Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Waiting

I’m not exactly a patient person. I hate waiting. Lately, my days have gotten cluttered and even chaotic at times. I feel the tension in my neck and shoulders. Lots of things aren’t in my control and I have to wait for others. I can literally feel the nervous energy waiting creates in me.

The weather has been all over the place and that doesn’t help either. A lot of the things that I am waiting for relate to assistance with my house. And those depend on the weather. I can’t plan anything because I never know who is coming when. For example, at the moment, I am waiting for my college student that does weeding/mulching and she is waiting for it not to rain. I am waiting for the concrete guy to come and stain my patio and seal it. He is waiting for a break in his work schedule and then it needs to not be raining at the same time.

I am waiting for the plumbing supplier to bring me some parts, and he is waiting for the parts to get shipped. I am waiting for a pool guy because the vacuum isn’t working so we can’t get the pool clean, and he is waiting for a second in his schedule and for the rain to stop at the same time. I am waiting for two able-bodied men who are cutting up an entire tree that was taken down, but they need time and no rain. On and on and on. I’m tired of listing all of it so I will spare you the rest.

But my friend has another kind of waiting. So much harder, so un-imaginable. Her 21-year-old son had a stroke during a brain procedure. There is nothing to do but wait. Wait to see how bad the damage is. Wait and see how much recovery there will be. And the nature of strokes? Well, from what I understand there is no rhyme or reason. Could take days, months, years. Things can shift anytime. Or maybe they won’t. I can’t even fathom what that kind of waiting must be like.

My clients have another kind of waiting. After years of dealing with infertility, they are waiting to see if they are getting a baby they want to adopt. The birth mom has five to seven sets of parents to choose from. Wish I could talk to her. I would tell her how amazing this couple is and what a lucky baby she would be to have them for parents. They can’t do anything but wait for the phone to ring. Fulfill a lifelong dream? Another heartbreak?

All waiting is not created equal, that’s for sure. I do know that myself, and the people I have mentioned have loads of people who love and support us. I know you all send positive energy and heartfelt prayers for whatever is going on.  Tom Petty comes to mind, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Well, I’m not sure if it is actually the hardest part, but it sure as hell is hard.


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Frustrations

After twenty plus years with the same email address, Verizon is not supporting their email anymore. The process to switch over is relatively simple, but I thought this was a good time to try to wean away from Verizon anyway. Sending everyone an email and saying “use this address instead” is simple enough. But you can’t possibly imagine how many websites I’ve signed in on over a couple of decades. And the book? Well, I have an entire spreadsheet of websites and passwords from anything to production to marketing.

Every day, instead of deleting most of the emails I get, I’ve been reading them carefully. I click on the website and then search for a place to click where I can change my email address. Sounds simple enough, right? Holy crap…wrong!

One of the most difficult sites to change was Facebook. I had to google several times how to do it, and believe me it wasn’t easy. The worst one? You’ll never guess. Verizon! I spent God knows how long pouring over the website and couldn’t find anyplace to change the address. I then spent over 30 minutes on the phone with them. I got transferred four times. Finally, “Brian” completely understood what I was trying to say and it took him 45 seconds to fix it. I explained it the same way every time, but somehow, only Brian had the ability to understand. Over 30 minutes for a less than a minute fix. So frustrating!

Then came Apple. I’m not an Apple person, but when my first book came out, we had to develop the ibook format and set up an account. I spent hours on-line but couldn’t change anything because I couldn’t get past the security questions. On the phone forever. Got sent to a Senior Analyst. Spent two days with her until she broke the news there was nothing they could do for me. So I set up a schedule for myself. I could try every eight hours to get in and then it would get locked. I made a list of every possible answer to the security questions and kept a typed list of what I had tried.

Question was, what is the first thing you learned to cook?

If you know me, you will chuckle at that. I CAN cook, but I DON’T cook. At least not very often. Faithfully, every day, I tried to break through the damn security.

mac and cheese

macandcheese

macaroni and cheese

macaroniandcheese

mac & cheese

mac&cheese

macaroni & cheese

macaroni&cheese

Do you see the frustration? Hitting my head on the wall, day after day after day. The only response I would get is, “That answer does not match our records.”

