Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rethinking Unhappiness

I was wrong.

I stated something that was wrong, and I'm sorry.

I can see that others share some of my unhappiness. That makes me feel worse about it all.

I wish there was some way I could stop it from happening. But it looks almost like a natural consequence now, like a storm, or the changing tide, or something like that.

If I could say, don't worry, and mean it, I would. But it probably doesn't matter much any more. The course is set. What will come. will come. If that makes people unhappy, I apologize, but that changes nothing.

I don't know any more answers to all the troubling questions. Seems like I just get more confused.

Finding the way, best I can...


pgk said...


You lost me, Jim. What are you talking about? What's the trouble?

There's no need to apologize. To anybody. Please. Take the energy you're diverting into apologizing and fretting and bend it, like the strong man you are (yes--you still are), toward doing the work you need to do, whatever form it might take. Rehab? Changing something, some small thing? Reaching out for the hands stretched toward yours? Getting up in the a.m.? Finding a reason to go on?

For the record, you're not making me unhappy. You're showing me life as I've never known it before, as I've never understood it to be. You're correcting my spelling of "kestrel." You're being my friend. These are all gifts. Gifts.

What has changed?

I'm not going out walking this morning because the wind is too stiff, having the kind of muscle that blows you around when you walk. We get winds like that around here often. They peel shingles off people's roofs. We lose a few each time.

The upside is the wind and snow scoured the air, so it's beautiful out there. If the wind dies this afternoon, I'll step out with you in mind. If not today, then tomorrow morning.

Peace, Jim. Settle yourself. Try not to spend your energy in this way.

Sometimes people don't know what to say or do.

I'm still here for you, and you're NOT making me unhappy.

pgk said...

On apologizing:

Once when I apologized to a mentor, a man of extensive experience on many fronts, he said (in a British accent), "Don't apologize. Just don't do it again."

I didn't do it again. Whatever it was -- can't remember exactly what.

That's what's needed, not the apologizing but the change you make for the better. That's what makes the world -- your piece of it and the world at large -- better.

It's in the change that repentance truly works its wonder. The acknowledgement of wrongdoing is just a formality.

Though I'm not convinced you've actually done anything as wrong and you're saying you did.

What I hear in your words is some kind of pain. The remorse is incidental to that.

You say the course is set. People said things like that to my husband and me back in the bad old days of deep trouble. Out of the depths of my experience, I say, you don't know enough yet to assert that point so strongly.

And even if it is to some degree correct, you still have power to affect the nature of your situation, which will one way or another affect its outcome.

I know you don't really have any reason to believe me on any of this, your future appears so dim to you. I'm just putting what I've learned out there for you to make something of, if you can. And I think you can.

I'll be sticking close to the computer today. Watch for more comments, please.

If you have anything else to say, I'll be here for that, too.

Jim Cobabe said...


Most of my regret seems to come from feeling the burden I lay on my mom and dad. I have been pretty self-centered about mourning for myself. They carry a lot, too. I always thought it would be the other way. I thought I would help them through old age trials.

Other people, too. Yourself included. I meant to work for people and help them, not make them help me. It distresses me to be so dependent.

Maybe more than anything, the forced realization. I have been in denial. Now, I don't have much choice. If helpful folks don't help, I can do almost nothing.


pgk said...

Not pathetic.

One of the hardest parts of facing mortal crises is letting go of expectations. I had to give up the life with my daughter -- my first daughter, a great light of hope for a woman -- that I had dreamed of and planned for, for life of another sort. At the time, I didn't know what that would be. The docs had no good words, not one.

It's natural to mourn the loss of your expectations. Is this really the first time you've had to surrender your expectations and experience the regret?

The trouble comes when we believe the expectations we're feeling forced to turn loose of are the only options we had open to us. Time to generate new options, Jim. Apply that intelligence of yours. Calm down. Think.

You aren't making me "help" you. I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be. And you can't tell me otherwise. I know my mind on this matter.

Yell, if it will help. I won't take it personally. I might yell back, though.

Jim Cobabe said...


Yesterday was my dad's birthday. I was only thinking about him taking me to the doctor, I didn't have anything else to give but more cares and burdens.

I have reached a point where I recognize that things will probably not get easier for me. Just thinking about typing takes all my power right now. I can't put any less on others -- this is all I can do. I'll let it rest there, since I can do little else. But if my mom or dad should falter, because of me, I would feel bad and guilty.

BTW, it snowed some little bit here last night -- just a couple of inches. The weather is dead calm now, like it sometimes gets after a storm passing. As we drove by yesterday, I watched a big old bald eagle brooding in an old dead cottonwood tree. The cold wind was blowing snow too much for him to be out on the wing that day.

I guess these birds adapted themselves to human encroachment. I never see them preying on live animals any more -- its always some bloody lump of roadkill.

Life finds a way.

pgk said...

Okay, Jim. Thanks for letting me in on the secret.

I'll be back in a bit.

Jim Cobabe said...

I have talked about this, with both parents. Painful, arduous, slow stumbling speaking. They are always so patient, waiting for me to finish the tortured thought. My mom just flat denies that it is ever tedious or burdensome.

My dad tries to make light, or minimize. But I see the worry and care.

Sometimes, I overhear bits of talk that make me feel worse.

If I got to the point of being absolutly unable to care for myself, I don't want any heroic efforts to keep this body alive. I am confident of a better world, when this one is finished. No need for anything unreasonable or extreme to try to keep me here.

Anonymous said...

I know you've been sick for a while now, it must feel so much longer than it is. It must be so hard to be sick and there seems to be no cure to help you get better.

