Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Women and Sports

I am pretty sensitive to any hint of sexism, especially if it makes us women appear weak in any way. I know plenty of women who are athletic and knowledgeable about sports- by either playing themselves or with watching.

Me? I fall into the stereotype. I am not athletic. In fact, I am rather clumsy and accident prone at times. I try very hard to understand the basics about sports so I can interact with other people. But lots of times I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

Last night, I was at a speaking engagement out in the country. I got talking with a woman a little older than me and I ended up having one of those embarrassing laughs. When I really laugh hard, I cackle. It’s loud and goofy and it embarrasses Frankie to no end. But I just couldn’t help it.

Somehow the conversation had turned to sports and I was lamenting my ignorance. She told me she could probably top any story I had. She is an EMT by profession. She had gotten assigned to some sporting group, a football team to be exact. She saw the group of men in a circle with their heads down and ran into the field. Her husband (also an EMT) ran after her to stop her. He couldn’t figure out what she was doing.

She explained to him that obviously someone had been injured badly and she was trying to get to him as quickly as possible. He probably had to tackle her to stop her, which is pretty ironic considering it was a football game. He explained to her that it was a “HUDDLE” and what that meant exactly. I laughed my butt off when she told me. That is such a Darcy move if I ever heard of one.

Like in high school when I attempted to play basketball and shot at the wrong basket. The saving grace was that I sucked (of course) so I missed the basket.

Or the first time I went to a professional hockey game. I was living in Chicago at the time and my roommate took me to a Blackhawk’s game. Now she happened to be very athletic and sports-gifted, unlike me. We were sitting there with thousands and thousands of people and a fight broke out. At a hockey game? Really? It was my first one so I had no idea that fighting was pretty standard. So all those people were going crazy and cheering the fight on. I was mortified. I thought I was witnessing humanity at its very worst. I started crying. Yes, I actually started crying. I thought it was violent and cruel. My roommate laughed so hard at me I thought she was going to pee her pants.

See how much I’ve evolved? I can go to a Sabres game and relish the fight like everyone else. I get caught up in it like everyone else. And I’ve learned the rules. Last fight I saw, our guy got the crap kicked out of him. But at the last moment, he was on top and pulled the other guy down to the ice. Everyone went wild. So I learned that you can lose badly, but the only thing that matters is the last five seconds. Everyone forgets what happens before that.

I even went to a game recently with someone who does not like the Sabres. I endured his pot shots as the Sabres lost, like they do ever so often unfortunately. I threatened to beat him up, but he’s a prison guard so I thought better of it. I may have evolved, but I’m not stupid!

Never in a million years would I have dreamed that I would consider that growth. What has happened to my bleeding heart? But hey, I do know what a football huddle is so I guess I’m not completely hopeless :)!


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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

TaffyYa think? My daughter Emily is in Georgia and its been six degrees even there. Crazy.

Don’t those of you that also live in the Buffalo area get tired of people saying things like, “But you live in Buffalo, what do you expect?” I’ve lived here for all of my life other than eleven years in the Windy City, which is also quite cold in the winter. I’m not surprised by it, but I don’t think you ever get used to it.

And those of you that know me, know I’m a great big baby. I hate being cold. And I hate shopping. And lately I’ve had a lot of shopping to do and errands to run. So I’ve been doubly whiney. Errands and zero degrees at the same time. Big whining for me.

My dog Taffy doesn’t get it. She loves the snow. And she wants her two-mile walk every day no matter how cold it is. She has one of those faces that is a sad puppy dog face, even when she’s happy. So now she is really laying it on thick. She has not gotten nearly as many walks as she usually does and she looks pitiful.

I bought some long underwear on one of those shopping excursions. Boy, am I glad I did. This January, I had another one of my “I must purge my house” months and got rid of a bunch of stuff. In my bedroom, I came across two pairs of thermal underwear. I hardly ever wear them, so who needs two, right? So I donated one pair to the give-away box. I went to put the other pair on the other day and it was about three sizes too small. Me and my organizing. I gave away a perfectly good pair of thermal underwear and now had to go out and buy another pair. In the freaking, freezing cold. Brilliant. That will teach ya.