Then today, I almost passed out. I actually answered the question and was able to get into the program. Guess what the right answer was. Come on, guess!

eggs

I’m going to invest in a helmet to cut down on injuries from banging my head on the wall.


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Care Calendar

There ought to be a name for people who are elderly, but not in need of a nursing home. My dad fits right in that in-between category. He is able to live on his own, but not without some assistance. He needs more than nothing, but doesn’t need to be in full-time care.

He and I recently had a talk again about where he lives. He is in a one-bedroom apartment. He isn’t quite ready to move in with me and my family, and he doesn’t want to live in an assisted living home. Frankly, they can be a bit pricey. The next thing you know, your life savings is gone. (I mean your LIFE savings… a person’s entire work life savings.)

I asked him if it would help if his family/friends set-up a calendar so he had some things to look forward to. He thought that was  a good idea so I was glad. I was also overwhelmed though. I knew that I would have to be a lot of phone calls and also figure out a way to keep everyone informed. I felt the stress radiate through  my shoulders. Then it hit me.

Care Calendar! When Tim was sick, our friend from church was kind enough to be the administrator for our Care Calendar site. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, take note because it is an amazing site. You can find it on carecalendar.org and it is free. They encourage you to make a donation if you want, but it is free to utilize.

I spent the afternoon setting up a page for Dad. It was well worth the time investment. It is literally just what it says, a calendar. On that calendar, you can put as many “needs” as you would like. I set up meals, grocery shopping, transportation, apartment cleaning. and visiting. People (“helpers”) can then visit the site if given a code, and sign-up to take care of any of the needs listed. There is even a separate code for more sensitive/personal items that you wouldn’t want the general public to see.

When a person signs up, they give their name and email address. When it is time, they will receive a reminder email that says, “Don’t forget, you are bringing Joe Schmo dinner today.” As the coordinator, I also get an email that says, “So and so is bring Joe Schmo dinner today.” It’s an excellent system.

With the meal example, it will also show relevant information. For example, I set it up to tell people what Dad’s diet restrictions are. Currently, he is on a “mechanical soft” diet, which I define for them and also give examples of things that would be good for him to eat. The calendar can show what the person plans to bring him too so others will know and he won’t get the same type of food every day.

It really is an amazing tool and I can personally attest to the remarkable difference it made for Tim and I when he was sick. We were able to concentrate on him because our basic needs were totally cared for. I have such fond (and humbling!) memories of that part of our journey. People’s kindness was overwhelming. I am hoping that this works well for Dad too, although his needs are minimal compared to someone with a terminal illness.

Thank you to the family that started this brilliant site. And we will definitely be making a donation in the future 🙂 !


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As It Should Be

If you  have followed my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that I find dating to be a nightmare. Navigating and balancing all the dynamics is not for the faint of heart and I could give you names of thousands that would agree. When someone asks me what I am looking for, I used to say a full-time partner. Now I just say someone who I might want to go on a second date with!

We (those of us in the dating world) do a boatload of mental gymnastics in order to make sense of the nonsense that occurs regularly in the that world. Some of that is necessary because we all need to adjust our expectations sometimes. But every once in a while, something GREAT occurs and you have to shake your head at all the months/years of the stuff you put up with, thinking you were hoping for too much. Seeing as I tend to blog about the negatives, let me share some of the very refreshing things that I have experienced lately.

For example…

1. When you send a text to let him know you are thinking about him but you are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: You usually don’t get a response for several hours. Maybe not for a day or two. Or maybe they never text you again. Ever. Or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy.

Instead: He sees your text and he calls you because he wants to connect with you.

2. When you say something sappy like, “Happy Anniversary” and are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: “I don’t do anniversaries” or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy. Or they outright laugh at you.

Instead: He says thank you and tells you how much he has enjoyed getting to know you. He even talks about how much he is looking forward to continuing the journey with you.

3. When you tell him you wish you could see him more.

What you expect: He doesn’t feel the same way. He thinks you’re smothering him. He ignores you and continues to make you feel like you aren’t a priority.

Instead: He tells you has the desire to be with you, even if the schedules don’t allow it. But he “embraces the emotions” that you obviously both have that are causing the desire to see each other to begin with.

