#bounceback

Caregivers are compassionate. It is their nature. For most humans it is their nature and very natural to care. It can be an exhausting job though. Sometimes the compassion well feels pretty dry and empty. Oftentimes, caregivers are not the first to notice the symptoms of empty well or exhaustion until they are just about at the end of the caring rope.

It feels awful. I know. I’ve been there.

But where do you turn?

I turned to counselling. I turned to prescription drugs for depression. But neither were enough.

Until I began searching and seeking for a way that was natural, had no side-effects, and was virtually free, I was flailing. I felt like I was sinking. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the face in front of me.

Then over a year, I dug my way out. I found joy and I found the me I remembered. It was so wonderful that I wanted to share my how.

But first I had to develop the step-by-step method. That took me another year and a bit. With the help of my wise woman, academic advisor, Reinekke Lengelle I have developed my methodology into something that others have found as helpful as I did.

I call it “Wordscaping”. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explain with pictures just what it is.

I am trusting that you will find it worthwhile to try it.

It’s a good way to practice self-care even if you are not a frontline caregiver.

Talk soon!

November’s post

Since it is a month of remembrance, I wanted to share a poem. Not everyone goes to war, but most of us have battles to fight day-by-day. Please read of a kind of battle that people like my grandmother may have had to live as they spent their lives grinding out a living as a servant.

Title

by Knud Sørensen

Danish domestic workers were required to maintain these books from 1832 to 1921. Issued at confirmation, the book held record of employment, conduct, and wages for the individual.

Every first of November

she took out her Record of Conduct book

and laid it on the table in front of the man

on the farm that she now would be leaving

and the man got out a pen and ink

and tried the pen on his fingertip

or on the corner of a piece of scrap paper

and then he remembers his glasses

and gets them and sets himself down

and writes slowly and carefully

and with the proper pressure on the downstrokes:

The girl Karen Jensdatter has served me

loyally and with good conduct from the first of November last year

to this date, and he

dates and signs and she

curtsies and says thank you, thank you for everything

and she walks out the door and she still holds open

the Record of Conduct book so the ink

has time to dry, and she thinks

that now begins a new year in a yet unknown place

with a yet unknown master and mistress and maybe

with some yet unknown luck, and sometimes she also

has to go to the churchwarden to report her move

from one parish to another

and every first of November she hopes

that it will be her last first of November of this kind

and the years pass and all the young farmhands that have property

get married and the years pass and not until she is

38 does Kresten inherit

his parents’ house with no land and she gets

her last entry in the book and her real life

begins,

as a sharecropper’s wife, mother

to a pair of girls who quickly

are too young for her

and full of insecurity

and go out into the world with new

authorized Record of Conduct books in their hands.

“Skudsmålsbogen” ©1980

Translated from the Danish by Michael Goldman

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

__________

Knud Sørensen (b. 1928) was a certified land surveyor for 28 years, during which he became intimate with the changing Danish agricultural landscape. A book reviewer for fourteen years and board member of numerous community organizations and cultural institutions, he has written 37 books and won over 20 literary awards, including a lifelong grant from the Danish Arts Council, and the Great Prize from the Danish Academy in 2014. He lives in Northern Jutland. This is the first appearance of Sørensen’s writing in English.

Michael Goldman: “I taught myself Danish in the summer of 1985 to help win the hand of a Danish girl. We have been married now for 24 years. I have loved Danish literature from the beginning, and I am pleased to be introducing Danish writers to an English speaking readership.”

Questions:

What emotions rise in you as you read this poem?

What would you say to this woman as she watches her daughter leave?

Crow Lessons

american_crow_6Early last spring a messenger came to me. He perched in the ancient oak tree outside my studio and peered into the window inquisitively. Crows are very curious.

Image found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/id

All the while I was sitting there tippy tapping on my keyboard, this crow watched me, tilting his head this way and that like he was wondering what I was all about.

We connected on some deep level—me trapped inside and this bit of wild mystery. I named him “Clawed”, he didn’t seem to mind.

After a long while I got up from my perch and went to the cellar to gather some cracked corn and sunflower seeds. I threw them beneath the oak among the walking stones in the moss garden.

Clawed watched intently, cawed his thanks from his more distant perch atop the shed at the back of the property and returned when I retreated back into the house.

I worried whether Clawed would get much of that gift.

