Processing

IMG_1047I’ve been processing a lot lately. I’ve been evaluating myself, my life, my relationships.  I’ve been looking at what brings me stress and what brings me joy. I’ve been focusing on my motivation and gratitude. I’ve made tough choices, I’ve made changes, I’m leaving myself vulnerable in ways I haven’t in a long time. It’s been scary and difficult and painful but I am moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t have done it without my support system, my family, my close friends.

I still have a long ways to go. I’m realizing that this world and all its ugliness is leaving my soul tired. It’s depressing and makes my heart hurt. It makes me want to run away, buy an island (like I have money for that), and never interact with the world at large again. Instead I need to be a force of change. I can’t run, I can’t hide. I can only do what I can to make the world a better place.

I have to let go of what I can’t fix because in truth, I want to fix anything and everything that brings me sorrow. I am accepting my limitations rather than dwelling on what I cannot change. I’m letting go and opening up at the same time. It’s hard, I don’t like to let go, but it’s a process and one I’m committed to.

Saying Goodbye

Wednesday, February 3rd, the day that no pet owner/parent/guardian wants to face came for me. I had to say goodbye to Dane, my first little dog, my guy, my constant companion of nearly 15 years. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Backing up a little here, I have lost family pets before. However, with every single family pet before Dane, there was always a clear cut, medical reason that eliminated choice. Dane, of course, had to be different (and difficult).  The last year and a half or so, I’d have to guess, Dane slowed down dramatically. He went from being a perpetually spunky little sh!t to suddenly… Slower. Walks took more out of him than they once had. Heat affected him far more than it ever did before. Cold was even worse and his back end occasionally collapsed.

This past September he was diagnosed with early stage kidney disease. He had lost weight and was hunched most of the time. He was already on a joint supplement at this point. After talking with the vet we agreed that daily pain meds were now on the menu along with special food for his kidney function. My sisters (that do not live with me) had been saying for a couple months that he looked like a sad puppy but I brushed it off. “He gets nervous because Milo gets so excited when company comes over,” I’d say. That explanation made sense for the first five minutes until Milo settled in and no longer posed a threat of knocking Dane out. It didn’t explain away his not looking comfortable or the constant nervousness while people he loved were over.

Still, Dane and I trudged on. I bought him a doggy stroller (something I abhor) just so he could continue to go on walks in the neighborhood. I invested in orthopedic dog beds since he couldn’t sleep in my bed anymore for fear of him peeing it. When winter set in I even bought self heating dog beds which I put in the orthopedic bed to help soothe his arthritis.

Since December Dane’s accidents in the house had become more frequent, earning him the nickname “Mr. Puddles.” Thanks to my at home job I was able to put him outside literally every two hours (twenty-four hours a day) but even that wasn’t always enough. My sister and I would be walking around the house in our stocking feet and discover he’d left us a puddle.
I was good with all of this, the additional work of taking care of my senior dog. After all, he was my heart dog, my shadow, my constant companion. Still, I struggled internally for months wondering if it was time, or close to time for us to part ways. My dog loving friends would tell me, “When its time, you’ll know.” The thing is, unless it was a major medical calamity, I wasn’t sure how to tell…

A few weeks ago now Dane started to pee in his dog beds. Sometimes as he was sleeping in them, usually when he was trying to get out of them. I upped his pain meds to his full dose, assuming that it was pain slowing him down from getting out of the bed in time. It didn’t help. Even with going out constantly, he’d still end up peeing his dog bed as he attempted to get out of it and then ultimately crawl back in the wet bed and lay down. It broke my heart. No one deserves to lay in their own filth and no matter if I washed dog beds daily, I couldn’t keep up with him. There are 6 dog beds in my house but still he’d end up laying in urine.

I attempted bellybands but Dane could pee it within an hour. Keeping a wet bellyband against his skin didn’t seem like a wise idea. In a desperate attempt at fixing things I bought a supplement from the internet that was supposed to help with doggy incontinence. I gave him the pills twice a day for a week. I didn’t see a change.

