Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Mindset

Carol Dweck is an author who was interviewed in my Psychotherapy Networker magazine. “It comes down to whether you focus on growing your abilities, as opposed to proving and validating them all the time. When you’re in what I call a fixed mindset, your goal in life is to prove you’re a smart, competent, worthwhile person and avoid doing things that could undermine that image of yourself. In the growth mindset, you believe these abilities and talents can always be developed, so you’re not on the spot every second to prove yourself, and you can focus on developing those abilities through taking on challenges and seeing them through.”

I found this to be a very interesting concept to me personally. Mostly, because I’m a big contradiction with this whole topic. On the one hand, I completely buy into the idea that I don’t have to be perfect. I take risks all the time and can give you a long list of ways that I am comfortable being less than amazing.

For one thing, I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself. I can admit when I have a brain freeze most of the time, and often laugh my fanny off along with anyone around me at some of the “duh” moves I make on a regular basis. The other day I was driving with a friend and repeated a comment and then almost peed my pants laughing at how ridiculous of a statement it was. I told him he was lucky because he could be in the position of having a friend who was dumb and not realize it. That’s the worst. At least he was able to say he had a friend who understood how dumb I could be at times, and there was a lot of strength in that. Without blinking, he said, “Yeah, I guess I have that going for me.” Then we laughed our butts off. He is a lucky guy!

When I go to Karaoke, I have my standard list of songs that I know I can nail pretty well. But on a regular basis, I pick stuff I’ve never done before. More than once I have had to stop in the middle and tell the DJ to never mind. One time I sang “The Loveboat” and the whole bar sang with me and loved it. Another time I sang “Gilligan’s Island” and it was a disaster. Do you realize that every single verse goes up a key? By the end of the song I was screeching horribly to even attempt to hit the notes. But I don’t care. I have fun and I get a good laugh out of it.

Going on stage a couple of weeks ago was a big risk. One of the nights I forgot the words, but covered it and no one even noticed. The other nights, I got the words and notes correct. But when I looked at the DVD later, I was aghast at how the dress I chose that night looked. I looked way heavier than I needed to. I was mortified, but I decided to let it motivate me even more for my new pre-diabetic life. (By the way, I start that tomorrow. I decided to give myself until after Thanksgiving. No way I’m giving up mashed potatoes and dressing and rolls and pie.)

I tell my kids, my clients, and whoever else I need to that I am sorry when I screw up. I even try to tell people on the road when I cut someone off accidentally. I’m not perfect and don’t expect anyone else to be. Life really is about developing and growing.

AND YET…

Another, very fragile part of me is always trying to prove my competence. I’ve had plenty of messages and voices throughout my life that have criticized me. And because of my nature, I take it so personally to heart. The voices come from everywhere, but proportionally speaking, I would have to admit that the majority of them are male. I am especially vulnerable to male criticism. I imagine that at least of some of it is because I have felt like I have to prove myself simply because I am female. Most women will tell you they can identify at least once in their life.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I don’t have a doctorate.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I’m not thin and beautiful.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I am single.

And then I really get mad at myself, because deep down, I truly do know that I don’t ever have to prove myself. Not to anybody. Ever.

While the one part of me is confident and growing, that part that can get up in front of countless numbers of people to sing, to speak, to lecture, to share my most intimate life and inspire others… the other part of me still needs that pat on the back. I still would do anything to hear my dad or son actually say he is proud of me (for ANYthing!) without me having to guess it or read between the lines. Even my friend who jokes around with me and loves me to death, I’d still like him to actually say he thinks I’m smart once in a while. You know, all joking aside, here is a direct compliment. I think I would faint.

Yep, it’s part of admitting I’m a work in progress. I admit I want the kudos and the admiration and the praise. I still need it. Want it. But I’m also learning to give it to myself while I’m waiting.

