Power of Language

I would really like to stay in bed today, think I may have the flu. I have already made sure the dogs and cat have food and fresh water; just reminded Mom to take her iron and vitamin C, set her timer for an hour so she knows when she can eat breakfast. I’ve done what little yoga/p,t. my cranky cranky cranky hip would allow. I have weighed myself for the week, done my weekly “tarot” draw—is not the traditional tarot deck but a couple of decks I found in a local pagan shop that align more with my own world-view and embody concepts I am fundamentally familiar with/hail from my culture.

My card for the week (not necessarily to predict my future but more to guide and refine my response to the present day) was The Three Great Mysteries: birth, life, death. Around me, significant life events unfold. Perhaps someone I know will pass on or give birth. The last time I drew this card, my first service dog suddenly took a turn for the worst and had to be put down. It’ll be two years in a few weeks. Maybe she is on my mind more than I realize. 

Not that this would be a good reason to stay in bed. The flu might be, though, and I hear that something nasty is going around out there. But I haven’t vomited yet today, nor yesterday now that I think about it. I have thrown up a few times a day since around the 4th so maybe my body is finally kicking the ass of whatever has been making the rounds. I ventured to the store yesterday and the checker looked like she should be in bed. She claimed to have been on the tail end of a cold, but her waxy yellow skin had the faint sheen of sick-sweat and I think she was kidding herself into believing she is healthier than she is. I know that game. I am a pro.

Think I am knee-deep in the middle of the game today. All of my small joints ache—hands, wrists, ankles, feet. My large joints are on fire, my left hip aches all down my leg through my thigh and calf to my heel. Ridiculous. Am exhausted and shaky, waiting for my second cup of coffee to kick in. Am now doubting this is ever going to happen but see no point in getting up for a third. Would have to get up, for a start. The three great mysteries may have to unfold around me today as I rest in bed.

Normally, I recite mantras to get myself going and keep myself going. I tell myself I’ve got this, even when the facts suggest otherwise. I tell myself if I take it slow maybe today won’t be a total waste spent in bed watching tv, embroidering eyes onto the little bees I’d crocheted yesterday. I am not falling for the pep talk today, though, and remain unwilling to venture forth into the world. Probably because I have been thinking too much this morning about the power of language.

My ex-mother-in-law was raised to think she was rich in what sounds to me like a very poor family. As a result, the first signs of wear and tear on anything signal the time has come for it to be thrown away and replaced. (I tend to use things until I have worn them into the ground, then find different uses for whatever is left when I’m done. I was raised to think I was poor in an incredibly impoverished family.) Mom, though, cannot stand to see signs of usage, makes her feel bad about herself and reminds her of struggles she’d rather forget (cue Alzheimer’s).

Thus the word “old” carries lots of negative connotations for her. Heaps of linguistic luggage for that tiny word. This normally isn’t a huge problem, except recently Mom has refused to watch some of her favorite tv programs because they are ‘old’. Even favorite episodes from early seasons of shows that are still in production get the cold shoulder from Mom. This could also be related to her desire for new programs of old shows—she seeks the familiarity of characters and sets but wants new plots. I get that. But when I suggest a show, ask if she wants to watch the older or more recent episodes, she wrinkles her nose and opts for the newer. Even if she watched them yesterday and strongly wants new shows.

So I started using the word “classic” instead. And this made all the difference. Now, early episodes of Murdoch Mysteries are funny again. The first 18 seasons of Midsomer Murders are no longer sneered at and passed over without second thoughts. And early Vera is engagingly complex not dated and grouchy.

With this, I am reminded afresh of the power of language. The words we choose to describe ourselves and the world around us shape how we see things, how we feel about them, how we respond to them. Are there words I can use today to talk myself into staying out of bed? Probably. But knowing what to do and how to do it are two very different things. And perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how to know when something is worth doing in the first place, when to act and when to rest. I think today, I rest.



Another Die-Off Day

If this morning has been an indication of how the rest of the day is going to go, I may go back to bed. I have been up since 3:30, which is not unusual for the week around the new moon. Likewise for the week around the full moon. My body is currently the unwilling host of countless tiny microbes, each one a living thing rising and falling with the lunar cycle like the tides. Utter exhaustion and a dislike for most human beings become my most constant companions on these days; bone-deep pain keeps me awake until I find the right dosages of the right medicines to give me a couple of hours of respite and sleep. Then, I wake before dawn in pain, lie in the dark contemplating the rest of my day based on how little stamina I think I might muster.

