What Addie Taught me

Addie was a beautiful black flat coated retreiver mix we got when my chocolate lab/golden mix Mocha was diagnosed with Mast cell cancer in 2013.  When I knew Mocha was sick and didn’t know how long she might have, the idea was that having another dog to come home to would help me deal with the loss of Mocha.  I gave Mocha K9 Immunity Factor and she lasted almost another two years until she was miserable and I had to let go.  Addie came to us through a search with Petfinders.com.  We got her just from her picture and description of her foster mom, without even meeting her. She came from a foster environment of 7 dogs and 10 cats.  She adjusted well and let Mocha be the alpha dog.  Initially she didn’t listen to me well.  I did that thing I saw in a movie once, and I bit her ear to let her know I was the Alpha dog.  It worked, and she was a very good girl after that.   She was also very clever.  She could use her paw as a hand in a way I’ve never seen another dog do.  And when my husband left for work at 3:30 am every morning, she stealthily climbed right into his warm spot on the bed to be there when I awoke.   She knew she wasn’t allowed on the bed when he was there, and she climbed in the second he left the room.

Addie had been a wild thing. She had been living on the streets of Addieville, Illinois and almost hit by a truck, when her foster mom rescued her and she had her for two years.  She was the sweetest most loving dog ever, probably somewhat insecure, but very smart and very attentive. She was the only dog I ever had who could catch rabbits.  I had to dispose of many every year. Even two weeks before I put her down, she killed her last rabbit before I could stop her; she was that fast.  When I put down Mocha, I did come home and appreciate and love her up, but I also resented her for not being Mocha.  In some ways, while I grieved, I hated her for not being Mocha. Mocha was my dream dog. The two breeds I wish were breeded together more, and the mix I’ve never seen again.  But Addie didn’t give up on me. She just kept loving me up, and eventually I fell deeply in love with her.  That’s what she taught me. No matter what is going on, if you just keep putting out love, eventually the hardest nut cracks and things change.

In my very early career, before nursing school, I was an activity aide in a nursing home.  There was a very mean, cranky old lady there who yelled at you from the minute you walked in her room.  I thought, this woman is very miserable.  I must find a way to get her to trust me and open up.  I spent days and days going into her room and being pleasant no matter how she yelled at me.  At the end of the year, I had become able to bring another 5 patients into her room and do music groups in her room and she participated.  That was a huge transition for her. I learned something from this.

People and dogs don’t bite unless they’ve been trained to do so and abused.  Unconditional love, no matter what, if you’re very patient, can be transforming. Addie reminded me of that important lesson, because I was very bitter and broken without my Mocha.  I grew to love Addie. My husband says I took it worse than Mocha, and actually he did as well, even though whenever she did something wrong, she was “my dog” 😉

Life threw me a curve. My plan to have another dog so when I lost Mocha to Mast cell so it wouldn’t hurt so bad didn’t work.  A year ago, Addie was diagnosed with Grade 3 Mast cell cancer, a rare and much more virulent form of the disease.  My vet said he’d only seen 3 cases of this in 30 years.  My heart broke again.

But Addie taught me to never give up on love.  Just keep putting it out there to the world.  Love is the reason we’re all here, and we all need more of it.  Just keep putting out love to the people and beings we wish to have it from.  You keep putting it out no matter what happens, and surprising things can happen if you’re patient and never give up on hope.  You never know what, when, or how,  but if you never give up good things happen.  Sadly, she also taught me that there no way to avoid the pain of loss either, we have to be brave enough to go through it, and then be brave enough to love again.

 

What Addie Taught me

Doggie Love

Perhaps the second greatest compliment I’ve ever received, is being told by my husband that he wanted to come back, if reincarnation exists, as my dog.  My favorite compliment of all time was from a Shepherd breeder/trainer, who needed to find a new home for an amazingly gorgeous 5 year old black fully trained Shepherd.  My husband was still reeling from the death of our Mocha and he said no, but it broke my heart. The breeder said “I’m extremely careful about who I let take our dogs, but I know how much you love your dogs and I’d feel comfortable with you taking him.”  This precious animal, and this statement, was the greatest compliment I’ve ever received from any living soul.  We sadly didn’t get him, my husband was still too raw, and I needed to respect that.  But I will never forget the enormous amount of grace that was in her offer and this statement.

