So you Want to Be a Caretaker...
Seasons greetings dear reader. I chose the photo above, not for it’s warm fuzzy quotient, but because I feel like the curtain right next to the candle that is about to go up in flames. Whether it is true or not (at the moment) I feel like my life and my mind are an absolute disaster! I think it is easy to feel that way in today’s world because quite frankly ( to me at least ) the whole world is one big terrible mess right now. The only place I find respite is either in the arms of nature or in meditation and unfortunately , I have not found myself in either of those places often enough lately.
The man I care take for is at his son’s house until the day after Christmas. After he left, I was not sure if I wanted to cry, laugh hysterically or kick and scream and pound on the floor. I have only had nine days off in nine months and I had to beg his son with an all capital letters text, to know I was at the end of my tether. I can not believe I allowed that to happen, but it will never happen again.
When I came here nine months ago, I was already quite thread-bare. I spent four months getting rid of most everything I owned which took extreme amounts of effort and a lot of deliberation and decision making. It was one of the largest projects I had ever tackled in my life. The idea was to simplify, but the process itself was very complex and very time consuming. It was also very draining.
During the first two months of the project, I was still working. I realized by January, that it would be impossible to complete my project while working simultaneously and so a lot of the money I made from selling my belongings was used to keep me afloat during the process. Some of the money was used to buy a plane ticket for myself and my cat. I also paid someone to drive my car to Oregon as driving long distances is not my cup of tea and certainly not my cat’s idea of a fun time either. In short, a lot of the money was spent before I arrived.
The process of parting with my possessions was grueling. I never would have imagined the effort and coordination as well as creativity and imagination it would take. In the end, I ended up simply giving much of it away in the interest of time. I certainly did not just put everything in a U-haul and drive it to Goodwill. Nor did I allow myself to throw massive amounts of things away for the sake of ease as many do (sad but true).
As a matter of fact I had two experiences during that process, which gave me even more resolve to part ways with my things with as much integrity as humanly possible. My friend told me about two of her friends who had recently bought a new home. In the process of moving they rented a dumpster and were throwing away anything they no longer wanted. This included perfectly good skis and clothing as well and god knows what else. I was flabbergasted! My friend retrieved as much as she could and found the proper homes for the carelessly discarded items.
Also during this time , I was driving down the road when I came across a curbside garbage can with a perfectly good vacuum cleaner peeking its head out and a perfectly good rug leaning against the dumpster. Inside the garbage can were also a couple of bags of perfectly good coats and shoes. I brought it all home and re-homed the clothing and shoes and kept the vacuum cleaner which was like new and the best vacuum cleaner I have ever owned. I sold it shortly before I left.
Meanwhile at home I was busy posting photos of things on two Facebook pages. One was called Buy Nothing Santa Fe and the other was called Circle of Giving. There were a lot of texts sent back and forth to coordinate pickups. With the help of my friend and her van, we made many trips to a local consignment shop to bring some of my furniture and home decor. I also coordinated an appointment only estate sale for myself as well as a yard sale, followed by a yard non-sale next day. This allowed me to avoid having to make many trips to Goodwill and helped me find homes for things that people wanted.
I gave away a lot of things to friends and used the time to say goodbye when they came to retrieve their gifts. In the midst of all this , I was making decisions about what would go in storage, what would come with me on the plane, and what would get packed in my car. I sold some of my furniture on Craigslist and some to friends, which also took time to organize and plan for the timing of things. All the while I was organizing making sure the front and back yards were in tip top shape to hand off my rental in good order and make sure my deposit would return to me in full.
I also was tasked with finding a cat carrier of proper dimensions for our flight and a trip to the vet for a flight certificate - which they never asked me for even though the guidelines said I must have it. In the midst of everything else, I managed to find a place for my cat and I to stay for the days before we left, as my house would be empty and would need to be cleaned top to bottom including windows. It would need to be someone who liked cats (who did not have pets), had a spare bedroom and did not mind that I was not vaccinated. It was no easy task to find , but I did.
Many people wanted to invite me to lunch or to dinner or to come by for a visit. Towards the end I had to say no to many people because I needed every last minute to accomplish everything before departure. Apart from all that I must have taken about three or four carloads of things to a friend’s house who was happy to receive my things as trade for chiropractic, homeopathy and shamanic healing sessions before I left. I believe we worked in six sessions all told. I figured since I was getting rid of so much, I may as well eliminate all the unwanted debris from my digestive tract as well and so I signed up for five colonics within six weeks to fill up all the spare time had ( inseer impish grin here).
