Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


2 Comments

Car Shopping with a Counselor

I’ve heard it more than once or twice that people tend to spill their guts around counselors. Kinda like hairdressers, bartenders, massage therapists. It’s just what happens. I think with me, it’s more because I’m so damn intense emotionally, that it draws it out of other people too. Now, I didn’t say I’m emotional, but intense with emotions. Who knows, maybe there is only a difference in my imagination.

Almost everyone I know hates car shopping. You would think it would be fun and exciting, but it is usually stressful. Spending that amount of money, combined with making a decision that will affect the next eight to ten years of your life, it’s no wonder it feels like too big of a decision. Now add to it that most of us expect to be ripped off. We know they aren’t really going to give us their bottom life offer, even though they say they are.

My dad almost always had trucks, pretty much his whole life. They were his babies. He took meticulous care of them. We had talked about my possibly trading in his truck for a new car and I was worried I would break his heart. He was ok with it, thankfully. But now consider this intensely emotionally person taking her very recently deceased father’s pride and joy to be traded in. Even my boyfriend was like, “Yea, I have to say, this was the most stressful and emotional car shopping experience I’ve ever had.” At our age, that’s saying something.

Let’s just say that after the first three-hour visit with a sales girl, she looked at me and said, “Remember, it’s just a car.” Then I informed her that wasn’t the case for my dad. It was his baby. I started crying with frustration because we couldn’t come to an agreement for a price. Next thing I knew, she was crying too. Oh man!

Two days later, I am on speaker phone with the sales guy I have worked with for decades. He starts to have a mini meltdown with me due to the inability to come to a purchase agreement with me. I talk him down from the cliff and then he ends up disclosing some very stressful personal stuff. Love that guy, but only shopping with me would there be this much emotion spilling over everywhere.

After way too many hours and days, I did finally get a vehicle. I ended up back at the place where I had the woman crying. She was off the day I actually purchased but I got to see her a couple of days later. The employees there have each other’s backs so they made sure she got her part of the commission. She certainly earned that one.

 

IMG_20180912_082546330_HDRIt’s cute, isn’t it? Safe, good mileage, got a decent deal. Honda HR-V Sport. My insurance agent asked if I was having a mid-life crisis. I told her I was just sick of the color black and feeling like I live in the world of death and dying. Besides, Dad’s truck was red. Doesn’t that count for something?

Anyhow, perhaps you can relate to the car buying stress. I wouldn’t recommend taking me with you, though. Just saying.


3 Comments

Lost

Nope, not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about a text I sent my friend in Georgia. She asked how I was and I said I was spiritually and emotionally lost.

I am very, very aware that things in my life could be much worse. I am very aware that other people are suffering unimaginable situations which make mine pale in comparison. I know that any of the things in isolation that I face I could handle with relative ease. But the accumulation and what feels like a relentless pace are rendering me confused and unable to recover in between.

In the last three weeks:

-I was not rehired for a position that was important to me, apparently because of the integrity that I stood up for
-I walked in a place to find a guy I had only dated for a little over a week (but had been friends with for years) was a liar and manipulator, right in front of my eyes
-A relatively new friend turned on me because he didn’t check out the facts
-I said goodbye to my sister who moved to Tennessee
-A former friend of mine where the relationship turned sour vandalized my property and I spent a couple of days with town officials and police
-The relatively new friend of mine that I forgave (because everyone deserves a second chance, right?) turned on me again and left me completely stranded with a massive house project and a great deal of stress because he again, didn’t bother to check out the facts
-Had a very beloved client in crisis mode which entailed phone calls to paramedics, supervisors, family members, etc.; He is doing much better thank God, but it was very scary while it was happening.
-Received a phone call asking for my attorney information because of the legal action suit filed against me with the IRS; turned out it was a scam but it scared the crap out of me until I figured that out with my research.
-I’ve made about 40 phone calls to handle my father’s medical, financial, and legal issues. I also worked on his house which he is trying to sell and have become an amateur realtor overnight. Sometimes there is stress with the family about these issues, and sometimes we work together well. The list has been endless.
-Continued to be a mother, homeowner, business owner with all the stresses and time constraints that everyone else has. Nothing unusual about that. I’m just more exhausted when managing things because I’m stretched so thin from everything else.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. The upshot is that when I have some time alone with my thoughts and feelings, they go in crazy places. One weekend I was toying with the idea that the universe was getting revenge on me because of something I did in my twenties. I hurt someone very badly and she forgave me. So I thought maybe the universe was mad that she didn’t punish me.

