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Sunday, September 4, 2011

One Wise Reader Asks an Excellent Question--"How is Susie? Are you helping her to heal?"--and my Immediate, Sincere, Open, and Honest Response

A dear "old" (meaning long-time) friend of mine watched the YouTube video of the dancing in the Mezzo disco Friday night a week ago and posed the following excellent question: "Just spent 7 and a half minutes watching this, and all I could think of, is "How is Susie?"  Are you helping her heal?"


And here, without any editing, except for the deletion of any identifying information about this friend, is my immediate, sincere, open, and honest response:

Dear _____________,


You'll have to ask her that.  She's the best judge of what's helping her heal.  Actually, she recently moved over to our friends, the Oliver-Olsens, not far away, because she feels she's getting more pampering there. I see Susie every day, but it's good for her that we have friends who are willing to share the burden and blessing of caring for Susie.  


I've done a lot for Susie, but feel free to ask her if she thinks I've done enough or could do more.  And if you feel really strongly about it, I suppose you could make arrangements to take a leave of absence from your job, as I retired before Susie ever got hurt, and come here to help actually take care of her yourself.  I'm sure she'd appreciate that material, as opposed to verbal, gesture of support.

I haven't ridden my bicycle since Susie's bicycle crash and my return from California.  I go dancing three nights a week, and on Sunday morning at my new Baptist church, which is like going to the disco with Jesu.  All that dancing is great for my body, my soul, and my emotional well-being.

I frequently ask Susie if she'd like to go to the Mezzo outside patio where she could, if she chose, sit quite comfortably at a table with her friends, or by herself, and watch me put on a show of totally uninhibited dancing for the crowd of hundreds.  She chooses not to go with me, which decision I respect, but she would be most welcome there, and people in the crowd would, I am quite sure, be quite sympathetic to her.

I also am going to Miller's Pond whenever I can, about two miles from here, in Durham, where Susie and I used to go skinny-dipping when we were students, in our early days together.  I meet lots of people there, of all ages, races, and backgrounds, and it's a very lovely spot for taking in some rays and swimming in clear, clean, fresh water, without being more than 10 minutes from Susie at any time.  You can Google it if you want to see.  Because of that, I'm not spending any time driving to Rhode Island as I used to, spending three hours in round-trip transportation and not enjoying life in that mode half as much as I am presently enjoying life.  I've also suggested Susie go with me, sit in the shade and read a book while I swim and sun myself.  She always declines.

I plan to try my hand (to use an appropriate but, perhaps, misleading, metaphor) at stand-up comedy in New Haven where the start your off with 5 minutes and, I suppose, go from there if you don't fall totally flat.  I have hours of stuff to make people laugh, or try to, who are predisposed to giving a newcomer a fair "funny-bone" hearing.

You are free to judge me any way you wish.  I know what my life is all about, from the inside out, in ways which you'll never understand.  I expect the same is true of you, especially since you hold things much "closer to the vest" than I now choose to do.  So, with respect to my life, judge away, because God, not you or anybody else, will be my final judge.  

Live your life any way which makes you happy, and if you think you can do a better job of caring for Susie, feel free to come to Middletown and stay with her if you really want to help her in a material, as opposed to a merely verbal, way.  I have done some "heavy lifting" in the Department of "Caring for Susie" and make no apologies to anyone for anything I've done, or haven't done, for her.

I hope when you are on your death bed, and I hope that day is a long way off, you will have lived your life in such a way that you have few regrets, both in the way you took care of yourself and your family and friends.  And that, precisely, is what I'm trying to do.  

When you were here recently, (your spouse) kept harping at me, "Would you please stop focusing so much on your near-suicide attempt last year."  (Your spouse) probably has never faced the choice of actually deciding whether he or she should live or die.  I have, and it certainly frees the spirit in ways which status, alcohol, sex, drugs, travel, shopping, making money, acquiring things, and every other form of pleasure known to, and devised by, men and women, do not.  

I was relatively free until I became about 13, and then I was enslaved by various passions and anxieties from which I am now mostly free.  I do not know anyone who seems to have the same degree of internal freedom which I have, although, again, I don't know very much at all about anyone else, except the little I see on the outside of their lives. Nearly killing my body, and some really hard work in psychotherapy, has enabled me to achieve that freedom.

