Learning To Love Lexi

Lexi – photo by author

After our family dog, Callie, died from cancer of the spleen from one moment to the next, I was heartbroken. We all were. This happened shortly after her           tenth birthday party, a tradition in our home, mocked by the boys but revered by the girls. This year, being her BIG birthday, even the boys made an appearance and I was so happy. I even bought the number 10 candles and put them in her special mushy dog food that we gave her once a year as a treat. Little did we know it would be her last birthday and that she would die shortly thereafter. My son took me aside after she died and said quietly “Really glad you had that birthday party, Mom, it was a good party.” Of course, I burst into tears but was grateful.

Of the four of us and our neighbors, I was the most emotional; I’m always the most emotional. I couldn’t walk around our small, cozy house without crying. It was too quiet in the house, no one followed me or greeted me at the door, no one loved me like Callie did and I missed her desperately. I grieved intensely  for a while and then decided I was the type of person who needed a dog. Against the lectures of my family, I started visiting animal shelters on my own, with my husband and with my friend, Sarah.

After months of visiting, holding, petting, I hadn’t found the right dog for us. I had been told to adopt an older animal (and next time I really will) but at this point I didn’t want to miss a minute of a puppy’s young life. I looked at older dogs but not seriously. I was happy just being near dogs and puppies until one day, my thirtieth trip to an animal shelter but the second trip to the North Shore Animal League, my friend Sarah and I walked in and my eyes met the sleepy eyes of a rust colored puppy, curled up in a circle, sleeping. I had just met MY dog. We fell in love. I asked to see her, this “German Shepard Mix” and soon I was led to an inside room and she was in my lap, all kisses and hugs and sleepy sweetness. When another woman asked me if I was taking that dog, I immediately said “Yes, this was MY dog” and so she became mine. My friend Sarah and I filled out the papers, (I tell the dog that she has two mommies) and I called my husband and said “Honey, it’s a girl!”

I named her Lexi (were both names from my favorite show Grey’s Anatomy?) and I sat in the back seat, Lexi sleeping in my lap, while Sarah drove us home ever so carefully to avoid the huge pot holes in the road. I did not substitute Lexi for Callie, it was a different love, a new love, a love I had to grow into and an important lesson to learn. There are no two loves alike in this world. You can love equally but not exactly alike. This applies to every type of love there is, it’s a huge life lesson.

I admit, I had forgotten what having a puppy was like, after all, I was ten years older now and that makes a big difference. I think my puppy years are behind me and while I know I will always be a “dog person” I can see adopting an older dog in the future. But, what was most different were their personalities, Callie was a lap dog, a fearful dog, terrified of being in cars, scared of people, perhaps abused before she came to us. She liked nothing better than to stay at home in her comfort zone, yet she was perfectly attuned to my feelings. Lexi, wild thing, crazy dog, likes nothing better than to hop in the back seat and go for a ride, has the strength of a bull, loves to play, jump and go places and hasn’t shown a lot of tenderness (yet.) She’s fun and playful and but when I fell on the ground once, she didn’t leave me, I even saw concern in her eyes and gratitude in mine. Once she’s through her puppy phase I’m hoping she will settle down and be a really great dog. Actually, I’m counting on it.

Tired, Tired, Tired

(106/365) Tired but can't sleep

(106/365) Tired but can’t sleep (Photo credit: Sarah G…)

I can’t watch the news anymore; even when I just glance at the news on the computer, I know the world is a scary place, a terrible place.  The fear is in my stomach first, like raw clenching tentacles and the tightness inside me like an army of multi-colored stretched rubber bands.  I feel anxious, I see it reflected in my own eyes, fear, insecurity, doubt. Yes, the world is a bad place and many dreadful things happen. I also take other people’s pain and clutch it in my arms, like a hug surrounding a wounded child.

I can list a number of my most awful days in a second, like rapid-fire stock market trading but when I try to conjure up incredibly good days, I have to think, hard. The usual, marriage and childbirth come up, of course, but really, what was the last golden day I had that was out of the ordinary?  I stop to think. Tonight, I can’t come up with anything; my brain has been taken over by fear and pain.

