April Work Release; Week Four

The end of April brings me to the end of weekly Work Release posts. This was an experiment. Now that I’ve seen it through for the full month I am definitely going back to monthly posts. I discovered that if I show my work every week I don’t make time to write about anything else. I miss the anything else.

Intellectual Wellness/Creativity

The only creative photo I took this week was the dying roses shown above. I did not manage a self-portrait this week. Maybe next week.

But check this out. The Magic Teacup sent me a tiny dancer this week. See him? Or her?

Dancing Queen

I finished the biography about Allene Tew and started White Rose Black Forest, a historical war-time novel.

I read this article in the New Yorker. It’s closer to truth to say I inhaled the article. When I got to the line But I couldn’t stand to be loved, multiple lightbulbs flashed on and my heart flinched. Reserve some undistracted minutes for  this if you decide to take a sniff.

Spiritual Wellness

Meditation, Morning Prayers, decompression/renewal in Nature; all the usual.

My final frag for the month of April:


The feminine archetype I studied for the month of April was The Great Mother. For May it will be The Queen of Death. Read on for relevance.

Social Wellness/Emotional Wellness

Peaco traveling under southern skies.

As I mentioned last month I was summoned by my grandmother to come say goodbye before she dies. My father wanted to do so as a family unit so we converged upon her assisted living facility in demonstration of our duty. After the formalities we all got to spend some time at leisure, which generally doesn’t happen more than once a decade. Siblings, nephews, the whole crew.

I grew up without extended family in my life. I have no emotional bonds with my grandmothers. Aunts and uncles were distant, absent; everyone estranged, separated by dispute and decree. Both grandfathers died without my knowledge. In some cases it was unsafe to be around my relatives. Some of the men were criminals with children and the women looked the other way or maintained denial. Toxicity pervaded all associations so my siblings and I were kept away until we were adults. Once we reached adulthood we had no impulse to reconnect.

So there I stood, trying to feel something appropriate for the matriarch of it all. She did nothing while children were abused in her home, on her watch. Her blood. Her babies.  They bled. They cried. One of them committed suicide. One of them became an abuser in the same way he was abused. Some say she was a victim too, unable to do anything all those years. Imagine confronting this, the very face of this, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of my practice in the short time I consented to be in her presence. I allowed her to see me. I allowed her to say goodbye. I held my place at the front of the line with my sisters and brother and their children and all I could really feel was guardianship for them.

A piece of Sheela’s dialogue from the documentary about Osho came back to me. In summary, it was acknowledged that in America, once you are convicted of a crime you are regarded as a criminal for the rest of your life. Even if you go to prison, serve your time, pay your debt to society and earn your release, American society never forgives you. In Europe, she said, it’s not so. Once your time is served you are no longer a criminal. You become a regular person again and are allowed to rejoin society as such without the stigma of being a convict. She preferred not return to America because here we never again see the person with the slate cleaned, we only see the person in relation to her past crimes. No penance is ever good enough. No rehabilitation is ever sufficient. In America, once a criminal you are forever a criminal.

I thought of this as I beheld my grandmother. I tried to see the person under the scarlet letter. I tried to imagine how fucked up she must have been way back then to be a party to the crimes I felt compelled to hold against her. How disordered and damaged she must have been. Had she been mentally ill? Did she have a disability? Did she have one of the maladies du jour for which we cut criminals slack because they are unwell and untreated? I know she never went to jail but I have no idea what her penance might have been or not been. I have no idea what amends she made or how she reconciled; if she reconciled. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Hers was not my battle to fight. Mine was how to process what mattered now on the cusp of her death.

She wasn’t deathly. She was lucid, talkative, fully engaged. She was laughing, telling stories, in high humor and good spirits. The great-grandchildren described her as a cute old lady. I held my piece. I let them enjoy meeting her. I let her enjoy meeting everyone. I considered what must feel more important when people are dying and know their time is short. What is most important? The answer sunk in on the long drive home. It’s her business how she goes to her grave. It is, after all, her grave. I have no jurisdiction over her death. Why would I assume I have any jurisdiction over her life?

Even in silence, we can’t seem to giving ourselves the right to denounce anyone who chooses poorly in life, providing we haven’t made the same choices. We think the fact that we made better choices gives us that right. It wouldn’t be (isn’t) my job to incriminate her no matter how much life she has left to live. Dying or not, her burdens belong to her. Whether she paid her debts or not, served her time or not, it need not encumber me. She appears to be dying happy. She appears to be dying well. With time to manage my own dying process, wouldn’t I want to do it well? Wouldn’t we all? If I cleared my regrets (or even if I didn’t), who is in charge of how I feel?  I am. And for her, she is.

At 95 years old will people still be judging me more upon what they don’t know about my choices than what they do know? Yes, they probably will. And they will probably continue to do so long after I’m dead. But I don’t have to. We like to say rest in peace but when do we say die in peace? And even if we do let people die in peace, why can’t we move on from their deaths in peace? We can. I can. Like everything else it is a choice and then a practice. So I let it go. I wished her well. I wished her wellness. I think I’m going to like spending a month with The Queen of Death.

Physical Wellness

I practiced all the usual this week; yoga, running, walking, vegan diet. No changes there.

I never followed up on the daily nutrient challenge between my scoffer-friend who dared me to prove it is possible to get all essential nutrients from a vegan diet. You probably guessed from my progress posts on this that I did prove it is indeed possible. She was definitely wrong. But the truth which shocked us both is that neither one of us gets all essential nutrients every day without deliberately trying to, which requires tracking them to know what we are missing at day’s end.

She eats an omnivore’s diet. I eat only plants but at the end of a typical day we BOTH routinely fell short on nutrients. Because we were in a challenge we deliberately supplemented to reach all our nutrient quotas but this implies that most people, regardless of diet, probably don’t get all their nutrients every day. And since most people don’t track their nutrient intake on a daily basis they don’t know they aren’t getting enough of X, Y, or Z.

We might be well aware of calories but nutrients? Nope. Can I get them all on a vegan diet? Yep. Can anyone else get them on a regular diet? Yep. But everyone’s gotta work at it, regardless. It was an enlightening investigation.

Okie-doke, friends. So concludes the month of April in four installments. We move on to May’s practice. I will definitely wait until the end of the month to show my work and hopefully resume mid-week blogging in the meantime.

Until then,

— Mercy

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