4. When you go to his house and hope maybe you can stay over (even though you can’t because you have a son at home).

What you expect: “I can’t share my bed with anyone. I can’t sleep if someone is here.” Or “I haven’t had anyone spend the night here in years. It is going to take me a long time to be comfortable with that.”

Instead:  He says, “You know, you can stay as long as you want. I just want you to be comfortable.”

I could write pages more of examples, but the point is, the “instead’s” are as it should be. I think I am finally at the point that I would rather have one week with someone like this, then weeks or months with someone who isn’t. That may sound like common sense to you, but there were times when the loneliness was so bad, I would have taken the bad over having nothing.

You don’t ever know how long something will last, but for this moment? It’s as wonderful as I have always dreamed it would be. Knowing I am respected and wanted does amazing things for my ability to get through the hard days. There are never guarantees for “forever” so you just relish each moment and day, and hope there are more. And more. And more.

 


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Darren

Four years ago when I started writing, Brigette told me I had to get on social media. I didn’t even know what a blog was. I had no Facebook page. Twitter. LinkedIn. Yikes! I’m still not up on everything and I’m sure I don’t use them as effectively as I could. One of the coolest results of that though, is being in touch with people I would probably never have been otherwise.

One day a couple of years ago, I got a notice from Darren. He wondered if I was the Darcy Thiel that was his roller skating girlfriend from seventh grade. I immediately remembered his name and that whole time period came rushing back. We used to ride our bikes to meet each other because we didn’t go to the same school.

That was about thirty years ago. We had a brief relationship (under six months I think) and then no contact for thirty years. Slowly, our contact began to increase. It was absolutely amazing that after all that time, our friendship picked right up like we hadn’t skipped a beat.

He’s on the West Coast now, married with almost grown kids. Every once in a while, I have a moment of feeling completely baffled by something. I have lots of close, intimate friends. Some of them know me extremely well, and almost all of them are supportive and loving to me. Sometimes though, I just think in some situations, no one completely understands what I am saying. Then I remember Darren.

He does monumental things for my self-esteem. It appears that he and I are emotionally wired in almost the same way. He has achieved a different kind of insight than I have, and seems so very, very wise. He truly believes, without an arrogant bone in his body, that we have a wildly intense, but insanely deep emotional connection to ourselves. (Jeeze, I hope I am being accurate. If I misquote you Darren, forgive me!) While this is a massive gift, it also leads to incredible loneliness at times because so few people relate on the same level.

This intensity has always felt to me like a blessing and a curse. But when I talk to Darren, I feel so incredibly special. It feels so much more like a rare gift than when I am left to my own inward devices. He will tell me that he admires my tenacity, especially when it comes to the dating world. He assures me when I am pounding my head on the wall in confusion, that I have articulated my feelings, needs, desires, (whatever!) in a completely sensible, accurate, clear manner. It is just the listener who is a bit handicapped to catch what it is because of their own level of self-understanding.

One time he recently told me that I have a rare ability to feel intensely, but manage to keep things compartmentalized and in order. Whether it is familial relationships, sex, friendships… I am able to separate layers and levels and know what they are about for me.

None of that, of course, changes our inability to connect sometimes with others. But at least, for a few moments, we have connection with each other.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still have moments where I think that maybe he and I are just both neurotic and crazy and have concocted all this nonsense to feel better about ourselves. Even if that’s true, I can accept that…LOL.

But it explains so much. It explains how I can be effective as a counselor, even when I am falling apart in other areas of my life. It explains how I can be crying in the parking lot and then walk into a venue and give a moving lecture like the professional I am. It explains how I can be heartbroken over some guy that I haven’t even known that long. It explains how I can be so heartbroken but get back on the horse and try again a few hours later. All of it is genuine and 100% me, but I move in and out as I need to.

Anyhow, thank you, my friend. I appreciate you (and all your many parts) more than I can express in words. Your faith in me always rescues me in my weakest moments. Someday, I hope I can return the immeasurable favors.


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Memories

Almost every time I speak, something happens that I think, “Ah, that is the reason I was here today.” I mean, it is always a rush to connect with an audience, and it is an honor to hear people’s personal stories. But sometimes there is a wow moment. You might have read about last September when someone approached me and introduced me to the world of genetics. That was one of those moments.

