All posts by Pamela Spiro Wagner

Wagner is an award-winning poet, author and artist who wrote WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, poems about her life with the mental illness, schizophrenia, and co-author, with her sister, a psychiatrist, of DIVIDED MINDS: Twin SIsters and their Journey through Schizophrenia, a memoir, which was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award and won the NAMI Outstanding Literature Award in 2006. Her work has been published in Tikkun, Midwest Poetry Review, and the New York TImes Sunday Magazine as well as the Hartford Courant and the LA Weekly, among other places. She also won an international poetry competition sponsored by the BBC in 2001/2. Her newest book of poetry, is available for publication. Her art was on display in Connecticut area libraries in 2011 and 2012 and is always available for sale and donation. She currently lives in Vermont. Her second poetry book including art, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS will soon be published by Green Writers Press and Sundog Poetry.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

BY AMY MORIN

(posted on youbtube by Franque Michele)

 

Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

 

  1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

 

  1. They Don’t Give Away Their Power. They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

 

  1. They Don’t Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

 

  1. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control . You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

 

  1. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone. Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.

 

  1. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks. They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action. You may be interested in this too:

 

14 Things Positive People Don’t Do

 

  1. They Don’t Dwell on the Past. Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.

 

  1. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.

 

  1. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success. Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.

 

  1. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure. Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.

 

  1. They Don’t Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.

 

  1. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.

 

  1. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results. Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time

____________________________________________

 

Now I want to share a website where you can find out more about YOU, and why you are the way you are. This website provides a test and a resulting personality profile, which will give you a clue about your ways of being and how and why your interact with others the way you do, as well as your preferences in life for being and doing. http://16personalities.com The test here is free and may be saved as long as you remember to register by putting in your email. The basic profile is free and you can pay for an indepth one but once you get your test results, which is four letter code, much info is available for free on the internet.

 

Another site, with the official Myers-Briggs test or MBTI, of which the 16 Personalities is a version, and gives much the same results, and this can be found here: https://my-personality-test.com then go to the Personality TYPE test.  Now, some of you may be fearful of being labelled but the thing about the MBTI is that it has nothing to do with labels being IMPOSED but any individual’s personal preferences leading to their type being discovered. I found it quite extraordinary, after taking the test a few times, and getting the same results each time, upon reading my profile with an open mind, just how predictive as well as descriptive of my behavior it was. The one thing it never is was prescriptive. It does not tell you what you HAVE to do only what you are likely to want to do or how you are likely to react in any given situation, given your personal preferences in life, and your personality style. Try it, if you don’t like it or don’t respond to it on a visceral level, disregard it!

 

Cheers, everyone!

Artistic Enticements From Marie Abanga!

Wow! Thats all i can say! One lovely, gutsy, charming lady and my friend. Marie A. Abanga from Cameroon. Brava!!!

Find her blog here: https://marieabanga.wordpress.com marie abanga’s blog

“This little light of mine, am gonna let it shine…

This little love of mine, am gonna let it flow…

This little life of mine, am gonna live it full …

Let it shine, let it flow, live it full…

This little laugh of mine, am gonna laugh it loud…

This little smile of mine, am gonna smile it broad…

This little frown of mine, am gonna frown it all

Laugh it loud, smile it broad, frown it all…

This little dream of mine, am gonna dream it real…

This little tale of mine, am gonna tell it all…

This little cheer of mime, am gonna share it all…

Dream it real, tell it all, share it all…

And when all is said, am gonna say it still…

And when all is done, am gonna do it still…

And when all is lost. Am gonna find it still…

Say it still, do it still, find it still…

And when my light goes dim, am gonna grateful go…

And when my turn is up, am gonna graceful go…

And when my life is nought, am gonna let it go…

Let it go, let it go, let it go”

by Marie A Abanga

 

 

