Caveat: How are you doing?

There’s a neighbor down the road, here, Jeri, who is very generous and kind. She sometimes just randomly checks in with Arthur and me, and I much appreciate it. Recently she sent me an email, asking, simply,

Hi Jared, how are you doing? 

How do you think Art is doing?

I wrote a fairly involved response, and then it occurred to me that, given my well-documented capacity for over-sharing, I might as well also post that response here. So here it is.

I’m doing okay. Not great, but okay. I would say my biggest struggle is that I frequently feel that Arthur resents me, and resents my being here. I think rationally, he acknowledges he needs me here, but he is proud and independent and having to rely on me – on anyone – is hard to accept. Some of the problem is in my head, because more often than not it’s simply that Arthur resents ageing, resents his sense of limitations, etc. And it’s not that he resents me, specifically, it’s that he resents his situation – I’m just collateral damage. Trick question: how does one live and care for a misanthrope, without becoming one? That’s my ongoing challenge, sometimes.

How is Art doing? He is too often angry. I can’t solve that. I tend to just walk away and hope for the best, when I can, but sometimes I can’t. Art has a “social face” he puts on, and so others don’t see it so much, but when it’s just him and me, he’s extraordinarily grumpy, quite often. That’s probably good, in that he’s not hiding from me, but it’s hard to take.

I don’t see Arthur as irrationally depressed. His depression – such as it is – is a rational response to the frustration of his situation. What’s missing for Arthur is any willingness to try new approaches, mental or physical, to deal with depression or frustration. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” He will stubbornly stick the “tried and true” even though that’s not working for him. He will try the same thing over and over again. This was true even before the head injury last year. What’s changed is his increased fragility, both physical and psychological. That increased fragility means he could stand to benefit a great deal more from an openness to new solutions than he might have once benefited. But there’s simply no openness to anything – there is only one way to solve any problem. That’s hard.

My own past struggles with endogenous depression in my 20’s and 30’s, and with cancer 6 years ago, gave me two things: 1) a set of strategies for dealing with anxiety, frustration, and depression (these include meditation, affirmations, exercise, etc.), and 2) an openness to trying other new strategies when current ones aren’t working out. I appreciate your videos – they give some excellent suggestions.

That doesn’t mean I’m always perfect at coping. I have been feeling overwhelmed, sometimes. But I retreat into my creative pursuits (both visual arts and writing), or take a walk, or, rarely, I’ll confront Arthur on his obstreperousness.

Thank you for taking the time to check in – it’s hugely appreciated! Both Arthur and I have hermit tendencies, and it’s easy to get lost in our little world, here.

ADDENDA: As long as I’m over-sharing, I decided to add some other observations on the nature of Arthur’s and my interactions. To emphasize, these are my problems, not his, at least in the sense that any solution might be forthcoming.

1) On violent anger – when Arthur gets angry, he has a violent temper. I remember finding him quite terrifying when I was a child, when he was angry. This issue is moderated to a huge degree by the fact that as far as I have experienced, he never gets angry at people – he only gets angry at things that don’t behave the way he wants. But when the physical world proves uncooperative, he will cuss, yell, throw things, kick the wall. It’s quite disconcerting. Once, when I was a child, he put his fist through a wall in our dining room, while working on some project. The issue nowadays is that as he becomes more frail and less physically and psychologically coordinated, opportunities for him to explode in anger at the frustrating intransigence of inanimate objects increases. And although, as I mentioned, I do not specifically fear his anger, it is nevertheless deeply unpleasant to be around.

2) On competence – Arthur is deeply skeptical of the idea that I am competent at things. This is because, as my mother put it once in conversation, he sees me as “six going on fifty.” That is, he still sees me, at least somewhat, as the child I once was to him. And certainly it is true that our fields of competence don’t overlap well. He is an engineer and a master of using machines to solve problems – helicopters, power tools, whatever. I am much less comfortable with power tools, and certainly that shows. But I am nevertheless much more competent than he gives me credit for. Often, too, he misinterprets my hesitancy around tools and projects as a lack of confidence (and thus, too, lack of competence) when in fact it’s just that he’s failed to communicate to me (see “communication,” below) his concerns or intentions, and I don’t want to go against his judgment. The result of this is that in fact being around Arthur lowers my overall competence, in real terms. There are things I know I can do well – if requiring my taking my time – that I consistently screw up in his presence, because he hovers, he tries (and fails) to instruct, he criticizes. One common example is in the area of backing up trailers.