It takes alot of courage to be a pet owner, but especially a dog owner because they bond with us in a different way from other animals.  And the bonding and the love is very easy.  These precious creatures want nothing more than our love.  It’s so simple to give.  We spend a little time training compared to the years of the happy greeting when we arrive home, or the joy of knowing a walk is about to happen.  Addie, my current dog, jumps around in circles in glee.  You can’t watch that without feeling some joy yourself and smiling.  It’s the aging and the death that breaks our heart in unfathomable ways.  And even with her body being consumed by illness at this point in her life, turning away at what used to be her favorite foods, too weak to jump up on the bed anymore to join me and take my husband’s spot when he leaves for work- while it’s still warm,  if I go near the door or  leash, the dance of joy will still begin.   We would be so lucky to be dogs, to be made happy by so simple of pleasures, and feel joy with so little from others.  The amazing love of dogs is what makes dog owners courageously take that step again down the road.  It’s hard, for sure. Not everyone can do it more than once. I totally understand.  This little sign helps.

 

 

Image result for it came to me that everytime i lose a dog

 

Doggie Love

Has Anyone Seen my Big Girl Panties?

Have you seen them?  I can’t seem to find them anywhere.  I have notes all over my house telling me to find them but I don’t seem to know where they are. Do you know what they are?  I just found out what they were a couple of years ago.  See, sometimes it takes more than being old to earn a pair.  You can’t buy them anywhere, drats.  And know what else?  You really don’t want them.  Someone should be selling these somewhere, are you kidding me?  What a goldmine! Come on Victoria’s Secret!  Can’t you just see those stick thin runway models with their 9 inch heels and feather wings wearing panties saying “Big Girl Panties”!

A few years ago I was whining to a friend who told me to put them on.   It’s the idea of them that works.  She said ‘I have to tell you something that will be hard to hear, put on your big girl panties and deal with it’ and I had never heard that before.  But it’s pretty funny the impact those words have.  Just imagining them can make me feel more grown up.  My friend has passed on now, those are child words for harsh grown up life, but she did leave me this wonderful legacy of these words.  When we were little, we all wanted to be big girls.

I shared this with a patient a few months ago when she was at the beginning of a tough emotional journey.  Now she emails me regularly telling me of her struggles, but always that ‘she’s wearing her big girl panties’ and that this really helps.  And I’m glad it does. Just reading those words on those notes all over my house helps me too.

I never ever want to put them on.  I want to cry and scream and fight and numb myself to the pain of life.  But seeing those words reminds me to at least look for them and try to put them on.  Maybe it might help you too.

PS- There is nothing in the Big Girl contract that says you can’t eat a gigantic chocolate chip cookie the size of a planet along with a chocolate malt to wash it down for breakfast.

And because you’re such a big girl, you put two scoops of chocolate flavored green food powder in and now you’ve gotten all your veggies today.  Well done!

Has Anyone Seen my Big Girl Panties?

We’re not all pretty and life isn’t fair

Sometime when you’re mind is all messed up and you feel so unattractive, you don’t want to leave the house, go to Ted talks and watch “The Ugliest Girl in the World” .  This will help you put all your flaws in perspective.  Then think about this young lady I know, who was born tragically mis-formed, who looks a million times worse than that lady, who has actually not only left the house, but gotten a job for a major company working with the public, and gotten a degree, and even had a boyfriend.  Now imagine, and this is true, her coming home to find her mother suicided.  Right?  You can’t even imagine.

