Category Archives: Relationships

Pity? Party of One?

So, I’ve kind of been over here all “Lesley-Gore-It’s-My-Party-And-I’ll-Cry-If-I-Want-To” and here come some friends busting in the joint with gifts for me, screwing the whole thing up. Nothing will kill a good pity party vibe like getting an amazing gift. Here are three of the ones I got:

“You spoke my words.”

That’s a pretty tough gift to beat there. After reading “How To Survive The Loss Of,” a friend told me her own experience of losing her “life” after a sexual assault. (I put life in parentheses there since I don’t mean her life in the terms of pulse and brain activity. I mean her life in the sense of her home, her marriage, and her job. You know – nearly everything but her pulse.) I have known her for many years, laughed with her over a million things (she’s the funniest woman ever) and I had no idea that she had survived an assault at all, let alone that she had she survived wave after wave of polluted crap that smashed into her afterward. She stood up to each wave, but, like me with the loss of my wallet, it was the loss of something small that sent her to her knees. I’ve always really liked her and I am blown away with the honor of having her say that I had spoken her words.

“Your writing is insightful, funny, and grammatically correct.”

Another huge gift! After reading “I’m Pretty Sure I Should Be Rich By Now,” this friend, who is a wonderful writer himself, called to encourage me to continue to write, saying that he enjoys the thoughts that I share and how I share them both verbally and mechanically. What a delightful surprise! It’s always wonderful to hear that your work resonates with others and, even better, that it doesn’t make someone twitch! Bonus gift! I know that sometimes I take liberties with grammar; however, if you visit with me often, you know that I generally do it for emphasis. It’s important to me that my language mechanics be as nearly correct as I can make them so that you can hear what I have to say without being distracted by the monstrous way I’m saying it.

“Your writing is always very concise, reflective, and thought-provoking. The reason I miss it so much when you are silent.”

This was after I asked her to read “Mixed Metaphors Inside the Asteroid Belt” prior to publication. My thoughts are like ping-pong balls in a tornado – bouncing all over the place, hitting first this thing, then that thing, then each other. It’s bedlam in there! And that particular piece had even more metaphorical collisions than most; so, I needed to get another set of eyes on it. Sometimes I am afraid that connections, analogies, and metaphors that make perfect sense in my head sound like the Mad Hatter when I let them out. It’s both comfort and confirmation when someone understands the point I’m trying to make with my occasionally unconventional comparisons. Again – awesome gift!

Each of these gifts (and others I didn’t mention) have gone a long way towards helping me through grief and get a handle on what I need to get done next. However, as I mentioned, they completely ruined the Pity Party for One I had going in full swing over here. While it’s still true that I can cry if I want to, I feel less inclined to do so.

Thanks, you guys.

Bad Home Movies

8mm projector and reels

So we’ve just gotten through the holidays and in the US, at least, that sometimes means the showing of old home movies, vacation videos, childhood photos and the like. Holiday trips down memory lane. Thank goodness for eggnog, amirite? Because when many of us see those old photos we don’t think of our younger selves as children trying to figure things out. We don’t forgive ourselves for not knowing things we had no way to know at the time. We are super harsh and critical of our younger selves. And, for many of us, old loops of negative self-talk can begin again. And old movies or photos are not the only triggers.

Recently, someone I love told me I was fat. Well, what he actually said was that I “need to get one of those things you wear to count your steps.” Depending on the dictionary you use, that translates either to “Jesus! You’re a cow!” or “Damn, girl! You have let yourself go.” Some translations go even further to add a phrase about worthlessness. Like I said, it depends on the dictionary you use.

To quote Ray Schleine in the movie Uptown Girls: “News fuh-lash.”

Thanks to my joints, I am literally painfully aware of how fat I am. I am acutely aware of how much weight I have gained and I am fully aware of how I look. That comment did not help.

So, a little advice from me to you when you find yourself thinking you should “get real” with a friend or loved one about how fat they are – don’t. Just don’t. They know it. And if you just can’t help yourself, let me tell you what is likely to happen: you ask if your loved one really wants that extra cookie or piece of fudge. “You know what?” they say. “You’re right. I don’t need that and I don’t even want it.” Then while you’re off somewhere patting yourself on the back, they have stolen back to the table and taken not just the one piece of fudge they were going to take earlier, they take the whole container which they proceed to eat in the bathroom, the laundry room, or in their darkened bedroom. They are eating it to prove you right when you implied that they have no self-control and are to be pitied. They are proving you right and punishing themselves for it. You didn’t stop anything. You just increased their level of shame.

When I heard that I needed to get a step counter (one of which I have, by the way, I just wasn’t wearing it), I wasn’t prompted to go for a walk. All of those old, negative recordings in my mind started blaring and I grabbed the animal crackers Santa left in my stocking and I took them to a quiet place and ate them in secret. Then I took my hurt out on other people and was ugly to people I love, which while understandable, was inexcusable. Enter more guilt and queue up the chocolate moose Peeps.

