Systems, patterns, and understanding
Life is so strange.
You follow your path
step by step
and while doing so
from your path
all at the same time.
|For These Times||
Systems, patterns, and understanding
Life is so strange.
You follow your path
step by step
and while doing so
from your path
all at the same time.
I was half trained in art
and am half way spiritually
and all I do has a half life.
To complete all these halves
I have to jump
into a whole new direction.
Chores have become endless
(Pic was published in January but text is different.)
Chores have become endless
(This is a lengthier text then published in January with above drawing.)
There is a lot of wear and tear in life today. It’s not cruel, it’s not vicious, it’s not about torture, but it’s endless with no relief or resolution. In the land of doublespeak, nothing gets solved. But to live you have to keep getting things done or you fall behind. One chore leads to two chores leads to three chores and on and on. When you call a bank for a simple answer to a simple question, a tape recording gives you five choices, each in turn gives you three choices, and then a wait, and then more choices and finally a live voice that might be curt or rude. In a low key way it’s sinister, for your time is wasted and that can’t be replaced. You are aggravated and frustrated. All the while you see the wealthy accumulate, the poor grabbing all they can, while you are pulled and stretched in a thousand different directions.
We are built to feel we are getting somewhere, that there is hope, that something is being done, that dues are being paid. But the reality is that it’s all an illusion. What is really taking place is one, at least certain ones, are being kept alive, almost in a state of suspended animation if you will, perhaps for the purpose being to observe, wait, question, wonder, until a certain realization becomes fully clear.
Well, the call finally came. My brother in law, Elliott, who rarely calls, said dad (the 98 year old Cohanan) went in for a back check up and they found his heart rate very high and he went to ER immediately and is now in a rehab facility on Verrick St., Manhattan, New York.
Last June when I was in New York dad seemed a bit more fragile, did not use buses anymore, and did not follow through on many things he said he would. The latter was nothing new but more noticeable. Still, he was able to present himself well and was enthusiastic about pushing the book on my mom I put together. He still got around but he did rest a lot. He had a mucus problem and after I left a skin rash problem which made him more reluctant to mingle with certain people and hence avoid any presentation for the book. Although he thought he ate well, too many breakfasts at the diner added too much bad food to his system in my opinion. His body was just trying to get rid of the greases and processed junk he couldn't use. As we get older we can afford fewer mistakes. He was strong so he got away with a lot.
In the following months we had some nice phone conversations but I noticed I was the one usually to call. If I waited over a week usually I still would not receive a call. It somewhat hurt that I wasn't part of his reaching out. Probably he felt a pull from me to still be certain things he hadn't. He also felt some of my fears and didn't want to deal with them. We often spoke of health concerns and doing positive things about it, but perhaps this pressured him. He would always say “I'll do what I can.” Part of this is father son dynamics. A son always holds a father accountable and always wants to look up to him, which in a shortsighted sense can be a burden . His dad had left him at 13 and I'm sure the give and take of father and son was not experienced.
Later there were multitudes of doctor visits for the eyes, the hearing, the mucus, the skin and so on. My sister, Gail, accompanied him for most. If the same energy had been used on serious juicing I think that would have helped. It becomes clearer certain configurations are very hard to change. It is sometimes difficult for me to see because I have to do so much to maintain my health at a functional level and even then fall short, and my father would have to do so much less to maintain his stronger constitution. And worse, my lessons served no larger purpose or were benefited from. He did respond and make certain efforts. He read a daily health newsletter I sent but changing his daily routine was another matter. Habits were not easy to alter.
About a month ago I received on Sunday a short email from my sister saying dad burnt a sneaker he was trying to dry off in the oven. Hmmmmm. Quite a bit open ended. No explanation was given. So implied was at any point he could start a fire and burn himself and all the belongings in the apartment, including many of my paintings. Mid week I decided to call and find out somewhat aggressively what was behind this. He deflected my probing and talked about the book and plans to promote it. When I persisted, he became defensive and made it clear his thinking was okay and that he just made a bad mistake and that he usually is careful. We always spoke about the danger of falling and avoiding household accidents. I said once you're in the hospital there's little I can do. Crossing first avenue was always a real challenge for anyone. I ended the conversation saying “it sounds as if your are in control but just made a bad mistake.' I'm not sure if I believed that. Maybe I wanted to.
