OMG! I just did it.
I've always been reluctant to be a voice channel. The most I would accept was to 'hear' stuff in my head and then relay those words to the hearer (usually a client for a psychic reading). I knew it wasn't me thinking the words, because if I stopped 'putting it on loudspeaker' (as a friend used to say) it would stop. I had to keep speaking it for the next bit to come through.
That was fine with me. People didn't always realise I was channelling, because it just sounded like me speaking – but that was OK; I could always explain if I thought they needed to know. And anyway, I would usually be saying things like, 'I'm getting...' or 'They want me to tell you...'
I had an unexpected call this morning from one of the Goddess group, who had a friend from the city (Carrie) staying. In fact I met Carrie a couple of days ago at our beautiful Equinox celebration. She decided she would like a reading, and her hostess must have suggested me (which is nice, as it must mean she valued the reading she herself had from me some time ago). I squeezed Carrie in at the end of a busy day spent doing all manner of other things.
It was a great reading with the Tarot cards – I love being able to give people good news! – then I went to my crystal ball and waited, as usual, for whatever might come through. Being more clairsentient than clairvoyant, I don't scry with it. I put one hand on it and hold the client's hand with my other, then get my messages. I started to tell Carrie what I was getting, gave her quite along message, then was prompted to ask her if she had any questions. The question she asked got the beings who were speaking through me quite excited!
I started by responding, 'They are saying...' then suddenly I was speaking directly. That is, it was not me speaking, although it was my body doing so in physical terms. I even heard my voice change ever so slightly, and I had an awareness of plural energies.
One of the things they told her, they prefaced by saying, 'The channel's beliefs are at variance with this' (while I did an internal double-take at them talking ABOUT me) – and indeed it was so; I found the views they expressed quite confronting. However, the message was for my client, so I didn't try to interrupt. Nor did I experience any doubt about it whilst it was coming through, even though it startled me.
What she said was that the problem with giving unconditional love was that with love comes grief. I heard them say, animatedly, 'Oh no!'.
I said to her, 'They are saying, "Oh no!" ' – and suddenly it was them talking to her directly, not me relaying it a bit at a time.
They said that with love comes joy. We only think otherwise because we think this world is all there is.
'It feels real and intense,' they said, 'But it is ephemeral.'
It seemed to me at first that they were giving the old Christian message that the earth doesn't matter and Heaven is all. I certainly don't like that view! But they sought to explain further – not always able to find adequate words in the English language – making it clear that they weren't describing the traditional Christian view, nor that of any religion.
'There is much that is not understood,' they said. I had the sense that it is beyond the understanding of anyone who is on this plane.
They also hastened to add that this does not mean we can sit back and do nothing, on the grounds that it doesn't matter anyway. Far from it: we must do our best to foster peace, and unconditional love; we did choose to come here to learn and grow and this place is a vehicle for that. (This was more like what I do subscribe to.)
It was moving. We were both in tears by the time I finished.
Explaining afterwards to Carrie that it was a first for me to do it that way, I said, 'The energy felt beautiful'. I was slightly surprised when she beamed and agreed – forgetting, briefly, that she had been experiencing the same energy for the first time too.
I am no longer reluctant to be a direct voice channel.
OMG! I just did it.
I was also a little disappointed in her that she no longer engaged with ideas and/or the state of the world in the form of current affairs programs on TV. She had always had such a keen intelligence! In fact, the evidence was that she still did, and yet (from my point of view) she was dumbing herself down in these ways.
I tried to rationalise it. 'She's an old lady,' I told myself. 'At her age, if she wants to waste her time like this, I guess she's earned the right.' She was housebound, and many of her friends had passed on; I thought I should be thankful that she could find pleasure in her reading and viewing, however deplorable the content seemed to me. But it was hard to fathom how she could sink so low.
Now here I am, in my late seventies, widowed and living alone. I am far from housebound, I'm very glad to say, and have somehow acquired such a busy social life that some weeks I am glad if I have a whole day at home. But in other ways I am following in Mum's footsteps. It's rather startling.
