At The Crossroads of Everything

Ah, me.  Here I sit in my recliner, hairy golden Lhasa Apso Noga under my right elbow.  I’m sixty years old.  Sixty years old!   The half-way point. How did that happen?

It happened long, and it happened fast.  I have lived very fast.  I have lived several lives in tandem.  If you added it up, I’d be at least 180.  So I shouldn’t complain about a bit of arthritis here and there, and that my skin seems to be attempting to slide off my bones onto the floor.

Yeah.  I was watching G4 skiing the other day.  I never watch TV unless I’m at my parents’.  For one thing, I don’t have one.  For another, I think it’s a waste of my time.  I have books to write, blogs to write, paperwork not to get done.

Where was I?  Ah yes, G4 in Park City, Utah.  I lived in northern Utah for two years.  It was heaven, in a way.  Everyone walked around in spurs, like Chester in Gunsmoke.  Jingle, jingle.  I walked around in spurs too.  Don’t ever squat with your spurs on!

I brought four of my 19 horses with me when we moved from the horse farm in Ohio out to Utah.   We lived in a suburban neighborhood. Instead of manicured back yards people had barns and horse corrals.  Us too.  You’d look out the window and see somebody riding a horse down the street.  It was surreal.  Pretty soon I was doing it myself.

Everyone but us was Mormon.  I’m used to being the only Hebrew in a Christian environment, but I have never lived in a completely homogeneous population before.  It was like a pure culture.  That was their intention.  They were fascinating people, and I learned a lot from them.

One of the things I learned about was a little-known ski area that was just for the locals.  It had over 4000 acres of skiable terrain, 2200 of which were groomed.   The rest back bowl.

I started on the Bunny Hill.  I learned by watching the three-year-olds fearlessly snowplowing around, without poles.  Then I decided to take a lesson.

The instructor took me right up to the top of the mountain.  You had to ride three different ski lifts to get there.  It was snowing so hard I couldn’t see my skis hanging on the footrest.

I had never been on a real ski lift before, only rope tows.  A real ski lift requires swift and precise action to get on and off, if one does not want to find oneself face down in the snow.  Getting on was terrifying; getting off, heart-stopping.  Every time.

I got addicted and ended up skiing five days a week, from 11 to 2, during ski season, which goes from late September to June, sometimes July, there.  Nothing like it.  No-thing. Like. It.  It’s like flying, falling down a hill standing up (mostly).

What does this have to do with being at the crossroads of everything?  We Hebes, when someone has a birthday, we say “Ad Meah v’Esrim” which means “you should live to be a hundred and twenty,” which is the age Moses lived to be.  I always add, “B’simcha ve’rav bri’ut,” “with happiness and abundant good health.” So here I sit at sixty.  The half-way point between zero and 120.  And I wonder what will be.  Could it be a new beginning?  Or the beginning of the end?

It says in the Torah that Moses retained the strength of a youth until his dying day.

Well, I am sad to say that ain’t the case with me.

Some of it’s my own fault, because lately I have become a lazy slug.  When I wasn’t a lazy slug, I was tearing around on skis and horses and acquiring my share of bangs, biffs, knees surgeries, wrist surgeries, oh hell, I get bored with the list.  A good deal of my physical debility is due to some weird autoimmune plague that has not been pinned down, but several doctors have told me that whatever it is has to be autoimmune.  OK.  I don’t give a rat’s ass what’s causing my immune system to crash and burn–I am the only person I know who has had FIVE HIV tests–all of them negative.  I just want to be able to pick myself up and do whatever I want to, like I used to.

If I could just wake up and see that ol’ chair lift coming at me right at waist level, I’d know I was dead and jump right on that thing.  Woo-hoo!  Take me to the blue slopes, please, the blacks hurt my knees.

So who the hell cares about skiing but me?  Who cares about Latin dancing, camping trips on horseback in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah…who cares about that shit besides me?  Probably nobody.

I really don’t want to live to 120.   I think 74 is a good age to go.  The Vedic astrologer (we Hebes are not supposed to go in for things that belong to other religions, but hey, I’m an anthropologist and besides I’m not so observant as I once was)– the Vedic astrologer who did my chart when I was in India gave me between 72 and 74.

That would be fine.  I don’t want to live a real long time, because the toll this disease has taken on my body and my mind makes me weary.  What can I do to break out of this state of the doldrums?

I guess I could get another horse; but it has to be a Peruvian Paso like the one I used to have, Joe Crow.  Man, he was an equine ATV.  One time we got chased by a Basque shepherd in the High Uintas range in Utah.  The Uintas are one of the very few mountain ranges that run East-West.  Anyway, I was riding Joe with my 130 lb. German Shepherd, Nero, by my side.  We came upon a herd of sheep, guarded by two enormous Great Pyrenees dogs.  They’re pure white, about the size of a St. Bernard, and they take their job as herd guardians seriously.

