Posted by: Robin | January 2, 2009

A New Year

robmanateeThis time last year I was on the verge of one of those all-too-rare breakthrough periods in life. After six years of illness and focusing inward in order to write the novel I envisioned, I found myself being drawn outward again. I got back in touch with many concerns that I had once passionately cared about–inner-city illiteracy; child abuse throughout the world; the situation in the Middle East; the need for people of faith to live holistic, informed lives including in their work; and caring about the arts, to name a few. I was excited to be feeling well enough that come autumn I could volunteer a few hours tutoring and maybe even work part-time to bring in some extra cash. I was seeing people again and excited about doing things. It was a time of renewal, and I felt on the verge of blooming once more after a long stasis. God was moving in my life in more obvious ways, and I expectantly waited for clearer direction on the specifics.

As so often happens, God works in mysterious ways his wonders to unfold. In May I had to have emergency eye surgery, and in June, as I was three weeks away from finalizing my manuscript, my mother fell and broke her shoulder. Everything stopped. I commuted the rest of the summer back and forth to Pittsburgh. It became increasingly clear she could no longer live independently nor take care of herself or her disastrous financial affairs. In mid-August I moved her to our home in NJ and became her full-time caretaker.

It has been an intense learning curve of several months to learn how to navigate social security, medicare, the social services available, the legalities of Durable Power of Attorneys and chapter 7 bankruptcy, and I still have a couple more major hurdles to negotiate. Other than a couple more sudden medical issues of my own to deal with, I’ve had a crash course on dealing not only with her recovery, but a boat load of her other ailments that continue to make her increasingly unable to take back her life, including increasing confusion and memory loss. And she is only 77.

I honestly don’t think if any of this had happened six months earlier I could have handled it emotionally or practically. It would have been like tearing the blindfold off a person long accustomed to darkness on the sunniest of summer days. My return to the world, details and unremitting to-do lists was so different than what I’d expected that as I approach the end of the major things on my list of problems that needed to be solved in my mother’s care (and may actually result in finding an assisted living residence), the prospect of a new year with new possibilities excites me. Things are moving again. The huge weight of things required is lifting enough that I can breathe again. But if 2008 taught me anything it was to take things as they come. New Year’s Resolutions are not for me. Goals and priorities are very good things, and I highly recommend them. I know what I hope for, what I’d like to accomplish. Don’t we all? I will move in those directions wherever and whenever space allows. But I can’t put myself through the pressures and disappointed expectations of thinking I am in control. Life is organic, and maybe I am finally learning to go with the flow. And when I get the occasional unexpected chance to schmooze with a manatee I’ll do that, too.

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