Category Archives: Thought Patterns

What’s going on in my head

How to Survive the Loss Of

Through the years, my aunt Judy has given me some great books. The three that have had the greatest impact on me are: The Gift of Fear, Against Rape, and How to Survive the Loss of a Love. Because I like to continue a good ripple of sharing knowledge, I have bought and given (or rather lent and never seen again) several copies of each of these books myself. The first two are amazing books and I still recommend them highly; however, it is the third one on the list that is relevant here.

The book is a small one and can really be read during a single, long, soaking session in the bathtub if you like; but, the authors recommend that you take it slower than that and I agree with them. I can’t remember when Judy gave me the book, whether it was the first time a boy broke my heart or during the aftermath of one of my subsequent abysmal choices in a potential mate. Whenever she gave it, the book has been useful to me during more than one romantic disaster and during other losses, as well.

The thing that struck me most in my first reading was how they defined “loss” and how they applied the stages of grief to so many events – even small daily ones like missing a phone call or, like today, my old wallet being chewed up by a beagle puppy.

Of all of the things that have happened in the last month, that was the one that sent me to bed for a nap. How silly is that?

The truth is that the wallet was one I got as a “free gift” when I ordered the Highlander series videotapes. Yes, videotapes. (I told you it was old.) It was pretty disreputable looking already, but I liked it. It was soft and all nice and broken-in. It was convenient to move from one purse to another or to just stick in the pocket of my pants or in my hoodie pouch, which is where it was today. It fell out while I was playing with Dexter and in the ten seconds that I didn’t realize what he was doing, he had already chewed it up pretty badly. It is still useable – or it would be if I didn’t have this neurosis about broken things. But, I do; so, the wallet that I have carried for the past 22 years or so, will be discarded.

And that was what drove me to a nap.

Not Ellie dying, losing my job, my roof leaking, missing Christmas with my son, my dad falling, or me being sick. Nope, none of those things were enough. It was the destruction of a freebie, 22-year-old, worn-looking wallet that finally sent me to pull the covers up over my head.

But that happens, right? I mean, after Katrina, the thing that really sent me into a meltdown was realizing that I had to buy new Easter baskets because the ones I’d used since childhood were destroyed. Bear in mind that I lost literally nearly everything I owned, but it was the $10 Easter baskets that had me breathing into a paper bag.

I’m not a mental health professional or a grief counselor; so, I have no clue why that is. However, what I do know – what I learned from How to Survive the Loss of a Love – is that grief is real and must be experienced. Regardless of what kicks it off, the feeling must be acknowledged, felt, and moved through. That last part is incredibly important. It must be moved through, not lived in. However, if we don’t acknowledge our grief and allow ourselves to feel it, we are more likely to get stuck in it.

So, I’ll grieve over this silly little wallet, take a nap, cry, blow my nose, then order a replacement and get on with it.

Mixed Metaphors Inside the Asteroid Belt


I vaguely remember the moon landing – at least I think I do. My first memories are from when I am a little younger than two; so, it’s possible that I actually do remember it. But, whether it’s the first moon landing that I remember or another moon mission, the result was that my childhood heroes were astronauts. And Little Joe Cartwright. And John Wayne. But mostly astronauts. That never really changed, either. Those early explorers and daredevils are still heroes to me – even to the extent that my son is named in honor of Gen. Chuck Yeager. I was awed at their bravery to fly into the perils and into the unknown of space. After all, there are dangerous things there – black holes, Marvin the Martian, comets, meteors, and (of course) asteroids.

That’s kind of where I feel like I am right now – in the midst of the asteroid belt. For the past few weeks, it has felt like I have been hit from all sides, and I’m reeling. Now, please understand that I still know that I am very fortunate and that things could be worse than they are….MUCH worse. However, the fact that things are not as bad as they could possibly be does not preclude me from mourning my losses or from feeling overwhelmed. As a counselor once told me – whether you step on a land mine or get shot in the leg, you are still wounded. You are allowed to feel the pain of a leg wound even though you didn’t step on a land mine. So, here I am, unexpectedly dealing with a metaphorical leg wound.

I’ll be honest, my wound treatment today consisted of staying in my pajamas all day. They are the new pink cat pajamas that I got for Christmas; so, they are cute, but they are still pajamas. I have unabashedly worn them all. day. long. I set one goal for myself today and it was not to change clothes. It was to wash, dry, fold and put away all of the laundry. I got that done. I also baked a batch of cherry, macadamia, white chocolate cookies, and cleaned up the kitchen. So what if I stayed in my pajamas?!

I set the goal of completing all the laundry to begin the process of steadying my world. I am trying to control the controllables. I can’t control Ellie dying, the roof leaking or losing my job; but, I can control whether the clothes are clean, folded and put away. Tomorrow, I will take all my trash and recyclables to the collection center. One small step at a time, right?

Those small steps may not seem like much; but, to me, they are life. They are a signal to myself and to the universe that I am still alive and that I am still fighting. These recent hits have left me bruised, sore, and limping; but, I’m still here and I’m still walking.

I’m sure there are people who can have months like the one I just had and come out of them just fine. They take the hits like Deion Sanders – spinning out of them and continuing to run. Good for them! I’m more than a little jealous, but that’s not how I’m made. I don’t spin out of a hard hit sporting a million-watt smile. I go down like a bag of rocks then I bitch and moan the whole time I struggle back to my feet. But, guess what. I do get back to my feet.

The process seems slower and more difficult every time, but I still get up – whether I call it an asteroid hit, a leg wound, or an NFL tackle. I got up today and I will get up tomorrow.

And, who knows? Tomorrow, I may even change out of my pajamas.

Winning the Nobel Prize for Dumbassery

Generally speaking, I am an intelligent woman. However, there are times when I am a dumbass, and, from time to time, that dumbassery approaches Nobel Prize-winning level. Writing that post about Loki and calling him a jerk? That was Nobel Prize-winning stuff there, my friends.

I had 48 good weeks last year; but, the last four? Well, after mentioning that my year had been a good one, the last four were atrocious. As I wrote on Tuesday, during those weeks, I learned that my son could not come to visit for Christmas (marking our first Christmas apart), my roof started leaking, I got sick, and my dog went from fine to dead in four days. Thinking that Loki was done, I called him a jerk, brushed my teeth and went to bed.

He wasn’t done.

On Monday, I lost my job as the result of some company restructuring and on Tuesday, my 83-year-old father injured himself in a way that could be fatal in a person his age.

Sigh.

While the elimination of my position makes good business sense, it still sucks because I’m the one taking the hit. I’m not angry with my former employers. I truly get it and I have nothing but respect and goodwill towards them. Still, my feelings are hurt and I’m annoyed that I have to find another job. I had not seen this coming, either, so I’m still a little in shock. While I was still absorbing that change and all it entails, a friend called to tell me that my father had taken a significant fall and was at the hospital getting stitches in the gash in his head. Octogenarians should avoid falling in general and they should really stay away from knocking themselves unconscious. My dad, Evel Knievel, did neither. While Dad was not seriously hurt, a college friend of his died two years ago from a similar fall. As you might imagine, I was in a rare state until I could clap eyes on him.

Today, my mind is on overload, my spirit is exhausted, and my soul is brittle. I am all full up on crises and emotional upheaval. Call my original statement of having had a good year tempting fate (or Loki), call it coincidence, call it superstition, or call it Nobel Prize-winning dumbassery. Whatever you want to call it, I’m just calling “Uncle.”

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.

 

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.