Frankie and Colin still go outside and toss the football around. I watch from the window and think about how no matter how hard I try, I will never understand the male species. Are they nuts?

I love that Christmas duet. I sang it at Karoake a couple of weeks ago. You don’t have to convince me. I will just stay in and let my mother and sister and neighbors start to worry and talk because “Baby, it’s coooooold outside.”


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Opinions and Such

The older I get, the more I feel like there is very little I know. I’ve been saying that for a few years now. The paradox is, I’m more and more sure that I’m not sure about much of anything. The more I live life, the more aware I become that there are very few formulas in life about how it should work and how it should be.

I’m a therapist. Relationships are my “specialty”. And yet I am more and more convinced that what makes a relationship successful and happy is unique to each couple. There really are few “rules” to follow. One couple can do things similarly to another couple, and one ends up together and the other ends up divorced. Why? Who knows.

I become more aware every year that my role as a therapist is not to provide answers, but to provide company on the journey. I help people sort out their own way.

When I do a speaking engagement, I often talk about how spiritual growth can occur through learning to hold opposing and conflicting thoughts and feelings at the same time. Relationships are not really any different.

While my entire life is dedicated to understanding relationships and how they tick, there are sometimes spurts in the intensity level of how that happens. The last few months, I have had countless philosophical conversations with people- males, females, singles, married people, clients, dates, family, friends. All kinds of sources.

Dating today is so different than it used to be because of the internet. And yet it is still exactly the same. Personally, I found dating difficult when I was in high school. And college. And as a divorced woman. And as a widowed woman. No matter what age or set of circumstances, dating is a difficult endeavor. I don’t think I’m alone in that. How many people in your lifetime have you heard say “Man, I love this dating thing!” ?? Not many I bet. Heck, my father is in his eighties and it hasn’t been a picnic for him either!

Hindsight is a dangerous thing. I find that people are very confident offering their opinions and advice after something goes sour. If a relationship ends, it’s easy to say that whatever choices were made, obviously something else should have been done. But I think that is dangerous. When you think that, you just create another set of “rules” that you think apply to everyone.

Match.com is a fascinating social phenomenon. I swear there is a book to be written about people’s experiences. Again, I hear and listen and feel so many things that all seem true, but yet they are contradictory. How can that be? Well, because it just is.

For example, let’s take pace. Most people would say that there is a certain time frame that should occur for relationships to be healthy and successful. I admit that in years past, I would have my own internal judgments if I was working with a couple that moved “too fast.” You hear the history and think, “Well, of course you are having problems. You started living together two weeks after meeting.” But you really can’t say that.

Have you ever met someone who experienced love at first sight? I have not personally ever felt that, but I have met people who have. And they are happily married for years and years and years. There are plenty of divorced couples out there that dated for years, got engaged, and followed all the social “norms” for relationships. And yet the relationship failed.

Just in the last couple of weeks, I have talked personally with people who moved in with their partner within two months of meeting. Both couples are very happy, seem very healthy, and have maintained their relationships over an extended period of time. So they end up being “smart.” And lucky. If their relationship went up in flames, then we would be quick to say that they were unwise and impulsive.

One person on Match talked about how they were learning what they liked and didn’t like. They get a sense almost immediately of whether there is a spark or not. They don’t want to waste their time or anyone else’s so they cut things off as soon as they know. I listened to him explain all that and I thought “Right. That makes total sense. Seems wise to me.”

The next week, I talked to a person who said they were frustrated sometimes with the Match process. He said that it seems like people don’t know how to work on relationships anymore. If there is not immediate magic, there is no effort to get to know someone. No chance to spend some time and seeing how things might develop. I listened to him explain all that and I thought “Right. That makes total sense. Seems wise to me.”

