The Other Shoe

You are living your life, loving and appreciating more than you ever thought possible.

You are grateful, You are happy, You are content.

You drop so much of the fear, fully engaging in the moment and all life has to offer.

You start to anticipate with pleasure this new phase of life you are entering.

You are laughing and loving and living.

Then – the thing you’ve secretly dreaded happens.

The other shoe drops.

And all you can do …

Is pick it up, dust it off …

And hope and pray with all your might …

That it turns out to be a magic ruby slipper.

 

What the hell was I afraid of?

Really…

Sometimes you have to stop being afraid.  Afraid of what other people will think, what other people will say.  Life is for joy and risk and love and all-out-in-your-face enthusiasm.  And letting go of fear is a huge step.  Fear of loving, fear of laughing, fear of being authentic.

I’ve been afraid of posting this blog post for months…I wrote it last year during Laurie Foley’s class, Blog More/Stress Less.  It’s a short little thing, and one of my first tries, but I wrote it with joy and giggles, and it’s all true.

So…fear of it being to personal, too intimate…who cares!  I’ve been absolutely silly!  And anyway, I think you will all think it’s lovely.

I’m dedicating this to my beautiful, strong-as-a-rock, rock-star husband!  He is my perfect-for-me spouse that I intend to spend at least another 23 years with as his wife.

Let’s start somewhere in the middle of the original post…

Even so – we were both a little worried about what our life would be like as empty nesters this past fall…our son is such a huge part of our life and our joy. 

I can tell you emphatically, it’s been fun, scary, surprising – and we see a delightful future.

One of our ‘delights’ has evolved over the last couple of months…We seem to have more time in the morning, and there is no one else in the house but us…so Tim frequently would ask if I wanted to shower with him.  Well, of COURSE not!  “Our shower is smaaalllll, I need to shave my leggggs, I like the water hottttter”…I would whine all the reasons this would not work.

But then one day I said ok. This was not about sex (shower is Waaaayyyy Too Smallllll)…this was about physically connecting. 

Hmmmm….that was nice! 

Maybe I would do that again.  It did set a nice tone to the day, making a sweet connection, and having your back washed is quite a luxury! 

Then I saw where it would really come in handy. 

I was trying to entice my husband to exercise more to reduce his cholesterol.  It was tough to get him going, but he was trying.  One day he asked if I wanted to take a shower with him, and I got the brilliant idea to say ‘no exercise, no shower!’  He was ON the stairclimber.  Ha Ha!!!  The bait!  I found the bait…

So now, many mornings of the week, he will be on his stair climber and I’ll be on the elliptical, and then we’ll take a shower and start our day. The surprise is that I’m the one who is running to the elliptical on the days he gets started early so that I’ll be finished in time to get in the shower with him!  We raise our oxytocin levels, we laugh, sometimes talk business, sometimes it’s just a ‘quickie’ shower because of schedules…but a lovely start to the day…making a lovely connection stronger.

And besides, he gives great back…. 😉

A Lasting Valentine

“He’s done.”

He can’t do it anymore.”  My brother’s voice was tired.  It had been quite a year, particularly the last 5 months.

“He aspirated again and asked me how he can stop this.  I told him only he knew how.  He decided no more eating or drinking.  He’s off fluid and on comfort measures only.”

I remember in the beginning, when the Parkinson’s started to be really noticeable, right after my mother died.  He had just spent the last year being the main care-giver for her as she was dying of colon cancer.  He was the only one who would change her colostomy bag…even in the hospital for the last 3 months…he took that on – not the nurses. . 

We brought him home with us after the funeral, and he stayed with us for about a month in North Carolina when I noticed his Parkinson’s was starting to show outward signs.  My son was 4, and he would mimic Papa’s shaking hand as he walked along with him.  My dad would get the biggest kick out of that.  Yes…bless him, he would chuckle and love my son for it.

He moved on, married again – a woman from Tennessee where my brother lives.  They were happy, and he seemed content. 

We moved to California that year, and he came to visit several times over the years, once with his new wife.  That was his last visit.  It was just too much for his body anymore.

And we would go to Tennessee.  His 75th birthday was great…a 4th of July baby, he was, and he made every effort to play on that all the years I’ve known him…including fireworks.  My marine-turned-cop dad, born on the 4th of July.

As it got worse, he would call with stories of him falling, laughing at himself.  I was always a bit stunned at his humor and self-deprecation around his weakening body.  His faith in God was his rock…and even though I no longer agreed with his Catholic views, you had to be a little bit in awe of the strength it gave him…though in the end, I believe he was becoming more spiritual than Catholic.