Today’s grand plan: take a hot salty bath to draw out the toxins currently clogging my tissues, head back to bed. Would be unrealistic to expect anything else. I have already made sure mom’s meds are ready to go for when she gets up; the dogs and cat all have food and fresh water. I have eaten and taken two rounds of my own meds so far—three if you count the handful of ibuprofen I swallowed before I even made it out of bed.

Twice a month, the insidious buggers calling my body home go nuts; I imagine them reproducing and partying like college students. Like nearly all living things, they are most vulnerable when reproducing; and so the killers I’ve ingested are most effective now, wiping out the partygoers in greater numbers than they are able to when the bugs are less vulnerable. Trouble is, my body becomes a battlefield littered with the dead and dying, creating knots in my muscles and a heavy ache in all my limbs. My brain is fogged by fatigue and pain; tonight I will be in agony no matter how much I restrict my activity today. I feel the death energy around me and in me, struggle to keep it at bay and not let it affect my mood. It is the bugs’ death I sense, not my own. This is just die-off and will pass, return, and pass again.

I wonder what kind of day mom is going to have today. Yesterday was rough for her, and us too. She had another negative day, where nothing is satisfactory and everyone and everything around her is wrong and upsetting/infuriating/out to confuse her. Normally, most days pass in a good mood with her re-watching episodes of a handful of tv shows—mainly British murder mysteries. I suspect the familiarity of the characters and plots is usually comforting for her, and the Alzheimer’s means she usually can’t remember who dunnit.

Yesterday, though, while watching an episode for probably the tenth time, she argued with the tv characters, yelled at them for getting their lines wrong. She got quite frustrated with the writers and producers of Midsomer Murders for doing a poor job of explaining plot and character, motive and murderer. In her mind, many episodes are conflated and so the ending from her memory isn’t always the same as the one on the screen. Netflix is at it again, mixing up the order in which episodes are aired or splicing the wrong ends onto her shows. Stupid Netflix; doesn’t matter that we were watching a different channel.

I fear her demands for new episodes of her favorite shows is on the rise. She checks for new Vera daily, frequently more than once. Ditto Midsomer Murders and Shetland, as well as decades-old shows now long-defunct. Pops will probably have to bear the brunt of the tv today—I think he gets frustrated trying to find a show she will like. Even after we have whittled down her choices of programs (maybe today I can get her to watch Murdoch Mysteries), finding an episode that hasn’t offended her is often a chore. I have begun to learn which ones she hates and have tried to skip them; but unless she reads the description and remembers she doesn’t like it (the wife-swapping episode of Midsomer sends her over the edge, for instance) she makes me go back to whatever I’ve skipped.

I hope I am not revealing personal information that might one day make her feel like people are gossiping about her behind her back. I thought the blog could be a good way to keep the family informed of what was going on and rely on internet anonymity to provide a semblance of privacy for her outside of the family. But she worries intensely that people are talking about her—if she would wear her hearing aids she would know that we are just talking about dinner, but that’s a blog for another day. I think the sorts of things we are experiencing happen all over the world in homes with Alzheimer’s and won’t embarrass her. It is hard to know, and one day she could be fine with it and the next not at all.

At least the crap I deal with is (mostly) predictable and I can plan around it, not make commitments during die-off for instance. I can remember having days like mom is having and be glad that at least I’m not the one with Alzheimer’s.

It Begins

I’ve recently moved in with my ex-wife’s parents to help Pops take care of Mom. She’s got a currently-undiagnosed form of dementia, and I am happy to be of assistance. The situation helps me, too; with my own health issues, it gives me a safe and quiet place to land while I gather my bearings and try to get well enough to return to work.

In the meantime, Pops thought a blog would be a good way to keep family and friends updated on how things are going here with Mom. Pops was hoping to make the blog frank and restrict the access, but this appears to not be possible. Perhaps it is the frugality of my choice of WordPress plans (free), or my own ignorance (pervasive), that prevents me from seeing how to make this blog private. And doesn’t a private blog defeat the purpose? But we want to protect Mom’s privacy, so for now at least, I will endeavor to keep things anonymous.

Today, things are slow and quiet. Pops is at work, mom slept in. We should go to the grocery store later. Mom loves to get out and socialize. Lately, she gets so involved in chatting with the cashiers that she forgets we need to pay.  About half the time she tells me she has never had a debit card and she lets me pay. The other half of the time, she remembers she has a card but can’t find it in her wallet, resents my help in finding it as much as my offers to pay. If that is all that happens today, it will be a good day indeed.