Walking into a new life

This past week has been one of turmoil, not all of it good. I find myself at a place on the map marked: here there be dragons. I feel unhinged, displaced. I feel astonished, humbled. I find myself staring into the distance and wondering how I arrived here. Life is a journey. Yes. It is. And sometimes it’s bewildering, sometimes exciting, sometimes all those things.

So much of my life

these past 12 years has been about publishing other peoples’ work, about helping to nurture and guide voices into existence. It has been such a privilege. I find myself not quite sure who I am, or what I am, now that I’ve hung up the hat of publisher. And I also find myself frequently bursting into tears whenever some acquaintance or associate or friend writes something privately or on social media about their experience with me. I keep asking myself: who is this person of whom they speak?

That

‘s also caused me to realize not only is life a journey, but it’s kind of like an advent calendar. We think the calendar is one thing. We open a panel and find another image. And each day that image expands until we have some semblance of the total picture. But in truth, we don’t really understand the whole picture unless we rip the entire cover away. And that’s the way I feel. I thought I was this. And then someone illustrated for me that I was also that. And this also. And also something other. It is a strange feeling, and a strange place to be.

And by now many of you will see I’ve decided to keep alive the Five Rivers Publishing domain, and forward my person site to Five Rivers. It just seemed a sensible thing to do, given how robust the architecture is for Five Rivers as compared to Lorinastephens.com. I guess that’s also sort of fitting, because Five Rivers started as a platform for my own work, so returning to that is kind of closing the loop. Still, it feels vaguely self-aggrandizing and pretentious. I know, I know, I always said to all our authors to promote themselves, while all the time I couldn’t promote myself.

All that aside, the reason I stepped through this other doorway to a land beyond, as most of you know, was to take care of my dear husband’s elderly folks. That hasn’t gone particularly well to this point, now that we’re coming up on five weeks in. We both knew it was going to be a lot of work. And it is. And we do that with love and compassion and the utmost care we can, doing everything to try to make sure they’re safe, as healthy as can be expected, nurtured and loved. But it is also a sad reality that sometimes those who most need our help don’t want it, or reject it, or find our assistance suspect. That is of great concern. How do you know when to back off? Do you just let a person step off the ledge and let them fall? Do you tie them up to prevent that fall? How far is too far? How little is too little? And those questions are mostly why there are dragons on the map, because it never occurred to either of us that maybe our act of compassion wold be misinterpreted, or rejected. How do you know when you’re doing more harm than good?

 

We’ve had a veritable army of health care workers sweep through our home on a daily basis. That’s slowing now the initial assessments have been done. But that has also raised other concerns given this all happened in the perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. So we’ve become rigorous in demanding people arrive with gloves and masks, that social distancing where appropriate is exercised, but how do you social distance when it’s a care worker there to bathe your father-in-law, or a speech therapist to assess his difficulty swallowing, or the RNP who is checking on his general welfare?

It all seems rather arbitrary and somewhat useless, and I find myself hoping no one has been exposed, or is a carrier, and that my in-laws will remain unaffected. It’s as concerning as caring for young children.

And there’s also concern about mental health, and how to navigate that, assess that, deal with that. New territory. Here there be dragons.

What I do know, most definitely, is my sister is a hero, because she did all this with our mother three years ago. And Mother was not an easy woman to love or live with.

Anyway, here we are on the map, charting unknown territory, finding our way. I have to believe in the hope of tomorrow. A problem is just a solution waiting to happen.

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