Archive for the 'volunteering' Category

Today’s fashion statement

April 29, 2013

I didn’t intend to make one, and I’m not really sure what I said, but here it is.

Friday night I left a comment on the PBS NewsHour’s “Doubleheader” blog post.  The post included commentary on the gathering of the many presidents at the opening of the Bush Library.  I mentioned in my comment Nixon in his presidential windbreaker and Pope Benedict in his red shoes after their respective resignations.

Today I went to help out at the hospice office.  I was to greet people showing up for a grief group.  I had been wearing a pair of somewhat fashionable jeans (which I had bought used) and a white button-down shirt with vertical blue stripes.  I figured I needed to be a little more presentable, so I decided to add a blue blazer and less casual shoes than I usually wear.

What I ended up with, without realizing it, was a Yale jacket and red Mary Janes (the striped white and blue lining of the blazer was a nice match for my shirt and the Mary Janes showed off my multi-hued striped socks).  The blazer I got through some kind of offer to Yale alumns I had responded to a couple of years ago, the shoes reminded me of how my mother put me in red shoes when I was a pre-schooler.

So in a way, I echoed the behavior I was gently chiding in my Doubleheader comment: holding onto the past with jacket and shoe choices.  But I wasn’t aware of the echo until this evening, long after the event was over and I was back home and in my usual duds.

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Backlogged paperwork

June 21, 2012

I have a bunch of old paperwork that needs to be looked at (mostly in case anything important is mixed in with old, obsolete routine documents) and then shredded.  The stuff dates back to the 1980s and 1990s, I think, and Willy is the one who put the stuff in cartons in the basement as the files aged out of being needed.  It has been on my to-do list for over two years, since the basement flooded and the cartons got moved to the shed, but I would have a hard time doing it myself and have put the word out that I’d like some help with the task.

So when I realized I am helping a staff member where I volunteer with substantially the same kind of task, helping her process a backlog of paperwork, it made me start wondering what to make of this combination.  My mother and son seem to think it indicates that I should stop helping others and do my own stuff, and that would make sense to me if I thought that if I didn’t help Gwen I would go through my own backlog.  I can tell that I would much rather help her and have someone help me.

I have no idea whether I will end up processing my own paperwork backlog myself somewhere down the line.  I don’t feel called to do it now and I do feel called to help out at the hospice.

For now I’m just going to continue as I am doing and wait and see what happens.

Mourning customs

June 10, 2012

At a monthly meeting last week where I volunteer (at a visiting nurse and hospice agency) we were given some hand-outs, and one of them was about customs for different religious and ethnic groups surrounding terminal illness and death.

I read it through with a view to patients and their families, but I was also struck by how my template for mourning seemed to match best with what was described under “Portugal,” at least the pull if not the implementation:  “The traditional widow is expected to remain unmarried and to wear black clothing for the rest of her life.  She visits the grave frequently and has a picture of the deceased spouse evident in the home.”

I’ve had the urge towards a contemplative spiritual life since becoming a widow, and if I subscribed to a set of beliefs that coincided with a religion that had  convents, I would be tempted to try to enter one.  The black clothing thing I have struggled against — I did manage to get out of black and into multi-hued drab, and if I make a concerted effort I can do colorful from time to time.  The grave thing has worn off over time, and when I got negative feedback from a guest about (still) having a wedding picture in the foyer, I replaced it with a family photo, until I realized a couple of years later how dated even that photo had become and I put it elsewhere in the house.

I also became interested again, a couple of years after Willy’s death, in my Visigothic Widows research from long ago, especially in a law code provision about widows and support through property relinquished upon remarriage.

I was wondering why I might tend in this direction and I was staring out my front door thinking it over, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder whether I had picked up something from the folks across the street — a multi-generation family from Portugal.  Who knows …

Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy

December 7, 2011

I was helping out at the place where I volunteer, with what they called “gift wrapping” (it turned out to be bags of sweets for medical personnel who make referrals, not gifts for patients), and the two other women I was doing it with this morning got into a discussion of the transition children often make between believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, etc. and adopting a new view when their parents tell them or confirm their suspicion, at some point, that they don’t exist.  What struck me is how not only the imaginary figure gets thrown out but also the notion of altruism and caring and whatever other emotions are involved in how we perceive receiving a gift from Santa or money from the Tooth Fairy.  Why do we do this? Is it that humans don’t possess this degree of altruism and we come to recognize this?  Is it that we think that a personal relationship with a figure is necessary in order to receive blessings?  I don’t know, but it struck me as dispiriting.

Reading the tea leaves

November 23, 2011

I drink a lot of tea, mostly black tea, usually from loose leaves.  I have taken to using the leaves twice; I make a cup with a deep basket infuser, leave the infuser in the inverted lid to the cup, and later on I make a second cup with the same leaves before consigning them to the compost heap and starting for the next cup with a fresh spoonful of tea.

I found myself multiple times recently having to catch myself from pouring the boiling water for the second cup into the basket before re-placing the basket in the cup.  So, I start to wonder what that could mean, what is the lesson, what is the teaching.

I think it could be a metaphor for me.  I feel porous, like that nylon mesh basket and without the double glass walls of the cup surrounding me.  I get drained by other people easily.  Others have observed that I need to not take on too many activities or people simultaneously that drain me, especially since I am drawn to care-taking.  Sometimes I do this consciously, other times I find that the plans I think I should make (like arrangements for my volunteer work) keep not working out, and I hear the universe saying something like, “No, that’s not what you should be doing.”  With the volunteer work, I also find myself having really intense coughing spells as I’m driving home afterwards (when the arrangements have come to fruition), which I don’t take as positive reinforcement for repeating the experience.

So, without trying to make myself out to be more “unique” than I actually think I am, I do try to take care of myself, as they say, by not putting myself into situations that drain me.  I think that’s a large part of why I don’t make more extensive use of what’s available on-line, on the internet.  I don’t feel called to, even if I feel others noodging me to, and I do perceive substantial drawbacks to trying it out.

Acceding to expectations

September 19, 2011

I have an appointment this morning in connection with my volunteer work, and last week I went on foot.  It took me about twenty minutes, I think, to walk there last week, and I can walk along the bike path.

But I ended up having to make a lot of cell phone calls when I got there (and was locked out), and eventually my battery lost its charge.  If I had driven, I could have recharged it in the car.

So now I feel somewhat constrained by the expectation that I be able to use my cell phone at such length, to drive there rather than to walk.  I can take a walk some other time during the day, I know, but I see this as a case in point about where things have unintended negative consequences.  Because I am really not sure what great good was accomplished by all the phone calls last week — we basically reached the same result we would have reached without all the talking — I think all we managed to do was dot some i’s and cross some t’s and confirm what we already suspected.  But the availability of the technology has led to the expectation that we do this, and that, in turn, means that I feel constrained to use the supporting technology (the car), at the expense of doing what makes more sense to me by other measures: reducing driving, increasing exercise, etc.

I think I also see it as a cost of conformity, and that’s the part that I probably have the most trouble with, especially in terms of understanding where to strike the balance.