Nero wanted to go confabulate with them a bit, but I could tell from the murderous looks in their eyes that that was not a good idea, so I called him back.

Just happened to be a shepherd on horseback around the bend, who heard me, and came after me with a lecherous look in his eye.  The Basques don’t bring their women with them when they go out shepherding for weeks at a time, living in caravans that look like a wine cask stuck on the back of a truck.  So when this one saw me, he came after me at a dead gallop.

Joe did his signature 180 turn and took off like the devil was after him (he was), and when we hit the trail into the forest, the one we had just come out of, Joe took a sharp right and went straight up the mountainside.  Nero was right there with us.  Joe stopped in a grove of trees, heaving, and we watched the shepherd try to get his horse to follow our trail straight up.  If I hadn’t been so freaked out I would have laughed.

After a fruitless while, the shepherd desisted and meandered back toward his sheep, and Joe picked his way down the mountainside.  Joe was a horse who could take over the wheel when need be.

We headed back toward camp at a fair clip, and my heart stopped pounding in my ears and went back down in my chest to pound.  Suddenly Joe pulled up short and froze.  There, in the middle of the trail at eye level, was the enormous head and rack of a bull moose.  Do you know how deadly moose are?  Cow moose with calves are the most dangerous, but a bull moose, especially in rutting season, is very happy to run you over like a locomotive.

Curiously, the moose and Joe seemed to be having a conversation.  The moose was not at all interested in me.  After they had talked over whatever it was, Mr. Moose courteously moved aside to let Joe, Nero and I pass.  The rest of the trip was uneventful, thank God.

And do you know what?  That was 15 years ago.  15 years ago I was in top physical condition, and I didn’t even know it.  A lot of my energy was driven by hypomania, ah, that delightful state of feeling immortal!  And of course I got myself fired from my job in Utah, and instead of doing what I should have done, which was to go into partnership with a couple in Park City (another ski town in Utah) when they invited me, I decided it was time to try living near my parents again, and came to North Carolina–the first time.  That was in ’98.

But I could still do anything, anything at all, so I built a solo pediatrics practice from the ground up.  I like to do that sort of thing.  And I worked there in state somehow melding devastating depression and blissful contentment until a missionary group bought my hospital, and my building, and kicked me out, and I had a breakdown and had to go to the hospital and have never been the same since.  That was in 2000.

So much has happened since–it does seem like several more lives have passed, some frenetic, some catatonic.  Now I’m a card-carrying recluse.  It suits my suddenly-elderly Aspie temperament.  One small dog, no indoor plumbing, quiet except for the roar of the river on the small waterfall beneath my window, and the God-awful hooting of the damn trains that run on the other side of the river.

What’s going to happen next?  Dad is nearing the end of his life.  When he leaves the planet, then I have to do something with Mom and the museum that serves them for a house.  And then, back Home.  Jerusalem.  My Home.  But my faith is weak: what, I ask myself, if we lose Jerusalem once more, and then there is no more Home?  What if my health betrays me, and I can’t manage the hard life there?  Life in Israel is very rough.  It’s unforgiving, physically, and the spiritual power that rests over all of it and especially Jerusalem, can either make you or break you.  So far for me, it’s about Jerusalem 5, me 1, but at least I have a toehold.

And now I feel that I am standing at that ol’ Robert Johnson crossroads, looking the devilin the eye.  They say that Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads, and made that “devil’s deal” with him: if you make me the best blues guitarist ever, then my soul is yours.  The devil laughed, and made it so.  Johnson rocketed from being a novice player to a master musician in two years (of course he practiced a lot 😉 ).  Robert Johnson lived to be 27 years old, but according to Eric Clapton, who with his band Cream covered Crossroads, he was, by the time of his death from unclear yet certainly sinister causes, the greatest blues guitarist in history.

Standing at the crossroads, what will I do?  We Hebrews do not believe in a “devil,” so to speak.  I believe we live or die by our own hand: the “hand” we’re dealt at birth–genetics, temperament, intelligence, social situation, and so on–and our own “hand,” which is what we do with what we’ve been handed.  The hotter the fire, the quicker the fuel is burned up.  And my fire has burned mighty hot.  I don’t feel like there’s much left in me.  I feel as if my 120 year allotment has been folded in half, and I’m standing at the crossroads looking out into deep space, wondering what is going to happen to me.