My kids have been struggling with some of the bad things they are watching around them and wondering why their father died when other people survive cancer who are not doing good things with their lives and just hurting other people. I have no idea how to answer them because it makes me burn up inside when I see it too.

The whole thing that happened with Tim- the massive amount of support we had, and the amazing story that became my books- maybe I am seeing another side to it. While all of that positive stuff is true, maybe there is also a side effect that I am just realizing. It made me think that the world is a lot kinder than it really is. It made me trust more than I should. It is different when you have this big thing that everyone gets excited about being a part of. This great thing happened to us during a terrible thing that happened to us and the community around us was transformed with us. But lately, I just see so much yuck, I wonder what happened to all that good will?

And every time, after all my crazy thoughts, I circle back to my church. I don’t know why in the last couple of months this is coming back so strongly, but I always end up there now. I am lost and hurting, and I hate the fact that I don’t have a pastor to go to anymore. I lost them over five years ago, the church family that was a pillar of strength for us during Tim’s illness. Three months after he died though, some bad things happened because of some bad people, and I lost them. Sure, there are a few close friends that I still have, but I have lost the church as a whole. My son is growing up without a church home. And my heart aches so badly because I don’t feel I will every recover from the loss of my minister and how abandoned I feel.

Today is a good day. I still have people who love me and are there for me. Some came and helped me with that massive house project. One went grocery shopping for me this week. But overall, I feel like I mistrust the world and I have no idea how to make sense of life or my emotions. And I’m angry that I don’t have the man to turn to that I did trust at one time.

Lost. It’s a good description word. I will just keep getting through each day and tackle each obstacle like I always do, but internally I’m lost. It is what it is.

P.S. My apologies to those of you who like it better when I’m funny and positive 🙂


1 Comment

Middle Ground… Well, Almost

As I continue to think about what I blogged about last week – i.e. how much do I invest? – I read an interesting article by Marilyn Washburn, who was writing about the work she does with people who are in grief. “The more ‘involved’ I became, the more deeply I loved the people I served, the more I came to know them and advocate for them, the more deeply I mourned their deaths, the healthier I became, emotionally and certainly spiritually.” (italics mine.)

I was trying to explain something similar to a client this week. We were discussing what possible good purpose there might be in looking back at your history/childhood. I was trying (feebly) to describe how as humans we have a spectrum of emotions. Some have a very narrow margin, others have a large rainbow. But the key is, you can’t develop one end without developing the other. In other words, you can only experience as much joy as you are willing to experience sadness or pain as well. However you choose to expand or constrict your emotions on either end is going to change the opposite side.

Boundaries is one of my least favorite concepts. I understand the necessity of them, but for some reason with my personality and belief system, my boundaries are often a bit blurry. That works well for some people, not so well for others. The same author said later in her article, “…I became convinced that the boundaries meant to insulate me from pain and hurt only obstructed my care for others as well as my being healed by others’ care.” Boy, can I completely identify with that.

So I want to shout, “To hell with it all! I’m just going to love and care deeply and bear the pain it brings!” But like I said last week, I’m not sure that is quite the answer. I will never change the core of my being. It is possible though, to tweak things. And maybe even tweak them significantly. I won’t ignore the tough stuff, and I will never be a loner. But I am slowly seeing that I am handling things a bit differently. I’m learning not to accommodate everyone else and their issues to my own detriment as much. I probably go overboard sometimes as I’m learning something “new,” but I hope the people in my life grant me a little grace as we go through some growing pains. Quite honestly, at the risk of sounding like a big jerk, I think I’ve earned that. I’ve spent most of my life giving a thousand percent. I should be allowed to blunder like everyone else does without it being catastrophic to the relationship (whatever type of relationship it is).