I manage the office for one of the most well-respected fitness authorities in the country and while she never says anything about my physical state, I am acutely aware of it, particularly at the office. When I arrive at work, I always hope that no one wants to speak to me right away since my office is on the second floor and I am winded after a single flight of stairs. So, no. Regardless of how much you love me, you don’t need to tell me that I’m fat. I know.

Now, that’s not to say that I would be unreceptive to other ways of phrasing that concern and I believe that many overweight people would also be open to hearing the concern of loved ones if it was delivered without a side order of judgment. Good options might include:

  • I’m concerned about your health. I love you and I want us to be old lady friends together. How can I support your efforts to be healthier?
  • I’m concerned about MY health. I’m going to start walking every day, but it would really help me to have an accountability partner. Would you walk with me?

Notice that both of these approaches are in the first person singular – I – not in the first person plural – we. Don’t seek protection in numbers for this conversation. Be brave and be compassionate. Accept their answer – whatever it is – and continue to treat them with love and acceptance. If they tell you to go suck an egg, then leave it alone. It’s their life, their choice. And you can’t make people want what you want them to want. If they are open to your overture, then follow through. If they need a phone call a day to help, then make it. If you said you were going to walk, then walk.

I don’t know a single overweight or obese person who is completely comfortable in their skin. I’m sure they exist. I just don’t know any of them. Most of us hate how we feel. We hate how we look. We really hate shopping for clothes. And we hate that we don’t seem to have the power to control ourselves enough to change the situation. Most of us try and we fail. Then we try again and we fail again. And rather than every failure strengthening our resolve, it reinforces that negative loop that we are failures, that we can’t do anything right.

It’s the new year and new decade – time for all those resolutions we rarely keep. I am making only these resolutions this year and I mentioned them yesterday:

  • Always acknowledge my blessings.
  • Seek not only knowledge but also wisdom.
  • Be honest, but show compassion – to others and to myself, as well.
  • Love people (including myself) the way I claim to.
  • And watch a second season of Henry Cavill in anything.

Amen.

 

Happy New Year, Loki.

(You jerk.)

Loki with a fishing net
A Norse mythology image from the 18th-century Icelandic manuscript “SÁM 66”, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. Image uploaded from http://www.sagnanet.is and turned, cropped and color-corrected with The GIMP Version 1.2.3.

In early December, I told a group of friends that the worst thing that had happened to me in 2019 was that I lost a few vacation days. In my mind, I was displaying gratitude that my year had been so good. I thought I said “thank you” to the universe; but, Loki heard me say, “Loki, son of Leufey (Norse gods always hear insults as mentioning their fathers) eat dirt! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!” So Loki turned to Baldr and said, “Hold my mead.”

Within two weeks of my pronouncement, my roof was leaking, I found out that my son could not come to visit at Christmas, I had a cold, and my dog died. Seriously?!

To say that I was thrown for a loop would be an understatement. I cried for several days over my first Christmas apart from my son. Then, I cried for several more days over my Ellie girl who was geriatric but apparently perfectly healthy on Saturday and dead by Thursday because she seemed to just decide that she was done and she refused to eat. The truth is that although I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for a couple of weeks, to pretend that I am not enormously fortunate would be disingenuous, at best.

I am an educated, white woman living in the United States; so, I enjoy safety and privileges I have not earned.  No bombers are dropping ordinance in my comfortable neighborhood. I have not been accused of any crimes that I have not committed. I have a wonderful job that pays me enough to own my home and enjoy the luxury of pets. Although I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire, I have family and friends aplenty who love me. The truth is that, like so many of us living in industrialized nations, I have no real complaints – regardless of what advertisers tell me. (Except perhaps that I am idiotic enough to tempt Loki AGAIN.)

Here are wishes for myself and for others who are as fortunate as I:

  • May we always acknowledge our blessings.
  • May we seek not only knowledge but also wisdom.
  • May we be honest, yet compassionate.
  • May we love others the way we say we do, and
  • May Netflix give us another season of Henry Cavill in, well, anything.

Amen.

Object Permanence and Animal Rescue

Why I suck at fostering animals.

Object permanence is typically acquired when human infants are between four and seven months old. At this point, the baby understands that, although she can’t see something, that thing is still there.

I think I may have been absent that day.

Just before Christmas, I arrived home one day to see a new cat peering at me from the vent to the crawl space under my house that the ferals keep knocking out. It looked like a pretty small cat – likely female and less than a year old. It had a pretty little blue and white face and, when it turned, I could see that it had no tail. I thought I’d call it Bob. Except that everyone has a bobtailed cat named Bob, right? So, I called it Les instead.