3) On communication – A strange thing has evolved, here. About a month ago, Arthur finally got hearing aids. Yet the only result of this has been a exponential increase in my annoyance with him. This is on me, I acknowledge, but let me complain. Before he got hearing aids, I found myself often having to repeat myself around him, and communicating with him was a struggle – both to be heard and because he also has long-standing issues with saying what he intends in any given situation. He’s not a verbal person, and combined with hearing loss, he’s even less so. But now that he has hearing aids, the “feel” of the situation has changed. He’s got hearing aids, but he’s not using them. And he’s not open to advice to use them, either. This is not uncommon with people who first get hearing aids, but it really pisses me off. Suddenly his difficulty in understanding me has an element of willful disregard. He could understand me, if he chose – just put in the damn hearing aids! The fact that he doesn’t means (to me) that he doesn’t want to understand me. He doesn’t give a damn what I have to say. And that makes communication even more fraught than before.

Caveat: 広島の日

All hopes and dreams floating around.

Today is Hiroshima Day. On this day 74 years ago, a lot of stuff was destroyed, in a new and exciting way. Lives were lost, too.

Mostly unrelatedly, I had a kind of epiphany today, about Arthur and I having diametrically opposite connections to “stuff.”

Arthur sees himself as parsimonious with respect to possessions (this is debatable, but not relevant to following point). In contrast, I see myself as profligate with possessions – I have a lot of “stuff,” much of which isn’t really so necessary to my sense of well-being. Arthur’s feeling, on the other hand, is that he has few possessions, so each item counts for a great deal. This leads to our very different emotional responses to losing things. When I lose something, I may have a moment of annoyance, more at my own absent-mindedness than anything else, but I’ll pretty quickly move on, I think. I tend to think in terms of replaceability, and focusing on the simple fact that I have so much stuff, I grant that individual things are not actually that important. For Arthur, however, a lost item is a crisis. And it’s nearly impossible for him to let something go, once lost. He has dedicated entire cummulative DAYS to worrying about and looking for a lost hammer that was mislaid in February, and which is replaceable for $8.99 at the hardware store. But once a week, he’ll bitch to me about his missing hammer.

There is an end irony, though – setting aside the above, and as I hinted at starting out: in strictly quantitative terms, Arthur has much more “stuff” than I have ever had. Consider that his house is full of his stuff, while he’s alotted to me the north half of his attic along with 200 square feet of his front yard. I fill these spaces to clutter but they are fairly contained. And he complains that I have too much stuff.

Here is a picture of the neighbor’s rooster, in the yard between Arthur’s kerosene tank and my “studio” (a big plastic tent for storing stuff).

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Here are the neighbor’s geese on the east side of the house.

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Here is an island with fog behind it and an island behind that.

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Caveat: a lottery for participation

Periodically, in the United States, people go around with guns killing random people in public. This is just part of our culture, apparently – check the news.

Here is someone thinking about this cultural phenomenon.

The United States has institutionalized the mass shooting in a way that Durkheim would immediately recognize. As I discovered to my shock when my own children started school in North Carolina some years ago, preparation for a shooting is a part of our children’s lives as soon as they enter kindergarten. The ritual of a Killing Day is known to all adults. It is taught to children first in outline only, and then gradually in more detail as they get older. The lockdown drill is its Mass. The language of “Active shooters”, “Safe corners”, and “Shelter in place” is its liturgy. “Run, Hide, Fight” is its creed. Security consultants and credential-dispensing experts are its clergy. My son and daughter have been institutionally readied to be shot dead as surely as I, at their age, was readied by my school to receive my first communion. They practice their movements. They are taught how to hold themselves; who to defer to; what to say to their parents; how to hold their hands. The only real difference is that there is a lottery for participation. Most will only prepare. But each week, a chosen few will fully consummate the process, and be killed. – Kieran Healy

Caveat: Tree #212

Tree #212 is having a bad day (note it has been flagged for removal and that I am halfway through removing it – see the chainsaw cut?).

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Earlier, Arthur and I went out in the boat. It was sunny but VERY windy, and we caught no fish and had adventures, including a lost downrigger weight and an engine problem (happily resolved).

Here is the boat tucked back into the dock.

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[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: Tree #211

Tree #211 faced a major inflection point in its life trajectory today.

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EDIT – A point of clarification on the above photos: they show a before-and-after of the same tree, which I cut down because it is in the way of the new utility pole that will go on lot 73.

[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: 사람들은 때때로 수평선 밖으로 뛰어내린다

사람들은 때때로
수평선이 될 때가 있다

사람들은 때때로
수평선 밖으로 뛰어내릴 때가 있다

밤이 지나지 않고 새벽이 울 때
어머니를 땅에 묻고 산을 내려올 때

스스로 사랑이라고 부르던 것들이
모든 증오일 때

사람들은 때때로
수평선 밖으로 뛰어내린다

– 정호승 (한국시인 1950-)

Life

Occasionally there are times
when people turn into horizons.

Occasionally there are times
when people leap beyond the horizon.

When dawn arrives before night has passed,
when descending the hills after burying one’s mother,

When things that once called themselves love
are all of hatred,

Occasionally people
leap beyond the horizon.

– Jeong, Ho-seung (Korean poet, b 1950) (Translated by Anthony of Taizé and Susan Hwang)