Notes to Self

July 17, 2012

On pets

Filed under: Life's little things — Tags: — me2self @ 9:30 am

I am new to this ‘blog scene’,  but I have already witnessed the sense of community that comes with blogging. A fellow blogger’s recent post made me think about my pets (both past and present) and now I want to write about it (them).

I am the youngest in my family and before I was born they had a dog. It/he didn’t last very long – he was an overactive, turns violent on a dime kind of dog. So my mother didn’t want another. My father had one as a child but after it died they didn’t have another. I always loved animals. But there was never a possibility of having a pet.

Then, one summer day my sister was walking home with a friend and they acquired a follower. A mutt dog. He followed my sister to our house. He jumped up on my mother’s car (scratched it by the way!) and sat on our porch. It was hot so we gave it water (I say it because we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl!). We thought it was a neighbor’s dog and since the neighbor’s were away on vacation there was little we could do about it. So we fed it. It slept on our porch. We again gave it water and food. We didn’t get too close because we didn’t know how it would react (and I had never really played with a dog before). When the neighbor’s returned we learned that this was not their dog.

Can we keep it? We pleaded. My father put an ad in the local newspaper “dog found”. No responses.

We didn’t adopt this dog. He adopted us.

For 13 years.

I played with this dog in the rain, in the snow and in everything in between. I shared my ice-cream cones. I fed him from the table (yes, we finally determined it was a he) when my parents weren’t looking. I took him on long walks and went for walks with my dad. Those were special times. I used him as a pillow in the winter and wanted nothing to do with his  shedding hair when I was sweaty in the summer.

I talked to him and told him things no one else should hear (or that I felt I wanted to tell). He was a good, faithful dog. He protected us. We always thought he had a sense of loyalty since we “took him in”. One day we all went out and left him tied to the back porch. When we returned he was on the front porch. He didn’t run away and we knew he never would. He was a part of our family.

When he died it was rough. He was old and his heart was failing. He died in the middle of the night. My father and I carried him to a place. They cremated him. Years later we finally buried him beneath the tree we planted in his honor.

I wore his dog tag around my neck for many, many years. I can still see his face and hear his woof as he bounced to be let outside or go for a walk. I still miss him.

Fast forward a few years. My husband (then boyfriend) and I are living together. I want a pet. No animals allowed in the complex. We get a cat anyway – much to his chagrin. I went to a local shelter. Cute little, curious calico. That’s the one.

I am not a cat person but I couldn’t see having a dog in an apartment (especially a pet-unfriendly one!). I was worried that I wouldn’t like the cat. But I guess the Universe was just so aligned and I got the the cat for me. Just enough of a lap cat without being overbearing. Always uses the litterbox (even now when I don’t remember to clean it as often as I really should). Sleeps with me in the winter and not in the summer. Comes when I call her and nuzzles me when she wants me. Sometimes I think she is my dog reincarnated.

She knows when I am sick and stays on the bed with me. She knows when I am sad and cuddles me more. We had our morning routine – coffee, cat, lap and sunrise.

After my daughter was born things changed. The cat is scared of the baby but the baby loves the cat. I don’t have the same time I used to have so the cat gets less attention. I have more guilt. The cat gained weight because I feed her instead of petting her. I know things will change as the baby gets older and I have more time. I know as the baby gets older she will be less of a stress to the cat and they will get along better. The baby can say the cat’s name.

Someday we will get another dog (but not while my cat is living). I hope my daughter will have memories like I do.

For now, I just hope she stops trying to squeeze the cat’s tail!

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July 16, 2012

Do you Death Spiral?

That’s what my husband calls it; a Death Spiral.

I start with one issue/obstacle/event and just pile on more and more until I end up in angry tears, blaming myself for ‘everything’ that is wrong and am unable to connect with the world around me. The trigger could be something as simple as running out of tissues or it could be a comment someone made (or what I inferred the person was really saying). Then I pile on the immediate (somewhat superficial) issues (e.g., messy house) and then get into the thick of it (e.g., I am a terrible mother because I cannot keep this house clean enough). As I go deeper and deeper I get more and more frustrated and angry. I withdraw and shut down. My cup runneth over with self-blame and criticisms. I can’t interact with my family and I sit trying desperately to keep it together enough that I don’t pitch a fit. I can’t find a way out.