Everyone Should Have A Guaranteed Basic Income for Life

I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for a while, ever since i first came across the notion who knows when. In fact, i always wondered, even as a child, why this was considered so impossible and the answer given was that “people would become lazy…” to which i had not enough life experience to respond adequately or knowledgeably. Now, however, my own life has given my a tiny hint of whether that answer was correct or not. And my answer comes from a life in which i was provided, by virtue of being “on disability” for decades, a poverty-level income, plus shelter and varying levels of food support. I did not become lazy at all. In contrast, as soon as my life stabilized when i no longer was in constant search for housing and had enough to eat for “the forseeable future” at any given time, i could settle down into my life of low but livable income and i taught myself to write poetry. This was a goal that i could accomplish given that it required very little extras in the way of expenditures, beyond a pen and a notebook and eventually an electric tyoewriter, paper, and a few envelopes and stamps. For 25 years i lived and breathed only to read and write poetry, and became an accomplished poet, with hundreds of poems under my belt.

The one thing that my stable if low income did not do was make me lazy, it did deprive me of many other things, but the basic “security” it provided to me of shelter and food and medical care, however basic level they were, permitted me the freedom at least to write my heart out.

Later, when my income doubled due to a a tragedy in the family that had a positive effect on my social security benefit, once again freedom from penury permitted me to become an artist, because i could buy the art supplies that before that time i could never have afforded.

The point is that people will always do what they do, and want to do, when the chains of utter compulsion are taken off. There is plenty of money in this world, enough to fund a system that takes care of all, if we have heart and soul to do this. The question is, Do we dare?

 

What Really Happened On W-1 in New Britain Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit in 2014…

I remember names…some of them. For instance, the short, chubby, blond nurse, who was worried about her weight and who was so instrumental in torturing me? Her name was Debra. And the head nurse who seemed so oblivious to the fact that her policies were indeed torture, even though she admitted that she expected the guards to inflict pain on patients when “escorting” them to seclusion in order to “subdue them faster” as she put it to me, openly. Her name was Barbara, and even though I was horrified by things she told me, I believe that she was innocently deluded and believed in her job, did not mean to be mean, not the way Debra seemed to, and honestly wanted the best for her patients. But let me start at some beginning which is to say, anywhere at all, and give you an idea of what I am talking about.

How very similiar Michael and Charlie look…and and no wonder, since they share the same sadism genes!

I have written in multiple places and on many occasions about what happened to me at New Britain Hospital (aka  Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street in New Britain) and I do not want to go into the whole thing here. All you need to do is search on the subject of Michael E Balkunas at this blog and you will get most of the gory details. That said, much that happened has never been told not even here. For instance, that Debra was the nurse who in a sadistic impulse and in an apparent fit of frustration, decided to have the security guards strip me naked when she was secluding me for some unknown (and always unnecessary) reason yet again…as they did nearly daily at W-1 in New Britain Hospital in May 2014….that  it was Debra who was directly responsible for this I have never stated. But I remember her name clearly, and her face….And the fact that after she did this the second or third time she went on leave for several days, and when she came back told me she had almost quit her job.

I was momentarily cheered because I thought perhaps she had had some serious regrets about what she’d done to me. I asked her, Was it because of me? I thought she would tell me yes. She looked at me, and nodded, then said, “Because you are such a challenging patient.”  Huh? I looked at her, and saw no remorse, no regrets only residual anger and scorn…and a certain unrepentant rancor that I had “made her do what she did.” Clearly she felt that I was to blame for her behavior, that I was to blame in general and that it was all justified.

