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

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!

bubbles

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 Life Lessons

Asking Is The Hard Part

We are stubborn, fearful of rejection, and don’t want to “bother” anyone, or at least that’s how I feel when I think of asking anyone for anything. I get anxious even just asking my roommate/best friend/therapist if I can eat some of her chips. Okay, so, normally instead of some I eat them all, but that’s besides the point!

It dawned on me recently that while my dream is mine alone, I am not alone in bringing it to fruition. I can already count a dozen people that have had a hand in this blog from reviewing concepts to proofreading posts, and even promoting. I owe a great debt to each of them for their solicited assistance.

I might not have made this blog live if I hadn’t womaned up and asked Becky Sarwate to take a look and give me some feedback. I have found it to be true that most people are willing to help. All you need to do is be respectful, direct and work up the courage to ask.

There are two caveats. One is to make sure that you are making a reasonable request. Consider that this person is taking time that could have been spent elsewhere to help you accomplish your goal. Be specific in your request so they know what agreeing entails.

The second is to be grateful. Appreciate their kindness and the next time someone asks you for help before you say no graciously consider the request. Do not let the magic of these simple exchanges fall away!

Here’s some tools to help you ask away:

7 Effective Ways to Ask for Help (and Get It): I love number four the “Foot in the Door” or “Door in the Face.” Ask a smaller question to get the chance to ask the bigger one!

5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help: Cannot get over how excellent number five is: create a culture where asking for help is encouraged.

Asking For Help Reveals Strength, Not Weakness: “The truth is we all have gifts to share -” YES!

Savvy Psychologist: How to Ask for Help: Effective tools to use when the anxiety about the ask begins to set in.

2 Words That Make Asking for Help a Lot Easier: I wasn’t sure what the words were, but this makes sense. Those words connect with the human instinct to help those in need.

 



 

I couldn’t close a post about asking for help without mentioning Chester Bennington’s suicide. The weight of losing someone so pivotal in my survival as a teen and seeing the collective suffering of others has been tragic this week. One question keeps kicking around my brain, what can we do about it?

As much as this post is about someone asking for help, I think some of these techniques might be able to apply to those surrounding someone who’s struggling. We often know something is wrong, but don’t know where to begin or how to get someone to open up. Maybe if we follow that “foot in the door” method and start with some small asks with friends (ex. how has work/school/hobby been lately? what do you want for dinner? how is your family?) these might open a space to ask the bigger more personal questions. There’s so much stigma around mental illness that reaching out can be an insurmountable task, perhaps we can help those we love towards that step.

I wrote about my own struggles with suicide previously in Bouncing Back From The Blues. Sometimes my days are filled with suicidal thoughts, and other times, like now, I am lucky enough to only have a few a week. You are not alone. Have hope. Reach out. We need you.