As you know, I have a feral colony around my house that I have fed for several years. Our Mommie and Twin have been with me for six years now while other cats have appeared and disappeared over time. I see strange kitties on the regular, but I don’t see most of them for very long. Fast forward a couple of weeks. Les was hanging out beside the house when I got home. It meowed at me and I meowed back. That baby lit out at a run towards my feet! “You speak the language!” it seemed to say. Anyway, long story short, it was isolated in the house that night. Turned out, it was a she. I posted her photo all over the place and took her to a local facility to check for a chip. No joy; however, the lady that scanned her had just lost her 14-year-old cat and said that she would take Les if we couldn’t find her people and if she wasn’t pregnant. Several days later, we had her spayed, vaccinated and tested for kitty leukemia and kitty AIDS. (Both tests were negative.) With a clean bill of health, the lady confirmed that she still wanted Les and the dread began to build in my chest.

I have too many cats – five in my house now. I can’t afford any more. Still, I started crying early this afternoon and was literally sobbing just after I let Les go. Her new lady will love her and she will have a great life, I’m confident; however, to me, she just died. I left her and will never see her again; so, for me, she’s dead and I’m grieving that, as silly as it sounds. I did the same thing with O’Malley, a feral kitten my sister and I caught and I socialized and fostered. Both kitties will continue to exist outside my sight. O’Malleywill continue to snuggle in the crook of your arm. And Les will continue to pounce on unattended spectacles and wag her tail stump like a puppy. Both cats will be loved and cared for and will live much better lives that they would have as ferals.

I know that, but I don’t feel that. My heart is just crushed. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this fostering stuff.

Probably not.

Please spay and neuter your animals.

 

The Burden of Knowing

I’m a cat person. I have been since I was around four years old and (directly against my mother’s instructions) I started feeding the stray cat that showed up at our house. Her name was Missus and she was a beautiful blue cat with a little white badge on her chest that looked pink. She lived outside and let only my dad and me pick her up. She tried to have several litters of kittens but the litters were always really small and none of the kittens ever survived. She would grieve over those lost babies the way I grieved over her when, one day her heart just gave out. I was away at camp and Dad found her by the pump house shed where we put her food. I was eleven or so when she died and I mourned her deeply.

We lived outside the city limits – not in the country, exactly, but certainly not in a neighborhood. Missus had likely been put out or dumped by someone. That happens all too frequently. People can’t keep their pets anymore for whatever reason and they just put them out somewhere. Many go feral. Many die. But, if they are lucky, they find a disobedient four-year-old……or the 51-year-old she grew into.

For several years now, I have had four cats living in my house and, as much as I love them, I will tell you quickly that four cats is two too many. Bodhi and Wallace are great pets, but Link and Lucy are still pretty feral. I keep them because they are too tame to live outside, but they are too wild to be adoptable. I’m afraid that no one else will love them right if I don’t keep them. So, I had four cats.

Had.

IMG_20181115_154455_675.jpg

This summer, my sister and I were completing our daily steps when we saw this bedraggled, medium-haired cat approaching us. I could see her mouth moving to make mewling sounds, but no sound came out. After some time of getting to know her, we picked her up and brought her home. My sister and I do some trap, neuter, and release with the ferals in my neighborhood; so, we took this cat to be vaccinated, evaluated and sterilized before we released her back into the area. Except that didn’t happen. Her exam revealed that she had already been both spayed and declawed! She also has a cleft palate and has neither upper nor lower incisors. This cat has no weapons. It’s no wonder she was at half a healthy weight! After months of failing to find her family and of working with her, she has been introduced into my clowder, which now numbers five. Here’s the thing, though – I don’t want five cats.

In recent conversations with both my friend Sean and my dad, I’ve admitted that I don’t want five cats. Both of them suggested that I take her to the pound. Here’s the thing, our shelter is not a no-kill shelter. Tests show that the cat has neither kitty AIDS nor kitty leukemia and they show that her kidney function indicates an age of between 12 and 15 years. I am afraid that if I surrender her, they will kill her and it’s not her fault that she was made defenseless then lost or abandoned. Both Sean and my dad pointed out that it’s not my fault, either, and they are right. Here’s the thing, though: I know. I know she’s old and defenseless. I strongly suspect that a shelter will put her down. I know that the likelihood of a life-ending event is great if I don’t care for her. I know that and I can’t do that to her.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

But, I’m not ignorant. So, Drue is the fifth member of the clowder. She’s a good old lady who, even without claws or incisors, shreds toilet paper like a master. I suspect that I should have named her Magda because she has turned out to be such a Tartar – running the other cats off the bed and away from the food with nothing more than a menacing glare and an imposing hiss. At the same time, the old lady is a snuggler and I often wake to find her curled up by my legs during the night. She is easy to love and I will love her for as long as she has left because I am a Cat Lady and because there is a burden that comes with knowledge. In this case, the burden weighs eight pounds.

