Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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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.


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Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Well, nobody is perfect.

I said to Frankie, “Hey, remember when you were younger and I asked you to write my blog and you did?”

“Yeah, but I’m not writing it again.”

“Come on! I’m looking at a blank screen.”

“Well, think of something.”

“Frankie! At least give me an idea.”

“Fine, Mom. Write about how you ate all of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch this week.”

Last week I blogged about my attempts to eat and sleep better. I am happy to report that I did follow through with what I said I would. I set up an alarm appointment that reminded me to go to bed at 11 pm. Last night was my first night at 10:45. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fall asleep for anything.

I also set an alarm for 8 am to drink a protein shake. I am happy to say I either did that or ate bran flakes every morning to start off the day correctly. I haven’t felt like it is habit yet though, but soon I am hoping to add “no eating after 9 pm” then gradually work back to 7 pm.

I try. I really do. I have no idea if I’ve lost weight or not, but I try not to focus too much on pounds anyway. The goal is to be healthier. I don’t think that is just rhetoric, I really believe it’s an important dynamic to success.

But I still fail miserably sometimes. I might eat well all day, but at 10 pm I will eat something I shouldn’t. Thus the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I knocked off a box the other night, which consisted of two really full bowls plus another half.  Frankie informed me he doesn’t eat it anymore anyway, so I told him I won’t buy it. He said I buy it for me because I want it, and I told him that of course I WANT it, but I try not to eat sugar cereals so I really WON’T buy it anymore if he isn’t going to eat it.

He’s such a tattle tale. When he was really little, we went across the street to a neighbor’s party. I walked into the living room after visiting outside for a while to find a room of laughing adults. Frankie was in the center. He was telling them all about his mom’s Wii-Fit program. It has my weight down to a tenth of a gram. Also my BMI. He also delighted in showing the crowd several of my non-sexy exercise poses.

Traitor.

I went to a birthday party last weekend where we had a homemade cake from scratch with dark chocolate ice cream on the side. My “always eats healthy” friend mentioned a cake recipe that replaces sugar with beets. I could have died. I yelled out to the guests, “Anyone interested in a cake made with beets instead of sugar?” He almost slugged me. Definitely not me.

I will never be good at this weight and eating stuff. Never. But I also probably won’t ever stop trying to at least move in the right direction.  As they say in Alanon, “Progress, not perfection!” Amen, sister.


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Back to Basics

When I lecture on death/dying, I often talk about how even with all our modern marvels of medicine, human life always comes back to two basic needs- eating and sleeping. When a person is undergoing treatment, neither eating or sleeping is easy to come by. Palliative/comfort care often restores exactly that- the ability to eat and sleep more easily. That is why research shows that people often live longer with palliative care than they do with curative care (chemo, radiation, etc.).

I’ve been thinking about how recently my eating and sleeping have been not been doing so well. Honestly, not eating well has been a lifelong problem. It has been the exception when I have been able to get a handle on eating properly. I’ve actually been successful, but only for brief periods of time. Every day I wake up and attempt to do so again, but usually by 2:00 pm I’ve sunk again. I have all the education I need, I just don’t have the motivation or willpower to follow through. Or something.

I tried to think of a baby step I could take and I came up with setting up a task in my calendar that comes with an alarm. At 8 am every day, I want to have a protein shake. That will start my day correctly and maybe if it is an actual task that needs to be checked off, I can put my OCD to good use. If I can get that to be habitual, my next goal will be to set a reminder up at 9 pm that says, “No more eating” and eventually decrease the time until 7 pm.

Sleeping is another lifelong battle. Even my baby books talk about the problems I had. I’m sure I had night terrors, they just hadn’t been named yet. I’ve done sleep tests at different ages. I’ve tried all the different medicines there are. But lately, I’ve just gotten in a bad habit of watching Netflix until 1 in the morning. Then I don’t want to (or can’t sometimes) get up when I used to. After waking Frankie for school, I go back to sleep. By mid-afternoon I need a nap in order to get through my activities. Vicious cycle. Once I nap, then I’m up at night again.