Not your normal Thanksgiving theme, but I do appreciate all you readers and am thankful for all I have. May sound cliché, but it’s true. 🙂

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To Err is Human…

Last week I got a call from a nurse at my doctor’s office. She isn’t the nurse I normally like to talk with. I prefer not to. There is another nurse at the office I usually interact with. Now she can actually make me mad, but I don’t mind her because we actually talk to each other and have a dialogue. We have a relationship. The nurse that called me last week? Well, she talks AT me, not TO me. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Out of the blue, she informed me that I had Diabetes. I was in shock. I get my blood tested regularly twice a year, and we don’t even test my sugar because it’s never been an issue. How could this happen? Well, she made it clear that I had better start making drastic changes immediately or the consequences could be dire.

I got talking about it with Summer and we agreed something didn’t quite sound right. For one thing, my doctor Grace would have called me directly herself if it were that serious. I just know she would have. I had called the office before I got my blood test done because I was prepping for a colonoscopy and hadn’t been able to eat anything for 24 hours. I did though, have to drink the prep stuff, plus plenty of ginger ale and gatorade. Wouldn’t that effect my glucose levels?

I called back the doc and asked for a retest. Today I saw her and got my results.  Glucose healthy range is 65-99. My first test came back 163. The second came back 98. Within normal.  Insulin serum healthy range is 2.0-19.6. My first test came back 37.9 (ouch!!). My second test came back 10.2. Well within normal.

Phew.

Now I didn’t appreciate having the crap scared out of me. But I love my doc and here is why. She just apologized. Without having a word said to her, she described the “bucket of mistakes” they made. I should have been told NOT to do the test to begin with. Nurse should not have called and scared the crap out of me. The ridiculous results should have been an automatic red flag to retest. Grace then reminded me that I have her personal cell number (which almost no one has) and that I can call her whenever I need to. She knows I won’t take advantage of her.

And the silver lining? I had to admit, that without the scare I wouldn’t have taken action. But now, I am “doing what Darcy always does” according to doc. I started getting educated. I’m making an appointment with a dietitian. I ordered an exercise bike (triple yuck).  I despise exercising but it is crucial to avoid diabetes. I have a dislocated clavicle which keeps me from doing any repetitive arm movements. I have cuboid syndrome on my feet (following surgery) and I’m unable to do aerobics, running, treadmills or elliptical machines. The only option I have is the bike.

So I am going to try hard to make some changes. Small and steady. But not in a panic, which is a much better place to be in. I prefer less drama, but I did need the kick in the pants.

Remember, we all make mistakes. I make more than my share, and as much as I am out in the public trying to advocate for managing the medical mess of a system that is out here, no one needs to be perfect. I have all the respect in the world for Grace because she just took responsibility and we immediately moved on. Thank you again dear friend and doc!


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Sing It Anyways

Thanks for all the love and concern from last week’s blog. And it may seem odd to say, but thank you to everyone who was able to be angry with us and for us. Pushing us to get over it was not helpful and it certainly was too soon. I don’t have a great update. Basically, there is nothing we can do because the laws are geared to help perps and not victims. We will have to cough up four grand to get a privacy fence if we want to continue to live here. We have had serious conversations as a family about moving, but for now the fence will have to do. I don’t think we could sell the house anyway without the fence because it is too obvious of an issue.

I considered last week’s blog a memo to the universe that we are done handling hard stuff here. Someone didn’t read it though because I got a call yesterday from my doctor’s office. The nurse informed me that I suddenly have full blown diabetes and need to make immediate changes for this life-long disease. What? Out of the blue? Obviously, they didn’t get the memo. However, due to a bunch of reasons I don’t want to take the time to write, I requested another test which I took this morning. Results will be in next week. I have legit reasons to suspect the test results they got might not have been accurate. I have postponed panic until the next set of results. (By the way, it is NOT helpful to tell people they just need to improve their diet or that diabetes isn’t a big deal. ESPECIALLY for those of us that have already been spent on handling ridiculous amounts of stress and loss. There is no simple life-long disease when you are already at the end of your rope.)

