This book is written by one of the founders of the hospice movement. Mostly it consists of a series of stories of how people in hospice died — more specifically, how they came to terms with their impending death. Many of these people’s stories emphasize unresolved or difficult family relationships, and how they were resolved at the end of the person’s life. It also spoke of their fears — helplessness, losing their connection to their loved ones. Although I share many of these fears, nowhere in this book did I see one of the things I dread most: losing myself.
I’ve gotten pretty attached to me. Most days I find myself pretty amusing. I was lucky enough to be born with a brain that works pretty well. Lo, ’twas the affection for said organ that created this very blog. Yep, I have a nice brain that does cool things and is a lot of fun. The personality, well, is pretty much and endless battle between who I want to be and crappy traits I’ve inherited from bad genes and bad nurturing.
So, it seems a damn shame that one day I’ll have to say goodbye to such a happy little brain. I don’t think I can envision myself ever being able to do that well. Because I just don’t have that kind of personality. Things may change between now and my demise (by things, I mean me), but I can only see myself going out kicking and screaming.
Well, enough about me. Here’s a video with the author of Dying Well about our collective neglect of the elderly.
Couldn’t they come up with a phrase that’s a little less creepy when the browser times out?
This weekend I went on the space shuttle. I experienced zero gravity in all its glory:
I also go to do a spacewalk, although oddly enough the only photo is of me standing very stiffly in a space suit.
Okay, I guess these pictures aren’t fooling anybody…
I really think that K is the funniest person alive, but in the running for second place has got to be Justine Metz, the creator of YouTube channel Makeup The Hell. The first video of hers I ever watched was this one about Multiple Sclerosis. If anyone can make you laugh at a crummy disease, they have got to be fucking funny. She is my new heroine. It warms my heart to see a young woman so goddamn angry. I remember being that angry once… like a few hours ago.
Ah, to know that anger is beautiful! I love her!
Recently I saw two award winning, supposedly noteworthy films that just stuck in my feminist craw. That’s two films stuck in a craw, so that’s a mighty uncomfortable craw. Especially since I don’t know what the hell a craw is. Oh, wait, here’s Merriam-Webster to help me out:
Middle English crawe, from Old English *cræga; perhaps akin to Latin vorare to devour — more at voracious
1 : the crop of a bird or insect 2 : the stomach especially of a lower animal
Goddamn, that’s worse than I expected.
I feel that these films are both contenders for the most backlashy film of the year, so I thought I’d have them battle it it.
In this corner, in the shimmery magenta trunks, Hangdog Millionaire. A lovely tale of a hero whose main talents consist of the inability to smile and a fixation on a girl he met when he was six. The girl grows into a woman who lacks any talent as well except the inability to fend for herself and a dazzling smile. (No smile + Nice smile = True love)
There you have it! The some total of the girl’s talents. She spends the entire movie as a passive shell of a human, a pawn who is passed from man to man until she ends up with our hero. The only time she only shows any personality at all is when rejecting the advances of our hero, but in the end, she is owned by him and his millions. For she exists to be owned by men, and nothing else. Ah, what a heartwarming tale of true love! And the scenes of children being tortured made it all the more beautiful!
Now, in corner #2, wearing red, white, and blue trunks, Regurgitation Road. Here our female lead has plenty of pizazz in the form of hurling cruel insults to her badgering conformist husband. There is a spell of time when they get along because they’re finally going to pursue their dream of living a life of freedom. But when her husband decides he can’t hack non-conformity, she crumbles to nothing and then horrifically kills herself. Like our heroine in Hangdog, these women only stand up for themselves when it comes to harming themselves. Our finally scene of the husband is him sobbing in a playground. Oh, the pathos.
Man, this is a tough call. I think I need a chart to help me.
|Slumdog Millionaire||Revolutionary Road|
|rampant sexism potrayed as…||okay because it’s in India||okay because it’s in the ’50s|
|lead female’s repression is…||okay because she’s talentless||ditto|
|lead female’s feistyness…||only emerges when someone’s trying to help her||crumbles when accused of being a sicko|
|lead female’s nihilism||overruled by some guy’s desires, saving her from a horrible life||overrules some guy’s wishes, leading to a horrible death|
|lead female’s association with other women||none||superficial|
The final decision — a draw! They both make me sick! Hooray for Hollywood/Bollywood!
