About 6 weeks ago I wrote post asking the question, “What does 2014 mean for me” especially considering it may be my last year. Since then I have reviewed a 5 year plan I made 5 years ago, and looked at the essay I wrote 3 years ago which gave my analysis of our world situation and my complicity in that situation. From the review of the 5 year plan, there are two points that seem most urgent:
– Build Community
– Live simply
From the analysis portion:
– Promoting individual achievement is not a worthy goal.
– My health care this past year has far exceeded a justifiable treatment.
My Current Health Situation
I go to my Oncologist every month. The woman who does the blood work is from Honduras. We speak some in Spanish and some in English. At the last visit she asked me when I would be done. “Done?” I said. That is the question, but I will keep coming back until I am “done.” We had a good laugh. But I assume I will continue on this Chemo Therapy until it doesn’t work, then switch to another, etc. The idea seems to balance the bad effects of Chemo with the disease until I am “done.” But until that time I still have some mental capacity and enough energy to spend mornings at a local café writing in my notebook. I usually need an afternoon nap, but have enough energy and physical capacity to do 15 minutes of work twice a day or so. I have more time than I have comfort sitting at the computer, or doing anything other than lying down. So those are my limitations.
When I joined my church there was another woman who joined at the same time, Carla Johnston. She went on to do big things in her life, including running for Congress against Joe Kennedy. When she died, her son, a member of the church, sent an email with an attachment which was a letter from his mother titled “Why I have refused treatment for my cancer.” I never opened the attachment. I knew the arguments and I agreed with them. I cannot really justify all of the hospital expenses I have incurred this past year. But I have come to realize that my life is not mine to dispose of. It belongs to my family as much as, if not more than, me. So I have to balance the family value with the social value of what kind of medical care can be universally available to all people on the earth and not consume all of our resources trying to prolong the inevitable ending of life. The treatment I am on now seems like a moderate treatment and I will try to avoid extreme measures beyond what I am now receiving.
So with the time and ability I have, how can I best promote community and live simply?
Invest in Community
I believe that investing in family is the start of promoting community. I need to use what physical and mental ability I have toward this end.
I have to make sure that Barbara, my wife, is not overly burdened by me. That means at the present, cooking and cleaning, and in the long term, putting my life in order so that when I die she is not left with piles of music and stacks of papers to sort through.
Daughters and their families
At present Barbara and/or I take care of Vita, Anna’s daughter, one day each week, and Barbara takes care of Bridget, Clara’s daughter, one day a week with a little relief from me. I need to keep these commitments as a priority. In addition, I should use my writing skills to create stories for my grandchildren. At the present I am writing stories for Vita but should consider stories for Bridget as well.
It is my hope that Barbara and I will be able to take another road trip across the country to visit family next June/July. By that time I will have my book, Normal: Stories from my life in print, and I can leave a copy with each family member I visit.
I will commit to sing in the choir as long as I have voice. Singing in a choir is the epitome of building community.
I will remain on the Deacons, contributing to discussions and taking on what roles I can fulfill
I will continue to attend Nica Companions meetings and contribute where I can
Friends not in Boston
I intend to continue correspondence with friends I have made with whom I now correspond. These connections are mini communities that I value greatly. It is my hope to visit them as well on the road trip.
I hope to use my internet time to develop relationships more than to create a presence of “ideas”. As for this blog, I will continue my First thoughts on the Lectionary, and with Esther Emery continue the conversation about simplicity or “The Spirit of the Poor” on the last Wednesday of each month. I am in process of thinking about another thread that will replace this (2014) series.
Dulce Nombre de Jesus
The community of Dulce Nombre de Jesus in Nicaragua has a special place in my heart. They continue to embrace me and pray for me and let me know they are thinking of me. I owe them one more visit, perhaps with family members. I have a vision of bringing my whole family, but that is a vision
It is my hope to continue doing many of the same things I have done the past years, including growing food, conserving electricity and water, and heating with wood. I have already started some seedlings and will start using my greenhouse for seedlings next month. If I conserve my strength I will be able to locate local wood supplies when the snow melts and bring them home and use the chain saw.
It is my hope to spend some time in Cummington in May to prepare some of the garden and orchard for planting of squash, potatoes and corn. I also hope to find enough smaller down trees that I can cut up for firewood that won’t require splitting.
This is just an idea I am trying out here. My friend Esther Emery, on her blog, has a series called Homestead Journal. I am in a bit of a “reverse homestead” faze, but nevertheless I think it might be interesting, and useful for me, to journal how I have been able to maintain a simple lifestyle given increasingly limited physical ability. At least it would keep me accountable to the principle.
So these are my goals for 2014: