Posted in Mindfulness Matters, Personal Perspective

Grief Reflects Love

Last week my therapist said that as painful as grief is, it’s reflective of how much you loved someone.


My optimism about Tubs’ ability to recover from his illness didn’t keep him alive. He passed away at home, in my arms, while I was feeding him. It was traumatic. I was wracked with guilt. I felt like I’d killed him. I played all those terrible grief games we’re prone to. I examined the weeks before his death with ruthless scrutiny. My mind looped phrases that began with what if, if only, or I should have, wishing for a time machine to give me another chance to get it right.

Tubs’ littermate, Skinny, stuck to me like glue for the whole week that followed. Wherever I went was where he wanted to be. I was worried he might be depressed about losing his counterpart, but he was still eating, drinking, and using the litter box so I tried to relax. On Sunday, I moved into a new apartment. When the move was finished I picked up Skinny and ordered pizza for those that helped.

I noticed something strange on the ride over to our new home. Anytime Skinny had ever been in a car he screamed bloody murder for the whole trip, even when he was diabetic. This time, he was silent aside from a meow here or there. When we let him out in the new place he would pace around a few steps before laying down. He was meowing, but a strange meow I’d never heard before. It looked like it was hard for him to move around, although he still found a way to jump on my lap. Then he started licking his lips a lot and foaming at the mouth and there was no disputing that something was seriously wrong with him.

My sister and brother-in-law drove us to the emergency vet, hoping maybe he was just dehydrated from the heat. On the ride he lay completely limp in my lap, the full weight of his head in my hand. I wasn’t expecting good news. As much as I wanted to be proven wrong, I was right. The vet’s initial assessment was eerily similar to Tubs’. We were devastated. I didn’t have the money or the emotional capability to go through that process again, so we had to say goodbye.

As heartbroken as I was, a part of me was relieved that they were together. They’d spent their entire lives with one another and something didn’t feel right about their separation. I’m still struggling with intrusive thoughts trying to convince me that it’s all my fault. Luckily, they aren’t as overwhelming as they first were and it’s slowly becoming easier to ignore my inner bully. The hardest part is how lonely I am at home, but my friends have kept me busy and I take comfort in knowing that my cats were happy, healthy, and loved for the majority of their decade on this planet.

Even without my boys, I’m still a crazy cat lady. I’m sure it won’t be too long before I bring home a furry friend to help me navigate the next chapter of my life. After all, they’re great for your health, at least according to an article Greater Good Science Center posted for International Cat Day that goes over research on the health benefits of cat ownership.

 

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Posted in Life Lessons

Am I Doing Friendship Right?

Without exception every single day in our digital age we need to interact with other human beings. Most times the people we interact with aren’t even the one’s we care about. When we finally get to those we love we need to listen, respond, follow up, make plans, keep plans, check in…. it can be daunting. I constantly find myself asking the question: Am I doing this right? 

I frequently worry that I’m not doing enough and the reality is that I’m probably not. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s difficult enough for me to approach people in general, let alone keep up with the delicate process of building and keeping a healthy relationship. I forget to call, respond to texts, make plans, or worst of all if I’m feeling extra anxious or depressed I’ll cancel plans last minute. Should I just face the fact that I’m a bad friend?

Often I wholeheartedly agree that I am a bad friend, but today I’m going to take a stab at playing devil’s advocate: maybe I experience friendship in a nontraditional way. Don’t get me wrong, most of the behaviors described in the last paragraph are destructive and have/will continue to damage relationships. And I can understand why.

At least once a year I go through an outgoing phase where I make tons of plans and try to connect with lots of people. Inevitably I am faced with last minute cancellations and unanswered calls or texts. I try my best not to be hurt, but I am and in that moment I understand exactly how I make others feel when I cancel plans or fail to return messages. It sucks, but things happen and sometimes plans fall through or people get distracted.

Maybe sometimes we’re all bad friends, so instead of focusing on my failings I can focus on how I can be a better friend, but how does one go about leveling up in friendship? I know that I’m a broken record, but it seems the answer lies once again with mindfulness. Sophie Dembling asks some good questions in her post for Psychology Today:

“What is our role in creating intimacy in our relationships? And what roadblocks might we put in our own way? In what ways do you feel you “can’t” contribute more to the relationship?”

Dembling’s questions should get you started on a good path. Instead of evaluating relationships in your life piece by piece, start thinking about relationships as a whole, the elements involved and how they function.

Another reason we fail to connect with our friends is because we are just too busy. Life moves at hyperspeed now and sometimes there isn’t enough time to take a breath, let alone remember to reach out. The tips in this Fast Company  article are clear and seem easy enough to implement, particularly practicing random acts of kindness.

I’ve thought about bringing the Pen Pal tradition back with friends it’s harder to meet up with so we still have a space to connect that isn’t as easy to tune out of like social media or texting. Will I ever get to it? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I’m trying!

If you’re curious if you might be a bad friend check out this article from Vincent Nygen that goes over eight different warning signs.


This is a side note on how grateful I am for the friends that I do have. Yesterday was hell for me. My mood plummeted and I couldn’t seem to stop crying and pull myself out of it. I was insecure about all the relationships in my life, questioning everything I have ever done… I was so ready to call it quits. My bestie texted me later that day to tell me she was there for me and it brightened me up enough to make it through. I don’t know what I would do with that woman, but once the appreciation wore off the insecurity that I don’t reciprocate enough and don’t deserve her friendship began to consume me again.The dark cloud of doubt, sadness and insecurity threatened to stick with me today, but another observant friend was determined to snap me out of it and she succeeded:

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I’m 100% sure I do not deserve this awesomeness and it’s so tempting for me to feel guilty that she went out of her way for me when I’m not worth it, but I keep telling my brain that is not the way to receive this support and love. I am so grateful and glad to have her in my life. I am excited to see how our friendship will evolve over the next few decades and will do my best to spoil her and the other friends in my life with my own random acts of kindness ❤.

Posted in Life Lessons

Jealousy…

This won’t be a post telling you how to not want what others have. You always will. Instead this post muses on being worried that you might be left out or replaced. It’s being stuck between happiness for others and fear about where you stand.

This time of year it’s a feeling I feel quite often. Over the summer break I was able to connect with friends and family, attend different events, and grow new relationships. Then the fall semester began and everything screeched to a halt.

The excitement I once had being invited to things responding, “Yeah! I’m in!” turned into looking at the ground and responding with a disappointed, “I can’t I’ve got class.” The world doesn’t stop when I’m busy. Even though I have to remove myself everyone keeps hanging out, having fun and growing closer. Part of me is happy and proud that I have been able to bring so many people together but…
Continue reading “Jealousy…”

Posted in Life Lessons

Goodbye Lincoln Square, Hello Evanston!

The past weekend I moved to an apartment in Evanston. Three stories up with no elevator. We were too stubborn to hire movers and a part of me thinks we might always be. Maybe that’s okay. My sister, brother-in-law and I have spent a decade helping one another with moves, so at this point we’re pros right?

I talked myself out of this move so many times. Four years ago I moved back to Chicago in Edgewater ending my marriage. I needed to be near my sister and I’ve spent the past four years within two miles of that area. The past two have been in Lincoln Square, and this past one has been with my best friend. There were a lot of times I told myself I couldn’t live with her and that it wouldn’t work, but it did, so much so that we’ve arranged for a weekly hangout swearing not to grow too far apart.

We got to know the area and we have our favorite places. There’s Quick Bite, Jimmy’s Pizza, Shelly’s, Garcia’s, Yogurt Square, Rolls & Bolls, Lou Malnati’s, and so much more within walking or delivery distance. Events are nonstop throughout the summer: festivals, farmer’s markets, and live music nights. A week or two ago there were bubbles in the fountain of Lincoln Square!

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We’re a long walk or a short bus ride from the beach. The days where we would lay on the beach and pour wine into our plastic cups, people watch, talk, sit in silence, nap, snack… those are some of my favorite memories.

So, why did I move? I could have easily spent a few more years rooming with my best friend, but not without another area of my life suffering. Before I offered to take the place of her supposed-to-be roommate that bailed two weeks before they were supposed to move in, I let her know that at the end of our lease I would likely be moving in with my boyfriend. We had already been together almost a year and in my mind it made sense.

A year came and part of me wanted to change my mind, tell my boyfriend too bad I’m staying! I also kept trying to convince them that all of us should move in together. Up until the week before I still debated if I was making the right decision, but I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have Thom as a partner.

He stepped into my life at a very dark point. I was sick, my father was dying, and I was really manic. He was patient and he brought the light. He’s willing to wait for the roaring storm to pass and for me to come to my senses and realize that I’m being unfair.

What’s even more important is that we talk. We went through my concerns about moving in one by one. He wasn’t mad or upset even though it was only a month before we were going to make the leap, instead he agreed this conversation had to happen. I spent a lot of my adult life voiceless in intimate relationships. I could complain to friends and family about all sorts of issues, but I never had the balls to sit down and work through it with someone.

Recently I came across a great post about relationships through the reader. Matt’s post “What To Do When Your Spouse Isn’t Your Soulmate” struck a chord with me. It came at the time I needed it and affirmed what I already knew. I have an amazing relationship with a wonderful man, and it is mine to lose.

So, here we are in our third floor apartment with our three needy cats taking it day by day.

 

Posted in Free Time Fun

Learning to Go With the Flow

Yesterday was a hot, humid, beautiful Chicago summer day. I made plans with friends, coworkers, and classmates to head to Millenium Park to watch the movie La La Land at  the Jay Pritzhker Pavilion. As it often happens, things came up for some folks so the final count was four and we made our way to the park planning to get there a half an hour before the movie started. Our bags were full with blankets, bottles of wine, snacks and excitement.

Unfortunately for us, the entire city had the same idea. By the time we got near the pavilion, it was so packed you could barely even walk. I am stubborn, so I had to be sure before I gave up. I politely shuffled along waiting to get past the crowd and to see if the grass miraculously had some space open. When I finally got close I couldn’t even see the green of the grass anymore. Coming into focus was a mess of people and belongings crammed next to and on top of one another filling every inch of the field.

I turned around and waved for my friends to give up and head away from the crowd. As we left the entrance we came in was being blocked and barricaded to try to manage the overwhelming crowd. What now?

These tend to be my worst moments. The uncertainty and disappointment throws me into a frenzied panic and I end up shutting down. Not this time! Sure, I was frustrated. At first I was walking ahead of my friends with destructive wheels spinning in my head, but I stopped. If you aren’t from Chicago, Millenium Park is huge and surrounded by other parks and endless possibilities. I started thinking of our options instead of giving in to my crazy.

We decided to head towards Buckingham Fountain. Along the way we joked of our misfortune. My friends sat on benches for the most part, but my stubborn self did not abandon my picnic dreams. Although the evening had a disastrous beginning it had a wonderful ending. I laid out my blanket in front of the benches facing the fountain and sat comfortably listening to the water, laying in the sun, looking at my beautiful city and laughing with my friends.