You see, he earned his name – he had a badly damaged right foot and I thought other more agile corvids might scoop up this easy meal. But day after day, we practiced this ritual and all the other birds respected the agreement – contract if you will – between Clawed and me. They ate at the back feeder and under it. Rarely venturing to the deck and walking stones nearer the house; and only after Clawed had had his fill.

I’ve since learned that this is the way of crow. Crow takes care of the injured and old – it’s like they respect the challenges of those less agile and able than they.

I’m always learning new things about crow and this time, I gained even more respect for crow than I already possessed.

Since childhood when we had a pet crow on the farm, I’ve been drawn to crows. I love the raucous cawing early mornings. I know the feeders are safe for the songbirds and wee ones – safe from the gluttonous starlings and grackles.

But crows do more than caw, caw, caw. They have a rich language of chortles, clicks and even purrs. Overhearing two or three crows communicating, you feel that each of those sounds are like phonemes of a true language full of secrets. Few have cracked the code, but the ancient Druids certainly tried so that they could learn the magical powers and obtain the secret knowledge they believed each crow possessed.

Crows are cunning Tricksters. And that’s maybe not what you might think. They are cleverer than we imagine. Do you remember the Aesop’s tale about the thirsty crow? He found a pitcher with a little bit of water on the bottom. He couldn’t reach that water. But he used his noggin. He began dropping pebbles into that pitcher until the water rose enough for him to dip his parched beak into it and quench his thirst.

Nobody taught him that. This signifies to me that crows are able to analyse and visualize and certainly use tools. (check out the link to see scientific proof) I wonder how much else they could teach me?

From childhood, I remember that they love the glitter of sunshine on objects. They need resilience to endure the vagaries of weather and they need a good sense of humour to carry them through the hard times.

When I was a little girl, and I lost a barrette, I’d find it in the rafters of the derelict barn … our pet crow rocking above me on a high branch laughing in mirth at our game. You see he wasn’t laughing AT me, but WITH ME. That makes all the difference. From this, I take it that he not only likes a good joke, but wanted me to know that he admired my taste.

Clawed taught me about resilience, dealing with weather whether I liked it or not, and he demonstrated a great sense of humour and respect for the other, those different from himself.

Three seasons I enjoyed Clawed’s company.

Those were three lonely seasons or they would have been so if not for Clawed’s company. You really can’t be in a bad mood around a solitary crow. There was always some kind of conversation going on. Great conversationalists they are, but not gossips. They know how to keep a secret. Clawed and I mostly talked about ideas. I wrote, clackety clack and he echoed the sounds of the keyboard and my words.

Why am I telling you all this today?

I recently had surgery and got to feeling kind of trapped, housebound because of cold, damp weather and then I remembered Clawed and focused on the good, on what I could do, not what I couldn’t.

Clawed, wounded and different, just carried on. He found a friend to cheer on – me – and we developed a symbiotic relationship – a relationship rooted on mutual need and compassion. Clawed understood that he was supported by a circle of friends whether or not he could see them or even understand them.

So I resolved to do the same, to seek out opportunities to do and be all I could do and be and to help others to do the same.

I learned from him to fix what I could, however I could, but to admit to what I couldn’t fix, change, or make different—like other people or the limitations that I lived with day by day.

For me those limitations were short term and have pretty much subsided. The surgery was a roaring success and every day I need to express my undying gratitude to the surgeon (Dr. Patrik Nechala) the surgeon who assisted (Dr. John Caulfeild), anesthesiologist, nurses … oh just everyone who spent long hours helping me right after the surgery. And to friends who visited, brought food for Jeff and me. Their compassion and caring held us through some shaky times. I still remember that first taste of tomato juice as a friend and I sat and talked poetry.

It turns out, I have to say thanks to surgery for slowing me down so that I could have these kinds of experiences. We tend to take too much for granted. We tend to miss so many opportunities to connect.

I managed to keep busy during this past month while I recovered. Since I couldn’t really eat what I normally would, being on a liquid diet, I found things that weren’t energy draining, but that were productive just the same. And I found that I was content almost all the time. I wasn’t in pain. I wasn’t hungry. And I certainly wasn’t bored. I felt supported by my circle of friends (and family) and indeed that circle seemed to grow.

I watched for him again this year, hoping against hope that our bond carried him over a stark, hungry winter. I made sure there was always cracked corn out in the back feeder and some under the oak.

But he didn’t return. His work here is done.

And I bow to him in gratitude.

namaste-little-girl

Photo Credit:  http://theblissfollower.com/2013/07/02/why-i-say-namaste/

Tomorrow a poem…