A buttress for our lives

Buttress1I got an SMS from my housemate Michael yesterday: “Have been camped here at the hospital with Judy since 10:00am. Night rougher than expected – pain and nausea – but coming good today.”

Well, that was excellent news. Judy has just had a double hip replacement, meaning she woke up yesterday with two spanking new titanium hips – in pain but with a future of pain-free stretching in front of her. She’ll be in the hospital for a week, in rehab for another, and then home to learn her way back to a fully physical life. That’s a big ask for Judy, who is one of the most active 60+ people I know. She cycles long distances, swims for hours, walks forever, kayaks and dances and gardens and does yoga. But it hasn’t been easy for her the past many months, and it won’t be all roses for the next two or three.

So Judy might be lucky that she belongs to a small community with an explicit intention to provide support for one another. I mentioned in a recent post that this was one of our three core intentions in setting up our intentional community (along with “to share interests” and “to save money”) – now and into the future. Perhaps even into the far distant future.

For the past while we’ve given Judy a hand here and there. We cut her slack in housecleaning duties and don’t let her push the wheelbarrow.  We’ve picked up some of her share of the responsibilities we all have for looking after the house and gardens. (Not all that much, mind you, as she’s an excruciatingly self-sufficient woman.) The heavy-lifters in the house raised her bed onto big blocks so it will be at the right height when she comes home. Eve has been giving her special yoga exercises/practices to alleviate her pain and keep up her strength and flexibility. Everyone has been an ear for her when she’s been in pain or worried about the surgery. Things like that. We’ve been providing support.

When Judy returns, the support will continue. Michael will carry the brunt of it, as husbands do, but we’re all there to provide support for him as well. He won’t be the only one helping with Judy’s special stockings, or doing the cooking, or guiding her exercise program, or giving her encouragement.

This is of course not the first time we’ve provided mutual support.

A few years ago Daniel was trying to extricate himself from his business; he was so close to striking a deal with his partner, but they couldn’t seem to stay on the same side of the table long enough to iron out details and make it work. Daniel was completely resigned about it. From where I sat, I could see how close they were, and could see what was missing for Daniel to be able to drive the deal home. Daniel grabbed the coaching, did his planning, set up a meeting with his partner, and walked away with exactly what he wanted. To this day, Daniel acknowledges me for my contribution in that.

I have walking and movement challenges, the legacy of a polio attack when I was very young. I find everyone in the household to be empathetic and discerning. Add to that Eve’s yogic talent for understanding bodies, then giving them the exercise they need while relaxing and unencumbering them – and you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m in very good hands here.

Yesterday Daniel sat beside me at my computer for over half an hour converting my Shedders document for e-pub in Calibre (I’m sure you’d love me to explain what that means but I won’t). A half hour isn’t much, but the amount of time Daniel has contributed to me and everyone else here over the years as he’s solved our various computer mysteries adds up to enough to guarantee him decades in heaven. Do I need to mention that he lives a couple metres away, just across the hall, and doesn’t charge a cent?

These are but a few examples of what the Shedders provide for each other on a daily basis.

I did an interview on the subject of co-housing this week (as you can tell, I’m becoming such an expert) with a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald who is planning a feature story on the subject. He asked a piercing question: “I can see it’s working out for you six,” he said. “But have you thought that you might be a special case? Perhaps you’re a rare breed with enough money, the right life skills and the special drive to make it happen and make it work.”

His question really gets to the heart of this blog: the reason I’m writing it, and the reason I wrote Shedders, is because I think what we’re doing is more than just an interesting tale. It’s working for the six of us – but I don’t think we are by any means unique. I speak to Meg in Sydney, Godfrey in Bellingen and Paul in Vancouver who are in the process to trying to launch something similar to what we’ve done, and I think, yes, they’ll do it and they’ll profit from it, exactly as we have.  As Eve said when we talked about the interview, “I can tell you what it took to accomplish what we did. Two things. We have a strong desire to belong, and we have a willingness to give things up.”

I reckon that’s true of a lot of people.

When all is said and done, it’s support that we’re all after. Emotional, physical and intellectual support. We know we will profit from having our lives, our projects, our dreams buttressed by others.

* * *

Buttress2 I took this photo of the famous Curtain Fig when we were in the Atherton Tablelands a few months ago. Now, THERE is a tree – held up high in the sky by thousands of supporting hands.


* * *

NB: The six of us have flagged that we need to have a discussion about what things might look like when the survivors here get really old. Walkers-demented-home-bound old. That’s a whole different level of caring and not what I mean by “support” in this post. I’ll give you a rundown on that conversation when we’ve had it. (Don’t hold your breath. It’s not a subject we’re keen to discuss.)


5 thoughts on “A buttress for our lives

  1. \Dear, dear Heather….alert your housemates that your Aunt ,Shirley Burton is putting plans into effect that will involve them. I am having a knee replacement soon, and plan to fly to Australia for my recuperation… so I can have you all’s support…. Yahoo!…. 😵

    Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2013 23:04:10 +0000
    To: fsburton2005@hotmail.com

    • Hi Anne. A photo of Judy from yesterday showed her looking very hard at work in her walker – and very beautiful. I’ve passed on your good wishes.

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