Then comes the post-Death Spiral guilt.

I am doing it again and my daughter is picking up on my anger and frustration and now she is getting cranky and is a little nervous. I am teaching her to be angry and frustrated. I said I wouldn’t do this again but her I am – I am such a failure!

So I retreat (leave my daughter with my husband). I hide. Put a pillow over my head and hope the fighting stops. Cry a little. Scream a few times (into a pillow of course).

Then I hear my daughter crying – she wants her mommy. It’s not her fault I can’t deal with life. She needs me. So I go to her.

I try to put on a happy face and most of the time I succeed (she transforms me!). Or she will take a nap and give me some breathing time. My husband will sometimes talk me through (and out of) it. Eventually it dissipates. Sometimes I am left with defensive resentment, sometimes it helps clear the air. But I never feel resolved, just pacified.

I know it is just a matter of time until the next Death Spiral occurs. I need to stop them from happening. I don’t know how.

I realize it is happening. I realize it is crap that I do it. But once it starts….

I realize the flawed premise(s) upon which these Death Spirals are initiated. But I still believe there is some truth to them!

My therapist says I need to examine the facts surrounding each thought, determine if I really believe them and then go from there.

Obviously I am neither capable of doing this once the spiral starts nor capable of recognizing it before the spiral starts.

So now what?

I am worried that if I stop being so hard on myself I will become more of a failure than I already think I am (and then it will be true!). Note I say think because when I look closely I am relatively successful. Other than some challenges (e.g., my weight), I have accomplished a good deal (and don’t think too highly of myself!). Lower your standards and expectations and you will become what you fear. Does that even make sense?

I am a big fan of trying to answer the question “why”. I feel that if I understand from where an emotion/thought originates then I have a better chance at coming to terms with the situation. (yes, back to my parents). I recall getting to a point in my childhood where I couldn’t figure out why I was always wrong. It seemed as thought my parents were always telling me that what I did, thought or said was incorrect or not good enough, that I was making the same mistakes over and over and that I wasn’t paying close enough attention or giving it a good enough effort. But I didn’t agree and I never understood. I always looked for a reason as to why my parents thought I was so “bad”, and I guess I eventually just figured it was innate and out of my control. As a result (in hindsight of course) is my constant fear of being wrong and my tendency to admit my faults without hesitation (I will just offer up my short comings so no one can point them out to me later).

Which full circles back to my fundamental negative muse. I am failure.

Looks like I need more therapy.

July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I am not a religious person – not sure if I believe in God. And while I claim to not be superstitious I think I am.

Today is Friday the 13th.

Most people think of the horror movie, but I think Friday the 13th confers some negative quality to life.

It may be a self-fulfilling prophesy type deal, but these “13th” Fridays are more frustrating, sad and/or tiring than other Friday’s. Things tend to be more difficult and problems arise more frequently.

Today is the last day of my husband’s unemployment benefits. He lost his job over a year ago. And that was a job he had after losing his other job, which he had for over 10 years (the company was bought 0ut). I am scared for our future. I feel sad for him because I can’t imagine what he must be going through but know that it isn’t easy and must hurt a lot. I am grateful for my job and the health benefits. It is more than others have.

There were only three Friday the 13th’s in 2012. Today is the last for the year 2012. There will only be two in 2013 (thank God! ha!).

So here’s hoping that today goes fast and is uneventful (unless it is good news!).

July 12, 2012

If it had been different, about what would we now be talking?

