Thursday, June 27, 2019

After the Doctor

The light in Sophie's bedroom in the late afternoon is incredible. I'll walk by and just stand there staring at it and her and wish I could walk into it, truly walk into light so that I might become light again. Because I'm near spent. Because I almost never feel light these days. I feel heavy, literally and figuratively. I am not as resilient as I once was or perhaps, if I'm kind (always kind) to myself I might attribute this heaviness to the years, the years or perhaps to upcoming transitions (Oliver leaving), those existential changes that take even the strong by surprise in their intensity. Today I went to the doctor, and I tried to explain this malaise, this lack of resiliency, this burning feeling in my throat that persists and this ache in my hips. Is something wrong? Really wrong? I think, I wonder. I have scanned the worldwide webs, have allowed the slip in -- you know how that goes, right? -- of guilt, of reckoning, because, really, how fortunate can one possibly be when one endures so much stress on an ongoing basis? I let that slip in my mind, the thought that it was all going to come home to roost, as they say, that instead of morphing into my peasant grandmother and die demented at 88, I'd get sick and who has time for that? I spoke with rue of my weight of the necessity of exercise and losing weight and the doctor agreed. You'll feel better, he said. And what about these? I showed him the starbursts of blue on the backs of my legs. They don't hurt, I said, and he said, I wouldn't worry. The blood work was fine, the blood pressure is normal and the new burn in my throat from stress, he said. Here, take this. The way these things are doled out, so casually and why would he know that I in my peculiar writerly way will note this, will note the casual shrug, the burn in the throat reduced to acronym (GERD) and take this for 8 weeks and do this (exercise) and that (lose weight) and you'll feel better but I'll know better from better and there's still that light, nearly spent.

Here's a poem by Mark Doty:


Late August morning I go out to cut
spent and faded hydrangeas — washed
greens, russets, troubled little auras

of sky, as if these were the very silks
of Versailles, mottled by rain and ruin
then half-restored, after all this time...

When I come back with my handful
I realize I’ve accidentally locked the door,
and can’t get back into the house.

The dining room window’s easiest;
crawl through beauty bush and spirea,
push aside some errant maples, take down

the wood-framed screen, hoist myself up.
But how, exactly, to clamber across the sill
and the radiator down to the tile?

I try bending one leg in, but I don’t fold
readily; I push myself up so that my waist
rests against the sill, and lean forward,

place my hands on the floor and begin to slide
down into the room, which makes me think
this was what it was like to be born:

awkward, too big for the passageway…
Negotiate, submit?
                           When I give myself
to gravity there I am, inside, no harm,

the dazzling splotchy flowerheads
scattered around me on the floor.
Will leaving the world be the same

—uncertainty as to how to proceed,
some discomfort, and suddenly you’re
—where? I am so involved with this idea

I forget to unlock the door,
so when I go to fetch the mail, I’m locked out
again. Am I at home in this house,

would I prefer to be out here,
where I could be almost anyone?
This time it’s simpler: the window-frame,

the radiator, my descent. Born twice
in one day!
                In their silvered jug,
these bruise-blessed flowers:

how hard I had to work to bring them
into this room. When I say spent,
I don’t mean they have no further coin.

If there are lives to come, I think
they might be a littler easier than this one.


  1. Sophie in the light. The unbearable lightness of being. I am the way, the truth, and the light. Turn on the light. Turn off the light. I am trying to sleep. Lighten UP! Let there be light. I saw the light. Trip the light fantastic. You're standing in my light. The dying of the light.
    So many types of light. Don't we all strive to be lighter in soul and generally in body? In mind and in heart?
    Born twice in one day...I love that.
    I love Sophie in the light. I love how your eyes light up with your love for her.
    I love you.

  2. Elizabeth your luminous writing and the body always the body and doctors the deep strange well of our beautiful sons going alone into the world (leaving us). I don’t know how we survive any of it except for community this community especially where I learn every day how to be more human.

  3. I've always loved the way you make Sophie's room so pretty for her, roses and soft colors. There have been many pictures of that light shining on her, from every room in your house. Perhaps some of this is actually the march of time, when everything, in so many way, seems much heavier, because it is. So I want that light to hit you and make it all feel a little less of a weight in body, mind, and soul, because it is exhausting to carry and you don't need an extra burden. You are never forgotten and always loved.

  4. Heartbreaking and so so so familiar. My left foot is swollen and a bit blue. Too tired for exercise. All the years, eh?

  5. To a medical profession that works with bullet point guidelines and acronyms, how can we explain what is "really wrong". It's like speaking a foreign language. And would we dare to go back after the weeks of reduced stomach acids thanks to proton pump inhibitors etc. and after we lost a bit of weight and did proper exercise (you know the "real" stuff, not things like lifting a grown daughter and laundry and running and being on your feet most of the time) and tell them the we "feel better" now?

    But the light is exquisite, as is your Sophie. And your way with words.

  6. Beautiful light on your beautiful daughter. And perfect poem-'bruised-blessed flowers..'
    Weariness of our mortal bodies. Oh yes.


  7. Stress. It seems a completely inadequate word.

  8. It is no wonder you are spent, years of Caregiving takes a heavy toll. The casual suggestions and marginal help when a Caregiver is spent, burnt out or ailing from the strain and tries to receive Care is what gets to me more than any symptoms actually! May your Lightness return... may the difficult transitions of another Son going off to begin his Journey of Adulthood not hurt too badly. {My Grandson recently moved out and began his Journey of Adulthood, it's HARD and yet you are so Happy for them... bittersweet!}

  9. Burst exercise, leaping, skips. HIIT is the boring term. But just ... JUMPING.
    Don't laugh. Look up "plyometrics." But again, that's the boring term, and no need to spare more than a glance at the chiseled bodies, just to sort of get the form in your mind.
    Jump up. Jump sideways. Jump into lunges. Jump.
    Almost 50 here, rape survivor, so-many-things survivor, and jumping, leaping, skipping ... those help. Not the pound pound pound of dull mindless jogging. Find green grass and leap. Somewhere safe to fall. DO fall, a lot, and laugh and roll on the grass.
    And leap, leap.
    I caught this morning morning's minions


  10. You're going to miss Oliver something awful, I wont even pretend, but your joy at the way his world just keeps getting wider will help, as it did with Henry. Sending love.

  11. What a beautiful poem. I once met Mark Doty at a reading he gave at the Zen center I attended in New York. Such an incredible writer!

    You have SO much going on, Elizabeth, with the continual changes in all your children and the slow unfolding of your life, I am not at all surprised that it occasionally catches up to you. The doctor's advice is simplistic, the pill an easy answer -- and yet, he's not wrong, exactly. Change and uncertainty, and yes, light!

  12. Getting older is tough. Watching your children leave home can be wrenching even while it is joyful. Caring for your daughter all these years, while loving and necessary, is a heavy burden. That you can see the perfect light and appreciate it is a gift. That you keep on keeping on with your busy life is a wonder. GERD is a drag, take it from one who knows. Many other ways to deal with it that might be helpful, but the pills will give you a break. From one tired woman to another: you got this.



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