I can’t imagine her life or what it must take her to go out and keep living.  I don’t know what she’s doing now.  I met her at a college, and I saw her at the Walgreens, but that was before her mother suicided.  Couldn’t her mother gave gone somewhere public?  Couldn’t her mother have given her at least this courtesy?  Nope, B had to go home and find her brains splattered all over the apartment.  No, life is not fair, not at all.  Why is it that we feel it should be?

We feel really sorry for ourselves alot, we think life would be easier if we were prettier, and yes, it would be.  On the other hand, if you’re really pretty, then people are always looking at you and predators are always trying to manipulate you and get something from you, or you could end up marrying Donald Trump and what a mind f-ck!  To have signed a contract to appear at a bully’s side while staying silent, and be sooo grateful he loves golf more than you.  How lonely and sad, you’ve been captured by the predator.

Life isn’t fair.  Why is it that we feel it should be?  Why do our parents make us share when we grow up hardly anyone ever does.  They tell us when we’re young we have to be fair, but they’re not.  When I grew up, children were “to be seen, and not heard”.  What?  How insane is that?  What were we then?  Just possessions?  No wonder, being pretty was so prized.  If you’re pretty and you stay quiet, you’re just the best little thing!  So you’re not quiet, and not that pretty;  bad girl!  You’re punished for being you.  So half of us do get punished by parents who have no idea what they’re doing, and the rest of the babies are truly loved and cherished.  I always tell my broken angels, try to find one of those for you life partner.  It will help you keep things in perspective.  When you’re broken,  life really isn’t fair.

Some of us are born a little more broken. We’ve inherited genes to make us different, and different is hard.  Different also leads to lots of innovation, and some broken angels are actually loved too- half in fact.  Great for them.  What about the rest of us?

I finally lost weight.  A lifetime of being chubby might actually be past since it’s been two years.  But I’m old now.  When you lose weight, or alot of weight, you still don’t look that great without clothes on.  You get stretch marks and cellulite bumpiness.  When I’m in yoga, I get hot.  I wear clothing that shows all my bumps.  I feel guilty for grossing out people.  Then you go to the beach.  There’s all those guys wearing skimpy bathing suits and they have huge guts, and I wonder, look at them, they’re so comfortable in their own skins, aren’t they lucky?  But some of those flabby not so pretty people?  They’re just you and me with all their flaws, trying their best to be brave out there and do their thing.  Try to applaud them.  Try not to stare.  Try to look at their best feature and think look how nice their legs are.  I try to focus on my feet, which works well in yoga.  I’m very lucky to have nice feet and nails.  Nope, life isn’t fair, but it’s what we make it, and how we think about it that makes us one of the ok people with a hanging gut over the swimsuit, or a hiding miserable hermit.  So just get out there.  Make “imperfect” be Ok.

 

We’re not all pretty and life isn’t fair

Join the “You Matter” brigade

I think it can be truly amazing what a little kindness can do.  Below, you will find the link to an easy activity you can join.  A therapist is on a mission to spread these two words, and it’s amazing – as you will read- what those two words can do.
This morning i was deep in thoughts about meeting committments and how my work would be received by those I was preparing it for.  Doing over some projects for the 3rd time, because my first two efforts didn’t have my full attention and my results displayed that.  Yesterday I did my first of the third effort.  For once, i wasn’t pre-occupied with the other projects I was worried would dissapoint, and to my surprise, the product was perfect.  I actually took the time and looked over what I was trying to accomplish so desperately and realized I was making it much much harder than what was required.  Imagine that!  How often do we do this to ourselves?   Likely alot.
Then I went and did something for someone else.  And a little while later, something very unexpected was done for me.  Hmmmm, interesting.
Yesterday, like today, I have to do something social I’m not very comfortable with.  Like some others close to me, I get alot of social anxiety and dread before I’m going to be with a group of people I don’t know that well.  I feel judged by how I look, what I choose to wear, and how I act.  Yesterday, I went to that lunch because I’m hoping I can push through and make myself go to my 45 High school reunion this year.  I want to go because I said I would.  The people I know best from my high school days are all long gone.  I hung with a wild crowd back then.  I do know some high school people now, and how I got to know them was attending my 20th reunion.  I have no idea how I had the guts to go to that one on my own and just going through a divorce, but I did, and it paid off.  That’s why I’d like to go again.  The opportunity to connect with some like minded souls could be good.  The lunch I went to yesterday- I was suprised and delighted to find out that the Trump lover troll that drove me crazy on Facebook; also drove all of them crazy on Facebook- and that at the 43rd reunion he proudly introduced his 23 year old bride!  That explained alot!  (He was 60 at the time).
So “You Matter”.  Of course you do.  Of course I do.  When we actually shut off that internal harassment we call our thoughts and give things our full attention in the moment – it pays off.  It’s all ok.  We’re all very imperfect and it’s all ok.  Give someone you care about your full attention and focus just on them for a little while.  It can pay off.  Give yourself your full attention.  Guess what?  You matter.  You’re worthwhile.  You’re loveable – exactly the way you are.  Your quirks are what make you interesting.  They’re what make life interesting.  Other people have the same quirks.  It’s ok.
Two Words That Can Change a Life, by Cheryl Ricehttp://www.dailygood.org/story/1420/two-words-that-can-chan . . .

