When I told my husband I want to do hospice work, he seemed only mildly surprised. I’m restless, feeling like I want to do something meaningful in my life; laundry and dishes and sweeping just isn’t cutting it. For many reasons, I do not want to go back to midwifery – there are already a million wonderful midwives in Portland. The paperwork, the responsibility – not for me, not anymore.
Hospice seems like a natural choice. I grew up with a mother who worked in a nursing home, occasionally bringing home her ‘geris’ for a visit. She talked often about the ones who died – how she would wash their hair, visit them, talk with them, hold their hands. It seemed to me like a kind of midwifery – helping someone with what might be a scary transition. I have no issue with bodily fluids; I have no fear of being with others who are frightened or in pain. I can sit and hold the space for someone who is dying just as I can for someone giving birth.
Randy agreed. I went to an agency in my neighborhood, talked with the volunteer coordinator, and am awaiting training which will hopefully begin in a week or two.
Meanwhile I have started re-reading the rather dry “On Death and Dying” – which I read when I was grieving the baby I placed for adoption at the tender age of seventeen. It is all rather matter of fact in a British sort of way, so far it doesn’t seem to dig into the meat and raw emotion of dying the way that “Diary of Jane Somers” did. Granted, Doris Lessing is fiction, but still. Kubler-Ross is a bit clinical in her approach, as I’m sure she had to be to make herself heard on the topic.
Still, I set it aside and am reading a wonderful book called “Final Gifts”, written by two hospice nurses who observed a nearly universal phenomenon among those dying, something they call “Near Death Awareness”. A dying person will often see/feel the presence of someone else – usually someone dead from their past, but often just an unnameable presence that seems spiritual in nature. The dying also will, according to this book, speak in metaphors about the journey of dying (and are often called ‘confused’ or ‘hallucinating’) to let those living know what they need to feel ready to go. The book is written in a style that I can appreciate; conversational, emotional yet frank. I find it fascinating and comforting.
I told Randy about this book, and he recalled the recent talk in scientific circles about how the right and left hemispheres of the brain seem to have different personalities, and that we suppress one side of the other until there is some sort of occurrence: an accident or illness (dying perhaps?) that causes a radical shift. The other personality will then come out. (At least this is my interpretation of what he told me) He wondered if maybe this shift is what causes this Near Death Awareness. Interesting to think about: that the ‘spirits’ we see are the product of a mind that has undergone a change in management – that it allows us to see and understand things we did not know before.
I am sure there are those who would have much to say on the subject: that we can awaken and access this part of ourselves anytime we choose – that spirits are always around us – that life is always metaphor. I can well believe it. But I am a simple creature, really, and lofty philosophical discussions about these things make my head hurt and make me feel stupid. These are things I know in my soul, things I feel but cannot explain. And I feel I can put this knowing to good use.
When I told my husband that I wanted to do an immersion program with Trackers – requiring a commitment of one weekend a month for nine months, learning wilderness survival – he was less enthusiastic. He seemed dismayed, in fact. At first I thought it was about the cost – it is expensive – but no more that if I had chosen to take a college class. “Are you sure you want to do it?” he asked, with a bit of pleading in his voice. Yes, I am sure. My life, as wonderful as it is, has become tedious and boring to me. I have always had a desire to keep learning, keep growing, keep DOING. I have not “done” anything that I consider worthwhile (volunteering at my kids’ school aside) in a very long time. I want this. I might even be convinced I need this.
But why his hesitancy? I was feeling stupid and selfish for asking for this for myself, and we were having a serious talk about it when he revealed where his reluctance comes from: his other two wives were also restless, looking for meaning and direction. Once they found something they started to pursue, they left him. At least that is how he sees it. Of course I comforted him. This will give me something to talk about, something interesting. His other two wives left him for someONE, not someTHING. And this is certainly not the first ‘other thing’ I have wanted to do in our twelve years of marriage.
No, I am not going to leave him. I want to feel inspired – I need to feel inspired. And whereas the books we are working on do that, I seem to lack the discipline to work on them as I should. I need to feel inspired so that I can bring something worthwhile to our family. As I told him, everyone else in this family gets to pursue what they really want to do – I want that, also. And so, I am.
There is a meet and greet next Wednesday, to learn more about the immersion program. He and I took a Zombie Apocalypse class from Trackers, so he’s no stranger to the idea. I think the only thing that I am less than thrilled about is that I am sure the hardcore folk at Trackers are going to make us build and sleep in our own shelter. We built a debris shelter in class and I can tell you it is the last thing I want to sleep in – but I will. And in thinking on that, I came to the conclusion that this blog will be called “Debris Shelter” – if I can figure out how to change the title.
After all, I’m not very tech savvy – and I can’t say that I’m all that inspred to learn. That’s Randy’s department.