This week I'm continuing with both of the reading challenges I'm doing in 2014: Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks and an alphabetical progression through book titles that I want to read. This week is the second book that begins with "C" and next week I move onto a book title that begins with "D."
The book I selected this week is Chasing Utopia - A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni. As I looked at the reviews on Goodreads, there were many four- and five-star ratings. Although I didn't feel as strong of a connection with or inspiration from this book (which is a combination of poetry and short stories) as I anticipated, I still enjoyed the format and content of it.
There were a few parts of the book that especially resonated with me, especially those that related to caregiving for parents. For example, in the short story And Everyone Will Answer, Nikki writes "...then my father had a stroke and I moved to Cincinnati....Details take a lot out of you. I was up in the morning to make breakfast...Worked on the house. Worked on my poems. Things. Things one does to keep things running smoothly."
It reminded me of the all-too-many details it takes to coordinate health care services with my mother - who also suffered from a stroke and two TIAs (mini-strokes) earlier this month. Although she is back home now after a stay in a transitional care facility, the day-to-day overseeing of her health care with two different agencies plus hospice is a lot. Plus, I'm homeschooling Sophia and Olivia and running Harvest Moon by Hand in addition to helping with the care of my mom.
Those responsibilities in and of themselves are quite time-consuming (though each an honor and privilege to be able to do), leaving little time for other things - like personal hobbies and interests. There will be a time for those things in the future...just not right now when other things are needing my attention.
One poem that I did like a lot was I Am At That Point. Here is an excerpt from it that I like:
I am at that point
When I reread
Bake my mother's favorite recipes
Snuggle with a sneezy quilt
Listen to my old rock and roll records
And comforted in my old nearly ragged bathrobe
I am keeping my house shoes
With the hole in the bottom
Though I no longer wear them
And yes the smell is long gone
From that bottle of Joy
Which still sits on my bathroom dresser
Embracing the old things
Is a good new thing
In the short story Cooking with Mommy, Nikki continued to write about how she, her son, and dog moved to Cincinnati to help her mother who was caring for her father who had a stroke. She says, "Always being a mama's girl it was a natural thing to do. Plus I must admit I hate it when people know you need help and then make you ask."
She proactively helped her mother and father, rather than waiting for them to ask. That's such a good quality to have...and one that is valued not only within one's family but circle of friends and acquaintances.
It always gives me pause for thought when I hear people say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help" when they know that you are going through a rough patch in your life.
For example, while my Dad had Alzheimer's Disease and after he died, people would say things along that line, but rarely would follow-up...or be proactive either do something without being asked (e.g., bring a meal over) or ask to do something helpful (e.g., I'd like to watch your pets and horses for a day so you can get away on a break).
I, too, have uttered those same hollow words more than once. From now on, though, I'd like to be much more careful with my words...and especially follow through if I make an offer to help.
This is especially the case after recently having a friend spend a half-day with Sophia and Olivia by taking them to a contemporary art museum, sculpture park, and out to eat. They had so much fun...and it also gave me some time to rest and get caught up with caregiving responsibilities. It truly was a gift. I am so grateful to this friend for her compassion and care.
Another poem which I re-read a few times in Chasing Utopia - A Hybrid - each keeping a different situation and/or person in mind - was I Give Easily:
because I have
taken It's incredibly
to let people
give you what you need maybe
as difficult as
giving you what you want
with and between
humans can certainly be
Towards the end of the book she writes about inspiration. She says, "I am a lover of history...[of] being enchanted with heroes, with quests, with the search for the difficult and the unknown. Human beings are worthy of our interest. I continue to be fascinated by who we are and of which greatness we are capable."
These heroes can be people who lived in times before us...or who are currently with us. People who have done amazing...incredible...things with their lives; and even those who have led quiet lives but who have made their own difference in the world and in others' lives. It's good to search for all types of heroes and be inspired by them.