I promise you I have always had excellent literary tastes, and still have. Yet (thanks to the lure of cheap or free books on Amazon Kindle, which often turn out to be Book 1 of a – still cheap – series) I quite often find myself reading and enjoying indifferently written romances by decidedly non-literary authors. The ones available these days frequently have some erotic content that probably wasn't in the ones my mother got, but I don't know that for sure – I so despised her choices back then that I never actually read them.
I do use the 'look inside' feature before buying. There are some which are so pathetic I couldn't bear to subject myself to them, and don't, but most can keep me entertained despite the atrocious editing (or lack thereof).
Furthermore, nowadays I seldom watch any of the excellent current affairs programs available on Australian TV. (Except Q&A, in which public figures, often politicians, are quizzed by a thoughtful audience. I still find this entertaining – and it reinforces my prejudices, which makes me feel good.)
I'm not sure why this change has happened.
I can explain to myself the disengagement from the current affairs programs. I've experienced more than enough grief, horror etc by now, either in my own life or as an observer of world affairs; I'm not going to rub my nose in any more. I still keep abreast of the news and read some commentary online. e.g. in The Guardian; that'll do me. But what about these lowbrow books?
I don't have any romantic partners now, let alone sexual ones; but then, I don't want to go to the bother anyhow. Relationships take work, and I've never been much interested in one night stands. In any case I don't really find elderly men attractive. (It was different with Andrew; I loved him.) And although I have in the past had some relationships with much younger men, I can't say any are showing up on my doorstep these days. Even if they did, would I want to exert myself? I'm enjoying my own company and that of my platonic friends (mostly women). So I suppose the books might be some kind of substitute. My choices often contain things like dragons, vampires, feisty heroines and handsome but somewhat 'damaged' heroes, all of which I'm a sucker for (in fiction if not in life, where I have learned to prefer emotionally mature men). But the happy acceptance of barely adequate writing, even alongside my continued love of beautiful writing, that's a mystery!
'What you resist, you become'? There were many ways in which I strove not to be like her, but it seems that, in some respects at least, I am my mother's daughter.
I think, ‘No, that’s my event.’ But it’s not even mine. It was his – his birthday. He died eight days before it in 1982. (Gods, can it be so long?) He would have turned 25.
When I start to have my ‘anniversary reaction’ during the winter months leading up to the date of my dear husband Andrew’s death, in September 2012 when he was 83, that is not the only anniversary I’m reacting to, not the only death.
My two greatest loves, so far apart in time – how appropriate that it is winter that brings those deaths back for me, with bleak cold.
Then comes the consciousness of being alone. I don’t normally mind that. I keep busy; I like my own company; I’m content. But at this time of year my aloneness confronts me. It becomes loneliness. It becomes an abyss. Do I hear a wolf howling? I shut my ears, make myself busy….
a sudden chill
the date of your death
In the memoir I’m writing, I’ve been frank, so far, about the men I’ve loved. But not this one. This is the one I never speak of – though I do write poems.
Very few people know what he meant to me. (Few know anything of him at all.) Those who do were there at the time; they saw it all play out. Some others may have guessed, but if so they have never dared ask.
Really there are only two who understand completely. It has been remarked on between us possibly three or four times in 35 years. The hurt is still deep; and after all, there is nothing useful or even needful to say. We know. We know that we know. That is all. (That is everything.)
our eyes meet
he lives in the unsaid
our friend who died
There was one other. Just one time we spoke of it. We talked for hours; we said everything. We always knew we would. We’d waited years … and still we needed to get drunk together first. He has long disappeared; no contact for decades, no knowledge for either of where the other might be. It’s probably better so.
Then there was a friend I made much later, who read my selected poems and asked, 'Rosemary, who died, in your life?' (This was long before Andrew died.) So I told her the story, in outline. She could barely grasp it. We have never mentioned it again. That was years ago; I think she has forgotten all about it by now.
did we exist
if no-one knows?
– Zen koan
Shall I write the tale at last? What could I say that anyone who didn't live it alongside me could possibly understand? I could relate the facts, but what could they truly convey?
I might tell it one day, but not today.
So was he my true love, the love of my life? Oh, all loves are true! And all loves, when true, are for life. Andrew, with whom I had a life, a happy one for 20 years, is the one I most acutely miss. That other, who died before he was 25 – which was shock as well as grief – has been the longest dead.
After he died, I wrote: All my years / you’ll go on being dead. They stretched before me interminably, then.