So the moral of the story is, I don’t think there is just one right way. Or one right pace. There are all kinds of ways for people to connect. And disconnect. And reconnect. Who is to say? Perhaps we should hold our judgments.

Do your own internal inventory. Do you have opinions about how many days you should wait after meeting someone before you call them? Should women call men or should men always initiate? Who should pay for dates? How long do you wait before a kiss? How long do you wait before having sex with someone? The list goes on and on. And most of us have our opinions about what we think the answers to those questions should be. If someone doesn’t behave the way we might, then there is often judgment.

Kids are another issue where people seem to know what is the ideal way to handle dating. I used to be one of those people too. When should your kids meet a potential partner? Many say not until you are almost certain about your relationship. Some say their kids are a deal breaker because they are part of the whole package. So why not get to know them right away? How do you get “solid” with a person if you don’t know how they interact with your kids? And I can personally say that it is much more difficult to navigate that as a widow because your kids don’t go off every other weekend with your former partner. There is no alone time or off duty time. Ever. Yet the collateral damage can be worse for them. Your mom breaks up with a boyfriend you like, you can always rely on that relationship with your biological dad if your parents are divorced. But what if there is no other dad?

This is another area I’ve had to admit that I just don’t have the answers to. I honestly think that a huge part of the equation is the personality of your kid(s) and how they handle things.

Do you only date one person at a time? Or do you date several people at the same time? Again, I have heard well thought out arguments for both sides of that. I have heard well thought out criticisms of the other side of the fence. And they all have good points. So what to do? Personally, the only “rule” I’ve figured out for myself is that I have to be honest with whatever it is I’m doing. You have no control over whether the other parties in your life are honest back, but you have to hope they are.

So… no answers. Just lots of opposing ideas that all seem to contain truth. I will venture out though and offer some unsolicited advice. 1. Try not to judge other people. 2. If you have a relationship, work hard at it. It’s not all that easy to start over. The grass is definitely not always greener on the other side.

I’m sure I’ve said things you agree with, disagree with, or may have infuriated you. I am just figuring the world out like everyone else.


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Biopsies

It’s been stormy, cold and blustery in the Buffalo area. Frankie had almost three weeks off of school before he returned today. I was going stir crazy, but have to admit, it was nice to not have a schedule for a while.

Confession time. Rather than catching up on things, I have been absorbed on a client’s ipad. She is a teen and wanted me to watch Dr. Who. I can never tell her, but I am kind of hooked. This is exactly why I do not watch TV to begin with. I get hooked. I’ve watched all of season one, which was 13 episodes. I’m halfway through season two. I don’t think I can possibly watch all seven seasons. My businesses will go down the drain!

I wondered what I could blog about today because I have been in a cocoon all week, as has the rest of the area being snowed in. Then I remembered an interesting conversation I had with someone last month at an event I was selling my book at.

He was passing by and looking at the tables. When he got to my book, he started to tell me his story, which is what usually happens. He pointed to a woman standing an aisle over. “See her? That’s my wife. She’s been with me a long time.”

I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that he said he was a simple man. He repaired cars. He said he used common sense to save his wife’s life. When there is a nail in a tire, you don’t pull the nail out or you will blow the tire. Kinda like when you step on a board with nails, you don’t just pull it out of your heel right away. (Remember that blog?) You can do more damage that way.

He surprised me when he said he has made it his personal mission to tell the world that biopsies are hazardous to your health. It goes against what we are told all the time, but he believed it with his whole heart.

Several years ago, his wife had a tumor in one of her kidneys. The doctor wanted to do a biopsy. Pretty standard procedure. He refused and said they should just take the whole thing out. When the surgeon refused to comply, he kept looking until he found a doctor that would heed his wishes. Later, he said the surgeon told him that decision saved his wife’s life.

