Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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Say That Again

2019 say again.jpg

So, this is something I believe.  I believe that if you spend your days expecting the mundane and anticipating the same old same old, that is exactly what you will get.  I did an experiment a long while ago.  People talking to me would say ‘nothing ever happens,’ or ‘I’m doing this, going there, and I don’t expect anything to happen.’  I would say to them, ‘Do me this favor.  On this day at X time, where ever you are, look down and tell me what you find at your feet.’  Universally, they found a treasure of some kind–a stone, a note, some bit of magic.  Now, either I’m really magical at making this stuff happen for other people, or I just nudged them to open their eyes and really look around instead of studying their toenails.

I went on a four-hour drive yesterday to visit someone able to stir and calm the winds.  We get wind storms here and I was thinking about the motivation of wind.  (Oh, just work with me here. It’s how my head works.)  I found information on Oreithyia, a Roman goddess of the north wind.  She was a human princess abducted and assaulted by the god of the north wind.  She spent her time upending ships at sea, buffeting the land with her frosty breath and giving birth to kids associated with ice and snow.  Not a happy camper and who could blame her?  I had to wonder who her balance in the world is and came across a little-known saint, Saint Walburga.  She looks out for ships, calms storms on the sea and gentles the wind.  She only has two chapels named for her.  One in Germany and one four hours from my house.  I had to go.

You have to take something to a bunch of women cosseted away in the mountains.  Fresh fruit and veggies, ultra strength hand lotion, and a pot of delicate white flowers.  As I stood in line at the checkout, a woman sharing her cellular conversation with the world firmly said, “That’s the right thing.  That’s very doable.”  Where had I heard that? Oh, yeah, I wrote that yesterday:  Right, good, doable, sensible and off the wall.  Yes, taking goodies to nuns was a good idea.  Friends (who made the trip all the better) added to the bounty and we drove North.

At the abbey, no roofs caved in and nothing blew up when I explained to one of the women there that I had come to commune with St. Walburga because I had been researching a goddess.  One of my friends wandered off beyond all marked barriers and fences and nobody blinked.  We chatted with nuns.  Nuns with calico aprons who tend a herd of cattle, nuns wearing Crocs and Wellies as they go about their chores and prayers.  I had visited their gift shop and made a return trip there to buy a handmade rug.  As I stepped in, an excited nun told her companion, “It’s good and sensible and off the wall!”  I apologized for eavesdropping and asked her if she had just described something as good, sensible and off the wall.  She said, yes, she had been describing her new assignment.  I explained about the woman on the phone, my writing, and now her.  She did a couple of skip-steps, waved her fist at the ceiling, and loudly said, “Synchronicity!  You know it’s God when things are off the wall and aligning anyway!” I watched her heavy black skirts and calico apron sway over her scuffed Nikes as she scurried away.

Right, good, doable, sensible and off the wall.  It wasn’t written in the red dust at my feet but I’m pretty sure it was etched in the sky on the drive home.


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Apps, I Did It Again

2019 dinner cereal.jpgI did a lot of frustrating reading in the last 24 months.  I looked up information about grieving the death of your dog(s).  What I learned is, it’s okay to miss your dogs.  Wow, revelation.  I tried to convince myself to go to dog grief group.  Twice I pulled into the parking lot of the place where the meetings were held and twice I convinced myself I just couldn’t go in and listen to sad stories, yet alone dump on other sad people.  I stopped reading about it and did something–I adopted two more dogs.  They are nothing like the slobbery, smile hounds that died.  The shar-pei/lab/chow (I just typed cow, and trust me there’s some truth there) must have been threaten-trained within an inch of his life.  He is so well-behaved that he is often afraid to be petted.  He does love waking me at 1 AM for a good scratch of his almost-wrinkles, though.  The other adoptee, June, is a dachshund/Cairn terrier mix with a natural mohawk, one eye and too many memories of her years on the streets. I have touched her about 8 times in the 6 months she has been with me.  She is is teasing at losing her fear, but doing it with the dainty steps of a woman in 4″ heels crossing an icy street.