My brother and his wife were his caretakers in so many ways – making sure he was taking the right medicine, taking him to the doctor (and hospital when necessary), and finally, doing all the work to get him into a decent nursing home when it became apparent he needed the full-time care…and they visited most every day. 

I went to see him and spend some time in early December that year, wondering if it would be the last time I would see him.  It was a fun, yet at times disturbing and heart-wrenching, visit.

And now…Comfort measures only. 

As soon as I heard, I made arrangements to leave on the red-eye that night.  My brother needed me and I needed him…and I needed to see my dad.  By the time I got there in the morning, he couldn’t speak any more.  I didn’t know whether it was a rapid progression of the Parkinson’s or it was his bone tiredness from fighting this illness so bravely and with such humor – and stubbornness – for about 17 years.

He talked to me with his eyes and his grunts. 

At his grunting insistence, I made calls to family.  He wanted to say goodbye.  He grunted his love and heard his sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, my youngest brother (who was making arrangements in NY where the burial would be)  tell him they loved him as I held the phone to his ear…and he grunted back.  His eyes said it all.

Comfort measures. 

This means drugs…no fluids.  You basically dehydrate to death – which is legal – because we don’t believe in euthanasia in this country.  And because he was allergic to morphine, they could not continue to give that to him even though they only expected him to live about 4 or 5 days. 

It took 8 very long days.   

If he had been on morphine, they could have sent him over the edge – legally.  But it was darn near impossible with the pain medicine he was on.  8 days.  Sores in his mouth, temples sunken, wearing a dry diaper.  I would put a pillow between his bony knees to offer some comfort, and looked for blankets to keep him warm.

And we waited.  He slipped into a coma (was it?)  And he would not let go. 

As stubborn as always, my dad.

He died on Valentine’s Day. 

A valiant fight all those years.  He waited until late, after my brother and I left.

My brother came to tell me “He’s gone.”  I thought…who’s gone?  The first attempt at protecting myself from the very reason I had come to Tennessee.

We took the very late-night drive back to the nursing home.

If my father had been in a line-up of dead bodies, I would not have recognized him.  His spirit was gone.  It is what made him who he was…

I knew he was elsewhere, sending love in his own way on that Valentine’s day.  And I truly got he was ok now.

The 4th of July baby, kid, teenager, marine, husband, father, cop… being strong, showing us what loyalty and humor and grace and caring look like in real life. 

And now reminding me, every Valentine’s day with the anniversary of his death (as only my dad would), what one face of real love looks like.

 

Let ’em eat poop!

Let ’em eat poop!

My name is Deb.  I have control issues.

They are mostly harmless – annoying…but harmless – except to me.

This year, summer brought me face to face with this understandable, but debilitating way of functioning.

It all started in June after moving my son back home from his first year at university.  His dad couldn’t be with us because of a business trip to Brussels, but we had a good time getting him moved, just the two of us.

Three days later I get a call from my husband.  He was scheduled for emergency surgery in two hours to prevent his retina from detaching.

So, off I went to Brussels, leaving our son in charge of our house and dog.  I was so grateful he had just come home and that we could count on him.  And for 2 weeks, I took care of many essential needs of my movement-restricted husband – in a city 6000 miles away … you couldn’t have kept me away.

But – the experience kicked me into high-control mode. 

If I could control everything and make sure everyone was safe …

My husband’s sight had been saved – would he ever see clearly again?  Was the redness and swelling getting better?  Did I put the drops in right?  Did he sleep sitting up all night?  (I checked often)  Arrange this, arrange that – carrying everything, literally and figuratively (he could not lift a thing for 2 weeks).

And on the home front…did my son lock the door before he went to bed?  Did he feed the dog and give her enough water?  Was he keeping the house clean?  Was he having parties?  Was he eating well?  Was he getting enough sleep?

I had been living this way to a certain extent for years, but this was above and beyond.

I slowly started to move into dysfunction – long after the emergency was over, long after we knew my husband’s sight was clearing, long after we got back home.  It seemed  that being on top of everything, making sure everything was done, checking in, checking in – obsessively checking in – was important work to keep my family safe.

How could I keep my husband safe from detached retinas or other mishaps that might befall him while on business, or while at home.

How could I keep keep my son safe from dangers in life and at school, real or imagined.  How can I protect him from making mistakes, though I don’t really want to…  yes, I do…  no, I don’t …

Oy.

I was angry – a lot – without knowing why.  I was sad and cried unexpectedly.  I was (gasp!) a bitch.

I was utterly exhausted.

And then, on top of all of that, no matter what I did, I could not keep my dog from eating her own poop!
She was driving me crazy.

