was not the best year of my life, but i’ve had worse. it’s all about what you do with it.

l’slaintechaim ©™℞


elizabeth edwards, may she r.i.p., wrote the book on resilience, literally, and well she might. if i were to even presume to write on the topic, i would have to defer to her.

she sadly earned her credentials through one excruciating experience after another, losing the closest people in her life to war, disease, untimely death, and betrayal, and finally losing her battle with cancer as a grand finale. yet she learned and articulated movingly the extremely difficult lesson of resilience in the face of despair. one day you wake up and your whole romanticized expectation of life is shattered forever. no way to have avoided it or to do a retake. your son is dead, through no fault of anyone or anything. your strong, vital father is paralyzed by a massive stroke. your husband with whom you imagined growing old has abandoned you. and as if to mock you in your anguish, cancer moves in to take their place and eventually claims your life. and those are just the highlights.

you can either give in to grief and despair, live in the past, or you can navigate the tougher road of redefining life as you once knew it, and starting over with the new, harsher reality. acceptance of the injustice and pointlessness of it all may never come; you just keep on with the process. you can exist in bitter resentment, or you can learn to look at each catastrophic loss as a new point of reference to begin again from, reinventing yourself in the process. that was what elizabeth edwards believed in, and how she kept going.

in the face of her example, what can i say about my inconsequential losses? i can let myself be swallowed by resentment and regret at the minor inconveniences life has thrown at me, or i can start over with these conditions as my new parameters, and treat them as a springboard. this doesn’t have to entail throwing oneself obsessively into volunteer work or becoming a martyr for a cause. it can be as ordinary as letting the old chapter go, and starting a new one. note i didn’t say ‘simple’. it may be one of the most difficult attitude transitions for humans to make. it’s not big and heroic, and it doesn’t magically make the losses go away. it’s a counter-intuitive, relentless process of letting go of grudges, acknowledging the basic unfairness of life, and taking on the new identity conferred upon you. and then somehow moving forward with the new game plan, and not relapsing into self-pity.

there’s only one way to find out if you have resilience. you can’t preview or rehearse it ahead. only when repeated onslaughts of reality leave you bent but not broken, betrayed but not bitter, devastated but not dead, will you know. you wake up from the nightmare, and you’re still in it, but somehow you learn to navigate the surreal landscape and live with the new reality. looking back with regret and longing is the killer. your familiar landmarks are gone, and you have to start over from scratch. each time. elizabeth edwards found this out the only way one can. her death and life are an eloquent testimony to resilience. i hope i can learn the technique. one bend at a time.