Join the “You Matter” brigade

How much happier would we be if we all felt lovable?

 

I’m stuck by the numbers of young people who impulsively take their own lives for no “good” reason.  Many of these kids come from loving homes, at least by the amount of grief expressed, they appear loving.  But perhaps, although I haven’t watched the “16 reasons why” show streaming (yet), perhaps there are actually reasons.  So, I’m one of those kids who tried to take their life when I was 13.  It wasn’t a gesture.  It was a real attempt. A full bottle of 200 aspirin is a real attempt.  It didn’t work.  You could say I got lucky, but I will tell you that it wasn’t just an impulse.  The attempt might have been an impulse but the feeling had been brewing for a long time.

What’s bringing this all up for me?  Mother’s Day.  I don’t think I will see any of my children this Mother’s Day.  I will be spending it with my mother and sister and many others I love and I’m looking forward to it.  All of us are pulled in many different directions and have many obligations.  I understand that.  What makes mother’s day the hardest for me is my relationship with my mother.  Since my father was abusive or absent, I spent most of my therapy time dealing with my anger towards him….and I never really addressed my resentment towards her for not protecting me, actually she was the one who set me up in the bull’s path so she was the cause for much of my abuse.  But one thing I still knew even then, and it’s probably why I survived.  I knew the bull loved me.  My mother in her later years finally says  now “I love you”, but somehow, it doesn’t reach my heart as real.   I think you have to hear it when you’re young to believe it.  I know she did loving things.  I remember multiple occasions of her rubbing my knees with alcohol when they hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep.  But moms in the 50s didn’t have all the instructions and information mom’s have now.  We didn’t have any sleep ritual involving reading.   And we didn’t have much quality family time.  And when my mother went to the doctor about my standing at the top of a 16 step staircase in a 3 flat, and holding my breath until I passed out and fell down – he told her to “ignore it, and it will stop” and yep, that did work.  Nowadays any moron would know something was seriously wrong and try to figure out what it was.

I understand that technically, my mother lost her mother when she was 3 when her father died.  It was during the great depression, and he had an accident with the car.  He was working on it, it was wind up cars then in 1933, and it ran him over as he worked on it. He died gradually over a prolonged year or so, and I’m sure my grandmother was absent emotionally.  My aunt who was 8 years older took on the childcare for my mother.  Her childhood also ended at that time.  Times were different, and my aunt did the best she could.  While my aunt attended school, my mother was alone in her crib.  Needless to say,   what happened, happened, and I’m sure she did the best she could.   My aunt today is an amazing woman in her 90s.  I can talk to her about anything and I love her dearly.