But the good news? Well, I am in a show that is opening tonight. It’s all music from Broadway shows. Last week I was quite panicked about it. I didn’t know how I could possibly get up on stage and sing and smile and be entertaining. I could barely function. I felt empty inside. I just told myself that it would have to be like all of those times I have to pull up my big girl pants and conduct counseling sessions. I just do it. I just have to. And most of the time, it ends up being as good for me as it is for my clients.

Three rehearsal nights this week, then three performances. Six out of seven days. How was I going to pull that off with all that other stress?

Turns out, it has been the best thing for me. You can’t really sing and stay down. It’s just not possible. Music feeds my soul. By the way, theater people (for the most part) are also extremely funny and entertaining to be around. Spending so much time there immersed in music has been healing for me. Or at the least, an excellent distraction from neighbors that hurt us and brand new diseases to learn all about.

I only get my parts right slightly more than half the time. So you should come see it. Either you will be impressed with yet another thing I can do, or you will get to laugh your ass off at me when I’m the only one that raises the wrong hand and then freaks out and makes it even more obvious that I screwed up. I already have my comedic lines ready for my duet in case I totally blow that one too. It’s in East Aurora at Hamlin Park, tonight and tomorrow at 8 pm, Sunday at 2:30. Come and forget about the tough stuff for a while.


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GAME OVER

I think I’m officially done. Except I don’t really know what that means. At first, I thought of just crying, “UNCLE!” but that doesn’t seem to cut it. So the phrase that comes to mind is simply, “GAME OVER.”

For the last decade, I have lived my life like I always have. I put people and their feelings first. I suffer discomfort for the sake of others or in order to accomplish some higher goal. I have invested a lot of myself into my neighborhood. I started the block party several years ago and make an effort to have phone numbers and invite people over regularly. Good to have a great relationship with your neighbors, right?

When Frankie was in infant, my neighbor had a St. Bernard. Huge breed, but also an extremely gentle breed. Usually. However, this one decided he didn’t like us. My neighbor asked me for sleepers that Frankie had slept in. She wanted her dog to get used to Frankie’s scent. That way the dog would be less likely to eat my baby for a snack. As a new mom, I can tell you I thought that was pretty screwed up, but I gave her the pajamas and prayed nothing would happen.

Eventually that dog died and then there more. You are only supposed to have two dogs per property, but my neighbor had four at one point. Did I turn them in? Of course not. I wanted a good relationship with them. One time, one of the dogs bit our handy man. Did I turn them in? No, of course not. Then we decided we had to put a fence up. We asked their opinion about the style because we wanted them to be happy with it too. We were sensitive to the fact that they would have to look at it too. The Home Depot people thought I was nuts. But hey, we want a good relationship with our neighbors, right?

The fence went up but I still couldn’t do my yard work without that dog sticking his vicious jaws through the slats as he was trying to attack me. I finally risked the relationship and asked the family to do something. They added chicken wire over the fence so the dog could no longer have access to my hands. It still scared the crap out of me because it clearly had only one mission and that was to hurt us, but hey, the relationship with my neighbors was more important, right?

Then my daughter got married. We had the rehearsal dinner in our backyard. The same dog bit the maid of honor because she was talking and had rested her hand on the top of the fence. Did I turn them in? Of course not. Who is really the idiot here? Me. I’m the one at the fault. Fascinating that when I called to let my neighbor know what happened, she started yelling at me. She said she had put the wire up and there was no way she was putting the dog down. I calmly (of course) told her she needed to take a deep breath. Her dog bit. I never asked her to put the dog down, nor was I yelling at her. I just thought she should know the dog had bitten again.

Then they got a German Shepherd. Didn’t take long for that dog to just eat right thru the fence. Then they had to put up another chain link fence. Then the dog started to attempt to jump over the fence and was in danger of doing so. They had to add yet another layer of fence. Now that dog is even muzzled. But hey, as long as I don’t hurt their feelings, I can put up with anything, right?