Last weekend, I had another one. I had a small part moderating in a medical conference. I had my books out on the registration table and tried to be there during breaks, etc.. A woman who looked familiar approached me and asked if I remembered her.

Turns out, she worked with Gilda’s Club, which is a support service center for patients with cancer and their families. (It was started by Gilda Radner.) The summer that Tim was sick, Frankie was just seven-years-old. Miss Kathy held a week-long day camp for kids that either had cancer, or had family members that suffered from it. Frankie went every day.

I remember at the end of the week they had a presentation where the kids showed their projects, read their writing, etc.. I was told quietly, there was a young man who worked with the kids in his early 20’s that Frankie literally grabbed on to. He stuck to him like glue. I have a picture of him holding Frankie, and Frankie had a death grip hug on him. (I would post the picture except I am out of town right now and don’t have the external drive where my pictures are located.) I told them that made perfect sense. Frankie was (and still is) ridiculously close to his brother Colin, who was close to the same age. Plus, well, he was losing his father.

Whenever I think of those events, I get overwhelmed with emotions. Frankie was so so so little back then. He acts so well-adjusted (and still does) that sometimes I forget just how hard losing his father was on him. Him clutching that man was a sign of the quiet desperation that was probably inside of him. “I need a male in my life. Don’t leave me too.” I heard it loud and clear.

With the hundreds of kids these people see every year, I can’t tell you what it did to my heart to have Miss Kathy come up seven years later and ask about Frankie by name. She said that picture went around the office between them for quite a while. She wanted to know how he was doing now. I couldn’t grab my phone fast enough to show her his hockey pictures. Then there was the picture I took in September that I snapped and then looked at it in shock. Where did my little boy go? It is obvious he is a young man now and it was happening right before my eyes without my fully noticing. I told her with pride how he has a 96 average in 8th grade while taking three advanced classes.

She was so happy to hear. She promised to tell the guy she works with. I was happy to know they are both doing the work they are so gifted at. And I knew. Seeing her was why I was there that day. What a tremendous, moving gift. No wonder my family has fared this situation as well as they have. We were surrounded with people like them, who remember us in detail after all these years.

Now I have to wipe my eyes. Thanks for the gift, Miss Kathy and friend. And to the many, many others of you who know you are on the list as well. All our love to you!

 


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Mother Teresa

Once a week, I try to post a quote on Facebook. It’s just something to keep things active on my business page and I hope it will generate some thinking. I really loved this week’s quote. It came out of a book I was reading called “Hope Conquers All” which is full of CaringBridge stories.

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

Love, love, love that. We need to love without getting tired.

I am the first to admit that I get tired. Often. I remember once at a spiritual direction session when Tim was still alive and I was dealing with a host of blended family problems, I was asked to move seats for a technique she was using. I don’t remember the actual intervention, but I do remember her saying afterward that she had an aha moment when she realized I was just completely exhausted. A simple thing like moving my seat became a burden because I was so emotionally tapped out. Tired.

I try not to complain, but when I do, I know I hear myself saying I’m tired. Tired of being alone. Tired of being the strong one. Tired of being the one people depend on. Tired of being responsible. Tired of being alone. Tired of being alone.

I was in a session yesterday with a lovely woman who has had a lifetime of burdens to bear. Family and significant others in her life have had hosts of issues like mental illness, severe addictions, etc.. She is tired. She just longs for someone to take care of her for a change. My heart ached for her. She is so worthy of being rescued, but there is no genuine promise to offer her that someone will eventually do just that.

Mother Teresa’s quote is profound. We need to love without tiring.  We don’t need miracles, we just need to stay the course. No fanfare, nothing fancy. Just keep at it. Keep going, keep trying.

And I don’t think it’s wrong to also hope to find someone in life who will love us without tiring as well. It’s ok to want it back in return.

I talked with my client yesterday about how she probably would identify with my fantasy for a significant other. My ideal isn’t being swept off my feet, or some fabulous vacation. The vision is in my kitchen, with someone who just says, “I’m here.” And then they stay. They love without tiring.

Thanks for your amazing life and example, Mother Teresa. And thanks for that profound statement. When I feel my fatigue, I’m going to remember that statement and let it inspire me to keep loving.