On the one week mark, I couldn’t let him go on this way anymore. It no longer seemed fair to him. I drove my family and friends insane I am sure. Long winded texts explaining our situation and asking what they would do if they were in my shoes. Nearly everyone told me that it was time to let him go. A week before I actually did it, a couple of my close friends came over. Two women who have known Dane for several years now. They both told me he didn’t seem happy or comfortable anymore.

The night before our appointment I took Dane to Wendy’s. He has always loved french fries but for the last few years couldn’t really have them for fear of causing a pancreatitis attack. I got him fries and a plain hamburger. He devoured them! I stayed up nearly all night with him just watching him sleep. I talked to him a lot, cried a lot, pet him a lot, kissed him a lot. My dad came over that morning to go with us. We both cried before we even left my house.

At the vet’s office they took us into a really nice room set up for those last moments with your loved one. There was a couch with pillows, end tables stocked with kleenex, a fake fireplace heater, a little rock fountain. There was also a rug on the floor and a thick comforter on top of that. They wrapped Dane in a soft fleece blanket and I held him, sobbing, during his last moments here on earth. Feeling him relax, seeing his body without any of the tension I’d grown accustomed to seeing made it abundantly clear that I had done the right thing. Even my dad commented, “He hasn’t been that relaxed in years.”

His remains were delivered back home to me the very next day. The crematorium also made his little paw prints into plaster or whatever they use. I put his paw prints in my office so he is there with me, in a way. I know that I did the right thing. I know that Mr. Dane was difficult and made me measure the quality of his life to determine when it was time to let him go. He has forever changed me and I know that he isn’t far away even now.

It’s been heartbreaking and difficult adjusting to my new normal. Dane had
followed me, either physically or with his eyes, nearly every moment of the last 15 years. If I was home I was never out of his sight for long. He always knew where I was and chances are, he was right there with me. After I got home that day and my dad left, I crawled into bed with Frankie and Milo and barely moved. Oliver came in and visited now and then. I’m still not used to the fact Dane is gone. I look for him at times or think, “Oh it’s been awhile, I need to let him out,” only to remember… I don’t… Every break I took Saturday from work, I instinctively reached to lift him from his dog bed to take him outside. It will take time for me to heal but I am at peace, knowing he has found peace at last. He deserved it. Love you Daney Butt.20120908-124646.jpg

Emerging From The Darkness

I am emerging from the darkness. I am once again feeling stronger. After a few weeks of being down, dancing between two emotions; numb or melancholy, the fog is lifting.

Every so often I slip into a low. As my mother puts it, it is like a blanket that covers me and keeps me from being myself. I agree with her, partially. It is like a blanket, or a fog, or a haze that descends upon me. The usual happy go lucky demeanor takes a back seat. I get introspective, contemplative, quiet, and yes- moody.

However, I am still me, this is a part of me. Is it mild depression? Is it just part of my personality? The need to pull back now and then and take stock of my life? I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me, not too much at least. It doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t last. The only time it ever lasted I was on the wrong meds/too strong of a dose. Then I withdrew pretty much all together and spent any time not at work lounging or sleeping in my bed. That is not where I am now. That is not where I have been for a long time. 

To me, there is a certain beauty to darkness. I think embracing it now and then is important. Is it painful? Yes, but it also leads to growth, to joy, to a stronger version of me. Embracing it, as long as it is not stopping me from fulfilling my responsibilities (much), or totally cutting everyone out of my life, or having suicidal thoughts (which I don’t), then I say, embrace away. 

Still, there must be a balance. The dark cannot overtake the light. I mustn’t dwell for too long. Life is too precious, too fragile, too beautiful to focus on the misery and the sadness for an extended period of time. 