At least you live in a modern place, in a warm home with family that care for you. Plus, Mt. Dew and pain killers are easy to come by.

If I could offer one suggestion for your consideration, it would be to count your many blessigs. Now don't get me wrong, what your going through is an awful trial, but from reading your blogs, it seems you've had a lot of good times with family and friends, so maybe you should spend more time thinking about all the positve things in your life.

I know everyone has to die at some point, but please don't be in such a rush, you've already waited this long, so a few more years can't be to much to ask.

Hang in there, and tell Mr. Death to take a hike!

pgk said...

I'm very glad you talked with your parents, Jim. But I think you're being too quick to dismiss their expressed desire to help. Aside from the fact they're you're parents and feel a compelling urge to help their child, people gain from helping others, even where the helping becomes hard.

If I got to the point of being absolutly unable to care for myself, I don't want any heroic efforts to keep this body alive.

This is a practical consideration, of course, but you're not there now, and I think you're letting the prospect distract you from good things that are happening.

Like I said, I know you have no reason to believe what I say, but I'm going to speak anyway and trust your intelligence to find something meaningful here.

Please listen carefully. People who have suffered a bad accident or fallen upon hard times from illness deserve all the concern and care others are able to offer, regardless of how the accident happened or of what caused the illness. Aside from a person’s will to live, others’ help is the only way people in dire straits will stand a chance of living longer or living a better life.

Now listen up, because this is the important part. Many people who have suffered the degree of brain injury you have or whose health has otherwise taken a tumble lose social functionality. Either the part of their brain that governs social perceptions is disabled or they’re unable to see through clouds of pain, depression, and fear to perceive others’ needs.

These positions are not only understandable, they’re typical for people in your circumstances. What isn’t typical is that you saw through your own behavior of being, as you put it, “ pretty self-centered about mourning for myself.” Many people in your situation can’t do that. That you did shows that, contrary to your belief, you are actually quite aware of others’ needs and feelings.

This is a very, very good thing. Don’t take it for anything less than for how good it really is.

It might be hard for you to see or feel the importance of your insight into your behavior because you’re thinking and feeling so many things right now, including fear and pain, which naturally are very distracting. But what you did today is terribly important, perhaps even something of a breakthrough.

Let me put it this way: something that wasn’t clear for you suddenly became crystal clear. This is a bright spark, not a dark despair. If you build it up, rather than blow it out with guilt or self-doubt, it will light up the dark for you a little. See if you can help it catch a bit more.

I’m not saying you’re on some yellow brick road to recovery, only that you’ve regained a bit of important ground.

This is a long comment, so I’ll stop here. More later. Rest up. If I don't talk to you later tonight, I'll see you in the morning.

BTW, the wind that roared around the house all day has died down. Looks like tomorrow might be a great day for a walk.

Mary L. said...

Hey Jim, I have been reading your blog, but never comment, because I'm never as eloquent as you can still be! Perhaps you've had to slow down so the rest of us can keep up.

Just want to say that I know Mom and Dad consider your company a blessing, and are glad every day that you are with them. The rest of us are, too. Hope it doesn't give offense to say that it seems to me that the three of you are proping each other up. You all need one another, and we need you there! Love, Mary

Jim Cobabe said...


Thanks for reading. The writing I am doing now is more of an expression than ever, because I speak so haltingly now. Typing a message, however slowly, seems to work better. For one thing, I have a tough time with the editor for my speech!

Jim Cobabe said...


I do indeed count my blessings. Under the circumstances, I am far better off than many who have been so challenged. I am not getting more than I can take, but tomorrow is another day.

I have said before, I am hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Whatever it is that the future brings, I'll take it, head-on.

Jim Cobabe said...


Ravens seem the most ubiquitous of birds. They have some kind of social order that is a mystery to me -- all their comings and goings, their solitary sojurns, and group affairs. I feel they are up to something, but they're not telling us.

One of the most spectacular gatherings I ever witnessed was a huge flight of them on wing over the Savage Gulf, a deep gorge, in the Tennessee wilderness. We iel watched their intricate maneuvers as they wheeled and soared over the gorge. Dozens, hundreds of them eventually joined the dance.

pgk said...

I feel they are up to something, but they're not telling us.

Sounds like a conspiracy theory to me.

In his book The Animal Dialogues, Craig Childs tells a mind-boggling story of his encounter with a conspiracy (also called an "unkindness") of ravens that he believed had killed an owl. They had done things like stash the owl's feathers beneath rocks and into cracks in the canyon wall and tried to drive away the humans who were meddling with the artifacts of their victory by dropping stones on them.

Craig says, "I am always prepared for the impossible from ravens."

They are able, he says, to "follow the gaze of another." That is, if you look at something with interest, they'll look to see what you're looking at.

I saw a raven make a spectacular display of prowess in flight a couple weeks ago. Sleights of wing I'd never seen before.

I see so many wonderful things when I'm out walking. The more I go out there, the more I realize there's more going on, intelligence-wise, among animals than we've been smart enough to pick up on. I'll have to tell you about the gate lizards sometime.

Well, I'll tell you now. When I take a certain trail down into the canyon, at one point, I have to open a barbed wire gate. I go down this trail often. This summer, I noticed something strange happening. The lizards that live around that gate -- a lot of them live right around there, because a spring and thick foliage is at hand -- were running toward me when I approached the gate, not away. Watching, I saw they were climbing up onto a rock next to the gate and sitting there, watching me open it, apparently. Usually it was just one lizard or another, fence swifts mostly, but once two ran up on the rock and watched the gate-opening show together. They are cautious but don't seem to mind getting close, just a couple feet away.

Lizards. Go figure.