Hospital Seclusion Room

But to get back to what happened. After she had me stripped naked by four male guards, after I loudly and vociferously protested being left alone in that freezing seclusion cell for I never knew how long, I began mildly hitting my head on the wall in protest. They threatened to four-point me and then they came barreling back in and threw me onto a restraint bed. The thing is, I knew, completely naked, I could not take the cold in that seclusion cell. But if they restrained me they would HAVE to cover me with something, and at the very least I would not freeze to death in that  frigid cell for an indefinite number of hours…But when they came for me, they grabbed me and angrily threw me onto a gurney, even though I put up no resistance,  spread-eagled my legs, deliberately exposing my private parts, and shackled them to the corners of the gurney with my arms pinioned above my head until I shrieked in pain even as  they laughed. Then they held me down,  gratuitously I might add, since I was already restrained, compressing my neck and chest, in order to give me the usual three-injection cocktail of punishment drugs — Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl — forcibly slammed into my buttocks. All of this done to me while I was  naked  and immobilized in four point restraints. Then fearing that they would leave me alone there, freezing cold, I screamed  for them to cover me. With a look of disgust, someone threw a draw sheet over me, but no more.

The charge nurse came in for my “face to face” interview to see that all was “proper”  and she visibly and audibly shivered, but refused me a warm blanket, or any at all, due to “safety concerns.” Then she left with the rest of them and  turned off the intercom, so “we won’t have to listen to her scream.” They closed the door behind them, leaving me all alone behind a metal cell door that did not even have an observation window in it.

I screamed from the base of my lungs as deeply and as loudly as I could for as long as I could last. No one took mercy on me or brought me water or a blanket or spoke to me the entire time. Only when, exhausted, I finally lapsed  did they relent and ask, from outside the door,  “can we turn the intercom back on? She is quiet now…” And apparently got assent for that… Because eventually I heard someone flip a switch but nothing more.

After I was  released, the next day, I told the unit director, Dr Michael E Balkunas what they had done to me, and he must have recognized the egregious nature of it because his response is telling. Instead of dismissing it as not so terrible, he said: “They would NEVER do such a thing as that in my hospital. You are a liar!” So he saw how awful it had been, what they had done to me, he just refused to acknowledge it had happened, and that he did not in fact  what his staff  were  up to. But I was never in fact the liar he believed me to be. His stock answer to everything he did not want to see or believe was  routinely that I was lying, but this was not true, and he was so sickeningly dismissive of the truth that I did not wait to listen to  more this time. I was so wiped off the map by his response that I got up and walked out of the interview room  and did not bother with him from then on…I KNEW I  was never a liar, and that in actuality it was the STAFF who lied all the time, but telling Balkunas that would have done no good. He wanted to believe what he wanted to believe and nothing i said got through to him from day one…So I thought, so why bother ?  WHY BOTHER. Balkunas wanted to murder  my body and my spirit, and I could not let him succeed. He could imprison my body in his hospital, but i was damned if i would let him get my spirit. FUCK HIM!

But Dr Balkunas, Michael, you did not in point of fact know what went on at W-1 ever, nor at the ER, when you were there. Abuse was rampant because you encouraged it to be…and you never cared much what they did to achieve “order” so long as it was “quiet” when you were around. So you gave tacit assent to the tortures that they inflicted, and you likewise tacitly approved the very behaviors that you told me  would “never happen on your watch”…Yeah? Well, I feel certain that if they behaved as they did towards me, they had done it before me, and did so to others after I left as well…and they continue to inflict these things on patients to this day.

I will leave it there. Your unit staff and you too, Balkie, are Out of control, and deserve, as my Obama post notes, to be CLOSED down for good.

The other day I made this little polymer clay figure to illustrate what Debra did to me.

Pam in Restraints in New Britain Hospital In May 2014

It blew me away and I could not sleep all night the night I made her….Until Wendy and I decided to heal her, and perhaps heal me,  from the experience, First, talking to the figure in the little bed calmly and with compassion,  we covered her with a thick cotton blanket. That brought me some relief as I no longer felt chilled.  Then we took off the restraints, which despite being made of polymer clay actually slipped right off, and we brought her arms down to her sides so she could sleep in comfort. By the time we were through I felt immensely better.

Neither of us could even imagine treating another human being as Balkunas had had me treated on numerous occasions by routine.