I was sort of due for this little segue into the land of sorrow. Uncle John’s birthday was just a week ago. There are other changes going on in my life that I was not thrilled to hear about. I have not been focusing on maintaining a positive attitude. There are a few stressors that had been weighing me down as well. Mix that all together and it’s a perfect recipe to backslide a touch. 

Besides, if I get too comfortable in life, if things are going too smoothly, it makes me a tad uncomfortable. I spent so many years overwhelmed and miserable due to my undiagnosed anxiety disorder that peacefulness can actually be unnerving at times. Realistically I suffered from my anxiety issues for years (at least seven years totally undiagnosed, three of those years experiencing panic attacks that scared the bejesus out of me). Just as I began to learn about my anxiety disorder and seek treatment the health of several relatives went into decline, one right after the other. 

In some ways, I’ve had a rough go of it since I was 17 years old.To be clear, not as rough as many in this life but this is my life, my journey, and my issues to deal with. Sure there were pockets of calm in between but also a lot of chaos, a lot of stress, a lot of… well… a lot. Not to mention the amount of growth a person does in those years regardless of other factors. 

So here I am, learning to adjust to a new normal. One I never imagined but one that I am content with. A normal that sadly doesn’t include people that I assumed would be around a lot longer than they were. A normal that still battles anxiety and depression. A normal with more amazing friends than I dared to believe possible when I was younger. A normal that includes healthy relationships with my family. A normal that is all mine. Yes, I am emerging from the darkness once again.

The World Just Keeps on Spinning

The only constant in life is change and my life has experienced more than a few lately. I’ve not written because… Well, I didn’t know how to word things or what I wanted to address. It has been so much…

My Uncle John passed away December 2nd.  He went back into the hospital back in November. During that time it was discovered he had a bleeding ulcer in his small intestine that was actually cancer, stage 4 to be exact. The hospital recommended hospice care and said there was nothing left to do. Uncle John said he was going to fight to the very end and fight he did. He was hospitalized for approximately two weeks. Got out before Thanksgiving and seemed to be improving. We were trying to get him into a local research hospital but it was too late. 

He went back into the hospital the Friday after Thanksgiving and passed that Monday. It threw us all into a bit of a tailspin. Grief is a tricky bastard, as I have said before. Suddenly there were funeral arrangements to be made, potentially flying relatives in from out of state, notifying people of his passing, writing an obituary, etc. Of course, my job was amazing which was one less thing to stress about. 

During this time, the boy (and he is a boy) that I wrote of from my past, The Marine had come back into my life. Things seemed to be going well until my Uncle’s health took a turn for the worse. Then the Marine bailed on me. Well, I’m sure in his mind his behavior was acceptable but for me, it was the last straw. I want a partner in my life, in good times AND in bad. When he couldn’t be there for me during such a dark time I knew that I had to cut him out of my life. I did attempt talking to him about things. It fell on deaf ears. So I did the only thing I could. Cut him out of my life for good. Deleted him from my phone, from social networking, blocked his number. I wish him well, I just can’t have him in my life. It isn’t healthy and it isn’t fair to either of us. 

Despite these recent losses, I am feeling stronger than I have in a very long time. The family is sticking together and my friends have been a godsend. Things are coming along. Nowadays, I’m focused on all the goodness there is in this life. Yes, there is sadness, darkness, loss but there is also love, light, happiness, and laughter. 

So as I wrap this up for today, I would like to leave with a thought of gratitude. I am thankful for a full belly that came from a lovely breakfast with my sister and my best friend. I am blessed to have the money to go out to eat and wonderful company to share a meal with. I am thankful to be able bodied and remove the snow from my driveway and sidewalks. I am thankful for the love of my dogs that is unwavering. Have a wonderful day people 🙂

In Memory of a Great Friend…

Last Saturday, February 23rd, I learned that a friend of mine had committed suicide. When I found out, I was at work, about two-thirds of the way through my shift. I had stepped in the back to get a drink of water and happened to check my phone. I saw I had a Facebook message from a good friend of hers. I read it and my world started to spin a little. He let me know that my friend CK had passed away. I was in shock, a state I remained in for the rest of the day.  I quickly fired a message back to ask how, etc. She was 32 year old, like me. She had several health issues like Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Crohn’s disease but I hadn’t heard of her having recent health issues or needing hospitalizations. In the pit of my stomach I knew. I knew already how my friend died. Maybe not the method used but I knew she had committed suicide.

