Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meditated at Van Vleck Gardens with flowers, pea pods, birds and perfect breezes. Suddenly, Jaguars appeared! It is "Cats in the Garden" day and Jaguars and owners spread noise, fumes and some rather obnoxious, loud behavior into my place of meditation. Found a deeper spot and stayed until shortly before noon when admission was going to be charged to see the cars adorn the Gardens.

Now, I have no excuse not to do my teaching, wash, and endless paperwork and cleaning. Or not. Not is winning; I must harness my energies and work. Soon.... Energies are somewhat diverted by an advocate-friend who is dying. She is young; in her 30s, and the cancer never really left. Still, she advocated, began graduate studies in public health, moved to California and sparkled. That Billy Joel song to New York, "...they tell me that a friend is dying, oh, New York City..." runs through my mind.

As a cancer policy reform advocate, cancer free for almost ten years, I should be able to deal with all of this death. Not really. I will miss Christine next year in DC, during the Congressional activities and afterward at one of our hours-on- end dinners and after times.

Okay, time to appreciate the rest of this day and all life! Tomorrow I am solo activities assistant in the Special Care unit. Solo times are usually tough; teaching after work. Time to read about cultures and values---obese, spoiled Chinese sons; interracial weddings, Amy Tan, and more. Why do I assign so much? Can I amend syllabus so soon? It is only the second class! Better get reading.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A lot has taken place; however, if written it would seem as though not much has taken place. It is the subtle internal change which allows external change to manifest, I believe. Teaching college in the evening has helped get my spirit back; it was rather trampled among the layers of dirt and sadness that cannot be washed with disinfectant at the day gig. Still at the nursing home, finding moments of connection and love among human change and life debris.

One of my favorite residents is "going upstairs," which often denotes entrance into the end stage dementia unit. I will miss her wisdom, wit, and voice. Ida was so independent; a union organizer, college teacher decades before women were usually permitted, and a social worker in The Bronx. She was one of my Yiddish teachers in the Special Care unit where I work. Good bye, Bubbala.

I think of Ida when I teach, sometimes, then wonder what was it like to teach college over 50 years ago. Now, I would abandon this menial pay gig to part time teach four or more courses, most likely. Then I would be faced with the loss of my health insurance benefits; would I become a "charity care" case? Or will I find more work once I am back to a set schedule, more humane hours, and less exhaustion? I think so! Sending out resumes; going for one interview later in the month.

I have learned a different meaning of work and in the future will find it tough to tolerate academic or professional moaning about overload. I know overload; I am engaged in it daily--from "traying" tables at 8 am to ending teaching at 10 pm. I get it! I don't expect to return to becoming an intellectual dilettante, ever. I will appreciate. In the meantime, back to traying, transport, activity leading, exercising leading (a good thing) and teaching Qi Gong to a population that has been largely given up on as far as learning something new. I see differently.

My spirit is somewhat back; fighting bureaucracy at work, healthcare worker sickness, and general depressing atmosphere in my day gig. Finding the ability to laugh is welcome; it has been a tortuous five months. I am searching for free summer music, art, low price days at museums; adjusting to a rather meager existence and feeling somewhat more confident that change will come, or perhaps is slowly manifesting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In my heart, I am a teacher, whether it be Qi Gong, wellness, or English and Humanities. In my heart, spirit, or body, I am not a slave and that is what I feel like during my hours in the dementia unit. Well, perhaps not actually a slave; I can walk out the door after pressing the code, walking past a cadre of sad residents and imperious supervisor, through the first floor and out to the air. Soon.

In order to leave I must find another job or series of jobs which will pay more than the poverty wage I currently earn. However, the position must allow me to communicate ideas, talk with others, use my intellect and feed my starving occupational soul. I am open to all possibilities; teaching is one of them. Actually, recently, I have experienced almost a visceral desire to teach college. And if a course runs, I will be doing that beginning May 26--Cultures and Values. I cannot wait!

Except when will I sleep those nights? I work with some exceptional people who hold two full time jobs and don't indulge in much sleep. So for two nights, I will be one of them, partially. I have learned that prior to work in the dementia unit, I was an academic dilettante, of sorts. Now, I can easily work the 40 hours plus. Bring on the classes, papers, ideas, and students. I am ready!

I want libraries, newspapers (as long as they remain), books, journals. I want to stand outside and talk with students and sip coffee, not dodge waterbuckets, human feces, and violent residents. I am tired of hiding in closets to use a cellphone (which will soon be turned off due to failure to pay the entire Verizon bill) and to justify going to the bathroom and advocating continually for basic civil rights.

Yes, it is time to leave; to earn enough money to eat regularly, keep electricity on and soothe Verizon. I want to be able to purchase a material good when needed; however, that is not possible, now. Most important, I want to earn enough to keep taking the medicines and supplements that strengthen immunity and perhaps keep cancer in the past tense. I cannot do so now.

So, what good comes of this? Why not quit and "jump into the great unknown," as some friends and others who are secure, advise. RENT. My job covers rent. Who will cover rent if I quit? Of course, if I am fired due to teaching a college course then I will be out with a sense of freedom and who knows what else? Will I be afraid, no. I have a hard time finding fear; I have been through much in my life. I do not find time for that emotion; clogs productivity.

What have I learned? That my intellect matters, that communicating ideas matters and that at age 58 I am tired of poverty. That I might like where I'm living (re Leonard Cohen) and want to attend concerts, films, go to NY culture--all that has taken a backseat since my new job. And that I might want to continue study.

Well, it is time to get ready for another week with the residents, some of with whom I have developed a real relationship. I learned that Alzheimer's or dementia (early to mid-stage, anyway) does not completely rob a person of thought, emotion, capacity to love, to enjoy or to experience grief or pain. I see how this institution tries hard to nurture but loses just as much in attention to endless regulations, creation of new paperwork, and patience gone awry from medical/activity staff so exhausted that the residents cannot always come first.

The absence from teaching allowed me to miss it. This job reconnected me with my passion for reading, for literature, ideas and feelings that I thought might be permanently gone. I am grateful. I am also grateful for family and friends who helped and understanding for those who tend to back away.

Yet, this is all part of life experience. Time to close this chapter, soon, and see what the next one will bring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Call my job a low paying apprenticeship that is fast speeding toward bankruptcy or call this an essential life learning experience. Well, maybe both. At the Special Care Unit where I spend my workdays and occasional workevenings, I have discovered that, at times, those labeled "clinically demented," are intelligent, witty, insightful, and for the moment, quite aware of where they are, what they are doing there and just where everyone is going.

I experience moments of laughter, anger, inspiration and tears. Not bad for a job, really. And not so slowly, holistic healing modalities are being introduced--by me--and sometimes grudgingly accepted by supervisors. Residents are usually appreciative. The inclusion of basic Qi Gong in exercise sessions works. Some residents resonate; all I have to do is start or say "Pulling Silken Threads," "Happy Buddha," or "Qi Ball" and they are there. Others need more cuing; others will try when shown. Energy work is a part of all of my work, even when forced to lead sessions in Yiddish proverbs or tabletop ball toss. Wait; I am learning Yiddish from my patient teachers-vassar is water, ich lieb du is I love you; kitzele is cat, shayna madel wit a kleidel is pretty woman with a skirt, shayn mein is good man. At times, we are all each other's mispochach (dysfunctional, crazy family).

However, at times, there is intense frustration. I am paid so very little that I cannot keep up my basic life or consider a visit to museum, film, going out with friends, or visiting one of the rather excellent area restaurants--not to mention New York City. So, I spend much time looking for other income opportunities in addition to the holistic groups I facilitate at the wonderful Green Hill Retirement Community. Nothing yet. Most places are not hiring, local businesses are closing; recession is evident, even in Montclair.

Will I leave? Most definitely; given the opportunity. Will I stay? If my salary were doubled, maybe. What next? Continue the search, network more, reignite past relationships and stay in the moment. And always stay open to all possibilities.

About Me

New Jersey, United States
Wellness encompasses mind-body-spirit. We cannot feel well if all three elements are not in harmony. Achieving wellness can be exhilarating and can open your life. I can assist you on your wellness quest. I offer the combination of graduate training in holistic healing, practical experience and commitment to an integrative approach—using conventional and complementary healing tools, caring, and compassion. Training includes a Masters degree in Holistic Health Studies from Georgian Court University, Cancer Guiding training with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and continuing Reiki and Medicinal Qi Gong study.