 

Julie Mad Blogger Interview Recorded at Link Here…

//percolate.blogtalkradio.com/offsiteplayer?hostId=790983&episodeId=10265659“>http:////percolate.blogtalkradio.com/offsiteplayer?hostId=790983&episodeId=10265659

Listen to Live Interview With Pamela Spiro Wagner on Wednesday Sept 13, 2017

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/juliemadblogger/2017/09/13/an-evening-with-pamela-spiro-wagner

6:30pm this coming Wednesday evening Sept 13, 2017.

Please join us to listen and participate!

TAKING THE MASK OFF INTERVIEWS PAMELA SPIRO WAGNER

Taking the Mask Off Podcast Ep 004: Unmasking Schizophrenia with Pamela Spiro Wagner

Please listen to this. You will find Cortland Pfeffers intro fascinating, and of course pamela as usual has much to say!

Here is a little new art to entice, just a small drawing i did while at fhe hostel in Boston during the Hearing Voices Congress. I hope to post that power point soon.

Drawing of eyes with tears, exercise

 

 

Hostel visitors in Boston (3″ by 5″)

Two New Jewelry Pieces

Yes, i will sell or make you jewelry. Please contact me with queries.  I do sterling, wired with beads, and netting, but i tend not to do plain beads on beading wire as many others do that so you can find it elsewhere.

Sterling silver cuff for Lorie (copied from design seen elsewhere)
Simple sterling ring with lapis eye in bezel

Black Madonna – Donated to Bulkeley High in Hartford Connecticut, but HATED by them, apparently…

BLACK MADONNA, In Her Hands. Donated, 2014, to Bulkeley High School in Hartford, Connecticut (but never a word of thanks or even acknowledgment)

 

Although I added a coat of protective varnish to this at the last minute, I don’t think this  ruined it or justified Bulkeley high school in Hartford, Connecticut  hating the piece so much that they would have refused to acknowledge receiving it…But indeed,  that school, located on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford, CT took this beautiful piece, but decided I did not deserve either a word of thanks or even notification of  receipt that the piece arrived.

I cannot tell you how much this hurt me, but what do they care? I imagine the probably hated it, but why take it if they were only going to store it in the basement? I would’ve gladly kept it and NOT given it to those ungrateful wretches…I LOVE the piece and even with the shiny varnish I loved her…And I hate to think that the so and so’s at Bulkley high school just threw her in a hole so no one would ever see this lovely Black Madonna, and they never even told me they did not want her!

How dare they? I mean, if someone offers you, an organization, a piece of art and You do NOT want it, please do not take it, for it is an insult beyond insults not to display it. Furthermore, to not even thank the artist who likely spent many hours  on the piece, is really an abhorrent act. But what do you expect from administrators of a high school? Apparently no more than boorishness just like this…

Screw them…But it makes me want not to donate art anywhere ever again if their response is typical.

Varnished version, in a bad photo…but you can see she is much more realistic, even though the photo is bad…(taken by a teacher at the school while the piece was in transit, or in storage)

 

I Miss Obama, that Gentleman, and his wonderful First Lady, Michelle

My portrait of Barack Obama, OBAMA BRIGHT,  which i gave to the White House a few years back…but alas never heard back about except a form card…

“Obama Bright” a portrait of Barack Obama in acrylics and graphite with Swarovski crystals….

 

 

OBAMA***Fini

Poem for my Twin Sister, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri

This poem is in my new book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS. Alas this final version did not get there as i had misplaced it and did not find it till after the publication date!

Ten Minutes

(pour ma jumelle)

Sometimes when you’ve spent hours rushing somewhere

and just as many hours rushing back

you ought to make yourself stop ten minutes from home

ten minutes short of where you think

you can put your feet up

finally, and get out at the road’s edge

and ask yourself where you are

going and where have you been and why

are you hurrying just to get it over with, or is there no point

to this day but in the ending of it?

Ten minutes, this pause

wrenched out of the rush by the roadside

getting the kinks out, lets you hear the sudden quiet

of your own thoughts

as the out-of-doors pours in and gives you pause.

What have you been doing all day

racing, rushing, wasting your time all day

for what, to get what over with?