For a little over a month, K and I have been dealing with the fallout of putting his grandmother in a nursing home and watching her be destroyed bit by bit. It’s a hard, heartbreaking lesson on how our society doesn’t consider the elderly as humans. At best, they are treated quite literally as unruly children; at worst, she is treated worse than a dog. I say this because Grandma’s elderly dog, Fred, is receiving far, far better care in his new home than she is.
Like many people, Grandma is an intersection of things great and terrible. She taught ballet for 60 years, to hundreds of grateful students, many of those years in her own studio. She learned how to fly her own airplane. She also was an alcoholic who probably abused her children. I say “probably” because, like most dark family secrets, no one talks about it. But one can’t ignore that all three of her children have deep psychological troubles; one committed suicide years ago.
All this history is now vanishing before our eyes. Grandma herself remembers only bits and pieces of her own life. K and I sit with her and listen to her stories, and we are the only ones left to bear witness to the fact that she had a long and complicated life, and that she deserves to be heard.
This woman of many achievements and flaws — and a dancer, no less — is left in her last days unable to walk, bedridden, and ignored. And I wonder: what makes me, or any of us, think we’ll escape the same fate? Further, I wonder: what’s the point of my achievements if, in the end, there will be no one left to bear witness for me, including myself?
That’s a good question. Or at least, one that cannot be ignored.
I was riding Muni the other day and it felt like a recurring dream I have lately. In this dream, I befriend a group of people, only to realize that the dream is ending and I will never see them again because they don’t really exist. Despite my brain’s ability to create imaginary people with great detail, I am still fully aware that I made them up and they will all vanish. This makes me sad every time.
The people on the Muni didn’t become my instant friends like the people in my dreams, but there was a similarity. After I got off the bus, I’d never see them again. I looked at them and realized that because of this ephemeral quality, they seemed less real to me than myself or those close to me. I guess that’s the way ego works: we are all the center of our worlds.
But then the inverse occurred to me: to all these people, I am not very real. In fact, I am even less than that: they aren’t even aware of me. They’re on their phones, listening to their iPods, whatever. In their world, I don’t even exist.
That thought led me to a memory of the worse time of my life, junior high. I was a social pariah with no friends. Days went on and on, and no one spoke to me. Some days I felt so emotionally numb that I felt that I didn’t exist, that I wasn’t even alive. Now, that thought came out of depression and loneliness and non-existent self-esteem, and the thoughts I have now come out of some sort of existentialist angst, so they don’t feel the same. They’re not the same. But they are related.
And now, a commercial break:
During junior high, I had a dream that Alan Alda came to my school and became my friend. You may not remember, but in 1976 Alan Alda was well-loved by many. Even after all these years, I recall that dream I had one night in the hundreds of nights of that time. In that dream, I was happy and not alone and had a special friend. That dream, something that never actually happened, is part of my memory of that time as if it were real. Linda Barry talks about this phenomenon a lot in her book What It Is. It begs the same question in another way: what is real?
So, am I real or not? If my experience is so subjective that it could be annihilated by dementia or death, as with Grandma, is it real? There’s part of me that feels either it’s all real or it’s all an illusion. It’s like when I stopped being religious. First I felt that one part of the Torah couldn’t be god-given, and then another, and another. One thought kept leading to another, and despite my efforts to stop it, it went back to the source of it all: that there is no god. And once I got there, I lost my religion forever. There was nothing left to believe in. I either believed in the Torah or I didn’t.
I’m thinking, though, this could be a little different. Because there are moments in life that just seem very real. Superreal, perhaps. When I’m in nature, everything feels more real to me, including myself. Sex can seem that way too. Also, looking at the body of a loved one who has died. Are these things more real (or even real, if all is illusion), or do they just
seem that way because of a flooding of the senses/emotions?
When I posed these questions to K, he had two responses. One: maybe there is no point to our existence. Two: we’re probably too puny and insignificant to understand what’s really going on.
While either or both those answers may be true, I find them unsatisfying. So I’m just left wondering.
Perhaps wondering is the point.