Kind of describing finding a middle ground, being more moderate. But I also know deep down, who am I kidding? I will never be truly in the middle. I will always err on the side of loving and caring a bit too much, trying a bit too hard. But that is the way my heart beats. I will keep tweaking (so look out!) and strive for balance, but I don’t want to lose what makes me me.


1 Comment

Scars

I mentioned the fun of my high school reunion last blog. It was a blast and I laughed til my stomach hurt. But you know me, no sweet without the bitter. I wouldn’t actually say bitter this time, but being the psychology person I am, I can’t help but watch social events and catch all the nuances going on.

It actually makes me feel a little better. I remember things from elementary school on and scold myself often with, “Let it go, it was ___ years ago!” And I have let things go, but I still remember. And I still know they had an impact on my life. But I heard several stories and comments those evenings at the reunion that made me realize I’m not the only one.

I brought up our fifth grade teacher who sticks out to me as someone who should not have been teaching. He was known for picking his nose which about 98% of us remembered. But what I didn’t mention is how he embarrassed me. We had to write a personal essay and I chose to write about two of my friends that had ganged up on me and made fun of my sneakers. It hurt my feelings. So lovely Mr. Hyde read my paper, then called up the two friends I wrote about and at his desk he whispered to them. They were pointing to shoes and clearly making fun of me again. He was an asshole in my opinion.

One lovely friend brought up our fourth grade teacher. He actually spanked students on their birthday. Can you imagine anyone attempting to do that nowadays? But that wasn’t even the bad memory. The bad memory was the nicknames he gave students. He called me “Duckie” because my last name is Thiel and a teal is a duck. But he called my friend “Slim” because, well she wasn’t exactly slim back then. I’m sure that hurt. By the way, she is in her 40’s now and beautiful as hell. She is much thinner than I am too!

One friend talked about sixth grade and being absent from school one day. When she returned everyone had stopped talking to her. The funny thing was (which I did NOT bring up) that I have the same memory, also in sixth grade. And she was one of the girls that stopped talking to me. It is very traumatizing to some to be excluded. Apparently six grade girls are brutal when it comes to that stuff.

And then there was our sixth grade teacher that we all talked about with regret. We tortured her. She was not able to control the class and we took advantage of her. Plus we all ate jello mix all day so we were charged up with sugar to boot. The funniest time was when one kid took his desk and chair and moved it out to the middle of the road. It was an extremely busy road for those parts, and she didn’t notice right away. If she was still alive, most of us would probably call and apologize to her.

Another dear friend, and an instrumental person in organizing our reunions, had the biggest story of all. Remember all those things you would vote on? I was voted most likely to become president of the US. Ha, we all missed the boat on that one. I was also voted most generous. I had forgotten that one. I went over to the male most generous and reminded him. He said he had already been reminded several times during the night. Once the word got out, everyone asked him to buy them a drink! LOL!!

But one of those categories was most conceited. My dear friend, while we were all sitting at the picnic table together, reminded us of our vote. She loudly said she had two words for us. She enunciated both words quite clearly and had two hands with finger gestures to make sure the message was loud and clear. We all laughed our asses off. I reminded her that I was most generous so I probably didn’t vote on that one. 🙂

Let it go? Sure. We all had a sense of humor. But really. Why is there even such a thing as most conceited? Why do people even want to go for things like that? Label people. As it turns out, she is one of the least conceited persons I know. She’s a lovely human being. I’m sure she knows that, but it must still be an ouch in her memory.

I guess it’s all part of growing pains. We all do things as kids we regret. But let’s face it, we’re kind of dummies as adults too. We all say things we shouldn’t. Some don’t say anything but can shoot a piercing dirty look that is just as deadly. Or maybe we just disengage from life altogether and shut people out or not let them get too close.

So let’s give ourselves a pass on our childhood scar-making. But let’s straighten up today and be a positive force in the world.

Love all you guys, but a special kiss and hug out to the 1985 Royalton-Hartland class 🙂 Not a bad-looking group for our late forties!

11811470_522125157944833_1118154768022069835_n


1 Comment

A River of Goodness

Remember when I told you that Summer gave me a pack of gratitude cards to use for blog day? Well, I’m using one today and it was labeled “A River of Goodness.”

