Gratitude Sunday: Swimming Upstream

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.” Leonard Cohen

Sunday Haiku
Storm whips tree branches
to frenzy, rain flies sideways.
Relentless weather.

Sunday Musings
More than eleven years ago I began my adventures in the swimming pool as an attempt to avoid surgery on my spine. I had bone spurs pressing on a nerve and causing numbness in my arm. The water therapy worked, the numbness dissipated, the exercise released the pressure on the nerve, and I told the doctor they could give their surgery to somebody else. I loved swimming when I was a kid.

A few years back I upped my swim time to three nights a week when sciatic pain overwhelmed me. My doctor doesn’t want to order expensive tests to find out if there is anything that can be done, as it likely will include a surgical option. I admit it. I am afraid of the knife. I’m not afraid of water, though I have a healthy respect for the problems it can cause when you forget to pay attention to it.

In the water I can move; on land I struggle against gravity. It’s like my life. For every step forward I seem to take two backward. I have spent my life swimming upstream, fighting the current, because I have never fit into standards of any kind. For all the years working and saving toward retirement, it hasn’t been enough, and now I am reduced to asking for help again, moving against the tide of self-sufficiency. There are many studies available now showing how living a life of distress is harmful to your health. A hard life can make you sick.

When you ask for help, it is usually because you need it and you have finally worked up the courage to withstand the humiliation of admitting you can’t take care of yourself without help, not because you are trying to cheat the system. If there was any way I could do without the help, I wouldn’t ask. Statistically, the number of cheaters or system abusers are very small. Yet when you ask for help that is exactly the way you are treated, as if you are trying to cheat other people. It’s not as if you get a lot when of help at an average assistance of $1.88 per meal. One has to be pretty clever to feed people on that amount of money, and groceries aren’t getting cheaper.

Our American capitalistic consumer society has made us a community of competition and comparison rather than a community of cooperation and caring. Let’s consider the fact I worked more than 40 years supporting a disabled husband (with no Social Security Disability income for him) and raised a child to taxpaying working status on my pathetically small salary. Let’s consider my tax investment helped other people along the way. Let’s consider my tax investment helped support the outrageous benefits bestowed to elected officials. Let’s consider elected officials who “earn” more than 4 times the national median annual income (paid by our tax investment dollars), premium health insurance (paid by our tax investment dollars), premium retirement plans (paid by our tax investment dollars), memberships to state-of-the-art gyms (built with, and maintenance and staff paid for by our tax investment dollars), up to 3 offices and 14 employees per office (paid by our tax investment dollars), subsidized transportation (paid by our tax investment dollars), and yet they don’t think we should have any of what they have on our dime, though we work as hard as they do, perhaps harder. Elected officials would not have any of the entitlements they have if it weren’t for the tax investment of the workers.

You can look up the net worth of any elected official. They all have assets in the millions. None of them are required to disclose their financial affairs, tax forms, or assets to serve in a public position. Statistically, we are seeing greater numbers of these elected officials today being revealed as corrupt and abusive of their privilege to serve by taking extreme advantage of their access to our tax investments while they find the loopholes to avoid paying their share.

Yet if you ask for food, or help paying medical bills, or help with heating bills, which in my case isn’t a lot of help, you are asked to list every dollar in every bank account, every asset you own, and whether you might be able to get help elsewhere, like borrowing money. The forms and formulas don’t care if you spend all your savings into a larger hole of poverty. If you don’t have an income, banks won’t loan you money, especially for food or health insurance. In most cases if you can’t earn an income, family and friends won’t give you money either. Somehow you are expected to have no cushion at all if you ask for public assistance. I can understand if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed away, and decide you want access to public funds; that’s not who help is intended for. But for a family trying desperately to stay in their own home while paying a mortgage and property tax, both adults over 60, both disabled, a little cushion of savings of a few thousand dollars is needed in case of emergency home repairs; the state is not going to step in and help repair my roof if it should fail, but I might be able to take care of this myself if I can find help buying food and not have to spend down my small savings into extreme poverty.