My baby step was again to add a daily task set up with an alarm. My goal for the first few days is to go to bed at 11 pm, WITHOUT Netflix or anything else. Even if I just lay there, it will help break the habit. Then I can lower the time by 30 minutes until I get to bed at a more decent time for me.

So simple, but sometimes I just have to hit myself over the head. Your eating and sleeping is off, Darcy so it is effecting everything else. You need to fix it.

Tiny, elementary steps that I feel like I shouldn’t need to still be making at 50 years old, but yet here I am. Small, incremental steps are the only way that I know of though, to make changes that won’t make me want to jump off a cliff.

Sigh.

I love the ‘ol AA slogan: One day at a time. It’s better than not trying at all, right?


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Yay!

In a month that has been filled with a lot of difficult situations to deal with, I am also grateful for some sweet moments as well. There has been a mending of relationships which has made my heart smile broadly, which I could desperately use more of these days.

Sometimes the relationships don’t look exactly the same as they did before, but you can experience healing none-the-less. One was a more recent experience that occurred about six months ago. It was a professional relationship. It took some time, but eventually heartfelt apologies were offered and things are going to eventually resume on a professional level when some logistics are taken care of. I had been hopeful this would eventually happen and I am glad to say it did.

The other was of a more personal nature. There was a professional component to it as well, but the real nature of the wounds were quite personal for both parties. This one has been a bleeding wound for over six years. Sure, time made some of it heal, but every once in a while the scab would get agitated and the pain would resume. I wasn’t sure this one would ever get better.

For a couple of years, I thought it would be impossible to feel better unless there was a complete acknowledgement of every piece of the infraction between us. I didn’t think I could ever move on unless I got some sort of assurance that I had been deathly wronged and there was deep regret on the other’s part.

When I asked for this meeting, I was greeted with a polite, “I don’t think it’s a good idea” type of answer. I knew though, that after six years I was in a much different place. I wanted desperately for us to be able to move on without re-hashing everything, without apologies for things we really couldn’t apologize for in a genuine manner. I don’t really think you can forgive without “repentance” entirely, but I do think you can heal regardless.

I knew the risk. Meeting and trying could make it worse. It could do the opposite of provide closure. It could make the original wounds even worse. But deep in my heart, I knew it was a risk I had to take.  The relationship we had before the rift was of such high value to me, it was a greater risk to leave it unhealed without trying.

Six years of waiting. That part of our conversation, actually probably only took about 20 minutes. I set the tone by reassuring him that I had no desire to re-hash the past, I just wanted to move forward more comfortably. I knew we would never have the same relationship again, but I was hoping that somehow it could be better than it currently was.

He admitted that what I had intuited over the years was indeed accurate. I just didn’t understand fully why. He explained that I hurt him as well. He explained why he stopped trusting me. Once I heard him out, it made sense to me. Not to over-simplify a complex situation, but in some ways it was truly a misunderstanding. He thought I meant “A” and in actuality, I meant “B”.  In fact, “A” couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I think the corrected perception helped immensely, but we both knew it didn’t change the hurt it caused when it originally happened. And it didn’t change the last six years when that perception remained in place for him. At the end of the conversation, he actually thanked me for intiating the meeting. Big shift from being hesitant to even talk to me.

The future will tell how much healing occurred between us. I do know that for me personally, a very heavy burden was lifted. There are still scars. Those don’t go away. The relationship is still forever changed. But some of the very significant pain has been altered in a favorable direction.

Life doesn’t always go this way, but it confirms the challenge to myself and to all of you – I want to stay invested. I may need to invest more wisely in my life at times, but connection, love, relationship, respect, care… they are worthy of our time and effort. Tonight, I will breathe just a bit easier, with six years of weight significantly lessened.

Big, big sigh. Not of annoyance, but of relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Love Hurts

I’ve had another down week, but when people ask me how I am doing, I am saying, “fine.” I guess that’s because I am. There is nothing in particular wrong, but sometimes depression takes the form of a dark cloud that just kind of hangs over you. I’ve decided after reflecting on events, that is comes down to the fact that when you choose to be invested in people, (I mean REALLY invested) that pretty much guarantees that you will experience some gut wrenching pain at some point (or several points).