I called him back minutes after we hung up as I sometimes do. It was an excuse to speak to him. At times I felt emotionally incomplete after a conversation and would fish for what was missing. Sometimes I found it, sometimes not. This time there was a void. He seemed tired and not willing to converse. Often, and it is hard to admit this, there is simply not enough energy in the pot for a full fledged give and take. Yesterday, after I spoke to him briefly via phone when he was in rehab, my brother in law got on the phone and I said dad did all the talking, or 90% percent of it, so I still didn't know if his hearing aids were working. Elliott said that's true, but it also had to do with the energy it took from him to have a simple conversation. Perhaps all along, at least for a time, this had been the reality. He simply did not have the physical strength. He covered it up well, and I believed it and maybe didn't want to admit that.
Before being in rehab, dad's status was less certain. It was day by day knowing how he would be. I went through a myriad of feelings. I recall reading that when mourning most people have pity on themselves, not for the person gone or sick. This was the case with me. Although we did not always get along, he was my dad, my dreams and history were tied to him, my early family memories the same and he was still a presence to whom my existence mattered. I feared I would be alone in the world. Everyone was out for themselves in a way. I was concerned with home care using up whatever might come my way. My father wanted control and did not plan ahead for this. I would miss our weekly calls. He kept alive the memory of mom, the history of our lives, the house and the entire growing up experience.
Even so, part of me had begun to build a small wall around myself not wanting any more hurt. I could not fully be my father's son. I had to define myself independently of that. Family did not fully define me, like it or not. Modern life and it's existential twist did not make special allowances for me. I had to pursue my own fate. The tribe did not fully act as one. What a lonely feeling.
With him gone my world would get smaller. He might have been pollyanna at times, but he was my pollyanna father. If I accomplished something, he would not be there to see. With him gone he would not witness my 'saving' the family. Plus, I planned to get more done and established at this point. Tons of stuff would have to be gone through, and this would take mounds of time. Yes, getting things done before any loss was important. Not much of my empathy went for his suffering or trials. I mentioned this to a friend and they said this is natural. Our own fears and doubts are forefront and we can't pretend they are not. We are self involved creatures, at least in this landscape.
Saturday my brother law called from the rehab center and put dad on the phone. It was the first time we spoke. I said 'hi' and t hen listened. His voice was higher for some unknown reason. He said he loved me very much and that he was very proud of me. He said I did a remarkable job on mom's book. He said Gail and Elliott would be in touch with me. Again he said he loved me very much and was so proud of me. Then he got off. What he said in an aging voice was sweet, very sweet.
My sister sent a couple of pics of him, sleeping and sipping a drink. He was dressed neatly. He had done upper chest stretching before. His voice to me sounded weak, very weak. He is on medications, something we used to talk about avoiding.
For most this happens to them when younger. Because I am somewhat alone, perhaps the maker has kept him around for longer. I had told him a few times 'we still need you.' Anyhow, sometimes today I'll receive a call from Elliott and he'll put dad on. Dad telling me 'he loves me' means a lot. I can hear it many times. I'll wait and hope for the best and try to get things done while I can.
Free will is a bitch.
How many dead ends,
wrong choices and wrong actions
do I have to make?
I am tired of this 'honor.'
I need to be told what to do.
Although I have 1000 doubts, I believe there must be a maker. Nothing else can I be sure of in this world.
Time and scrutiny exposes errors in everything. All theories and facts should be taken with a grain of salt. The only thing that is permanent is that there is an above. This is all that can last. Age and time and the world and life test this to the core. I doubt all the time. More often than not it seems as if there is not a maker. It seems an illusion for the young, a crutch for the needy, a primitive emotion for the uninformed. However, all this being said, and despite my doubts, there must be a maker. And again, nothing else is for sure.
As it is
So many things that bother me
so many unresolved issues
and yet I can do nothing
to change anything
but accept all
as it is.
"No pain no gain" or "it's mind over matter" we've all heard before. For a time you force the body to conform through discipline, attitude, vision and will. But eventually pain is pain not gain and matter conquers the mind, not the reverse. Not listening to the body, taking it for granted becomes a mistake. If my health is ok, I'm ok. It it's not, I'm in trouble. No more grinning and bearing the pain. You end up paying for this. The body's needs are a priority, and I have to work around this, not the other way around.
A confrontation with questions
A local man in his 40's, not working and living in his parents’ condo, needed work and I had him paint my apartment, clean the rugs and clean a number of other things. He knows how to work and get things done. Later, he obtained some work as a dog groomer and was not as reliable. We got along, both being younger in a senior Florida community. He had in his youth been in a drug rehab program, divorced and was now broke. At times I lent him money and he worked it off. He wasn't detailed oriented in his housework. Later he didn't always call, or he called when he needed money. So we gradually trailed off. I'd have him clean the bathroom and kitchen every other week.