My brother and sister in law won’t be attending the Mother’s day celebration.  In the last piece; “finding the gift in the sorrow” that was my brother who finally admitted after 50+ years that he also found our family life and lack of love astounding, first when he had his own children, and later again when he had his own grandchildren.  Later in the day this sunday, we will go spend time with them in a separate Mother’s day celebration.   My mother feels so hurt not to be invited to that.  She doesn’t understand that her failure to protect my brother from the recent abuse (a lawsuit) was the final straw to end a relationship from the stoic boy who never complained.   She never learned from her mistakes. Sad.

Emotionally, my father’s mother felt more like my mother.  She died suddenly when I was 11.  I grieved my “mother” when she died.  She is the only one I remember who made me feel cherished. Between that age and age 40, I’ve never felt that loved again except by my second husband Rich, and believe me when I tell you the power of a love like that can really transform your life.  But I do recognize, not everyone missed getting that from their parents.  The more love we have in our lives, the more supported and propped up we feel.  How lucky those people are who go through lives not fearing that the love they get is conditional, and based on looks, abilities or other things.  To go through life knowing they are lovable from the very beginning, just because they are here.   Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing?  If we all felt this way?  So for the rest of us, maybe today we can look at the earth and imagine it is here to prop us up.  We can look at nature and the sky and try to think, this beauty is here for us to enjoy and make us feel full and that we’re part of something bigger and beautiful and that thing is life.  We might look at our pets and feel we are here to provide them and they us this unconditional love. We might look at flowers and butterflies as just miracles of beauty here to delight us.

Yoga uses the lotus flower as one of it’s main symbols, because the lotus flower grows and blooms out of the mud and emerges miraculously and majestically.  Today, we can strive to be the lotus flower.

How much happier would we be if we all felt lovable?

Finding the Gift in the Sorrow

This is by far not anything original, but it strikes me recently that many sad events in our lives can also bring unexpected satisfaction, validation or even appreciation that might not have been there before the event.  Some real stories to illustrate these points.

Parents sue their oldest son, the most devoted of the three children. Their relationship is forever severed and everyone loses.  Yet the middle daughter finds out that the perfect oldest son has secretly been harboring resentment for years, although he’s never uttered a negative word before about the parents.  That middle daughter always thought her older brother thought she was flawed and disturbed and sick, yet finally finds out that he’s agreed with her all along. She feels understood and finally validated.  The family fallout results in validation for the “crazy” daughter.

A married woman finds it frustrating that her mother in law always talks and talks about her older son, trying to force the rest of the family to be nicer to him.  He’s a narcissist. She tries to gloss over his selfishness and make the rest of the family feel guilty about leaving him out of activities for years.  She develops dementia in her old age.  She forgets who she is talking to. She finally acknowledges that only two of her sons were good sons. The daughter in law feels validated to finally find out even her mother in law didn’t believe the crap she tried to sell.

A young man has a drug addicted mother.  His grandmother takes him in.  She’s very angry and resentful at how much he still wishes to be with his mother.  Sometimes she can be very abusive.  As an adult, he has alot of difficulty with intimacy and works hard in therapy to overcome this. He wants to re-connect with his grandmother but is afraid of her anger.   So he feels guilty and avoids her, but thinks about her constantly.  She has a stroke when she’s 82.  It’s a slow brain bleed and she’s awake and alert but unable to talk.  He gets a chance to make his peace with her before she dies. She can’t yell at him. She even smiles once as he talks to her in her last days.

A young man is busy with his work and young family.  He might not always be the most involved or attentive person he intends to be.  An elderly aunt passes. It makes him realize he hasn’t seen his grandmother in a nursing home for years, and makes a trip to bring his young family to see her.  The guilt he feels at the one neglect impels him to make it up to someone else still alive.   It touches his mother deeply.

When we’re in the midst of sorrow and sadness, sometimes it’s hard to see how something positive can possibly come out of it, yet that’s how us humans are.  As long as we live, we’re able to adapt, keep breathing, keep moving, and recover. Eventually even something new grows out of charred earth.  That is life.  Watch for the buds.  Keep moving forward.

Finding the Gift in the Sorrow