I was fortunate to be able to have a late breakfast with a friend this morning. We have known each other since the 6th grade and are, what I consider kindred spirits. We lost touch during college and then she moved to another country, etc. etc. But she is in town for a bit and after many years of not communicating we recently reconnected (thanks to Facebook by the way) and are talking as if we hadn’t skipped a beat. The really nice thing is that there has never been judgement or jealousy or any of the other emotions that are often in female relationships and that poison the waters of friendship; the awkward, strained things that prohibit one from being totally honest and open. We are certainly totally honest and open with each other. Except when we feel rejected by the other person, which is not only one of both of our fundamental fears but also (I think) the reason we lost touch. Now that I think about this fact, I chuckle that our similarities are the things that sent us apart!

We are both mothers and we are now finding that we struggle with the same fears and obstacles regarding our own children (e.g., what type of mothers we are, want to be and don’t want to be). We also both struggle with similar issues in our marriages (e.g., how our emotional issues affect our marriages). And we have had similar issues with our parents that has left us with similar, fundamental obstacles we have yet to overcome (e.g., lack of self-love).

We both fully agree that if a child feels unconditionally loved then the child is on the road to a healthy self-image. We both agree that we try every day to help our children feel as loved, cherished and appreciated as humanly possible. So maybe one day they won’t have the doubt and self-loathing she and I endure(d).

Finally I looked at my friend and said – if things had been different, if we had received the nurturing we believe is fundamental to a healthy self-image, then about what would we now be talking instead of discussing our fears and mother/wife problems?

“Yeah” was all she said as she shook her head and thought about what I just said.

What struck me was the expression on my friends face – it was a look of hope and yearning.

After all our years of fighting ourselves, is it possible we can find peace?

Then we could talk about the weather or the price of bread…

July 11, 2012

Something to ponder

This morning a coworker shared the following quote with me (source may be Francois de La Rochefoucauld):

One forgives to the degree one loves

At first it seems like a nice, sweet statement. You can hear yourself saying “awww, that’s nice”.

But then you think about someone you haven’t forgiven or something you haven’t forgiven someone for. And it is no longer sweet. It is a painful and sad statement.

And if you then think of someone you have forgiven, and you realize how much you love them compared to the person you haven’t forgiven it gets even sadder.

After thinking about this a little bit more I thought that maybe the use of the word “love” was too general.

Isn’t trust a factor? Or is trust just part of Love?

What about intent (or perceived intent)? Or is that part of trust?

Maybe the person intentionally hurt you or they weren’t sorry, never would be and would most likely do it again? Maybe this was a repeat offense, and prior attempts to resolve the issue were ignored…

I talk a lot about my parents or rather my relationship with them, and, for a 36 year old, I realize this may be odd to most readers. I can imagine folk saying Grow up already! Cut the cord! Get over it!

But my siblings and I still live a few miles from them and we all still get together frequently. Which means that I still deal not only with the surface bullshit (which gets very overwhelming) but also the long-standing wounds that I have yet to resolve for myself. And because these issues still affect my daily life it is hard to simply move on (thus my re-entry into Therapy).

I never forgave my parents, I just moved on. I ignore a lot and when I can’t ignore I scream to my husband about it/them. I vow never to be like them. I pray that I am not already.

So I stopped this morning and thought about this – that maybe I don’t really love them. Maybe they don’t really love me. Maybe it is a matter of fact relationship; parent and child. We are just fulfilling an obligation.

I call my parents a few times a week, which I now do out of a sense of obligation. I don’t enjoy talking with them (other than the opportunity to go on and on about my daughter – although I usually then get a mix of lectures and judgments and silent guilt that they don’t see her often enough…). I usually hang up and am completely frustrated and irritated. Sometimes angry and sometimes very sad.

So why do I do it? Based on the quote at the beginning of this post it isn’t because I love them.

It is so interesting how we hang on to things – to people even – and never really think about it.

July 10, 2012

Gullible again

I work in a poor city and basically at a hospital. There are a lot of homeless and/or poor people, a lot of violence, gangs and sickness. All screaming in your face all day long. The lack of respect for the fellow man is the loudest of all.

Today I was getting lunch at a food truck (a rarity for me) when we were approached by a woman. She appeared to be a man but was apparently pregnant. Her appearance was odd – strange outfit but clothes were not ragged and she had dread locks, which I hear cost a pretty penny. Her opening line was one that I heard once before “excuse me, I am not asking for money…”. She instead wanted us to buy her some food from the truck (anything she said as she clutched a few coins near her chest which made her appear humble and with great hope).