Grateful for Grief

Gosh, I can’t believe that I haven’t written since May! I write in my head all the time, but I somehow just don’t seem to make it to the keyboard, if that makes any sense. Today, however, my spirit hurts and sometimes the only way to get relief is to let the words flow.

On Saturday, I attended and spoke at the memorial service honoring a very dear friend of mine. I don’t know if we met in 1991 or 1992; but, whichever it was, it was a long time ago. I may not know the year, but I know that it was late spring and early morning. I was working my first flight of the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when this pilot from the training department was in my office, asking a bunch of annoying questions and just generally getting in the way. Finally, I looked at him and said, “Captain, they don’t pay me to babysit pilots. Find another place to be.” He did and thus began a very complex, sometimes convoluted friendship.

I hadn’t seen Lance in over a decade, I realized on Saturday, but that didn’t seem to matter. He was never far from my heart and we checked in with each other every couple of months, just as we have done for the better part of 30 years. We were friends through a baby and hurricane (mine), a marriage (his), and jobs and moves for both of us. It is inconceivable to me that he won’t be texting some joke in a couple of months. While he hasn’t been a physical presence in my life for a long time, he’s always been out there and I’ve always known that if ever I needed him, all I had to do was call. I believe he knew the same thing. I certainly hope so.

Lance is my third friend to die. My 82-year-old dad says it doesn’t get any easier to let them go. On the one hand, I think my dad kinda sucks at pep talks; but, on the other hand, grief is the proof of love, I think. If I had not loved Joey, Sandy, and Lance, I would not grieve their absence. Certainly, not grieving for them would have made a few days of my life easier, but not having known and loved them would have made my whole life so much emptier. I am already grateful that the loss of my friendships with Joey and Sandy were worth grieving. Someday I will feel that gratitude about my friendship with Lance.

Someday.

Tending to Bloom

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. Growing up, I saw myself as a fat, smart, teacher’s kid whose social skills were somewhat lacking. I don’t know how others saw me, but I always saw myself as Less Than. Most of the time, I could just muddle along without what I believed was my weirdness and unattractiveness being called out in neon letters. Except on Valentine’s Day. That was the day when the pretty and popular girls got flowers, balloons, gifts, etc., from friends and/or boyfriends. I didn’t get those. To be fair, lots of girls didn’t get those things, but it didn’t hurt me that they didn’t get gifts. It hurt that I didn’t get them. I saw it as just one more way that my being Less Than was publicly noted.

Except one year.

That year, the student council sold carnations just like every other year – red, pink, and white. Red was for love, pink was for secret admirer, and white was for friends, I think. And just like every other year, there were girls walking around with bouquets of blooms and other girls with book bags – mine was blue, heavy, and the only thing I expected to carry all day. But, then, when a student council representative was delivering blooms to one of my classes, he had one for me! A pink one! I was convinced it was a mistake, frankly, but he said it wasn’t. Someone had bought a secret admirer flower for me.

All day, I felt like the Ugly Duckling that was suddenly a swan. I wondered who could have sent it, hoping it might this guy, afraid it might be that one. I spent the whole day feeling special. Like the flower in my hands, I bloomed.

As it turned out, the flower was from my sister Chele, who was away at college. She and I share some of the same insecurities and she wanted me to feel special.

I’m not going to lie, at the time, I was 17 and little bummed that the flower was from my sister and not the guy I had a crush on. But, you know what? I can’t even remember who I had a crush on anymore, but my sister is still here.

For the most part, we are like chalk and cheese, my sister and I. We don’t look alike. We think differently. We have different priorities and tastes. We fought as children. We have fought as adults and we will likely fight again. But, she is my sister. When I needed to feel special, she did that for me.

For the last couple of years, my sister has been my roommate. The last time I lived with someone I hadn’t birthed was nearly 30 years ago. It takes some adjusting to live with another adult and, for the most part, I think that we have done a pretty good job. I believe that she is a gentler person than I am and that living with her makes me a nicer person. I have to be more aware of what I say and how I say it. I have to be more mindful of my thoughts and of the attitudes that I allow to take root in my mind.

Family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, marriages, all require work on the parts of every party involved. I have said it before and I truly believe it: relationship failures are never the fault of only one of the parties involved. We have to be honest with ourselves and own our own parts in the failures. For many years, I was careless with my relationship with my sister. I was careless in my words and in my attitudes, and I did a great deal of damage to our relationship. I am still working to repair that damage and to avoid doing further damage. We are our parents’ only surviving children and she is important to me. I try to show that in small things, but I could do better. All relationships need to be nurtured.

This Valentine’s Day, it is my goal to think less about how others see me or whether others love me. It is my goal, rather, to give love to them, to tend my relationships to help them bloom – in red, pink and in white.

Happy Valentine’s Day.