"He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
'A fact so dread,' he faintly said,
'Extinguishes all hope!'"
Lewis Carroll, A Strange Wild Song
The term “caregiver” has been on my mind lately. When does love fade from complex devotion into simple need? Don’t think of the myriad awful interminable little assaults to caregivers. Don’t think of the burdensome begrudged undignified duties involved in caring. I’ve been thinking of what the lover gives to the loved one. Can the loved one tell the difference between love and need? How do we need care and give care except through love?
Today, I’m wondering why can I devote lavish care to cultivating my garden (in the way Voltaire spoke of Candide, in my blog, and in my yard) while I resent demands to care for the people I live with? One could argue it means I care for the garden more than the people. I protest it’s not that simple. I think it’s a more complicated mixture of resentment at having to provide certain chores, putting up with the passive aggression and ingratitude, my growing desire to stop pretending to play nice, and needing care desperately myself.
I do know however, that I’m finding it harder and harder to muster the resources for caring. My body aches with new and strange pains, and they come more frequently and go more slowly. My spirit is exhausted by trying to steal moments alone to meditate and try to find my way back to the neighborhood of good moods. To good days and pain-free nights. To be myself again.
I think there is a cycle, or perhaps spiral, playing itself out. Good days and bad days. Honest attempts and resentful failures to connect. I’m less able to extend the good days; less able to hurry past the bad days. Our lives are spinning past, and daily we are reminded what we lose despite our best efforts to stay limber, inventive, inquisitive, interested, alive and together.
On good days I replenish reservoir of love for coming droughts, remember the promises we made each other, and do the simple math: there’s more good than bad. Way more. We’re not going anywhere, and we’ve managed to keep each other entertained pretty well over the years. It’s been a blast.
On bad days, I see old age as an unavoidable descent into indignity and dependence. Those days, I just try to remember it’s not a defeat to stop shooting first, no matter who started it. It’s the way we care for the ones we love. It’s also, incidentally, how we all care for each other. So stop shooting.