Thursday, April 01, 2004

Feeling overwhelmed ...

Dorian's everyday behavior seems increasingly bizarre, but then maybe this is not a change -- but simply new information for me. After all, I've not lived with her since she was quite young. Day after day I am clearly slipping into a custodial role with her; one that fits neither of us very well. She's trying desperately to cling to her limited independence while I'm trying to retain my sanity by putting my life on hold -- even while I anticipate new projects. That way lies madness!

Yesterday and the day before we spent many hours packing boxes of things she could not part with. Only problems were that there was no relationship between what she needs to run her life and the possessions she collects (is buried under!). There were five baseball bats, seven basketballs, over a dozen tennis balls, a number of Barbie dolls -- some duplicates (still in original boxes), eight sleeping bags, two cue sticks, about three dozen various-sized stuffed animals crammed into garbage bags and hidden under her bed, three boxes of athletic socks, 14 large umbrellas, six metal trunks filled with we know not what -- you get the picture. No rhythm or rhyme to any of it.

Like an automaton, I packed and hauled boxes into storage. There was simply no way to confront her with the need to eliminate all this garbage that she's so zealously guarded against anyone for so many years. What I've decided to do is move my storage items to my apartment and move as much of hers (untouched or thinned out) in. That way I can spend the next year (when she's otherwise involved) pulling out one box at a time and disposing of the contents to the appropriate recipients. Much is unused, with tags still attached.

To try to change everything in her life simultaneously would be too hard. She is having to give up her apartment, her social group, her service agency (Clausen House), her psychologist, and perhaps her beloved Speedy and Gracey (cats). To whittle away at anything else might serve to disorient her, totally. She simply doesn't have the capacity to understand the why of it all.

Meanwhile, on Monday Jennifer and I met with a small group of the Chamber of Commerce where Jennifer did a fine presentation of our concept for the management of the Convention Center. Not sure how it went over. The city is in such disarray with the prospect of eliminating at least 50% of its workforce (including fire and police forces). The need for income generation is so acute at the moment that the competing plan for use of the Center includes using it as an indoor flea market by day, and leasing it out to the WWF (WorldWideWrestling) evenings. That's a tall order to deal with. Our plan is aimed at enhancing the quality of life in this city at a time when so much seems hopeless. The city staff (and maybe the Chamber as well) is seeing the answer as embedded in accounting procedures. We have another presentation soon, and our job will be to try to re-frame the arguments.

This afternoon actress Lynne Whitfield will be in town for a reception at the Contra Costa Community College. The occasion is a pre-screening of "Redemption," the film about Stan Williams from San Quentin's Death Row. Sixty Minutes piece will be aired this Sunday, and next week the FX Channel will show it nationally. Will let you know how it all went.

Have accepted a seat on the Advisory Board of the Educational Fund Foundation Board (only a few meetings a year), an important place to serve at a critical time in public school education.

Will try to keep active, politically, in whatever ways I can -- not only to do due diligence to those things I hold inviolate, but in order to balance the mind-dulling day-to-day dealing with Dorian. When I come in the door, there is the tendency to dumb down my mind, and talk in grunts that say little but keep the doors of communication open between us. For my own sanity, I tend to go through a little ritual of turning down some imaginary buttons situated somewhere just above the base of my spine -- that keep me from feeling too much or too deeply -- a kind of survival mechanism.

There's a familiar feeling about the process. Not sure where that comes from, but it feels old and from some recess of my mind that was created in and by Little Girl Betty. The fact that I've survived all these years may attest to the effectiveness of that little ruse. Problem is that the more fully evolved Betty is impatient with the need for that kind of self-protection. The need to live life at full throttle before it's too late plays the lead role now, and this gives rise to a faint but smoldering resentment at the unfairness of it all.

Maybe I'm simply depressed today at the thought of having paid still one more month's rent of over $1000 because I've not been able to wade through the debris of my daughter's life in a timely manner. To have to do that against her strong resistance is doubly hard to handle. To know that -- given her handicaps -- she is incapable of understanding the crisis we're facing or the reasons for these uninvited changes makes me feel needlessly guilty and unbelievably cruel. Never mind that this is irrational. It's a feeling, all quite real and devastating!

If any of this provides just a hint of what parents of mentally and physically handicapped sons and daughters are facing, perhaps setting the words to screen is worth it. The budget cuts that have so drastically changed the landscape of so many lives can be seen in what we're having to deal with. If one with as much access to systems and bureaucracies as I can't find my way through it, what on earth is happening to those who haven't a clue of how to alleviate the pain?

Remember that "safety net" that was created so skillfully during the Roosevelt administration and so blithely dismantled under Reagan's? This is where it led. The deregulation of both economic and energy systems, and dismantling of the public school systems; the elimination welfare for those who couldn't otherwise survive; plus the constant drumbeat of "no new taxes!" has brought us to ruin. Anyone with an ounce of sense must see that we're not taxed enough! Taxation is the cost of living in a Democracy.

Were I not here to catch her, my Dorrie would by now be living under a bridge somewhere, or in the doorway of some building in the abandoned downtown. And like many others, would have absolutely no idea of why ... .