Your mother is dead

Last night was no exception to my general condition that I have difficulty getting a good night’s rest.  At nine o’clock last evening, feeling the effects of a dry cough which might signal a respiratory problem currently rampant in my mother’s retirement residence, I crawled into bed and smothered myself under the duvet.  But by eleven o’clock I was wide awake. I spent the next many hours turning from side to side, attempting to stretch my knotted lower back muscles, going in and out of passable sleep, and suffering from circular and troublesome thoughts.  I dreamed I encountered a stranger who informed me matter-of-factly that my mother had died. I am not one to read anything into dreams so it does not disturb me though I acknowledge the association with the present circumstances of my family.

What did however disturb me during my prolonged tortuous thoughts was a fear about my physical mobility. I have been professionally diagnosed to suffer osteoarthritis and deterioration of parts of my spine.  Every day begins with a struggle to maintain myself upright with enormous stiffness and pain. By repeatedly twisting myself, doing stretches and touching my toes I am eventually able to restore some mobility but it remains distressed throughout the day. I have lately witnessed the physical distortion my mother has endured as a result of her arthritis and it gives me cause for apprehension.

Whether it is true of most people I do not know, but the unpleasant thoughts of my insomnia are by and large exaggerated and do not reflect reality. The thoughts are however powerful enough to disrupt my tranquillity. When at last I am fully awake I speedily emerge from overall paranoia to a world structured with discernible purpose and rationality. I am by nature a problem solver and I instinctively dedicate myself to putting things right, making adjustments and plans. This is a posture made considerably more fruitful now that I have been abstinent from alcohol for 2½ years.  Formerly my morning ingenuity was clouded and anaesthetized. But now I propel myself immediately into deliberate and calculated effort.

My years of practicing law were dedicated to problem solving.  It is not something I am anxious to repeat.  Whether because I was a sole practitioner or merely assiduous, I was never able to withdraw from a concern for the practice. In simple terms, it never went away; there was never anyone to whom I might defer.  It was my yoke and mine alone. Certainly I never allowed the weight of the practice to burden me whenever I took a short holiday, but neither did I for a moment imagine that it was no longer there.  I always knew I would have to return to the obligations and “face the music”, something which required a great deal more presentation than I must now endure upon setting foot to floorboard.

It is an unmistakeable feature of our current status that we have streamlined our lives.  So many erstwhile complications have been removed.  Everything now is functional. There is little if anything that is redundant or superfluous. It would be a disfavour to suggest that getting here was easy. Translating enormous, cumbersome and prolific assets into a svelte, utilitarian model has exacted choice, decision and perseverance, none of which had a natural affection for the inertia unwittingly acquired over decades. Though it would be incorrect to categorize us as nomadic, we have certainly cultivated an unhindered buoyancy which permits vast change and transition.  There is now almost nothing about us which is rooted and irrevocable. The most durable commitment we have is our residential lease and even that is capable of fluid modification within the context of Landlord and Tenant law. Our financial affairs reflect our changeability and ease of succession. Everything has been geared to flexibility. Meanwhile our elemental legal documents (including our burial arrangements) are in order to afford anyone who follows the same versatility.

The percolation of new ideas has wrought unexpected results, in many respects a similar diminution of characteristics though nonetheless strengthening. This is for me especially novel because historically I have opted to preserve rather than abandon, often without any consideration other than the token value of tradition and repetition. I won’t pretend I have adopted an adventurous approach to living but I am at least less indifferent to change.

The latest reality I have confronted is that of drug-free living. By degrees over the past ten years approximately I have succumbed to the profligate use of over-the-counter pain killers (Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Tylenol Arthritis). Almost any hint of discomfort was occasion for digestion of another couple of pills (though seldom did I exceed the prescribed maximum daily intake). Proportionately I became estranged from any feeling of naturalness (if such a word exists); I was perpetually subdued by drugs. While I might have tolerated the lack of sensation forever I was less inclined to sustain the feeling of corresponding contamination.  I just felt polluted by the drugs.  In line with my usual precipitous tact, I abruptly quit all the drugs (both non-prescription and prescription) which I had been taking. As a result I have equally abruptly confronted the hitherto disguised reality of my corpus, a sensation which is a combination of pain, moderate relief and wholesomeness. This physical purgation corresponds to my mental and spiritual cleansing.