All those years ago, I learned everything about intense grief. All these years since, I have come to know that grief never ends, though we learn to live with it.
I would have died to save him, if it could have saved him. I live on. I mourn. I relish life.
you will never see
I am actually posting excerpts of the memoir (first draft!) on a blog, not here but out in the wider blogosphere, with my own name on it and all. And I post links to the episodes on facebook and Google+. It seems I am a bit of a storyteller after all – just not in fiction. At any rate, people say they enjoy reading it and urge me to keep going.
The last episode got very, very personal about my sex life. My sex life in my twenties, that is; there's not a lot to disclose now. But back then there was dysfunction closely followed by adultery. I hadn't thought to disclose so much detail as I did. I found that I needed to in order to tell the real story. I was proud of myself when I'd got it all down, for the way I dealt with it and the fact that I told so much of the unpalatable truth.
What surprises me is that there has been so little comment on facebook. I finally struck them dumb, eh?
2. Self Image
I have spent all my life thinking I was ugly; only attractive to those men who could see past the physical. In the course of writing the memoir, remembering back, I realise that lots of men thought I was attractive enough that they wanted to go out with me – more than I am including in the memoir, because I am only including the men who were important in my life. And actually, there were a fair few of them too. And they were all good-looking fellows themselves. It finally dawns on me that I simply couldn't have been as ugly as I thought.
Why did I think so? I believe I know.
When I was very young – maybe five – I went to stay with my aunty and uncle and cousins in another town, for a holiday. My aunty found my long hair difficult to manage. Dad, who was a travelling salesman, called in when he was down that way. My aunty asked him if she could cut my hair, and he gave consent. It was blonde, and had been nearly down to my waist. She cut it straight across, neck length. When it was time to go back home, Dad came and fetched me. We arrived back at our own place, and my Mum came rushing out to meet us. She saw me, stopped in her tracks, and wailed at him, 'Oh Rob, her hair – it was her One Beauty!' (I swear I heard those capital letters.)
I think, now, it said a lot more about her than me. But I was five.
Perhaps it says even more about a society where there was one standard of beauty, and if you were female it mattered very much. But it was more than 70 years ago.
And I'm still buying it, one way or another! All the same, it's good to finally realise I can't have been all that ugly after all.
My dear husband Andrew had Alzheimer's before he died. He also had physical conditions – diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the legs, an artificial heart valve. Gradually, in his last two years of life, he came to use a wheely walker some of the time, then all of the time. All this required more and more care from me and his medical helpers.
The Alzheimer’s wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Its onset was quite late. At his eightieth birthday party, it wasn’t apparent – he made a great speech. (The wheely walker, too, was still an unexpected part of the future then – he did lots of dancing that night.)
Even when the Alzheimer’s did show up, we were lucky that our GP referred us to an excellent geriatric specialist, who prescribed medication which slowed the progress of the disease (although it could not halt it). He stayed in the early to middle stages. For many people, sufferers and families, it gets much, much worse.
And yet it was far from easy.
I’m thankful he didn't stop knowing who I was, or who any of his friends and family were. But he got confused in other ways. He wanted to go to his office in town, and became anxious and argumentative when I didn't cooperate. How could I? There was no office in town; that had been decades ago, in a very different city. It was a little easier when he thought we were already in his office, and wanted to lay out magazines half the night, by pre-digital publishing methods, until I could persuade him we had done enough for the time being and could go to bed.
From something on the TV news one night, he decided our Prime Minister (Julia Gillard at the time) needed his advice, and set off down the passage to see her in her office, which he seemed to think was through our spare room. It was disconcerting and deeply scary for him to find that was not so. In various ways he often thought that what was happening on the TV was also part of our here-and-now reality.
He would get agitated about things on which it was impossible for me to reassure him. Sometimes I managed it, but no-one can prepare you for how to cope with early stage Alzheimer’s; you have to play it by ear. It’s all very changeable. His reality was constantly altering. There were general tendencies, like those I’ve just described, but the details were never predictable.
The medication which reduced his regular evening agitation had to be carefully monitored for side-effects, such as making it even harder for him to walk. Although life became a round of medical appointments, sometimes almost a conspiracy between me and the doctors, we didn't always get the dosage right.