It talks about how when you are feeling lonely and overwhelmed, you should remember there is a loving universe. You can listen for any sort of sign that soothes your soul, which then allows you to act wisely.

Hmmmm… I didn’t thumb through the cards, I just took the next one in the pack, trusting it would contain the message I needed. And in turn, I trust that there will be a reader or two that need the message as well. Last week’s blog garnered several comments and texts. Many of you tried the quieting exercises and sent me your results. The “winner” was a brilliant young lady I know who said she had 52 thoughts in two minutes!

Anyhow, back to the card. I am very, very happy to say that I have NOT been feeling lonely lately. I think that is a miraculous statement coming from me, and I think it’s based on a number of factors. First, my acupuncture doc actually said she thinks I’m ready to go down to one treatment a week. She reminded me of the first appointment I had with her and said I couldn’t even smile. Not only am I less depressed, I have actually been off the depression medicine for almost three weeks. HOLY COW!

When I am less depressed, I think I am able to appreciate the people in my life on an emotional level. I always maintain an intellectual gratitude for all the amazing folks in my life, but often times it just doesn’t affect the level of sadness I feel. When I am less depressed, I can appreciate it emotionally as well. I have all my family and friends who have always been there through some of the darkest things I’ve ever had to face in my life. Then there are friends I have discovered in the last four years since Tim’s passing. And now there are new faces in my life just in the last month or two who I am very grateful for. Isn’t that a lovely thing?

Back to the card. So yeah for not feeling so lonely. But the overwhelmed part still stings. My color-coded schedule has been out of control. The responsibilities have been relentless and I have been exhausted as a result. I am working very hard (no surprise there!) to figure out how to shift that. It’s hard because all the things I do are worthwhile and mostly necessary. But going from 7 am to 10 pm every day is a bit ridiculous. One sign from the universe was the announcement that I could go down to once a week with the acupuncturist. I don’t know what the answers are just yet, but I am going to keep chipping away at making my life more manageable. Last night I went to bed by 10:30 pm. My kitchen was a mess, but I valued not feeling like a zombie today more than a clean kitchen. The great thing is, I woke up refreshed and it was no problem to get the kitchen back in order. Priorities!

Overall, I’d say that is good news. I still have my share of critics out there who have voiced how negative my blogs have been. Well, HA! This one is positive 🙂


Leave a comment

Guest Blogger: Marcy Westerling

I came across an article by Marcy Westerling and looked her up. Her blog is at livinglydying.com. Here is the description on her blog:

“Welcome to a space dedicated to the process of livingly dying – staring at imminent mortality and yet residing in the world of the living. More and more of us are finding the words terminally ill and chronic illness co-mingle. We are living longer and better despite a dire diagnosis/prognosis. But the path is not easy.” You should check her out!

She has graciously given permission to repost her latest blog so I hope you find it helpful. It is entitled “I hear you are doing Great!” and was posted on September 13, 2014. It reminds me of a passage I wrote in my new book about figuring how to answer people when they ask, “How are you?” Thank you Marcy!

“Recently a friend noted how difficult it was “to know how you are doing.” It’s true, I suppose. I have used the Livingly Dying blog this summer to report on the macro challenges of trying to access the care that I think is best suited for my current situation rather than bore folks with the blow by blow of this summer’s treatment.

In the jumble of the last 4-½ years of living on treatment it is unproductive to rank the various moments. But this summer’s treatment ranks up there as hard – between the frequency, toxicity, length and travel I have been living a half life as one full week (plus) goes into treatment and recovery. My exhaustion confuses me. Am I tired, how tired or have I slipped into depression? All of the above may be most likely.

This week I have accomplished tasks as cooler temperatures invited activity. It thrilled me. By Wednesday night I was violently ill – did I do too much, random luck or am I cursed?

I just don’t know how I am.

The other week I ran into an acquaintance as I arrived at the memorial of a friend. She bellowed from across the street, warm smile on her face, “I hear you are doing great!” And I wondered in what possible context she was using such an adjective to describe my reduced life of constant nausea and limitations. Was I supposed to nod in agreement? (I am doing great compared to a chemo patient in Gaza or Syria.) Instead, I declined her bear hug, saying my blood counts required vigorous avoidance of germs that day, my nadir. She asserted that she felt great. “Yeah”, I said, “but it’s not about you.” I felt like the grumpy curmudgeon I am.