Better to have rested more along the way,

to have seen, to have been, to have watched, listened

to have paid attention

than to have beeped and swerved so much

sped and sweated in bottlenecks

and cursed the traffic for what could neither be avoided

nor its fault, being its nature.

Where had you been all day

in your hurrying to get home, but on your way

along the only way there was: yours.

Oh, but you should have known better–

how all homes are but temporary shelters:

a roadside shack or leafy park bench,

a ramshackle timber lean-to —

each a place to rest as good as any mansion

ten minutes away. Ten mere minutes from home

the roadside beckoned with saffron mustard sprigs,

brave bouncing bet. But you had no time

to pay attention, so nearly home to rest and relax.

Oh, but you should have known better—

The day scattered like dry leaves

and ended without you.

Now you pay with the rest of your life.

.

 

 

Nail Polish Faces on Eye Glasses Cases – Wow!

Original art by pamela spiro wagner
Male face with horn rimmed glasses painted entirely with nail polish on eye glasses case by pamwagg
Male nail polish face on eye glasses case, with sterling silver eye glasses embedded in the nail polish by pamwagg
Back of the Frida Kahlo eye glasses case below, a detail from the original self portrait with thorn necklace
Frida kahlos eyes on this eye glasses case painted with nail polish
Frida Kahlo Eyeglasses painted entirely with nail polish by pamwagg

The Obituary of an Extraordinary Woman, My Mother…plus

IMG_0029SPIRO, Marian Wagner, 89, of Madison, CT and Amherst, MA died on June 18, 2017 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home after a lengthy illness. Marian was born in Fall River, MA on February 16, 1928 to Oliver and Carolyn Wagner. She was raised in Fall River during the Depression and graduated from BMC Durfee High School. She then earned a two-year degree from Vermont Junior College that enabled her to work as a lab technician. It was at a lab at Harvard Medical School that she met her husband Howard Spiro. They were married in 1951, made a home in New Haven, CT and quickly had four children: Pammy, Lynnie, Martha, and Philip. In the meantime, she returned to school, received her undergraduate degree and in 1970 began a twenty-year career as a renowned teacher of science and math at The Foote School in New Haven. She introduced computers to her students long before they ended up in their back pockets and once built a solar-heated oven to bake the Thanksgiving turkey. She helped to revive the school newspaper, which was later renamed the “SPI” in her honor. Her dogs were frequent guests in her classroom, and when she wasn’t helping to train her friends’ dogs or hosting canine pool parties in her backyard, Marian was taking her own retrievers to local hospitals or mental health facilities to hang out with patients. Throughout her life, she was known for expert woodworking skills, her intuitive ability at navigating a sailboat, her competitiveness on the tennis court or in a game of bridge or scrabble, her love of golden retrievers, her lasting friendships, and her deep devotion to her family. She never let the social conventions of her day block her dreams: she embarked on a lifetime avocation of woodworking despite being told it was not for girls, she became a teacher of science before most scientists would accept women as their peers, and she even made the phone call to Howard for a date that led to their eventual marriage. She will be sorely missed by her four children: Pamela Spiro Wagner, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri, Philip Spiro and Martha Spiro; her six grandchildren: Allison Spiro-Winn, Jeremy Spiro-Winn, Hannah Spiro, Claire Spiro, Oliver Spiro and Adriane Spiro; and her many friends and students. She follows the passing of her parents Oliver and Carolyn, her husband Howard of 61 years, her sister Barbara, and her brother Oliver. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later time. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Marian W. Spiro Fund for Science Enrichment at The Foote School in New Haven, CT or the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, MA.

______________________

The obituary above was written by my wonderful “cousin in law,” Jere Nash, who is Holly Wagner’s husband, my uncle’s daughter (who was my mother’s late brother, Oliver who died many years ago of malignant melanoma).