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24 Comments

  1. laura, i can commiserate with a lot of what you described. i am only 41, but i feel myself becoming weak, unable, and generally elderly waaaay before my time. add to that the issues i have with cognitive function and apparent alzheimers (ok, maybe im being a teensy tiny bit dramatic) i have no wonder why i am mostly a hermit. this all started actually a few years ago, and i am just now really acknowledging it.

    anyway, i just meant to let you know that however unfair this early aging is, you are not the only one, and i truly hope you get to have a reprieve soon and live actively and largely (i hope i can too!) thinking good thoughts and sending hugs to you.

    Reply
  2. songtothesirens

     /  December 14, 2013

    I know what you mean about skiing. My father was on the ski patrol for out little ski area (I live at the base of a mountain), and we used to get a fair deal of snow. You cannot tell me climate change is not happening, I have watching it happen here for 40+ years. Anyhoo, back to the skiing. I learned to walk and ski at the same time. I remember my father skiing in a wedge holding his pole like a bar for me to hang on to while i tried desperately to mimic his movements so I wouldn’t fall. By the time I was 5, I was fearless. I skiied all the way up until I was in my late teens. You are right……it is like flying. I didn’t experience anything like it again until I took up mountain biking in my 20’s. It is just like flying too.

    Oddly enough, I have experienced the moose in the trail thing too. Except we were in Yellowstone, and on foot. Yeah, we backed away very slowly…..

    I have not had a chart done that tells until when I may expect to live, but 75 seems good to me. It is three-quarters of a century, and I certain that I have already lived at least that. Gotta a few more years to go, though.

    You know, it is odd. I was thinking about having to dispatch my student loans through a total medical disability discharge, and how that would prevent me from taking out more student loans. And, then I stopped and wondered: How am I going to get the counseling degree I need to help the at-risk kids I want to work with? I sat and actually cried for a while because I realized that without a scholarship or some form of grant, yet another of my lofty goals will have been shot down by mental health problems. But, anything is possible. I am not homeless, I have an income, I have clothing albeit ratty to wear, I have job clothes, a telephone number where I can be reached, and a computer. So, in comparison to some of the people I run into using public transit, I am much better equipped to find and work a part time job.

    I understand your concerns about your parents. I often wonder what my sister and I are going to do about my mom and my father. They have reached 70, not old, but beginning to feel the signs. Its just I know how fast time goes, one day you are 20 and flying down a mountain on your bike thinking of nothing but the ride. Then you are 40+, Bipolar among other things, unable to completely care for yourself, and life just looks a whole lot different. I imagine my sister will step in and take care of everything like she always does……now who’s whining? I think I’ll go back to the skiing image; new snow is so peaceful 🙂

    I don’t know about asking old Lucifer to help you out. I cannot as I am a Buddhist and our problems and solutions start and stop within ourselves. It has taken me nearly 9 years to reach a “medically” stable place. I will never say mentally stable. And, for five of those, I have been an ardently practicing Buddhist. I really think faith helps. 🙂 (sorry for the book, I liked your post).

    Reply
    • I love your book. I also love Buddhism. It’s a wonderful way to look at life. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
      • songtothesirens

         /  January 1, 2014

        It is a very peaceful way to live life. Always trying to live with compassion and respect fro everything.
        Happy New Year!

        How are you doing? 🙂

        Reply
        • Oh, I just now saw your comment! My mailbox is so stuffed full of after-the-holidays junk mail that I get discouraged and put the computer down. I’m doing OK, thanks for asking! Actually, I have a mild case of the flu at the moment. Good thing I had a flu shot, otherwise I’d be horribly sick like everyone else in this part of the world. Otherwise, I’m on cruise-control, just getting by. How about you?

          Reply
          • songtothesirens

             /  January 3, 2014

            About the same; on cruise control. Glad I haven’t come down with anything icky yet this year. 🙂 Have some horrid dental work coming up, only looking forward to the pain pills/ At least the oral surgeon believes in pain management 🙂

            Reply
            • Ugh, sorry about the dental work! Yay for pain pills 😀

              Reply
              • songtothesirens

                 /  January 7, 2014

                Fortunately this particular maxillofacial surgeon is a big believer in pain management. He gives at least three prescriptions with each a stronger medication. But, I am going to find out how they deal with bone removal, how much it hurts afterwards, and then demand morphine. They gave it to my sister after her c-section. Somehow, removing bone seems worse than giving birth. Dentists freak me out 😀

                Reply
                • Eek, what bone is he going to remove? Is it an outpatient procedure? I wish they’d give you the medicine BEFORE the procedure so you could have it already, instead of having to stumble into the pharmacy afterwards. When is this happening? Serious good energy will be sent!

                  Reply
                  • songtothesirens

                     /  January 7, 2014

                    This is all set fro 7:30 am on Friday the 17th. Apparently, I am one of those people that have a bit too much bone on the left and right sides of that smooth area in the front part of the back part of your bottom teeth. So, to get the lower denture to seat correctly, that bone stuff has to go. I am definitely not doing this awake. I want to be completely asleep for the whole thing. Teeth pulling is old hat at this point. But the implants, and the bone thing. Nope, I demand anesthesia!