Having to report income and assets every 6 months seems like a waste of our tax investment dollars, constantly bothering folks like me to report non-existent changes. I couldn’t work then; nothing has changed now; there is no medical intervention or solution at this point in my life that will enable me to work again like when I was younger. I also don’t see anybody handing out jobs just because you need one; you must still apply and interview and be rejected or accepted, all distressful in itself as one of those roll of the dice moments, especially when we don’t have equal advantages. For every report and form they want from me I want to require a similar report from our elected officials of how they spend our tax investments, like how many golf trips and vacations they take at our expense.

Water has saved me. It helps keep my over-thinking brain from being so distressed at all the disparities in our society, like the myth that if you work hard enough you can gain wealth, which isn’t true in America anymore unless you inherit or happen to be one of the few for whom it works. I wouldn’t even have the luxury of water if it weren’t for the kindness of one woman who shares her small cushion and treats me to a pool membership every year.

So, I’m off to fill out another form. Then I’ll do my taxes as well. I promise not to get seasick while I’m swimming upstream. At least I’m still in the water.

Color Watch colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Dime-sized light purple violas that grow in the cracks of my driveway. Yellow ball flowers of Oregon grape. Pale pink fairy skirts. Purple shooting stars in a yard close by. Tulips have begun; yellow is my favorite tulip color. Pink tulips are my next favorite, here beautiful with grape hyacinth.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Breakfast Club (1985, rated R), a classic worth re-watching. A disparate group of teenagers have detention together and find common ground in the troubles of their relationships with their families. Parents and adults try our best to share our values and in most cases, despite our efforts otherwise, we unintentionally hurt our children; the cycle repeats. * Solace (2015, rated R) with Anthony Hopkins. Four murders that look like mercy killings. A psychic is called in to help. What do you do when you can see the past and all possible future outcomes? A thriller full of quirks and twists worthy of Halloween viewing, with the parts of humans that are so much scarier than vampires, werewolves, and zombies. * Binged through seasons 2 and 3 of Getting On (2013-2015, rated TV – MA) with Laurie Metcalf. Filmed in a pseudo-mockumentary style, it is interesting to me how the drama of individuals and the miscommunication of a dysfunctional workplace is so amusing. * Call Me By Your Name (2017, rated R). Filmed in Italy, and some of the dialogue is Italian (thankful for subtitles), luxurious photography, slow-paced, a teenage boy’s family hosts an American student a few years older than the boy; this is the story of the love that develops between the two. The heart loves who the heart loves. The parents intuit what is happening and what the father says to his son at the end of the movie makes the whole viewing worth the time.

Currently ReadingThe Lonely Hearts Hotel (2017, fiction) by Heather O’Neill. Two talented orphans grow to love each other and then are separated because of the dynamics of the Great Depression. I am in the sex and drugs chapters. The author is guilty of excessive use of fragments that have no effect on the story. The editor is guilty of not recognizing them and correcting the flow of sentences. I’ll get over it. Maybe. Except some of her facts are wrong too, as she mentions a beauty product used during the Depression but it didn’t get invented until later in the 1940s. It’s fiction, not fantasy. I’ll have to get over it. * Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000, history) by Rebecca Solnit. A thorough discussion of the physicality and spirituality of pilgrimages, including marches of protest and seeking change, such as the March of Dimes and the AIDS marches.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Not knowing why I love watching bird activity so much, and pausing to watch a little group perched on an orange berried cotoneaster chowing on the bugs and the berries.
  • My dependencies: pool time and microwave heat packs.
  • Still having freedom of speech. Individually. Nationally.
  • Easter dinner with “new” family without once looking at my phone.
  • Getting to meet the hubster’s biological younger brother after 65 years of not knowing his biological family.
  • Getting through a 1 hour medical procedure and surviving the 8 hour migraine it caused, which I hadn’t been warned was a possibility. Thought they had killed me, but I’m still here to tell about it.
  • Enjoying the air magic of trees moving in the wind. How flexible tree branches are.
  • Looking forward to the possibility of reconnecting with a college pal later this month.
  • For all my complaining being able to get up every day and make do with what I have.
  • Being aware that if I’m having a tough time, there are a whole bunch of people out there having a tough time.
  • Always being able to make a meal out of the cupboard and fridge when my guys complain there is nothing to eat. I’m willing to eat vegetables.
  • Simple meals of toast and eggs.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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