living. Sore and soaring.
Joygrief. Loveloss. Fearhope.
Do you feel it too? The paradox.
I once described my journal as “a space for everything.”
There’s nothing I can’t say in my conversation with myself on the page. Things I can’t speak find a home there. There’s plenty of room to play with words, from letting their sounds lead through alliteration or repetition to exploring their multiple meanings. Then there’s the permission to discover what lurks, unconsciously. And all those feisty and sometimes hard-to-accept paradoxes belong.
As a recently initiated caregiver, there are particular feelings and experiences I hesitate to talk about. And yet, in my journal I can open up, be honest, and tell the messy truth about being human. Here’s an example:
A home for unspoken things
I hear my husband blow his nose as the water rushes over his thin skin. Thin and becoming thinner. His emotions so close to the surface and I wonder sometimes, if I can hold them all. If, at some point, there will be too many to carry.
Alliteration & repetition
If I am meant to be so close to someone who is so close to terror and tremor and tired, so tired.
Is it fear that feeds the question? Fear and my own heart quivering with emotions too complex to name.
The loose hairs draped across his red fleece, silvery filaments. Unkempt. Messy. I want to scoop them up, get rid of them. Make him presentable. To whom? It’s just me and him.
Just me and him here and I have been afraid of him. My husband. Afraid of the thinning of his hair, the narrowing of his face, his scooped in tummy, the loose flesh like chicken necks under his butt cheeks. Afraid.
Permission to discover what lurks, unconsciously
Afraid of his illness, his less than perfection. His growing fingernails. He has always kept himself so well-presented. A carpenter working with his hands and still they were always so tidy, clean, soft.
Expectations of how he should look. I feel his head against my chest, the back of his skull. He leans into me. Silent.
“Are you comfortable?” I ask.
“Yeah!” he hesitates. I hear, it’s not an easy task, getting comfortable. I hear, this body doesn’t do comfortable any more. I hear, just hold me and don’t ask.
It is quiet in the kitchen. I have done all the dishes. Turned the overhead light off. Just him and me on the grey couch. No devices near us. No tv or radio. Just this sitting here. Here with my husband. His thinning hair, scalp red and flaky. Those filaments on his shoulders. I put my hand on his head. Breathe my love into him. Here we are.
In bed, I move closer and the fear subsides. Not the one about being able to support us. That one still surfaces. I awake mid-sleep with it, a tug in the gut. The one about living with Gregory, his illness, stiffened hands like chicken feet.
Plenty of room to play
There must be other animals I can compare him to, besides chickens. Swans, their necks soft and graceful. His heart is soft and graceful, sometimes. Fussy and agitated others. His voice soft mostly. His eyes. The skin on his belly, his legs. Flappy and soft. Birdlike.
His head in my lap now. He has calmed down, his nervous system regulated, his right arm, still. He tries to do as much as he can. Today I am so proud of him. So in awe of him. All morning he was exercising. Taking care of his body. This new body. Parkinson’s body. So humbled at his courage. How brave to keep stepping into life. Keep meeting the body as it is, keep pushing it further, into health, into movement. Into strength.
Exploring multiple meanings
I am no longer afraid. His filaments. Sacred threads, like those animal or plant fibres found in nature. Intimate. I lean in, right hand holding his. This is our journey now.