When they got the organ out, they went to look at the tumor. At the mere touch of an instrument, the tumor exploded, spreading its toxic cells everywhere. Had they done a biopsy while the organ was in his wife’s body, the cancer would have immediately spread everywhere and the disease would have been terminal.

Now, I’m no doctor or surgeon, and have zero formal training. I can’t possibly agree or disagree with this guy with any sort of intelligent opinion. However, I can say that what he said made a lot of sense to me. And there was his wife standing there, and there he was still loving her years later.

I welcome your informed comments about this. I certainly will stop and think twice- and probably several times- if I ever need a biopsy for something. What do you guys think?


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Catch 22’s and Other Quandries

I was kind of dreading blogging today. It is the new year and I made all kinds of deals with myself about choosing happiness and choosing to leave the past behind. I really do believe some of that is in our power to choose. So I wanted to blog today about my enthusiasm and the bright start to the new year.

The only problem is, it didn’t quite go as I expected. In spite of my best efforts, I found myself weepy on New Year’s Eve. But it was brief and Frankie and I partied as planned and enjoyed ourselves. New Year’s Day? I had some excellent sessions with clients, but I knew before I went in I could feel my insides breaking down. By 8:00 PM, it overcame me. Sadness, pure and simple. In spite of any choices I attempted to make, the sadness was overwhelming.

My amazing friends supported me like they always do. I got a little snarky (which I don’t always do) but I had myself a full-out cry. Then I talked to another friend and she was able to verbalize some thoughts that helped me wake up this morning with a clearer head. Still some sadness, but not as overwhelming.

I can’t say it was anything particularly new in concept, but it was new words. New phrases. And for whatever reason, that really comforts me. I like when I’m finally able to capture the swirling emotions and label them. And I like it when someone else understands it.

Trying to sort out how a relatively short relationship could have such a tremendous impact on me has been baffling and frustrating to say the least. My friend Grace was able to say some things that hit me square between the eyes. Why is the hole bigger than before? Because I tasted something for the first time in my life. Something that made me feel like “Ah, this is what it is supposed to be. This is home.” She said that no one has ever craved chocolate before they tasted it. It’s knowing what it is that makes you crave it. Now I’ve tasted what I’ve been looking for for so long, so I just want it back, plain and simple. That is why the hole is bigger. Before I was just imagining what life could be like.

This next sentence put a lump in my throat. “The gift you got this Christmas, was loneliness that you never even knew you could feel.” Crap. I’ve felt some pretty intense loneliness before, but I think she was right. Crap. Merry Christmas. That’s quite a gift.

Here’s the next tough concept. “You want it in your life. But the very thing that brought you happiness, brought you intense pain. So you will look for it, but then you will want to run from it. Now that is a nasty Catch 22.” Yep. I think that’s why no matter how many times I reach out, it still feels empty. I wonder how long that will last.

I am smart enough to know that nothing magical happens at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I don’t bother with resolutions anymore. I just try every day to be the best person I can. Sometimes I get in more motivated spurts than others. But I also know I am the captain of my own ship so I was simply going to choose to move on.

I will. I know I will. I always do. But it is going to take a lot more time than anticipated. The standard is now higher than ever. I know what I am looking for and what relationships can feel like. Grace also reminded me that the relationship I had was great because of my contribution to it, not just his. I have had a self-image for so long of being sad and lonely, I wondered sometimes that if happiness slapped me in the face if I would sabotage it or not even recognize it. But I didn’t need to worry. I embraced it when it came. And I could have sustained it. I didn’t create the ending. I have to live with the ending, but I didn’t choose it.

There’s so many more blogs left inside of me about all this philosophical stuff. But for this one, I will just say that every day has to be a possible new start. And if it blows up in my face and I find myself in tears, that is ok too. Because the loss I feel is profound and has a new dimension to it that other losses have not. So I am trying not to be too hard myself, but also choosing to get out of bed every day. I’m trying to smile, but sometimes it just isn’t there. But I will try. I promise.