A friend whose wife was in home hospice care needed help finding some resources and getting through that process.  Once again, I researched and read.   I’ll say this:  Just because you can copy and paste text from one website to another, it doesn’t make it new information. There are so few resources out there about how to support family caregivers who are experiencing the loss of a relationship and lifestyle simultaneously in a death-by-paper cuts fashion.  So, I stopped reading and just focused on what was right, good, doable, and sensible and off the wall.  I was present with someone else’s pain and am better for it.  Being alive in the moment with someone 2000 miles away leaves you little time to boo hoo about your empty rooms and inability to figure out dinner for one.

Of course, I read about curing empty nest syndrome by planning fun trips with my spouse, downsizing for just me and my honey, and the joy of cooking for two!  The problem is that whoever writes this stuff must believe that single mothers don’t exist.  Hello!  We’re out here!  And at least one of us has stopped reading your advice.  I am planning without guidelines to create a new way of life.  Doing what is right,  good, doable and off the wall seems like a good starting point.   So, here’s what I did ‘right’ today:  I determined that online shopping is not a therapeutic substitute for an empty nest.  No, I haven’t run up my credit cards.  I have very little debt.  But I did find lots of ways to spend $20 a week on some really cute _____ that meant I would have a package to look forward to opening.  Gotta stop that.  So, this afternoon I howled ‘apps, I did it again’ along with Ms. Spears as I deleted sales apps from my phone and desktop, unsubscribed from nearly every place that forwards me sale! really great sale! information and wistfully looked at those expensive three-wicked candles on the Bath & Bodyworks site.  It’s going to be sunny tomorrow.  I am dusting off my camera and going on a drive to the Wyoming border tomorrow.  It’s a great excuse to put off housekeeping and does not require an app.


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Take Two

I started this in 2017 and made it 138 days.  Then my golden retriever died unexpectedly.  I don’t know if that’s a reason to stop writing but I pointed to that moment and used it as a great excuse.  And I have continued to refer to it as ‘last year’ as if 2018 never happened.  My other big dog, Baxter, died.  My daughter started pursuing a different career and my son eloped with his beautiful soul mate.  Neither one of them need me to hold their hands while crossing the street.

For years I have done this thing:  At the start of the year choose something that I want to make better about myself, read all that I can, consciously work on it, practice making it a part of life.  Peace. Clarity. Hope. Compassion. Happiness.  Last year, I set about to gain some contentment with my life.  My empty nest, divorced person, individual without a clue how to do this life.

Contentment is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I spent a lot of time making plans.  I read a lot of great advice for couples who are facing empty nest and retirement.  The women all have perfect silver chin-length bobs and some version of a twin-set.  They are drinking mimosas and carrying sensible handbags. Not one of them looks like they wept under the stars listening to Paul Simon or waved their halter-top and screamed I LOVE YOU SO MUCH at Rod Stewart.   I have never fit into that clique and never will.

I suppose, makes me uncontent or a malcontent or worse, without content to my story.  Well, hell, no.

So, I did a tarot read for myself.  That’s right.  I read tarot, deal with it. And it basically said, “What are you waiting for?  You know how to do this.  And you know how to trust yourself.”  Great, I wasted a year looking for a sign that’s not coming and the wisdom of someone else that not meant for me.  A memory wove its way through this:  Me sitting with the kids after our lives looked like scorched earth, barren desert and telling them that from here on in we’re making our own rules, creating a path even if there wasn’t one there before.  And I told them they could be anyone they wanted to be. And inner me responded with a supportive, “Well, duh.”

I’m going to talk about what I did wrong this past year. What I did learn.  But, I’m going to DO stuff.  Moving forward, even if I don’t have a map or a perfect chin-length bob.

 


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My Furry Teacher

Day 138 – This was part of my last entry on April 18th, four days after my 10 year-old golden retriever died very suddenly:

I thought he was my indulgence.  He was not.  He was a teacher and friend who showed me so much.  The lessons are about optimism, being present, thin skinned/thick skinned, just being and letting go, remembering the future, silence and the importance of weakness.   I’m going to write about this.  I am going to get through it.

