Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

5 August

Birthday Card: Wounded Healers: Despair Into Hope

by Jon Katz

I got the sweetest birthday card anybody could get, it was from the Mansion residents and aides, birthday wishes on one side, just about everyone there signing on the other.

What a precious birthday gift. It went right to the heart, and thanks to all of you for making this possible.

My connection to the Mansion is wordless, we understand one another, words are not necessary. Neither are thanks. But it can be sweet.

The Mansion has given me much more than I have given them.

Once I learned I didn’t have to escape or hide from my pain, I could join with other wounded healers in a universal search for life and mercy.

Those pains, which can eat us up inside, can be transformed from symbols of despair into signs of hope.

Caregiving heals me and lifts me. Conflict, anger, and fear opened me up for reawakening, to the deeper meaning of things, to the spiritual treasure.

I fell in love with the Mansion right away, because the kind and loving people there taught me to accept that I am not able to control the inevitable, I will grow old and sick and surely die just like them.

We are equal, two parts of the same thing. This liberated me to be a true caregiver, like so many wounded healers.

I know I can’t cure everyone, and I never try, but I can care and be cared for in the deepest sense of the word.

Real care is not ambiguous.

Genuine care is the opposite of apathy and empathy. The real meaning of is to lament, or cry out with – “to be with” the person who is lonely, needy, frightened.

To care means to hear the cry and identify with the pain, the confusion, the isolation, the sense of being forgotten, or left behind.

To care involves understanding, mourning, sympathizing, it means letting the needy and the vulnerable and the weak know they are not alone.

5 August

Birthday Reflections

by Jon Katz

John Lennon said we should count our age by friends, not years, and count our lives by smiles, not tears. I like that advice.

I must confess that I never once in my life thought I would make it to 73.

I smoked, drank, fought, traveled,  gambled, stewed, freaked out, panicked, and was great pain in the ass to any number of beleaguered teachers, bosses, friends, and family.

I still am.

I quit 14 jobs in 10 years and stormed out of every one of them. At some point, I did realize that I needed to work only for myself, and writing was the only way I knew to do that.

Dogs gave me a way to sell my books.

I just don’t like being told what to do, (or write.)

So nobody can do that anymore except Maria, who tells me what to do all the time. I learned early on to surround myself with strong women and do what they say.

Since I started doing that my life has gone well.

For the first time in my life, I feel that I am exactly where I should be, in the place I should be, doing what I should be doing, with the person I should be doing it with.

And I am lucky in dogs. Zinnia is the perfect gift for me, she just slid right into my life.

What a birthday gift that is.

I always loved to write, and have been blessed that I am still doing it, all these years later. In fact, I honestly believe I am just beginning to learn to write well, I’ve finally cleared all of that other shit out of my head.

A friend asked me the other day what it’s like being 73, and I said without even blinking, “I can’t remember.”

We both got a good yuk out of that.

My birthday is actually Saturday, the 8th, but we celebrate important days during the week when inn and hotel rates are a lot cheaper.

Maria is taking me to an inn and buying me dinner. She is making threats to take me someplace on Saturday for a surprise.

My mother always told me she remembered my birthday because it was on the same date plus one as the Hiroshima bombing. That unsettled me for a while, but I got used to it.

As many of you know ad nauseum, I am morally opposed to old talk, the denigrating chatter of older people about themselves. I think old talk kills. There’s a lot of old folk chatter on birthdays, so I’ll skip on that.

I sometimes think that life is a challenge of the mind, and age is a challenge of the body. The task is to take care of both.

I never talk about my health unless I am being rolled into surgery or can’t walk. For many people my age, that’s all they talk about, I do not ever want to get that habit into my head.

I have the same idea about aging that Betty White has, the older you get, the better you get unless you are a banana.

Birthdays have never seen a great big deal to me because everyone on the earth has one. They just aren’t that special.

Some of the conventional wisdom about aging are true. When you finally know something about life, it’s often too late to do something about it. I don’t think that has been true for me. Life is what you make of it, at any age.

I think a blog and a dog are good partners for aging. The blog keeps me thinking and writing and learning, dogs keep me company when I write.

I am a lucky old man. I hadn’t had sex for many years, and now I have sex all the time. I really love that about being older.

I married a woman who is more than a decade younger than me, and she is a tornado in a human disguise. She never stops moving and pulls me along into life.

The one concession I’ve made to aging is to take a nap in the late afternoon two or three times a week. I call it my Peaceful Hour. I never actually sleep, but I do think about things and relax.

Under pressure, I’m also wearing brightly colored socks.

My blog is my creative life now, and my photos, and it is a gift to me, as is my work with the Army Of Good.

To care is to be human.

Health is not just about heart and joints and muscles. A healthy person has a healthy spirit.

My knees hurt sometimes but my brain never tires. Neither does my love for Maria or for my life. Thanks for the good birthday wishes.

5 August

Zinnia Swims. She Ain’t No Princess, She’s A Lab!

by Jon Katz

Zinnia has started to swim.

She plunged into our little pond this morning and sailed around in circles looking for sticks to bring us. Gone is the princess I kept talking about, she’s a dog’s dog.

I didn’t push the swimming, I figured she’d figure it out for herself and she has. She loves tearing through the woods, rolling in mud and muck, carrying sticks and rocks around, and chasing balls outside.

Inside, she’s the perfect writing dog, still and peaceful, she never bothers me while I work.

She is a lot of fun, nothing seems to ever bother her, like Bud, she is a happy dog, all the time.

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