This summer I have had minimal social contact – these slight encounters leave me bruised and even more confused on how I am. Alone, I am content.

It has been a summer of loss. I lost the cancer vacation I’d so hoped for after completing the phase one clinical trial cross county. Instead my cancer went nuts. My June to do list, gleefully assembled in May when I was “healthy” for 45 days, was pretty damn vibrant. I was excited! This summer I have lost so many trusted comrades as they close out their cancer journeys. Some have been in active choice; other’s reluctant, as they died one by one. I have done more soul searching on when and how I will cease treatment. Not yet but the time inches uncomfortably close. I no longer know my next steps. I now understand that a body can only tolerate so many years living on chemo without breaks. It’s not just about containing my cancer; it’s about keeping the rest of my body functional.

So, how am I as I close out the summer of 2014? Depleted, ever hopeful and ever realistic. Please accept that reality and don’t call me a cancer “thriver” or “survivor” or tell me I am doing “great”! This summer I identify only as a cancer veteran crawling around far too much. And yet very, very glad to be alive.”


4 Comments

Knights in Shining Armor

This week’s blog is inspired by a comment that was made on my last blog “Sisterhood.” The comment was “we can’t believe there’s a knight in shining armor that will come swooping into our lives and take all of our stress away. I think if we believe that, no man will ever have a chance or be capable of providing that to a woman.”

I couldn’t agree more and I thought I had kind of indicated that in my blog about my widow friend. She still grieves and aches, even with a special guy in her life.

One of my strengths is that I’m pretty self-aware and honest about where I am. I can be brutally honest and hard on myself, which then becomes more of a detriment than a strength. Anyhow, throughout my life in my quest to experience love, I generally haven’t suffered from looking for Mr. Perfect. I’m relatively realistic about people and relationships. I have no misguided aspirations of someone swooping in and I certainly have no vision of having a stress free life. If there isn’t a man in my life, it isn’t because I have held up impossible standards that no man could possibly live up to.

Having said that, it is possible for a loving man to relieve some stress though, and most particularly the stress of loneliness. When examining many of the failed relationships I’ve had throughout my life, and especially those since Tim’s death, there are always those “hindsight is 20/20” things that stand out. For Frankie, there are two that stand out to him and every once in a blue moon he opens up about them.

The first man who touched his life, was the first guy that I dated after Tim’s death. Here is how some of that conversation goes. “Frankie, he definitely loved you. The two of you had a great relationship and he was really good to you. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good to me. As much as I loved him for you, I couldn’t stay with him for that reason.”

Then there is guy number two. He was only around six short weeks, but they were powerful ones. That conversation goes a little differently. “Frankie, he definitely cared about you. You had a great relationship with him and with his son. He was good to me, too. He fit in with our family almost perfectly. But he left us. We don’t really know or understand why, but he didn’t stay with us.”

Other conversations with Frankie reveal more of the pain he feels. He talks about how he doesn’t want to know anyone, male or female, because people just end up leaving. That’s when I want to punch that guy. No one can blame someone for not wanting to stay in a situation they are unhappy in. No matter how happy Frankie and I were, I would have never wanted someone to stay with us that didn’t want to be with us. However, there are better ways to leave than others.

In reality, he was like that knight in shining armor. Not because we were living in an unrealistic cloud nine state. Things were just smooth and they fit. We felt grounded. I experienced contentment, possibly for the first time ever. The problem I have, is not having a clue as to why he left. And even more bizarre to me is there was no attempt to try to correct whatever it was that was bothering him. He just ran. No real explanation. No real goodbye. But even worse, there was no goodbye to Frankie. There was no goodbye between Frankie and his son. His son was probably fine with it. But then his son has a living father and mother.

That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable standard to have for someone. Is that not something that a man should be capable of providing for a woman? If you are going to enter into our lives, then at least have the decency to leave with some sort of closure. After what Frankie and I have been through, a loss like that was cruel.

In my mind, the knight in shining armor became much more like the cowardly lion. How disappointing.