Monday, April 12, 2010

the scoop, part four

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that distancing myself from blogging distanced me from my flesh-and-blood relationships and even from myself. When I first began blogging, the people around me commented how changed I much more alive and engaged. It's almost like the process of intentionally listening for my own experience was creating me somehow. When I stopped blogging, loneliness kind of snuck up on me, but I was only aware of this in the most remote sense. The tree was falling in the forest, but no one was there to hear the sound.

But there's one more really essential piece of my life that will help you (and me) to understand the environment that I was living in when everything came undone. My 87-year-old mother-in-law (Lorraine) had been living with us for the past fifteen years. This had always been an easy arrangement. She was a sharp and active old woman with a quick wit. She was always very independent and helped us around our house. We loved sharing our lives with her. But that all changed in the last year and a half.

Little by little, Lorraine's memory and judgment became impaired. Dave and I began to hear things and see things that were disturbing to us, and we finally had to take away her car keys. This made her very angry and suspicious. Our relationship with her changed almost over night. It was kind of like having a toddler who wanted to drive and cook. Soon, she became delusional and started to hallucinate. She thought we were stealing from her and that people were looking in her window and sitting in her chair. She could no longer be trusted with a credit card or really with much of anything at all including her personal care. It's so hard to watch this happen over time to someone close to you.

Don't get me wrong: we still loved her like crazy, and she still had moments when things seemed fine. But mostly, we were constantly anxious and overwrought. There was even a time when she nearly killed us all by turning the gas on the stove while my grandbaby and I slept. By the time my son arrived and woke us up the house was filled with gas and we had to call the fire department and escape to the neighbor's house. She never understood her role in that incident, and I never tried to explain it to her. It would only have upset her and she wouldn't have remembered it anyway.

So my home provided no rest. I'm fairly sure that I could have sailed through the rest of this story with minimal damage if I would have had a home to rest in. But then I wouldn't have been where I am today, so I guess I can't complain. I'm glad the tree fell even though it was utterly silent. It cleared a path so that I could see more of the beautiful forest around me and the clearing beyond it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We've got a long way to go before we reach the clearing.


  1. Terri, I love the way you write -- you have a way of telling this story that is uniquely you, and I think that's one of the main things that I can identify about you that makes you such a good and compelling writer.

    It's an interesting correlation you noted between blogging and being more engaged in your "real life." I know for me, I'm more likely to really think about my life and what I'm learning, observing, and so on, when I'm blogging about it -- because I'm putting it out there and having to think about it. And let people comment on it. Oy. I never thought of it that way until you said it though.

    I'm so sorry about your mother-in-law. Though through an entirely different set of circumstances, I know how it is when "home" is no longer a haven or a place of safety and rest. It's miserable place to be in.

    Thanks for writing your story. I want to hear, and I'm sitting on this couch ready for whenever the next installment should come along.

    P.S. I like how good you are at making these things "bite-sized." I know I need to work on that!!

    love you,

  2. I'm also interested in your correlation between blogging and deeper interactions in "real" life. I'm not sure how it works for me--I know I go through phases where I need to articulate where I'm at, and others where it's like it's all percolating (like, um, now). But that's an interesting thought . . . something to keep stewing back there.

    So hard about your mother-in-law--not only about the home and rest, which is huge, but because it's so hard to watch someone deteriorate like that. More than not restful, it's like your home sounds like it became almost another antagonist. Sheesh!

    I'm so glad you're sharing all of this. Is it good for you, too?

  3. . . . intentionally listening for my own experience . . .

    I love this line!

    And I see I'm not the only one. :)

    But seriously. I can relate to what you're saying about the act of blogging keeping you alive to your life and therefore keeping you more alive in life and in relationships. It keeps one more intentional about the life being lived, and therefore we are more present to the moments presented in our days.

    Boy, you sure to know how to tell a good story! I am totally hooked on this one. :)

    Love you.

  4. kirsten: thank you so much. those words mean a lot to me coming from such a wonderful writer. i write in little chunks like this partly because i know it's more accessible that way and partly because it's too overwhelming to try to tell it all at once. and i listen to myself much better when i take one thing at a time. :)

    sarah: blogging is definitely a mixed bag for me. even though it tends to make me more aware of my inner life, it also can make me distracted and more fragmented at times. but overall, yes, i think it's good for me.

    christianne: that's really what this blog is about: listening for my experience and then listening to what comes of that openness. glad to have you hooked. :)

    can i just say that i love having you all back here? i really missed you. and thanks for the kind words about the situation with dave's mom. hard stuff.


    i love reading your blog! thank you for writing all of this! it's 4am otherwise i'd write more... ugh... i've been up writing echo comedy club material for the last 4 hours... brutal sauce. maybe erica will let me go home early tomorrow night... I LOVE YOU.

    let's hang out soon :)

  6. nummy. it sounds all tangled, mangled and jumbled. where do you go from here?

  7. I'm catching up with all this, and am sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. I know that's painful, although I'm sure moments of beauty peek through.

    I also have come to see how blogging enhances "real world." I can't explain it, but I think it keeps me engaged with people. It doesn't allow me to recede, which is my constant temptation.

  8. Looking in the blog mirror isn't always easy, but I have to agree with you, it's mostly helpful, a discipline like no other. Your story is heart-wrenching and gripping, you write like you talk and I've always loved the way you talk. ;) Glad you're back.

  9. danny: i seriously love it when you show up here. and i love you too.

    dave: oh dear. if you don't know where we go from here i'm in trouble. :)

    heather: oh yes, the receding temptation. funny how blogging can help that. i never would have guessed.

    cheryl: hi! i like the way you talk too!