His physical ailments were not due to Alzheimer’s, yet some were very similar to what happens to Alzheimer’s patients in the advanced stages. They too can lose mobility in their legs, for instance. Like their carers, I knew all about trying to wrestle the wheely walker in and out of the car, while simultaneously trying to forestall its user from wandering off into traffic.
His incontinence, though, was indeed due to the Alzheimer’s. Early on I learned to manage it in a way that preserved his dignity and saved embarrassment; later he was less aware of it himself, so it was simply a matter of keeping him physically comfortable.
I loved him and wanted to make life easy for him.
It was heartbreaking to see him lose the capacity to use his computer efficiently. He was a writer and researcher; he had had one of the first pc’s in the country, even before the invention of Windows and Apple operating systems; he taught me how to use a computer.
And there were many other heartbreaks.
But he is dead now. He has been dead four and a half years. He died peacefully, he was ready to go, and until the end – even at the end – he did know who he was, who I was, who his children and his friends were. I still love him and miss him, but I have adapted to being alone and I think I have a very nice life. I am eternally grateful that he did not linger longer and deteriorate further.
Yes, it could have been a great deal worse. Nevertheless, it was arduous. I went through great stress and grief, and after it was all over my doctor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder. I have many resources for self-healing, as well as good friends similarly gifted, and for some time I also had the services of a good therapist – until the time I felt I didn't need her any more, and she concurred.
So I came through all right. But I don’t understand why some people think that – because of my experience – I will be excited to see films or read books about Alzheimer’s – particularly about long, loving marriages where one partner contracts the illness and the other has to learn how to cope.
‘You’ll really love this!’ they say.
No, I won’t.
It’s easy to avoid the movies. The ads and trailers aways give the game away. If some fool lends me a book with title and blurb that don’t immediately alert me, still I don’t read very far. There was that best-seller not so long ago, about an old man with dementia escaping from a nursing home in only his pyjamas, and having adventures which readers and reviewers described as hilarious. But I didn't find that out until after a kind friend lent it to me to give me a good laugh. I closed it after the first page. Not my idea of funny!
The afore-mentioned fools – and there are quite a few of them – are my friends, you understand, people who saw me go through it all and said they couldn’t imagine how I coped. They were very supportive at the time. They don’t mean to be offering me a nice dose of mental torture now.
I decline the deeply moving poems; I avoid the brilliantly acted films and plays; I return the incredibly amusing books so kindly lent. And I explain why, briefly and politely. It surprises people.
'Oh, that never occurred to me.'
'I didn't realise you'd see it that way.'
'I just thought it was so moving / hilarious / brilliant.'
After all, all by myself, I found one book on the subject which I could read and even sort of enjoy. The public library was selling off old stock, and there was a novel by Kate Jennings for $2: Moral Hazard.
Kate Jennings was a wonderful Australian feminist poet of the seventies, who disappeared as a poet after moving to America and becoming an essayist and fiction writer. There she married a much older man who eventually developed dementia. She then became the sole breadwinner, and went to work as a speech writer for a major financial institution – very much against the principles she had always held, as a matter of economic necessity.
So did the heroine of her novel. I'm quite prepared to believe she fictionalised the story in some ways – changing people's names, collapsing several events or characters into one, that kind of thing. I'm guessing; it's simply described as a novel, without further elaboration. There must be some justification for that label. But, however the book was fictionalised, I know it's based on the life she lived. I think that's what enabled me to read it, after I got it home and discovered what it was about.
It wasn't somebody's wonderful idea about what it must be like to be married to an Alzheimer's sufferer. This author knows. She doesn't need to write a moving account; she just needs to write what happened, which she does baldly yet understatedly.
One thing I like about the book – apart from her writing, as skilled as ever – is that some of the story concerns the protagonist, Cath's, job: a bad fit which she takes only because illness is expensive and she needs the income. Jennings acknowledges that, even though her husband's illness is the most important thing in Cath's life, it's not the whole of her life. Other practicalities must be lived and dealt with too, around the edges of that central fact, becoming important in themselves. We don't and can't exist in a vacuum.