I’ve been told more than once (and recently reminded) that I just care too much. I know it’s true, but I don’t think it is something that will ever change about me. Sometimes it’s the maddening romantic love where you care about something that hurts you. You wish you could stop caring, but it seems beyond your control. It reminds me of the movie “Bruce Almighty” where Jennifer Aniston lays in her bed at night and just weeps with the prayer, “Please God. Please let me stop loving him.”

But there are many other loves. Loving your child, loving your parent, a friend, a client. Could be anyone. Sometimes there is love you cannot walk away from. No matter what happens, you are committed. Often this is family. On our wedding day, Tim and I wrote our own vows. I hadn’t had Frankie yet, but my vows talked about how I knew there would be a difference between any biological children I had and my step-children. But I vowed that as much as I was humanly capable of, I would minimize that difference to the best of my ability. Tim’s death never changed that commitment to me.

This week I have just had to listen and see and observe people around me who are hurting. Sometimes, people choose a path of destruction that is miles wide. Sometimes it does no good to try to intervene. Maybe an attempt would actually make things worse. Let me just say when you love someone, it hurts and aches deeply to be aware of how much they are hurting themselves and those around them, but remain powerless to stop it or do anything about it. Your heart just breaks as you watch.

My brother, Dad and I had another appointment this week. This time, there were no jokes and giggles. Dad was having a bad day. Sometimes the Parkinson’s just gets to him. It’s not life-threatening, but every once in a while I get hit between the eyes when I realize just how much he has changed. This predictable, stable, larger-than-life man now shuffles his feet. He may trip on the stairs. He may be dizzy, confused. And the worst is when he realizes it and just looks at me and says something like, “I just don’t feel right today.”

I wouldn’t trade this part of me for anything. I want to love deeply. I want to care too much. But sometimes I just have the need to also cry or yell out that it really sucks. Those moments I think erroneously that I would give anything to trade in my soul for someone who is a bit more calloused and selfish. Wish I could just not care and wash my hands of responsibility.

Those moments fade. And I take the whole package. I will love and care. And I will hurt and ache. It’s the price of connection and I am willing to pay it. Maybe it’s not that I’m willing. I doubt I could be anything else. It’s as involuntary as breathing for me I think.

Hmmm… I guess it’s another example of the paradox of bittersweet.


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Fun with Ultrasound

You know my theory. Face the glass half-empty and then from that space, find the half-full. Caring for an aging parent can definitely be a taxing experience. But I have found some fun things that are happening because of caring for Dad. One big thing, is I’m spending a lot more time with my brother than I ever used to.

Dad had his follow-up ultrasound today so my brother Alex drove him out. Dad still drives, but only short distances. We drive over to the radiology center and who knew an ultrasound could lead to so many laughs? Dad and I sit down while Alex parks the truck. I go over to get a cup of tea and ask Dad if he wants some coffee. Now, Alex and I are actually pretty evil when it comes to being children. I know Dad likes his coffee, but I know he can’t have any until after his ultrasound. Alex comes in and he gets some coffee. We all sit down and Alex offers Dad a sip of his coffee. Like I said, we are equally pretty evil.

We get called back to register but there is only one seat. I would normally do Dad’s paperwork but they need his signature. I sit on Dad’s lap, but I know I will crush him. The nurse laughs and the rest of the paperwork is simple. Back to the waiting room. Dad hands me his phone. I look at Alex and hand it to him. I kind of like not being the number one person anymore. Alex is the one that spends more time with him and is taking him home. Alex pockets the phone and then says to Dad, “What about your wallet?” Evil. Entertaining for the people in the waiting room though.

After Dad goes back to the actual ultrasound, Alex and I decide to tell him when he gets out that we got bored waiting and went to breakfast without him. Not to worry. We let him know we were happy to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru for him.