CK and I “met” over ten years ago now on some message boards for a show we both adored, La Femme Nikita. She was very passionate about her support of the actors, their characters, and every social issue imaginable. She often got into heated discussions on the message boards and was occasionally banned. While I didn’t see the need to get so worked up  over something online I respected her intelligence and her passion. Somehow, we started communicating. First just some back and forth on the boards themselves, then emails and instant messages. CK  came along at a time in my life when I would stay up half the night on my computer chatting away with multiple people, cruising the message boards, reading things online, and watching television.

As time passed our communication went on to include birthday cards delivered via snail mail, a gift of CD’s she sent to me, and phone conversations. We attempted to meet up when she lived in Ohio but, “The Blackout,” occurred and we both decided that driving several hours when there was no electricity it may not be the best timing.

At first, I felt weird having an “internet,” friend but then I realized that times had changed. It didn’t matter how we knew each other, we were friends. We would talk about our lives, our hopes, our fears, our dreams, etc. We leaned on each other in tough times, encouraged each other in good times. I knew of CK’s health issues fairly early in our friendship. What I didn’t know was the volatile dynamic between her and her mother.

Several years ago CK and her mother moved from their native Ohio to Arizona. The hope was that the warmer climate would make life easier with CK’s medical issues. Perhaps without the bitter cold winters or the humidity her fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis would be tolerable and she could put her Master’s degree to work.

It wasn’t until she was living in Arizona that stories of the fights between her and her mother started to seep out. I was definitely concerned but it seemed like old hat. She kind of blew it off after venting and I figured she was a very strong person, she could handle herself. I don’t know that I’ll ever know the true level of nastiness that CK endured during her too short lifetime.

Sometime during the last year CK and her mother got into a huge fight and she wrote her goodbye’s on facebook. She expressed she couldn’t live this way any longer. She was on the waiting lists for public housing but she said those lists could take years. She couldn’t afford to live on her own, she had nowhere to go. She was going to end it. When I read her status update I immediately started calling her cell phone and home phone. No answer on either. Sitting in my family room in Michigan I was at a loss as to what to do. Then an idea hit, I knew her address, I new her name, her phone number, her mother’s name. So I looked up her local emergency services and called to report her threat of suicide. With all the privacy laws nowadays the dispatcher couldn’t tell me much but she assured me the police had been out to CK’s home and spoke with her at length. My friend was safe. I didn’t care that that was all the information I could be given. My friend was safe, I was relieved. CK ended up in the hospital after that but when she got home she called to thank me for caring. She even assured me she wouldn’t let things get that bad again. It was at this point I started to learn how bad things could be between CK and her mother. The situation with her father was no better.

In the months that followed CK seemed to be doing all right. Sometimes they would fight but they’d have some decent patches too. So when I found out she had shot herself, I was completely shocked. A part of me wonders if I had been a better friend, would she still be here?Was there something I missed? Something I could have done? Should I have pushed her harder to leave her mother’s home and move in with a cousin or aunt or friend that would have been healthier, more stable? Logically, I know that there is nothing I could have done to save my friend. She had attempted suicide several times in her past. She was in a lot of pain, physically and emotionally. She felt trapped by her situation, her mother, her health.