In that whole time , the only things from my house that ever saw their way to the dumpster wasn’t much - maybe one load at the most. Only things that were in ill repair, could not be recycled or were of no use to anyone made their way to the garbage. Every last paper clip and rubber band, every last food storage container or whatever else I had in my house, found a new home. I scrubbed and soaked anything that could be reused or recycled, I brought batteries to the battery store to be recycled. I brought any and all electronics and such to the transfer station to be properly recycled. You get the picture.
After all the packing, sorting, organizing and getting rid of stuff, it was time to clean the house. I was fortunate to have some help. I paid someone to clean the windows and a few friends took shifts helping me for money, trade or out of the kindness of their hearts. After three days the place looked like I had never lived there. I was so happy to be done. I gave away my cleaning supplies, my broom, my cleaning rags and everything related to cleaning a house and off I went to stay with my friend for my remaining days in Santa Fe.
The other thing I did to make this all happen was buy a plane ticket for my friend so he could return to Santa Fe after delivering my car to me. This included finding a shuttle that could bring him from Depoe Bay to Portland. The timing was a trick and a half, because there is only one shuttle per day and I did not want my friend to have to sit at the airport all day waiting for his flight.
Coordinating the twelve hour trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Depoe Bay, Oregon on a plane , with a cat, was quite a feat - but I did it. It was stressful for myself and the my cat - but we survived. So there I was, imagining there was a room ready to receive me at my new home in Depoe Bay. I imagined sleeping for three days in between preparing meals for Ken ( the man I take care of ) in order to recover from what I had just been through. I was not prepared for what I was about to walk into and when I did, I was already so exhausted and so in shock by what I saw that I had no energy to react. I just wanted to sleep. Inside I was fuming, I was disappointed and I was angry - very angry at Ken’s son for inviting me into the situation I found myself in.
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You mean I have to Do it All Over Again?
This picture is how I felt upon arriving to the house in Depoe Bay ( on March 2nd, 2022) and for the month that followed. It’s also how I have been feeling for close to a month now. Before I get into it, I want to say that I accept full responsibility for putting myself in this situation. The day after my arrival, I told Ken’s son that I felt like getting on a plane and leaving. I felt this way, because I was in utter despair and disbelief that he would invite me to live in a house that was as out of order as this one was. No one had lived here for an undetermined amount of time ( 6 to 8 months ). It had not been cleaned before I arrived nor apparently a long time before that. The bedroom that I was to occupy was cluttered, dirty and repulsive and looked like the former inhabitant ( Ken’s deceased partner ) was still living in it. All of her things were still there and there was no room to put any of my own things - not even in the walk -in closet.
I told Brian that if I were to do it all over again, I would have flown here first ( novel idea) sussed out that situation, and told him that I would return when the house was prepared for me to live in. Long story short,it took a month to make it habitable. In that time I slept on the couch the entire time. Long story longer, I worked 100 hours in the first three weeks alone and stopped counting after that. This was not including all of my regular duties pertaining to taking care of Ken. It was bad enough to have to do it at all, but to have to do it on the heels of what I had just been through was nothing I ever would have knowingly signed up for!
Brian had given me the impression that his Dad did not need much, mostly just someone to be there in case anything happened. He needed someone to do the housecleaning, buy groceries and cook for him. He no longer drove and so it would be up to me to bring him to his doctor appointments as well. I wish that was really the case! In fact Ken sits in a chair all day watching t.v. from 9 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. and every facet of his life is orchestrated by me.
In the first month I gathered enough things from the the room I was to stay in , the overflowing kitchen and the dilapidated things in the yard, to fill an entire moving truck! That did not include the three or four carloads that Brian took away. I had to scour the small town I live in for boxes to put things in. Again, I had to organize and pack every last paperclip, reusable item, piece of clothing, etc, etc, etc and get it out the door. I made sure that broken electronics were properly disposed of. I recycled over a decade of tax receipts, I put things in boxes to be sent to Francis’ ( Ken’s deceased partner ) family - again, more boxes, not easy to find.
When I finally brought the packages to be mailed, I was told the boxes were unacceptable as they had liquor brand names on them. In the end I got it done, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to do that were completely outside the original job description. There were dead mice in the heating ducts and the heating system had not been cleaned in the entire decade Ken and Francis had lived here. I was apparently now the secretary whose responsibility it was to coordinate the following: cleaning and repair of furnace, housekeepers to assist with a deep cleaning, someone to come test for mold, plumbers to suss out a few issues, someone to come clean the carpets, someone to come clean out the neglected dryer duct, movers to come take things away, and a landscaper to tend the yard.