All that follows is my interpretation of things, as all observation is of course but in my case you have to understand that I speak largely as an outsider, not knowing very much since I was not “in” the family for so many years…

Although I lost many years with my mother as an adult, due to my father’s “exxing” me out of the family in anger and a profound lack of understanding of “mental illness” and what was going on for me at the time, I still remember her in my childhood, how when there were still trolleys in New Haven Connecticut (oh, how young I must have been then!) she would either bravely or completely nonchalantly wear jeans  to go shopping downtown at Malleys or whatever the stores were there at the time. For anyone else this would have been extremely difficult, disregarding all the social mores of the 50s dictating that women had to wear skirts and heels and make-up to go out presentably in public. I do not know how my mom felt about it, only that she did it and did not seem to care what others thought. She cared only that she was more comfortable in pants, and low- heeled  “girl scout” shoes, the same kind I wear to this day, and she saw no sense in getting all dressed up just to bring 2 very young children out to go on a stressful shopping expedition.  As for that, my mother to my knowledge never wore more make-up in her life than a dash of lipstick, though I do remember her applying that with care every morning and blotting her red lips on a fold of toilet paper, thinking both how beautiful she looked (though she never  in her life agreed with me or anyone else on this, even though when she was younger  — when we lived in England — my friends thought she looked like a “movie star”) and how I never wanted to have to put “that stuff” on my own lips.

Unlike her children, who suffered from oily skin and troublesome largely untreated acne as adolescents, my mother’s bane of existence was her dry skin  and its tendency to wrinkle  so her one vanity, if you could call it that, was moisturizers and trying to deal with skin that aged earlier than she might have wished. She was also a outdoors lover, a sailor and a tennis player in the days well before the publicized benefits of sun screen, which may or may not have played a role in this (I am not completely convinced of the safety of sunscreens with their nano chemicals nonetheless)…Whatever is the case, it seemed true that her skin did show the effects of being out in the weather early on, but this to me only gave her face character and the true beauty of an older woman…though I know that as I was growing up it may have caused her more regret than I knew.

We are all of us subject to society’s images and social pressures, and my mother was not immune to these, no matter how iconoclastic and “her own person” she may have been in so many ways. For example, as a result of having been a self-described  “chunky athletic tomboy with a tiny petite older sister” — and feeling rejected for this all her life,  she fought a poor self-image, body hatred, and deep conflict on that account, such that I have always felt that in some sense while she loved food and eating, she also never took a single bite that she did not simultaneously regret and chide herself for. This was painfully obvious to us children, I think, at least it was to me, and it continued throughout her life. Even after nearly forty years of not seeing her, I would go out to lunch with her when she was in her 80s, and hear her criticize herself  about what she was eating. How I wished she could simply enjoy food for once, without the concomitant agonies of needing to punish herself for it.

Maybe she got some peace at some point, perhaps dementia granted it to her, but at what a terrible price.

I think that for my mother, one of the sad consequences of being married to a man like my father was that she never felt that he took her intellect or her creativity seriously or even  consequentially. True, he got her to go back to college and finish a four-year degree, and take up teaching, but he never truly treated her with the same esteem he granted an equal, and we all felt it and knew it, and what is more, she did too. No doubt this was largely behind all her words of abuse and rage in later years when she could scarcely speak to him civilly even when  he had himself ceased to be abusive.  It was hard to listen to her snark and scorn him, when he was trying his best…But by then it was much to late to undo the damage his lack of care and cold abusiveness had wrought for so many years beforehand. It seemed to me that she just could not forgive him, especially not for “changing” on her so unaccountably in his latter decades…

 

This is the rather in-expert poem I wrote for my mother’s birthday in 2007 about all that she gave us growing up…

 

YOUR OWN OCCASIONAL POEM 2/16/07

 

You push the wood under the saw,

the sawdust scent is sharp and familiar.

First time in months, you’re in the woodshop;

at the end of the day, you’re sorry to stop.