CK was an amazing woman. She lived passionately and truthfully. She was always herself no matter what the circumstances. She had a loving heart, full of compassion. There is so much she could have done in this world had her life not been cut short. Despite the fact she wasn’t on this earth for very long, she made an impact. She challenged people, she encouraged, she supported, she inspired. CK, this entry doesn’t even begin to do you justice. I don’t know that I have the words to adequately describe the person that you were. Wherever you are, I am confident you are now at peace, without pain, and filled with love. Thank you for being my friend all these years.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Grief. Loss. Sadness. Misery. Sorrow. Pain. Heartache. Torment. Mourning. I don’t care what you call it, it sucks. I don’t think anyone can truly, fully, love or appreciate a person until they are gone, which also sucks by the way. We all hear the sayings, “Life is short, live each day as if it were your last, if you love someone let them know, you’ll never know how long you’ll have them.” The list could go on forever. What doesn’t however is life, love, friendships, precious moments in time that end all too soon.

Yes, I am in a bit of a melancholy mood this evening. I’m missing my Grams. I miss my Papa. I miss my Aunt Marianne. I miss Aunt Mickey. I miss the relatives I’ve heard stories about and never had the pleasure of meeting thanks to cancer or drunk driving accidents, heart attacks, or old age. I am missing the friendships that have faded, the dreams we used to have. No matter what you want to call grief or loss it all hurts the same.

The other morning I woke up in my bed and had a moment of confusion. Where was I?  For a moment I almost felt like I was in my old twin bed at my parents’ home, in the room I shared with my sister. Then realization hit me that I was in my bed in Gram’s house. Then another realization hit. Gram is gone and this is now my house, although, it will always be theirs in a sense. This home was their love and their dream. I’m honored to be a part of it. Still, that one little moment kicked my mourning back into the present. I will grieve for the ones I’ve lost for the rest of my life. It never really ends. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be pretty grim. 

Loss is hard. When someone comes into your life and changes it, or helps to mold you into the person you are meant to be, they leave a mark. They become a part of you. My family will always be a part of me whether they are the ones who are still living and breathing or the ones who have passed on. The friendships I’ve cultivated and lost have formed me, for better or worse. The men I have chosen to give my affection to, while they may not always have known the extent of my feelings, they are a part of me, including the loss of them. Letting go is painful.

I remember when my ex and I broke up, as I was sobbing and a mess, my father asked me, “Does it hurt?” In that moment, I was shocked he would ask such a silly question. Obviously, it hurt. Were the tears on my cheeks, the swollen puffy face, the snotting, sobbing mess in front of him not enough proof? Luckily, I only answered with, “Yes.” His answer struck a chord in me and I am still so thankful I answered him simply and without sarcasm or attitude. He said, “Then it was real.” 

Only if we love someone can we be hurt by their absence. Right now, I am taking stock of my losses, saying prayers of thanks for being in my life at all, and trying to move forward. I am attempting to focus on the good times and let the bad memories simply vanish into the sunset. After all, when it is all said and done, who wants to hold onto the negative?  So that is my evening as I drink some wine and reminisce, missing all the people I’ve loved and lost.

Seven Year Anniversary

Today is the seven year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Seven years ago my Papa left this Earth for a better life. I still miss him daily. I can so clearly remember that last week of his life. I have so many memories from the time we spent together as I grew up.

He was a man like no other. I think he set the bar as far as romance and such for me. Until the day he could no longer drive, he would ALWAYS buy my gram something for their anniversary, Valentine’s day, Sweetest Day, etc. He was thoughtful and charming. A very sharp dresser, very meticulous in all that he did. He was one of the best men I have ever known.

Seven years ago, when he fell ill and was hospitalized for the last time he told us, “No more. No more fighting.” And he asked Gram to come with him. She told him at that time that she couldn’t. This year he finally got his wish. She is with him again. They are reunited. I don’t know after seven years of peace if he is still happy with that invitation. Kidding Gram! They were the most in love couple I have ever seen.

While it hurts to know they are no longer “here,” with me,I’m glad they are together again. It seems appropriate that in time for the seven year anniversary of his death, he has his bride once more. There are so many more things I want to say but I can’t seem to find the words.

I love you Gammie and Papa. You two were the best grandparents a girl could have. Not a day will go by that I don’t think of you and miss you.