Words to Describe My Path  

When age fifty-eight I found myself, once again, at a crossroad in life. A constellation of major events had coincided to release me, temporarily, into the world, living alone and without a job.

Newly based in San Jose, California, I wandered, in a 1988 Honda for around a month throughout the US southwest. In Arizona, I met, separately, two people who were friends of a friend in the place I had just left. The first had the promise of a possible romance, the second was a place, near Kingman, to rest and recover.The romance didn’t ignite, so I traveled to Kingman.

Looking over the mountain forest from a spacious living room, I began to ponder my life’s path. I perceived recurring patterns. Try as I might, to go in direction A or B, I seemed always to revert to C.

After some thought-less viewing of the forest, I found myself at peace and wrote this:

Words to describe my path

To let go; to not-cling

To accept; things are as they are

To be open; to learn about the universe/my-“self”; to reveal the spirit residing within

To live simply

To nourish loving relationships

To create and maintain a private space

To contribute to useful processes

To avoid negative people and processes

I have revisited these words many times in the ensuing twenty-three years, just as I have this morning in Stockholm and find no reason to add to, or subtract from, what I wrote in Kingman more than two decades ago.

Now, enough of words, and back to the weekly laundry…

 

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Tinnitus

I met a man around 15 years ago who, a week after we met, jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge to his death.

We had a mutual friend, Kelly, who asked me to meet with him after I had told Kelly about my tinnitus. Kelly was interested in how I dealt with the constant low hum and high-pitched hissing, and the occasional but temporary loud, clear tone. He said his friend, whom I later met, was depressed about his tinnitus. Kelly thought my meeting with him and talking about our shared affliction might help him.

Upon meeting his friend in San Jose I learned he was, indeed, depressed about his tinnitus, but it was different from mine. He said that, when in conversation, whatever he heard echoed and reverberated.

~1438120515~what did you sayI told him what I had told Kelly—I have found a way, both voluntarily and involuntarily, to ignore the constant hissing and humming. I don’t ‘hear’ my tinnitus unless I consciously think about it, or unless I am in a place where there is almost complete silence. Kelly’s friend was not impressed, saying this way of dealing with it was not available to him.

Kelly’s friend had other problems as well. He had lost a critically important client for his business, and his wife had left him. So, I can’t blame the tinnitus for his unfortunate demise, but it seems a contributing factor.

I began to notice the sounds in my head around twenty-five years ago, when in my early fifties. At first it was the hissing which masked all sibilants and stridents: s/z/f/v. Also, I found myself reading lips, needing to see my interlocutor’s mouth to understand some of the emanating sounds, both heard and unheard. I finally bought hearing aids at around age sixty, but even as the technology has improved (I’m on my third pair) nothing can make me hear s/z/f/v. Except for a few distorted tones in the upper ranges (typically played by flutes and violins), I hear music well-enough to enjoy it fully. I can fill in the blanks when listening to familiar music, just as I interpolate much of the speech directed toward me.

One’s hearing deficit is hard for others to understand, much less be empathetic with. A blind person, or a person with an impairment of the limbs or other parts of the visible body, more naturally evokes sympathetic reactions. The confusion of a deaf person is often perceived as humorous, and it serves one (me, at least) to go along with the humor and even build upon it.

My mother, in her eighties, was concerned about her tinnitus. She took medication to control her paranoid tendencies, so the sounds in her head would evoke confusion and concern. I reassured her that I had the same affliction and, thus, it was a family trait.

I wonder if Kelly’s friend had paranoid or other psychological tendencies which the tinnitus exacerbated. Maybe it was the tinnitus which pushed him over the edge.

An excellent novel and story to read if you want to enter the world of the partially deaf: Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge.

Intimations of Mortality

My sister Diane died on July 8 of this year, not quite two months ago. She was 68.

I am past the major grieving, I believe—several weeks have passed since my tears have welled up unexpectedly.

I may still be surprised by some sudden emotion, but there are now only persistent evocations of times shared with Diane, and of her forceful and positive spirit.

I no longer can forward to her a YouTube presentation of a popular singer or a clip from a TV comedy show of long ago, nor receive any from her. When I experience something that evokes a time we shared, I can no longer email or telephone to her about it.

She is really gone, but my sympathetic nervous system has not yet absorbed the fact of her permanent absence on this side of the great divide between life and death.

I have read and written and spoken occasionally on the subject of death, always in the abstract—for I haven’t yet experienced it, nor had anyone whose writing I have read.

With the extinguishing of Diane’s earthly presence so suddenly and completely, I feel closer to death. It is not as abstract to me as before.

When our parents died at advanced ages, these deaths were expected and even welcomed, for their last few years were difficult in each separate circumstance.

Not so with Diane’s death. She was younger than I by five- and-a-half years.

I have begun to imagine my spirit suddenly being extinguished. What can it be like? It is a very strange feeling or perception. Will the soul survive and, if so, in what manner?

I have known people who dwelt on the subject of death overly much in my view, or for my continuing interest. Will I now become such a person?

As I write this I wonder what lesson there may be in this new feeling or perception. What comes immediately to mind are the several aphorisms I have read and quoted, all tending toward this conclusion:

Death is always at your left hand (as Don Juan Matus remarked to Carlos Castaneda), so accept it and live life as this were your last moment.

Granddaughter Sydney learned a variant of this recently in Bible camp; she repeated it at the memorial we held for Diane in Sydney’s home.

To me this does not mean to become a pursuer of transient pleasures. Rather, it is to continue to act and build upon values that will have some lasting usefulness, at least for a few generations beyond.

I wrote the following during a low period, some 16 years ago:

Will It Be a Good Death?

When all the patterns close around me,
As my spirals play out all their energies,
When the sun no longer burns inside me,
And the waters cease coursing through me,
Will we cry good tears and say goodbye without regret?

Will it be a good death?

I pray it will be a good death
For the sake of my soul,
And the souls of my children, and of their children,
And of others who love me.

I pray my life will warrant a good death.

Will those with whom I am love-connected say,
“It was a good death: There was honor and completeness”?
Will they peacefully help my spirit to reunite with
The Great Everything?

To die a good death I must live a good life:
Be brave, be true, my soul;
Help me toward that good death.