Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Art of Living with "CRAFT"

I've been fretting lately... well, more than fretting...try, "obsessing" and "apologizing ad nauseam" about how my short-term memory is just trashed.  If it isn't written down, and even sometimes when it is, I'll forget whatever I just promised to remember.  I look at even the simplest form to fill out and my mind goes blank. I survey the piled-high jumble in the room that was once my husband's office and sanctum sanctorum, intending to get started on the cleaning-out, and I freeze, and close the door.

It's been over 6 months, after all, and I keep thinking I should be farther along than this.

My experts tell me that my foggy brain is actually normal for this part of the journey, that my mind still just has too much noise in it;  noise generated by grief and post-traumatic stress, to be able to keep thoughts organized, to remember that there's a form I'm supposed to fill out for the Kindergarten book sale, and another one to update for the Middle School ministries, and one for the high school Band Boosters, and there's some carrots in the fridge that I'd meant to make into a shredded salad, and a 40lk that I need to start the rollover on, and the dog hasn't been out to pee for HOURS... and did I forget that I put the kettle on to boil to make a french press of coffee?

And it seems like I've forgotten how to cook.  No, really.  Most of the time, I simply can't face the prospect of cooking, but lately, when I've tried, the end result is not as good as I've usually been able to produce in the past.  And often, lately, it's downright awful.  It's as if I can't stay focused on any one task long enough to avoid making mistakes.  So, I'm letting my older kids work on their kitchen skills, and nobody's starving. I've stopped asking "what can I bring?" when I'm invited to a party.  That used to be an excuse to show-off my cooking creativity.  But now I just breezily offer, "how about I bring some drinks?"

But as seems to be the case so often, in this blessed life of mine, filled with wise, generous, loving, and hilarious people, I've gotten some help from a friend.  This friend has given me a very handy label to hang on my condition, a diagnosis.  And you know, don't you, that once you have a diagnosis for those annoying symptoms, you can relax and focus on treatment.

Last Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on Dave and Kelley's cozy couch, savoring a plate of Dave's amazing red beans and Carolina-style pulled pork, watching the 49'ers get whupped by the Ravens, and silently giving thanks that I'd re-connected recently (well, 2 years ago, when we bumped into each other in the lobby of Davies Symphony Hall) with yet another of my college friends who now lives in the Bay Area.  Given my current status as a failure in the kitchen, I was especially appreciative of Dave's culinary gifts (and post-college chef-training).  Seriously, those beans were a work of art... I remarked that the kids and I hadn't eaten this well in weeks, because I'd forgotten how to cook, and forgotten a bunch of other things... I started in on my obsessive litany of what my unreliable brain couldn't do.

And Dave stopped me.

"It's called 'CRAFT', dear, 'Can't Remember A Fucking Thing'.  We all have it now.  It's part of being old",  he said

And now I have a diagnosis.  I have CRAFT.

And since I can't remember a f*cking thing, it's time to accept the diagnosis and start working on the treatment.

 While I do my healing work with my therapist, and perhaps do some investigation into better-living-through-chemistry, I've got to find a work-around.  I'm working on hiring a professional organizer to create some CRAFT-proof  paperwork-handling systems, so the bills get paid on time, and the tax-related documents are all findable at tax time... and she'll need to create a household chores rotation for the kids, so I can stop being the screaming meanie mom who assigns three different kids to load the dishwasher, about 3 minutes apart, and then watches the kids shrug and wait to see who's really going to end up scraping away Rhys' un-eaten macaroni and cheese.  It might put an end to the endless fights over whose turn it REALLY is to clean the kids' upstairs bathroom, affectionately (or is it "infection-ately" ?) dubbed, The Swamp.

So, I've been thinking lately about what I might want to do with my trembling wild-bunny mind, once the scramble to keep the paperwork, the wetwork, and the work that requires a rubber gloves, a strong stomach, and a big bottle of Kaboom, is managed.

And I've decided that for now that I'll keep writing, keep living in "The Now" (if you haven't read Eckardt Tolle's The Power of Now, get it, and devour it, please)  and I'll see what sense memories I can store, and see how long I can store them.

You see, when I'm old and really forgetful, it won't really matter so much that I failed to get the permission slips signed until the very last minute, or that the boys' long-sleeve white shirts for school chapel had to be sponged-off at the last minute, because I forgot to get that load of laundry done before Wednesday morning, or that I cooked the ham too long, or forgot the salt in the biscuit recipe. But I will want to remember:

*the plane-landing sound that my 6-year-old makes when he swoops in on me, suddenly, for a "hugga"

*my daughter's homemade cafe au lait, first thing in the morning, and her smile of accomplishment when she hands me a mug of it.

*the slow-growing spicy hotness of Dave's amazing red beans (like, seriously, Dave, publish the recipe or make a YouTube instructional video or something...), and the feeling of being cared-for that comes from someone else cooking for me and my kids.

*the French horn imitation of Canadian geese over Newhall Park as the sun rises during my early morning walks.

*the feel of cashmere and superwash merino yarn as it slides through my fingers when I knit

*the perfect cartoon-character parentheses formed by the corners of the smile of a certain blue-eyed friend

*the delightful, contagious, cackling laugh of another friend, a laugh that carries over the conversation of dozens of people.

*the eccentric street-theatre of my neighbor across the street, meticulously sweeping her sidewalk after dark every night, by the light of her handheld flashlight--and the barely suppressed laughter of a friend who sat with me in my front yard one autumn night, sipping wine and revelling in the strangeness of suburbia.

*the pride in my 10 year old's face as he shows me how he took the "guts" from a broken toy helicopter and turned it into a mobile weapons system to be mounted on the back of his remote-controlled toy monster truck.

*the happily repetitive plunk-plunk-plunka-plunk of my 14 year old, teaching himself to play acoustic bass in every spare minute he has.

I have faith that, eventually, my CRAFT symptoms will calm down, while I train a less-flighty part of my brain to handle the things that must get done.  But while Life has handed me this moment when I can't control my CRAFT, I've decided to focus on the Art, the here-this-moment-gone-the-next work of Art that is my life right now, a life that consists of an endless parade of "nows" that I may or may not remember, 5 minutes from now.

2Peter 3:8  "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day"

Hmm...With God,  a thousand years=one day, so if I do the math... that means (calculating furiously)'s a lot of "now" s to live and enjoy, and God is with me, and keeping track of me, in every single one.  I guess I can relax a little and just live the moments as they pass.

...Now, what did I come into this room for again?  (That's called, theologically, "thinking about the hereafter", as in "what in the world did I come in here after?" ) 

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