I thought about it briefly and then reached into a bag I was holding and pulled out a piece of the absolutely most delicious olive bread I have ever had (or that may exist) and handed it to her saying this is very delicious and is good for you too! She looked at it, shook her head and walked away. I kept saying “try it!”. I watched as she, and my previous bread walked away. I wondered if she would eat it. I wondered why she wasn’t. I wondered why I gave it to her. I wondered why I am such a foolish, gullible shit. I wanted my bread back (you can only get it once a week and you have to get there early!). I watched her tear it apart and throw it all around. I was pissed.

I wanted to chase after her and ask what did she really want, why did ask for it and why wasn’t my bread good enough if she was truly hungry.

I was afraid she (still not convinced it was a she) would become violent with me. I stood there feeling like a fool. Thinking of what I would say the next time.

I will think about this for at least the rest of the day. I will tell my husband about it, who will most likely respond with a “well what did you expect?” type comment and he will be right.

I keep thinking people aren’t all bad. That sometimes you just need to show kindness and respect and that not everyone is playing everyone else.

Evidently I am wrong. Again. People (at least this type of person) is always out to play everyone and isn’t looking for kindness or respect. I don’t know what they are looking for.

I am sad that I fell for the trick and sad that I lost my bread (which by the way I was sharing with MY child). But I am more sad that there are so many people out there that prey on people like me.

I want to believe in the best in people from the beginning and be proven wrong. But at what cost? And now how do I teach my child to not be so gullible and to stand up for herself (as I obviously cannot do)?

I don’t have these answers. Do you?

July 9, 2012

Did she see what I see?

This morning I was on the treadmill (after 2 weeks off) and enjoying the expenditure of energy and the music. Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” came on and I started thinking of my daughter. I thought how one day some boy will sing this to her and someone will love her tremendously. This made me smile.

When I was pregnant I wondered what this little girl was going to be like, look like, sound like, walk like and be like. I couldn’t wait to meet her! I am now realizing that each day is a ‘new her’, as she develops and grows we see more and more of her personality come through.

Sometimes I just stare at her and see pure innocence and raw potential. I see joy, wonder and curiosity. I see beauty and peace. I see an amazing little girl of whom I am so proud and I truly enjoy each day with her (don’t get me wrong – I also sometimes wish I could just sit with my cat and a cup of coffee!).

So this all made me wonder what did my mother see when she looked at me? Did she beam with pride, love, adoration and amazement? Or did she not notice the first time I put my toes in my mouth or when I figured out how that toy worked? I am the youngest of several children so then I thought maybe she was too busy. So then I wondered what did she see when she looked at my eldest sibling?

My mother is not a very sensitive person and it was a hard childhood for all of us. She wasn’t terribly affectionate and I don’t think our feelings ever came first. Yes, she did the best that she could. That’s pretty much all that we can do and all that we can expect. (although sometimes this sounds like a cop out or excuse).

I guess I feel a little sad for her, and for all of us, that maybe she wasn’t able to notice or appreciate the beauty that encompasses, and is embodied by a child and, most especially by YOUR child. I feel sad for the little girls that weren’t adored by their mother.

Since becoming a mother I have found that my reaction to the treatment of children and the cries that I hear has changed tremendously. What used to make me angry now completely sickens me. Conversely, what used to make me simply smile now makes me beam ear to ear.

I used to say that you could judge a person’s character based on the way they treated animals. I haven’t figured out what it means about a person based on how they treat a child (well, their child), but I know that it takes an enormous amount of patience and selflessness. You must be able to step outside of yourself and evaluate each situation objectively.

Believe me I have had my moments of tears and utter frustration and I know there will be more to come. I will do the best that I can do and hope that when my daughter  has a child she never wonders if I looked at her with pride, love, adoration and amazement – she will know that I did (and then some).

Here’s to my brown-eyed girl. May you always know and feel how much I love you!

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