There’s an old joke about a preacher who, trying to shake his congregation into confessing their sins, shouts from the pulpit, “brothers and sisters, tell what’s on your heart. You’ll feel better.” Tales of sinful behavior begin to flow from the parishioners, and the preacher responds to each, “Tell all, brother! Tell all, sister!”
Lustful thoughts, stealing, lying, cheating – the stories continue to flow, and to each the preacher responds, “Tell all, sister! Tell all, brother!”
Finally, a man stands up and confesses to…well, an unusually close relationship with a farm animal. The congregation goes silent, and the preacher says, “well, I don’t think I’d ‘a told THAT, brother.”
I sometimes overshare. It’s a new characteristic. Possibly, I’m unconsciously trying to compensate for 45 years of stoic silence. Whatever the reason, occasionally I write something that I later decide to delete. Sometimes its because it’s a little too intense or scary. Parkinson’s is ugly, both physically and emotionally, and although I choose to write about most of the experience, some disclosures serve no purpose. Sometimes it’s because I realize that not every thought that falls out of my brain needs to come out of my fingers or my mouth. I live an active mental life, and most of it isn’t interesting to anyone but me. And sometimes it’s too painful or embarrassing to disclose, even for me. I don’t typically shy away from difficult topics, but everyone has their hot buttons. I do try to tell the truth, but sometimes my inner preacher tells me, “I don’t think I’d ‘a told THAT, brother.” Just to be clear, I’m employing a metaphor; I am most emphatically NOT referring to farm animals.
I’m in the midst of a change, and I think it’s a beneficial one. I’ve written before about my hobbies. They are important to me, and not just for recreation. So much of my life is shrinking and dwindling that it’s good for me to have new things to learn. If my avocations can serve multiple purposes, so much the better.
Before I was diagnosed, I was a scuba diver. I gave it up, and became a firearms enthusiast. I tried to give that up once. I discovered that it was too soon, and I picked up the hobby again. I am in the process of setting it down once again, but more slowly and deliberately this time. I will miss it, and I will probably keep a toe in the water, so to speak, but I get the sense that it’s time to “start stopping.” It may take months or years, but I am shifting my focus to other things.
Amy and I had a major conflict in the last year over this hobby. She is concerned about my physical safety, and when I started shooting, I told her whenever she became uncomfortable with it, I would stop. She came to me about a year ago, told me she was uncomfortable, and asked me to stop, and I said, “no.”
Those of you who know us also know that this is unusual. She has excellent judgment, an intuitive nature, and is genuine in her concern about me and other people. She has strength of conviction, and when she’s convinced she’s right, she’s like a snapping turtle – she “won’t let go ’til it thunders,” in Texas parlance. We don’t normally have directly conflicting viewpoints, but on this we did, and briefly the sparks flew. You can read about our resolution approach in this blog post.
Just as I can’t always shoot, drive, or even walk, sometimes my decision-making ability is better than at other times, and Amy has accepted the burden of making decisions for us and me when she is concerned my judgment has been highjacked by Parkinson’s. I truly think she hates it as much as I do, but we both accept it, sometimes grudgingly. It changes the balance in our relationship; we are good as partners with different areas of responsibility, but I think she’s better at accepting new areas of responsibility than I am at giving them up. I still have occasional flashes of my “old self,” when I think I’m just as capable as I ever was. They are only flashes, though, and it makes me sad and embarrassed to feel like an emotional burden to Amy.
I think it’s a relief to Amy that I will shoot as a hobby less and less over time, and I think she is supportive of my new avocation, but time will tell. She was the first to suggest it, so there’s that.
I’ve started riding a bicycle. In my last book (you haven’t read it? Shame on you – fix that immediately here), I talked about buying my first bike in twenty-five years. It’s a great bike, but I want more. I hatched a plan for the upgrade and sat down with Amy to discuss it. I ticked off the points in the plan, which included keeping for her the new bike I just bought so we could ride together.
“…and that’s why this is such a great idea, don’t you agree?”
“Well…no. I don’t, especially the part about selling a pistol ‘eventually’ to pay for it. I want the money IN HAND before you buy a new bike. I’m also not convinced this isn’t Requip talking – don’t forget you like to buy things, and this is a biggie,” she said.
Requip is a Parkinson’s drug that can cause compulsive behavior – it causes me to spend money excessively. I have a history, and she has a memory – a crappy combination in some situations.
I took a deep breath, and remembering all the times when she has been right before, I said, ‘OK.” I didn’t mean it then, but that was Thursday and it’s Saturday now. Now, I mean it.
So, I’m in the process of trying to sell one of my last remaining recreational firearms to buy a very nice bike, recommended by my son and son-in-law (experts in the field). In the mean time, I’m riding Amy’s new bike and boxing in between Izzy walks. I’m doing fine, but I am impatient. Two months feels different to me now than it did ten years ago. I’m having to learn to delay gratification all over again, and I didn’t like it much the first time.
The delay will give me time to learn a few things about biking, though. I once asked, “wanna go shooting with a Parkie?” Now, I’ll ask, “wanna go on a bike ride?” I’m not fast (yet) but I do show up.