I trusted him. One day I left my wallet out front. One time I was missing a couple of hundred dollars and assumed it was my fault. Another time the same thing happened. The third time I questioned if it could be Sam? If not, who? The landscapers? I doubt it. They liked me. Who then? Did I repeatedly misplace it? I almost became paranoid. $500 was gone. Could I be that careless? I wrestled with asking Sam, thought it would betray our relationship, ran it by a couple of people who thought I should, and I eventually did. I worded it in a way that would just eliminate him as a suspect, that I was sorry to doubt him, but I needed him to confirm my doubts were wrong. He got insulted. Later, he said he couldn't sleep, became depressed and went downhill. Six weeks later he must have been deeply troubled over it, for he confronted me at the pool in front of people. He implied I was paranoid and suspicious and called me “misguided” and not trustworthy. So he was on the attack in front of neighbors. I couldn't let him get away with this so I said you act like this after I gave you work and lent you money, and after all this found money missing from my house. It also came to a physical face off. I should have walked away. Several guards were called; he could have gotten himself thrown out if he stayed so he disappeared. I called him and he was extremely angry. He said all he had was his integrity and I brought that into question.
So what was the trouble? Was I right to do what I did? I think yes. I lost an acquaintance by doing so but could I help it? In thinking back I don't think he did it. But, I needed confirmation to relieve my doubts. No, it wasn't fully loyal. It wasn't what a great friend would do. But it was a knee jerk reaction I had. He wasn't a lifelong friend. The evidence was there to raise suspicions. Another friend confirmed that he would have questioned him too as I did.
Instead of being a purist, he could have said, “gee, you disappoint me. I would never do that to you.” Or he could have humbled himself and said, “Steve, I wouldn't do that. Trust me. I swear it.” Instead, broke, living in his parents place, he was aloof and responded as if beyond reproach.
Still later, I wrote to him a note stating I thought he was wrong to start a public incident, but that in honor of our old belief in one another here was $30 as a down payment for a rug cleaner to service surrounding areas outside of the immediate vicinity. Our argument discredited him locally. I said “people do good and bad things” and didn't excuse myself.
This last statement is interesting. My friend Sam thought what I did was evil, disloyal, and bad. I thought it didn't show loyalty, but it was pragmatic. To this day I couldn't swear that he didn't steal the money. For me it was an evidence driven decision. I'm not sure if it was evil or bad. To Sam I betrayed him. To me, and I'm a little older, you can suspect someone of wrongdoing yet still not betray them or even make an enemy. Even if he was a thief, I could still forgive him, even be cordial. It's a bad character flaw, but it’s not terminal. As said before, people do good and bad things.
So there are two perspectives here, two systems of looking at friendships and people. Maybe the word honor applies. Sam saw his honor violated, that he had been demeaned. This is one way of looking at it. We have dignity, honor, and we have to preserve it. This is assuming he was in fact honorable and did not steal.
The other way is that people do good and bad things. If I did bad, it's just a human flaw, part of the whole. Let it go, move on. It's all part of “the good, the bad, the ugly” within us all.
Then there were my own personal questions. There is the spirited, behavioral ideal where one hones one's character to be consistent and centered no matter what the circumstances. Extremes of behavior are aberrations to be weeded out. The Zen masters, the spiritual monks, the aesthetics rather die than betray a code of behavior. In our modern times, a sort of spiritual evolution seeks to create a center within, physically, mentally and emotionally. One does not want to discard this. Meditation, yoga, other disciplines encourage this. In the west being a spiritual transformer, a “cool hand Luke,” a Jesuit monk, or practicing transcendental meditation is our version of this. They are all efforts to refine our behavior and work out of our systems, our lesser behavior.
On the other hand we go back to the statement “people do good and bad things.” Can one change that proportion really? Is good and bad written in us at all no matter how refined our training? Is it just the human condition, a fight between morality and immorality, right versus wrong, good versus evil, that is in us all? Are we all given a range, a portion we bring with us throughout life? The American Indians plundered, scalped, raped and pillaged, but eventually some gained wisdom. So this speaks to experiencing all of life.
Both are valid. Both are to be considered as part of our totality.
Steven B. Nussdorf records his lifelong search to find meaning outside of the normal channels. He uses writing, poetry, and drawing to document this effort.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.