My Wobbly Bicycle, 142

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 | 13 comments

download-1I’m sleeping, as I usually do, like a baby. And taking naps. But I’m tired. Yes, you say, of course! Jerry’s surgery and illness. Your two—no, three—no, four— years of illness and surgeries. And you’d be right, but I’m thinking about WHY it’s tiring. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s taken care of a sick loved one has expressed a deep fatigue. Here is what I’ve come up with:


It’s not the sitting by a bedside. I can sit and watch birds or waves for a long time, and not feel tired. It’s not the struggle to make conversation. I have sat by Jerry for many minutes without feeling a need to speak. I think—looking back over the past few years—it’s mainly the constant change that wears me down. Okay, I’ve been meditating for many years, and maybe don’t so much grip onto expectations. But it’s



  • having to make many split-second decisions. Shall I get him to the hospital? How sick is he? What will I do with Wally? Oh no, Wally’s sick! How will I get him to the vet, alone, on a Saturday? How can I see my father today and still get groceries bought plus visit Jerry in rehab plus get any exercise for myself?
  • maintaining almost steady vigilance because all routine is out the window. Every day is new. No mindless ordinary.
  • the work that’s new for me, requiring recalibration: pulling on the support hose, the gripper socks, finding the shorts, doing the laundry, doing all the driving, the errands. Trekking back and forth, back and forth, to hospital or rehab.
  • Plus, who can measure the effect of watching the person you love in great pain?


images-1Wait! I’m not looking for sympathy. There are so, so many people living like this. I’m trying to understand about the fatigue, because I feel better about things I can understand. The core—Jerry and I have talked about this and agree—is that all creatures need their nest. They need to return to their nest, on their very own tree, finding the twigs just where they were wedged in, same tufts of feathers, same smells. Especially us old creatures. A trip now and then is great. But we—I’m talking about me—do best with a settled locale, a settled mind.


Even settling into a paralysis, a death, is at least stable. Never knowing what’s next, that’s also hard.  Some of you know exactly what I mean. (All of us know what this means politically.)


Now I’m leaving, starting next week, on several book tours. If I had known. I’d expected Jerry to be fine by now (His daughter is coming to stay while I’m on this first trip, in case you were wondering). My aspiration is to roll with the changes, get plenty of sleep, and use this time, as I always do, as part of my practice in just staying aware, being where I am.


Which makes me ask myself—would a fully enlightened person be able to roll with what is, the particulates of the moment, no judgment of tired/not tired? Then I say to myself, “Well, maybe, but I would be tired whether I used that label or not, because that’s what’s real. And there’s nothing more true than the Truth.”


images-2P.S. Jerry came home yesterday. He’s not in pain. He’s getting stronger. So great to have him here . . .More constant change.


  1. Enlightenment does not absolve you from real life. It doesn’t exist anyway. No enlightenment.

    • Exactly. Who can explain that, though? Thanks. What you say is helpful.

  2. Thanks for writing. I think you have it pegged. Helps to describe. I think anxiety about possibly making the ‘wrong’ decision a factor also…(as if there were a right decision hah) Enlightenment is always where you are, if anywhere, and perhaps nowhere is good too. Hope you can get some rest

  3. I just got up from lying down, something I do every day now. I’ve
    I’ve been having dizzy spells every day for three weeks and am having an MRI tomorrow to see what’s going on, I hope. I know just what you mean about fatigue. I’m so sorry Jerry is having such a hard time(which means you’re having a hard time too) I was supposed to deliver a message to Jerry from Henry Fulton We were in Mt.P for the funeral of a colleague–only 55 years old, so sad–and had lunch with Henry and his wife. He wanted to be remembered to Jerry and sent
    warm wishes to him. Tom and I are Quakers and we’re holding Jerry and you in the light

    Love, Annie

    • Oh, I hope it’s nothing serious, Annie. I’ll hold you in the light, back. Jerry is on the mend, we think. He’s just going to have to work hard to build his strength back.

  4. Fleda, you are such a brick. I can’t imagine the exhaustion. But enlightenment? Some days I think I am there but then, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, CA, “There’s no there there.” Love you.

  5. I shouldn’t even bother to mention enlightenment. It’s all a deflection. Something to muse about. Sometimes I just write whatever comes to mind and then think, Fleda, just shut up for a change. :) Love you.

  6. I really appreciate your wanting to understand what’s going on. I don’t know why dealing with difficult times and situations is easier with understanding, but it’s the same way for me. I’m glad Jerry’s not in pain any more. And I look forward to your interview with Nikki Giovanni. Hope you can get a little rest along the way….

  7. I hope to get to Browseabout for your reading and say hello.

    • Oh good! Hope so.

  8. You’re quite right. It’s not sitting by the bedside. You eloquently describe how unsettled life can be when you’re caring for someone you love and dealing with your own difficulities as well–and you just yearn for life to be routine again.

    I was interested to see Henry Fulton mentioned in one of the comments. Back in the day (way back) I took a couple of excellent courses from him. So I googled him and came across student ratings from 2003 (his last year of teaching?) for English 236, “English Literature: Romantic Period to Present.” This one caught my eye: “…[Y]ou have to know poetry in order to survive in this class.” Do tell!

    • Yes, you know this firsthand, right? And routine begins to seem like a blessed state. Nothing boring about it. Thanks for writing, Ron.

  9. CFS used to stand for Can’t Find Stuff. After my husband’s illness it was redefined by my doctor as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Essentially, it’s the body’s reaction to stress. Stress caused by decision-making, additional work load, worry, not enough chocolate, and too many people asking “Are you taking care of yourself?” (Answer: “Of course not! If I did, calamitous things would happen …!”
    Pick your potion — wine, chocolate, coffee. This too, shall pass. They say God never closes a door without opening another one. What they don’t say is that it’s hell in the hallway.
    I know what you’re going through, and it ain’t easy. But rely on the strong arms and hearts around you, for we all eventually make it through to the end of the hall. It’s just real hard.

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