I had to laugh.  OMG, this is what my control issues had come to… chasing a dog around the yard trying to keep her from eating her own poop.

I saw myself following her suspiciously with my eyes, then literally with my little plastic bag when she went into the back yard to ‘do her business.’  I started getting intuitive (really!) hits that she was pooping, about to poop, or eating her poop, and I would run to the backyard and make her stop.  I spent more time chasing her ass than she ever spent pooping from it!   But I could not get her to stop.

Yet – in truth, this was a beautiful gift!

That cute little frustrating beagle was making me really see that I could not sustain the illusion and distraction of controlling everyone, including myself, and keeping them safe – mostly from imagined future harm.  It was impossible.

I had to deal with the fact that I can’t protect all my loved ones or myself from everything bad that could happen.  I had to remove my super-vision-all-knowing-all envisioning all-protecting cape.  It was too heavy.  It wasn’t effective.

It was hurting me, and I had to let it go.  All of it. 

And I am letting it go…with compassion for myself because it was the only way I knew to deal with the uncertainty of this world –  the possibility that something bad to could happen to these two guys and a dog that I have such intense love for.  Once I knew better, I started to do better.

So now I’m lighter; I’m looking at made-up fears;  I’m more in the moment instead of the future;  I reframe the made-up someday-maybe-stories running in my head;  I sleep better… mostly.  I am dealing with real issues, feeling my emotions, trying not to use this ‘controlling worry’ as a distraction from things that truly do deserve attention.

It’s not easy.

The cravings to control and obsess are strong.

I fall off the wagon, more often than I would like.

But I’m very hopeful for a full recovery  :).

And my dog?

She can eat all the poop she wants!!

(P.S.   After (almost) totally ignoring my dog’s outdoor eating habits, she rarely eats her own poop anymore, graciously leaving it for me to pick up, ;))

Jen Trulson – It’s not over ’til it’s over

Jen Trulson – what can I say?  I think she is the very first person I’ve ever met that truly likes herself – unabashedly!!!   How did she get from a place of knowing her marriage is over (after months of agonizing over what she knew was true) to getting to a place of joy in herself – AND her marriage?  Brilliantly, that’s how.

She embarked on a true journey of self-discovery.  And the result is maybe not what you would expect, but it is the result that Ms. Jen Trulson, one of the most loving, yet still human, people I’ve met, attained.

It’s a journey all of us should take…whether we are contemplating divorce, or leaving a job, or wanting peace with ourselves.

Jen’s path can help you forge your own.

Thank you, Jen, so much for being so honest and transparent –  for sharing with us.

Listen to her story here.

You can contact Jen here.

Again, a letting go

Grab the Kleenex.

When my new friend, Audrey Wilson Andrysick (Audrey Wilson Coaching) sent a few of us mom’s this poem, I started tearing up at the first 3 words.   Lin Eleoff calls this the sappy gene.

Again, for the second year, my son is off to college today.  This time it’s a little different from the first year in that I know I will be fine (the person I was most  worried about the first year, lol!), he will be fine (and he was – more than fine), and that my husband and I will continue on our path of rediscovering the depth of our own relationship – just the two of us again, after so many years of the 3 of us.  But it’s also different because he is moving into his own place with friends…off campus…rent, utility bills, grocery shopping…the next steps to really rocking his own life – adult baby steps.

For all of you who are seeing your children off to Day Care for the first time, Pre-school, Kindergarten, First Grade, High School (you get the picture), enjoy the following poem and remember to enjoy every first – it all goes by very quickly, and soon you will be wondering where the years went.

And for all of you who are seeing your kids off to adult-hood, enjoy and give thanks that you’ve done such a good (enough) job to enable this beautiful transition.

(This poem was originally written by Mary W. Abel and posted in Dear Abby)

Don’t forget the Kleenex.

“Hold fast the summer. It is the beauty of the day and all it contains.
The laughter and work and finally the sleep. The quiet.
Oh September, do not put your weight upon my mind.
For I know he will be going.
This son of mine who is now a man — he must go.
Time will lace my thoughts with joyous years.
The walls will echo his “Hello.” His caring will be around each corner.
His tears will be tucked into our memory book.
Life calls him beyond our reach — to different walls.
New faces, shiny halls, shy smiles, many places.
Greater learning — he must go.
But wait, before he leaves, be sure he knows you love him.
Hide the lump in your throat as you hug him.
He will soon be home again — but he will be different.
The little boy will have disappeared.
How I wished I could take September and shake it, for it came too soon
I must look to the beauty of each new day, and silently give thanks.”