Denny’s is our new favorite hang-out after medical appointments so off we went. Dad wants to sit in a booth so we get planted in the middle of “old person camp.” I tell him I am going to say hi to some friends I see and Alex says,”You have friends?” with great surprise in his voice.

Sitting next to Alex, I am dying because the old man behind me is blowing his nose so loudly it is turning my stomach. For whatever reason, Alex can’t even hear it which I find astounding. About five minutes later, the old man across from us starts blowing his nose. I look at Alex and we crack up. Shortly after that, Alex knocks my elbow off the table. I look at him and he nods at Dad. Sure enough, Dad pulls out his hanky and blows his nose. Alex and I are rolling on the floor by now.

Until Dad gets his bladder procedure done, the poor guy has to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes. The joke is old as dirt but after trip number one, I ask him, “Did everything come out ok?” The answer is yes with a slight smile. After trip number two, I ask, “Did you find it ok?” And the joke is on me this time. Dad looks at me without a pause and replies, “Yes, I have a string tied around it.” Now all three of us are rolling on the ground. My sister ended up calling right after that. We put her on speaker phone which livened things up even more.

Dad had a gift card and Alex picked up the rest of the tab and the tip. On the way home, I tell him I understand now why Dad prefers my brother drive. He always picks up the tab. When I’m with Dad, I always let him pick up the tab. I did say that I offer to pay on occasion, but I know he will say no and I only offer once. Either way, now that there is three of us, I’m about 99% guaranteed I am getting a free meal out of the gig.

Next week we go the cute surgeon’s again. Alex will be with us this time. God only knows what will happen.


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Millard Suburban

Part of my new career is talking about death/dying and grief/loss, and part of the goal is to help improve the medical system. I admit, I am hard to please when it comes to hospitals and doctors. It’s not because I’m cynical and picky, but I do honestly believe that our system is very, very broken.

When I went to Punta Cana for four days, so many people told me I needed to go for a whole week. Boy, would I love that. You barely get time to drop your guards down and it’s time to return. But I’m a single mom, a therapist, and I help take care of my dad. I just feel like I can’t be gone longer than that. And sure enough, there was one client emergency and my dad ended up in the hospital. Sigh.

Anyhow, I have to say, I love Millard Suburban Hospital. Dad has been there three times since April. Of course no person or entity is perfect, but I really like these guys. When I got the text about Dad, I started in right away. First I had to handle a situation for Frankie because obviously Dad wouldn’t be staying with him if he was in the hospital. Next was sorting out what was actually going on. Dad does his best to understand the medical stuff, but sometimes things get mixed-up. Everyone who was local was visiting him and trying to talk to doctors, but there was some confusion.

I called the hospital and explained my dilemma of being Dad’s medical advocate (as well as legal and financial) but that I was out of the country. I got a call back from the nurse practitioner. She remembered me and Dad from October’s stay. I immediately felt better. She did her best to explain what was going on. She also said he was stable and I didn’t need to get on a plane and come home. She also said she would call every day and let me know if there was any change.

She did exactly that. She even remembered to say “Happy Birthday” in her message on the day of my actual birthday. (She is turning 50 this year too!) She also had the surgeon call me directly. He explained things to me even further. He was able to clarify some of the more confusing aspects of what was happening, which turned out really just to be a clarification of terms. I told him that I was returning home Tuesday night but not until midnight. I asked if there was any way to keep Dad there until Wednesday so he was not released to his apartment where he lives alone. No problem.

He did exactly that.

I really appreciate this hospital. I figure I do enough complaining about all the bad stuff that happens, I wanted to acknowledge the good stuff that happens. I think I would like to go there if I ever have the need to be in a hospital. Thank you to all the staff who took such good care of a man who all of his family love very much. And thank you for bothering to care about a 50-year-old who was on a much-needed break. You put my mind at ease, which all the beautiful paradise-like sun in the world couldn’t have done if I was worried about my father. Kudos!

(P.S. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, yes! This is the same surgeon that I met in person when I got home and could barely concentrate because he was so handsome… Just another perk of the hospital!)