I know I am too sensitive but it sticks with me like a second skin; sometimes I invent future nightmares. I know I shouldn’t do that and I try to stop myself  but there are times when I feel overwhelmed. It passes, I know, but while it happens, I forget.

My legs, from Fibromyalgia tonight are aching, painful, much more than usual. Fibromyalgia is eating up my world slowly but aggressively. New symptoms, tingling and numbness of my hands and feet, leg pain, imbalance, nerve pain too. It wasn’t supposed to get worse, that’s what the doctor told me, or did I dream that? I knew it wouldn’t get better and I accepted that easily but today is so much more painful than other days. I want the pain to end and drown in sleep. Tonight, I want to curl up and try to find a comfortable position and just lay here in the dark. I asked my husband to come upstairs to kiss me good-night, I haven’t done that in many years; his tender kiss on my forehead reassuring.

I don’t want conversation or to watch television, I don’t want to read a morbid book or even a funny book and I don’t want to listen to music which usually calms my soul. I just want to stay still in the dark and breathe evenly and not hurt. This pain is severe; I never take pain medication but tonight I may have to grope for a pill from an outdated prescription.  I don’t really want to take it, it’s a false reading of tortured limbs but tonight, but tonight I need a break.

A break from physical and emotional pain, let me lie here and fall asleep with my dog sleeping on my foot and my warm diet root beer by my side. Let me forget the worry and the fear and the pain. “I don’t want to fight,” I said, to my sister online; I don’t want to waste the little energy I have on our frequent disagreements. Fighting is not the answer and not the solution. This stress on me is unnecessary and I want it to end, there is no room in my life for painful interactions. Whatever it takes, I promise to try to do it because I want peace between us, even if sometimes, it is artificial.

Let me stay in my little corner tonight, huddled on one side and let me sleep, just let me sleep.

Living With Uninvited Guests

There seems to be at least one new creature who lives in our house and comes out frequently; his name is FIGHTING. He lives with us in our small house, often hiding in one room or another but he seems to be here constantly. FIGHTING joins my daughter in her attitude and tone of voice; or when she doesn’t get what she wants.  FIGHTING, also lives with my son, when my son drops the F bomb way too often, when he has a meltdown at the word “college” when we ask him if he has read a single page of a 40 dollar book that we bought at his request. FIGHTING is one of our new family members, not one I like particularly much but he has joined our family and my husband and myself have succumbed also to his impolite although sometimes quite impish ways. Yes, my husband and I have been joined by FIGHTING too. I am NOT proud of this.   Like an ill-intentioned in-law when you’ve just had a baby and they know everything better and you don’t want to hear it for one quarter of a second in any lifetime.

Having a Junior in High School and a Sophomore in High School at the same time brings us a little more energy and upheaval than an ordinary family would generally have. Pair that with an unemployed dad who is desperately trying to find a job for more than 6 months already and a mom who has been sick for over two and a half years with one thing after another. FIGHTING has been reunited with his siblings,  TENSION and STRESS; we come to find out that they are triplets.  Now, all three live with us, most of the time if not all the time.

It’s like the guests from Hell who seemingly will not leave. There was a definite begin date but no happy ending in sight and probably not for a while.  We all try, as hard as we can, to keep the triplets under control but sometimes they just break loose and dance around us satanically while we succumb to their uncontrollable and hypnotic,  evil, evil ways. No matter how hard you try to control them there are times when they get the best of us and win. We shout, we cry, we roll our eyes, doors are slammed, curse words are used, arguments are not only overheated but overheard; we become undone.   We try to regroup after each incident and we do but it isn’t easy when they come in rapid succession.

Every family goes through rough patches and I, of course, am aware of that and empathic. However, we have been hammered and it’s hard not to feel sorry for yourselves once in a great while. Yes, I count my blessings, yes, I am grateful for the things we do have but, when all of the negative issues play against each other and win,  it is really, really  hard to write everyday in the gratitude journal of life.

If you’re Oprah it’s easier to be grateful, gracious, compassionate and generous; if Fighting, Stress and Tension wanted to move to her house, she would just put them all up, lovingly, in various other houses or guest cottages in different countries. For us regular folk, we have no choice. We live with these demons day in and day out and try to cope the best way we know how.  We have no choice. However, if Oprah has any helpful hints or ideas, please tell us; we really would love to know.