 

 

It’s mid-February, the pale wintry light

has long ago left. You look up. It’s night

and you haven’t appeased yet your hands’ appetite,

their urge to create. I know as I write

 

 

that hunger of hands to handle and make,

your children all feel it, the pleasure, the ache.

You taught us love, gave us skills that you knew

copper enameling, pen and ink, too,

 

 

the weaving of baskets and papier maché

antiquing desks and working with clay,

sand casting, knitting (you couldn’t crochet).

 

 

You fired up a hunger that’s better than food

a hunger that drives us, the right attitude

to make things of beauty, for need and for use.

With paper pulp, wood, fabric, clay, we produce

 

 

unique objets d’art not entirely planned.

We make them with care and the love they demand

and when they are finished, we give them away.

(The joy’s in creating; they’re not meant to stay.).

 

 

You gave us the spirit, this need and the drive

this hunger, this feeling of being alive.

I don’t know if knowing, you planted the seed

but the plant it grew gives us all that we need.

 

 

(A mother like you is so rare you’re worth pay,

which conveniently rhymes with this:

Happy Birthday!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother, Marian W Spiro, Died a Week ago…

fullsizeoutput_343bMy drawing of my mother, Marian Wagner Spiro, suffering from the effects of dementia,  wearing the iPod and headphones I gave her. (from a photo taken by my sister, Martha, in the last weeks of mom’s life…)

There is so much to say, and so little that I find myself capable of saying at this time. The loss of one’s mother, no matter how fraught the relationship, is always incalculable, quite literally unable to be calculated. Because of the divorce from much of my family, included the extended network of cousins and so forth, imposed by my father for nearly forty years, I lost many years and many memories I might have made with my mother, and needless to say with the rest of my native family. However, because of this, along the way I learned the value of friendship, not just the emotional support and love from some one significant other, since I had none, but the kind of friendship about which it has been written:  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I learned what true friends are, and that they can love a person and care about a person perhaps with deeper love and kinder regard even than one’s family of origin.

 

This is not to say that I do not love and care about my family, of course, but it is my friends to whom I dedicated my newest book of poems and art, my friends both old and new. And they know who they are, I am sure they do. Because I feel it and I know it.

 

But that much said, I loved my mother, and what is more, I know she loved me and would have wanted me to have these loving friends in my life,  especially once she understood that having a nuclear family of my own was not in the picture for me.  I do not believe that she cared about whether I ever became a doctor or even a successful poet or artist, but only that I found contentment and love in my life, somewhere, somehow, and that she would be proud of me now, not for my achievements but for all these wonderful friends whom I love and who I know love me in return ( and in return for nothing except being me).

 

I love you, Mom, and I wish you well on your journey, wherever that takes you…Be at peace and know that all is well.

_______________________________________________________________

I wrote this poem, or started it the night of my last visit to my mother, after weeks of not being able to put pen or pencil to paper. My younger sister, Martha and I had been splitting up the time and watch at the Hospice, though Martha had done the lion’s share of everything, living as it were just around the corner, while I needed a driver to get me first to Agawam and then to from Vermont to Amherst each day. In any event, just as I was finishing it, Martha called me with tears in her voice telling me that mom had passed away more suddenly than expected, no time to call me to come down to the hospice to be with her at the end.

 

HIATUS – June 18, 2017

“Just letting you know I am taking a hiatus because my mother is in the process of passing away and I need to give that my full focus.”

 

In the snapshot I take, you are almost not there,

barely stitched to your body by broken breathing,

those strands of beads upon which none of us pray

to keep you here, still here, still here…

the seeming years of days and nights

of your going having frayed the long wick of your life

till it seems impossible your heart pulses and breath

still clings to the flesh that clings to your bones.

 

 

In the stillness like stopped breath,

as the clock duties our days, from your morphine remove,

you can’t know how we mark a terrible time

while we wait for what is to come,

the inexorable exit-gong sounding: It is done.

 

 

All the same, they say life starts over, Mother,

if there is ever any life on earth without you,

as if we believed this day would come, or any other,

as if anything without you can ever be the same.