Friday, June 17, 2011

The lonely walk

When I was living on Orcas Island, I met regularly with a group of women friends, mostly artists, three of whom were single at the time.  Our time together was spent sharing meals and stories and whatever our latest art projects and challenges might be, celebrating events and rejoicing in each others' accomplishments. 

But it was understood, though rarely spoken about, that the friendship we shared also had a component of need associated with aging.  We were in our fifties then, and could begin to imagine being forced to deal with illness and disability; none of us wanted to face that alone.

Now that I'm in my sixties, I am beginning to understand that even with close friends around, the walk into old age will eventually become a lonely one.  As we listen to our bodies, we can begin to hear them winding down; begin to see how aging will unfold -- and however difficult it may be to watch our memories go, it's harder still to feel the blood and muscles slow.

And no, I don't normally think about this stuff, or worry about it.  But my role in this play is that of an elderly woman, a psychic, who is dying of Parkinson's disease; she does actually die in the play.  So, as an actress, I need to find and know that part of me that can identify with that... and it's challenging, exhilarating, and, well... a little scary. 

As always, I find reassurance in Rumi:

What's Not Here

I start out on this road, call it
Love or emptiness, I only know what's

not here: resentment seeds, back-
scratching greed, worrying about out-

come, fear of people. When a bird gets
free, it doesn't go back for remnants

left on the bottom of the cage! Close
by, I'm rain. Far off, a cloud of fire.

I seem restless, but I am deeply at ease.
Branches tremble, the roots are still.

I am a universe in a handful of dirt,
whole when totally demolished. Talk

about choices does not apply to me.
While intelligence considers options,

I am somewhere lost in the wind.

    -- Rumi

Ram Dass tells us that his spirit guide has said there is no need to be afraid of death:  It's really like taking off a shoe that never fit; a wonderful sense of release.  I suspect he's right, and that the hardest part of death is the fear that comes before, not the freedom that comes after.


Katarina said...

Wow, this post and your poem are lovely.

Good luck with your acting challenge. My dad died of Parkinson's, and it strikes me as I consider what you've written that Parkinson's forces the shoe off the foot inch by inch -- which is all the more painful to watch when the person involved has no willingness to ever take off that shoe, no sense that the shoe no longer fits and maybe never really did, no sense that freedom is coming or that arms like waves are there to hold us and rock us finally to sleep.

It's a disease that *pushes* a person towards those realizations, I think, and pushes them *hard*. Maybe that's its difficult gift.

Unknown said...

Diane, this sounds like a deep role.
What I have seen of death...well, I learned from it. It was gentle. The dread was much worse than the moment...but I know others for whom it was different. Their memories are not like mine. And the aftermath...that is the hard work.

Thank you for your words of encouragement on my blog about the book. I'll be sure to announce when it's ready to go!

Susan Richmond said...

Diane, With an elderly mom who is wresting with macular degeneration your words so spoke to me. Not seeing is stripping her world away even as she resists. Also your photographs have been wonderful. Thank you.