You may tell yourself a story that my response is "defensive," to use the Freudian metaphor with which we all have become so familiar with.  And maybe you're right, but maybe you're wrong.  Only God can judge.


Thanks for your thoughts, which I truly do appreciate.  I wish you Godspeed in all your endeavors, and your personal journey, both internal and external.

With affection and respect,

bob

cc: Susan Price Dutcher
     Bob's blog (with your name and identifying information deleted)

5 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,
    I've emailed you twice asking to be removed from your blog's email list but your automated reply informs me that you cannot take the time to respond to my email. A response is not necessary, please just remove me from your blog's email list.
    Thanks,
    Chloe
    chloe.bolton@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. THIS IS AN AUTOMATED REPLY.

    MR. DUTCHER REGRETS HE CANNOT TAKE TIME AWAY FROM WRITING HIS BOB'S BLOG TO RESPOND TO YOUR MOST INTERESTING AND HEART-FELT INQUIRY.

    IF YOU WISH TO CONTACT MR. DUTCHER ABOUT MATTERS RELATING TO BOB'S BLOG, PLEASE CONTACT HIS PERSONAL ASSISTANT, SUSAN P. DUTCHER, ONCE SHE RECOVERS FROM THE LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES SHE SUSTAINED IN THE JULY 2, 2011 BICYCLE CRASH.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND CO-OPERATION.

    PLEASE NOTE: THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY BOB IN BOB'S BLOG ARE SOLELY HIS OWN AND DO NOT REPRESENT THE OPINIONS OF GMAIL.COM, GOOGLE.COM, OR ANY READER OF BOB'S BLOG, WITHOUT THEIR PRIOR EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT.

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  3. To my dear old friend who asked the original, excellent question, "Just spent 7 and a half minutes watching this, and all I could think of, is 'How is Susie?' Are you helping her heal?", I'd ask, in turn, "What are, in your opinion, the 'appropriate' ways for a caretaker of another person to take care of themselves? And should a caretaker only spend time with the cared-for person? Is it 'appropriate,' in your view, for the caretaker spouse to play a few hours of tennis or golf several times a week, for example? If I had posted a YouTube video of rounds of tennis or golf which I played, rather than a video clip of a disco where I danced for a few hours, would you have even thought to ask the question you did? Why or why not? What's the difference whether I get my exercise, and mental health time away from my caretaking duties on the tennis court, the golf course, or the disco floor? Would it make a difference if I were having a romantic relationship with my tennis or golf partner, but none with anyone I've danced with in the disco? Why or why not? These are serious questions, and I assume you were asking a serious question, so I gave you a serious response, although probably not the one you were hoping I'd give. I'm interested in your wise counsel on these matters, since you seem to have a highly-developed nose for sniffing out 'inappropriate' recreational activities, Javert." All best, the Dancin' Grandude

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  4. dancing is wonderful.

    i would ask the person you are caring for what is most helpful and appropriate to her to aid in her healing. and i would listen to her response.

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  5. Thank you very much, Anonymous, for your to-the-point and wise response. On further reflection, it was NOT appropriate for me to respond to my dear old (read that, long time) friend's question with what amounted to an angry and defensive response. My angry feelings were, I suspect, an expression of a conflict I have about my balancing my wife's need for my support with my own need for fun and public performing.
    Somewhere along the line, I've introjected a cultural presupposition that husbands and wives should spend the bulk of their time together and should not spend much time pursuing their own interests, even if their own interests are in no way a violation of their marital vows.
    Some couples may be happy living in a state of what I call "joined at the hip." Others find that degree of togetherness suffocating, destructive of the relationship, and detrimental to their ability to find joy in the activities they do enjoy doing together, as well as those they enjoy doing separately.
    From now on, I am going to try to absorb, but not respond to, any comments or emails which any of you post on Bob's blog or send to me directly. I shall continue to report on my life, as truthfully and honestly as is consistent with protecting the reasonable privacy interests of my family, but no good purpose is served by my attempting to "defend" myself from the authentic criticisms of others. Your life is yours, mine is mine. I have a hard enough time managing my own life without trying to insert myself into the management of yours. Feel free, if you feel the need, to analyze or judge my life, or not. Whatever you choose is fine with me.

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