It was not as if there was a handy dandy address book with all this information just waiting for me. I had to start from scratch by finding people. Then I had to play phone tag, nail down and coordinate days and times of these various services. None of it happened over night. I also found someone to paint the bedroom I now live in. I then ordered and paid for myself: two rugs for my room ( to cover some of the wall to wall very old carpeting), a new bed , curtains ( because there were none) and an air purifier to take care of the hideous smell coming out of the heating system.
In the meantime, I reorganized the entire kitchen. Things were stacked and piled front to back, cupboards and countertops alike, with no rhyme or reason. There was way too much of everything and it was hard to work around. The freezer was crammed full of expired food as were the kitchen cupboards. My own things which had arrived with my car, were stacked in bins at the back of the living room. You can imagine the chaos and disorganization as things were brought out from hiding, decisions were made and things made their way out the door.
I can not believe the amount of garbage I threw away! There was nothing else to do with it. Things I threw away could not be reused or recycled. This was really hard to do after I had just taken pain staking measures not to throw things away while I was in Santa Fe. So much for arriving to a space that I could relax in and sink into as I began my new life as a caretaker. I was absolutely driven to make this house a home and begin my new life. I worked sun up to sun down day after day including preparing meals for Ken, driving nearly an hour round trip to get groceries, bringing Ken to his doctor appointments, helping him with showers, laundry and everything else that needed to be taken care of beyond the mess I walked into.
Is Simplicity Attainable?
( or is it a state of mind ? )
The irony of all of this is that I purposely departed with most of my possessions in a deliberate move to simplify my life. As you can see, I was in complete and utter shock to arrive to the situation I did. After I finally got the home in order and created a relaxing space of my own (in my room) It took about a month to recover. After that, I tried to to implement some sort of routine for myself. I wanted to include reading, writing, yoga, exercise meditation and time in nature.
I had no idea how challenging it would be to attempt to do all that alongside my caretaking job, even once things were settled. I did manage to find a rhythm which has since waxed and waned. I can hardly believe that in the time I have been here, I have managed to get a website up, start this blog, manage a FB page under the name Creators of New Earth and create and host a livestream once a week.
I wish I could say that my life has become more simple. In truth my life is far from simple right now. This is a very challenging chapter in my life. I feel spent, overwhelmed, challenged. My joy is buried, my tears are close, my frustration abundant and exactly what I should do about it is not clear at the moment.
I thought when Ken left I would be able to have some sort of stay at home retreat, but unfortunately, that was not a reality. When he left, I realized I felt traumatized. I was emotionally taxed, physically exhausted and generally not well. The first three days were spent in bed resting. I only got up to prepare food. I did manage to buy some groceries and do some cooking.
Sunday , I had a livestream, yesterday and today have been focused on this blog. I have pieces of my life I have to catch up with over the next few days, and then it will be time to prepare for his return by cleaning the house, doing some laundry and driving to Newport for some groceries. The day after Christmas, it will begin again.
The past two months have been as challenging as my first month here, but for different reasons. I will save that for next week. You may be wondering why I chose to write about this. I chose to write about it, because I have not really pieced together in its entirety, what I have been through since my arrival. I feel very isolated and a bit disillusioned at the moment. I realize every human has their struggles. I am not comparing my story to anyone else’s.
I am sharing because writing is therapeutic and because holding things in causes them to fester. Writing has always been a great release for me. I also share, because I think transparency and vulnerability are two precious commodities right now. The world is messy, life is messy and it’s o.k. to not be o.k. . Wherever we are, whoever we are and whatever state we are in; needs to be loved, embraced, held, accepted and supported by ourselves first!
It does absolutely no good to kick ourselves and judge ourselves when we are down. I am here, right now, in the exact state I am in. It does not make me less valuable, worthy, intelligent or loveable than anyone else. I have been through a lot - in life in general and in the past year. Right now my body, mind and spirit are asking me to acknowledge that, to be with it, to accept it, just the way it is.
So for Christmas this year, I give myself the gift of unconditional self -love. My prayer is that every single person on earth (without exception) will also give themself the same gift. How can we love ourselves more deeply, without condition, and how does our example help others to do the same? Also - where’s the JOYup in this joint !? I don’t know about you but “ MORE JOY PLEASE! “ .