They have had five dogs since I’ve lived here. Three of them have been vicious. No one can believe what I put up with when they come over. It’s impossible to describe if you don’t see it yourself. It’s not just like an annoying dog barking. They lunge at the fence and growl and bark and make you shake. And I just look at people at say, “But we like our neighbors and I want to keep it that way.” When you leave your dogs outside 24 hours a day, when you don’t walk them or socialize them, they become like wild animals. Savage.

Monday was November 2 and it would have been Tim’s 54th birthday. I texted with a couple of the kids in the morning and I thought it seemed like it might be a bearable day. That is, until about 10 AM when Colin came bursting in the house screaming my name over and over.

Same dog that has bitten twice on my property, same dog that I found out has bitten the neighbor on the other side three times, brutally murdered our beloved cat Matilda.

Matilda

Matilda

She was barely a year old and she was beautiful. She was an extremely gentle kitty. And she made the hideous mistake of walking home near those dogs. Poor Colin. He heard the screams. He ran over to their yard, trying desperately to get his kitty from the mouth of the dog. When my neighbor finally heard it, he came out and got the dog to drop her. That was when Colin came in the house screaming. We rushed her to the hospital. They tried CPR, but it was too late. Did you know that when intestines are punctured there is a putrid smell? We couldn’t bear it.

All I can say is, our household has been suffering the last week. The closest way to describe it is like suffering from PTSD. The kids have decided the only way those people could possibly understand what we are feeling, is for them to be forced to watch their precious dog be eaten before their eyes. They need to hear the screams. They need to smell the aftermath. And then every day afterward, they need to hear and see the killer whenever they dare to walk outside their home.

Because that is what it is like for us here. There is no peace. There is no escaping it. Those three dogs are outside and they still bark and still lunge at us.

I don’t give one flying fuck that our cat was in their yard. I don’t care that our cat was an indoor/outdoor cat. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS. IT WAS NOT OUR FAULT. THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

Even the dog warden said that being territorial is what is normal. Killing is not. Dogs know the difference between a wild squirrel or rabbit. They DO NOT KILL DOMESTICATED ANIMALS.

I will tolerate nothing less than that dog being gone. Terminated or moved off the property. Even as I’m writing this, my dog Taffy is pacing around the house and barking because those dogs are outside going nuts at our fence.

Game over. I’m not the bigger person. There are no cheeks left to turn. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS, THIS IS NOT HOW DOGS ACT, and THESE ARE NOT DOG LOVERS. Bullshit.

No more neighborhood parties. No more bigger picture. My kids are going through hell. I am going through hell. This is MY fault for not turning them in dozens of times. I will never make the same mistake again. This is not just, “Oh that poor family, they’ve gone through so much.” We didn’t just lose yet another pet. She was brutally murdered. We are victims of a violent crime. And the stupid system protects them, not the victims.

We can’t use pepper spray because if it injures the dogs, we are liable. Yet their dogs can KILL our pet, and nothing is done. In what world does that make sense? Oh yeah, in America.

Game over. I am officially going reclusive. I can’t invest anymore. I can’t try anymore. I can’t risk anymore. I will just keep to myself and be like most people. They won’t get involved or stand up for us because no one wants to ruffle feathers. And hey, Matilda wandered in their yard so that makes it all ok.

BULLSHIT. Vicious dogs don’t belong in friendly neighborhoods. When a toddler or child gets their arm or head chewed off, then everyone on this street should be held responsible for allowing this dog to be here.

As my kids say- and I have to agree with them- anyone that makes these kinds of statements:
“Dogs will be dogs”
“Cats are too curious”
“I’m sure they feel bad”
“Just let it go”
“Cats shouldn’t be outdoors”
“Oh, this is a shame”

My kids say all of these people that don’t get it, need to watch something special to them die. This was not unfortunate circumstances. This was negligence, wrong priorities, insensitivity. Completely unnecessary. And my kids and I have had enough.

GAME OVER.