I also like the renewed realisation this book gave me that Andrew and I got off lightly. Cath's husband gets much sicker than Andrew ever did, and took seven years to die instead of two. I'm thankful all over again. At the same time I recognise many of the things that befell Cath and her husband, and I know very well from first-hand experience that the author is restrained in conveying the harrowing details. She doesn't dwell on things which I know (from what she does say) would have happened – repeatedly.
So I'm actually glad I read it. For sure I would not have kept on reading if I hadn't wanted to. (I am still not planning on reading anything more on this topic!) The characters come across as real, which of course they are, and Cath and her husband are engaging. I like her 'voice'.
I would call this book a fictionalised memoir. However, reading it as a novel allowed me not to go to pieces while doing so.
And it's a good book.
It’s a very good book! (Which might also have something to do with the fact that I liked it.) After I wrote this post, I checked some of my facts on Wikipedia, and also learned:
'Jennings was awarded the Christina Stead Prize for fiction for Moral Hazard, which was also shortlisted for the 2003 Miles Franklin Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, and the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize. Snake [an earlier novel] was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, as was Moral Hazard.'
Well, half-promised anyway.
Her name is Selene, a (Greek) name of the moon goddess. Please pronounce all three syllables, stressing the second: Suh-LEE-nee.
Here she is, below, in one of her favourite hidey-holes under the phone table.
She is my second black cat (and seventh cat altogether). The previous black one, Levi, was a great big panther, but Selene is quite dainty.
She was nearly eight when I got her, and now has just had her 9th birthday. She has a history of abuse and abandonment when younger, and took a while to warm to me, but now she loves me and likes the home she shares with me.
She sets her boundaries, which means that I am grateful for any sign of affection or approval! She can be very sweet, and is always very cute.
I can only post a thumbnail sketch, it seems. Click to enlarge for a better view. (She's worth seeing in full.)
Not quite sure yet what I'll be using this journal for, apart from keeping track of others who have moved from LJ. I have much more public blogs for poetry, memoir, witchery and miscellany. I'll be wanting to use this for stuff that I feel is too private and personal to post on any of them, yet not so deep, dark and secret that it goes in my absolutely private journal (blog) that is seen by no eyes except my own.
So I might not be posting here a lot, because really I am not so very private a person and don't have much to keep hidden. Even the completely secret journal is seldom used, and mostly only for rough drafts of things that will be made more public later but I just want to stash them somewhere until I have more time to polish them.
Now that I've convinced you I'm thoroughly boring ... well, I might be! But I expect I'll be here more to read than to write. Of course, I might post lots of photos of my cat....
Meanwhile my old LJ entries should be being imported here any old time now.
Later: And here they are! Right behind this entry. Seems odd that the most recent are clearly written at, and to LJ. I might put a wee note on them, to that effect.
It helps that they make it easy to import all my journal entries from here, and even – they say – my friends from here (as 'open ID'). Not sure how the latter will work, but we'll see. For the moment I'll stay here too, at least until all that is organised. And perhaps will keep my account here just to read journals I like that aren't moving, but will not post any more journal entries of my own here. My dreamwidth journal is at https://snakypoet.dreamwidth.org/ Please tell me yours, if you're there.
What do you reckon, folks? Are you all packing up and going now, or staying on regardless?
As I am so inactive here these days, it seems like the push I need to discontinue entirely. But then I think of people whose journals I like (on the rare occasions I come and read them, that is!).
Are you still going to be here if I do decide to stay?
I can initiate conversations if I have something important to say (like, 'Can you tell me the way to the "Ladies"?') but it doesn't come easily.
So that's why I have been pretty much absent from here. All the writing energy has gone there. If you're on facebook you probably know that, as I've posted links to the poems from time to time. Otherwise, here is a link which gives you all 30. (No, you don't have to read them all at once! Or even at all ... though of course I'd like it if you did.)
Today would have been my dearest's 84th birthday. But he died when he was still 83. Eight and three make eleven, the number of mastery. And he had mastered his life by its end. He had mellowed considerably from the lovable but exasperating little dynamo he so often used to be. He had absolutely entered into unconditional love. Sometimes, from dementia, he was like a child. But it was a light dementia, and even at his most confused moments he knew how to be loving, and was most concerned that I should know I was loved. (I did know. I do know.) He was like that in his many lucid moments, too.