                    I’ll get my mom to stumble into the pharmacy for me:)

                    Reply
                    • Oh goodness sounds like you’ve been through the teeth mill!

                    • songtothesirens

                       /  January 7, 2014

                      Yeah, and it is my fault. If i had not done certain things in my youth, and not been on anti-psychotics for 8 years, and had had a better understanding of the role of saliva (of all things) in keeping our teeth happy and healthy, I would not be in this position.

                      However, since my youth and subsequent medication for manic-depression keep my mouth fairly dry, my teeth began to decay. And, my pathological fear of dentist’s kept me from getting caps and fillings and what not. So, here I sit on the eve of being a newly divorced,40 something woman with no real teeth left. Haven’t worked out how I feel about this yet 🙂

                    • Sigh. Oh the courses and consequences of living. They say that youth is wasted on the young, but since wisdom is gained only by experience, for most of us, we end up reaping the not so good rewards just about the time we acquire the wisdom necessary not to have done those things. What a long sentence. Are you getting those permanent denture items?

                    • songtothesirens

                       /  January 7, 2014

                      You are so dead on with that statement; if I only knew then what I do now. Hindsight will always be 20/20, and will usually acquire skills we really needed back then in our later years. Ironic.

                      So, the plan is to do a bottom denture that attaches to two titanium implants in my lower jaw. So, the female end is what is going in first. And the uppers are just basic uppers. So, when all is said and done, i will have lowers that snap onto the two hubs on the top of the male end of the implant, and I am going to be buying fixodent to take care of holding in the top. I wish I could just get implants all the way around, but they run about $25-30 K. As it stands, this whole demented project is going to cost around $14 K.

                    • Holy mackerel. You should check out Israel’s “dental tourism” plans. Much more reasonable, from expert restoration dentists. That’s what I would do if I needed such things.

                    • songtothesirens

                       /  January 8, 2014

                      Actually, if Mexico had decent dental care, I would be inclined to go down there. I used to know a group of nurses who would get together about every 6 months, go to Mexico and come with 6 months worth of medication for like a dime on the dollar. And, I know of other people who have gone to other countries to have medical work done.

                      Well, fortunately, my parents are helping me out. Or i should say I am fortunate to have parents that can help me.

  3. HI! i am just letting you know I have nominated you for the Imagine Award, so check out my post to get the rules 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you, Kat! It might take me some time to get to it, because I’m ridiculously busy for a disabled retired person. But I want you to know I’m touched that you chose me!

      Reply
  4. King David was often at a crossroads in the OT, his journey is an inspiring one. I find the Wisdom books to be very uplifting when one has decisions to make.

    Reply
    • One of my shrinks, a Christian, and I spent hours talking about King David and King Saul and their respective mental illnesses. I just finished (well, last year, but that still counts as “just”) reading I Samuel completely in Hebrew! Yay me! What a lot of wonderful stories.

      Are “Prophets” considered OT?

      Reply
      • I think God’s primary intention for prophets was to point to the coming Messiah and to lead Isreal. The secondary intention was to warn His people of upcoming events for them to prepare their hearts. For me, the primary goal is complete, but the secondary goal–that of the return of the Messiah as King and to prepare us for this and what is to come, is still very active. But this is just my “take” on what I have read from the OT and NT. ON the other side, I believe that Satan is very active with his own form of prophesy, although I know you don’t believe in him as a literal figure.

        Reply
        • Oh but we have our conception of forms of evil. The word Satan,pronounced differently in Hebrew, means “spiritual impediment.” I will be writing about the specific forces that work to keep us far from G-d, and it is a constant battle to overcome them. But this too is G-d’s plan. G-d made everything, which means that He also made evil, which is a force that gives us a chance to triumph over it, by using our free will.

          Reply
          • Very interesting! I was just learning from my dear teacher Rabbi Avraham Sutton’s book “Spiritual Technology” and he was writing about the Serpent, whom we see as the source of all evil in the world, and he (R’Avraham) is talking about that very thing, that the Serpent is the source of false prophesy and confusion, fueled by “lashon hara” or evil speech=talking bad about one another, because the world was created by the Word, therefore speech is a very powerful tool either for good or evil, and since prophesy comes via speech, the more we purify our speech (i.e., don’t talk bad about other people), that clears the way for prophesy to enter the world again. Contrary-wise, evil speech sets up openings for the Evil One to get into our world. Our Sages say that evil speech is the equivalent of murder. I’m trying to be very mindful of that, but sometimes I slip up, usually when I’m trying to appease someone, how strange is that? I have to try harder.

            Reply

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