Each time I tried to write something here, I told myself it was too hard, that I wasn’t ready.  So, I will write some details about the lessons my furry teacher brought to me.

  1.  Be optimistic – There will be days when you are carrying a tree limb and no matter how you try, it won’t fit through the kitchen door.  Don’t be upset.  It’s sunny outside and you can enjoy that limb on the deck.  Celebrate the fact that you figured out how to get it up a flight of stairs.
  2. There is no time like the present to do whatever it is you want to do–I mean, really, who is in charge of you but you?  Want to play–play!  Want to nap–nap!  If you just taste the wind and look around you, there are so many things right here and right now that are worth your attention.
  3. If someone wants to get into a fight with you, think about who they are first.  I mean, if you are about 10 times bigger and stronger and mellow as say…a miniature dachshund that’s gnawing on your leg, ask yourself how much damage can it really do?  How long before she wears herself out?  Pay as little attention as possible and eventually she’ll go on her way.  But don’t let her try to bite near your eyes.  You don’t have to fight.  Just show her your teeth and gently remind her that her head fits in your mouth.
  4. You have to just be and let go.  I mean sometimes you get a car ride.  Could be going to the dog park.  Could be going to the vet.  Could be that drive-through place that has ICE CREAM!  Could be a long drive or a short one. The thing is–you’re getting a car ride. Put your face out the window and just be.
  5. Bark when you need to.  We all need to bark sometimes.  The quiet that comes after always feels pretty good.
  6. You know what’s coming.  Everybody knows that there are great times and good people and hard times and hard people.  There’s not much you can do about when and where they come.  Remember who you are.  Remember your pack is with you.
  7. That’s the other thing.  The pack.  You might get older and slower and not able to fetch like you used to do.  But your pack is there.  They will lick your face and share a toy with you.  They will help you figure out how to wriggle out of any cone of shame.

It was so difficult to get him into the car but I managed and the other dogs nearly knocked me down getting into the car.  There was no time for leashes and collars.  I drove with his head in my lap.  Then he moved his head to rest it between the gear shift and the console.  He turned on the radio and kept brushing his face against it, making the channels change and change and change.  He grinned a dog smile for the last time. The pack followed his stretcher in and we learned that there would be no healing.  I know my vet explained it to me but I didn’t hear the words.  Moxie and Baxter got quiet and the vet went about doing his job.  I thought, what would I want to hear in my last moments?  I would want something that filled my mind with good thoughts and good memories.  And so I told him things he loved to hear:  You have the coldest nose ever. Are you wagging? You are the most optimistic dog ever.  I love you.  You are my prince.  You are the best dog.  You can play in the fountain all the time.  Look for Dugan and Honey. Look for my Mom.

I spent the next couple of days thinking about the irony of it all.  A Facebook reminder that two years earlier I had been sitting with a woman whose dog had just been euthanized. How I finally understood Snow White’s ode to perfect, unconditional love.  Someday my Prince will come.  Someday I’ve fine pure love.  Nobody told me he would have floppy ears and drool.  How the next day a small, loud plane got my attention outside as it drew a smile face in the sky over Table Mountain.  I saw it and thought, no. No really? You’re still a comfort to my soul.  You let me know you made it home safely.


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Doggone

.Days 100-105:  To those who are following this writing, all handful of you, I apologize for the big gap in communication.  But in these few days I’ve been given the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and other things along the way.

Today I learned that if you google ‘grieving the loss of a dog’ you will find 703,000 URLs that will take you to sites selling tombstones, sites selling jewelry, and some insights into loss.  My dog Truman has died.

Every dog in my life, except Truman, has been a rescue dog.  I was a toddler feeding Cheerios to the stray dogs a neighbor rescued.  In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, it’s still legal to shoot your dog for no good reason.  The law says ‘without malice’ but I’m not sure how you shoot a poodle without malice.  Anyway.  The  list is lengthy and includes 6 German shepherd puppies headed for the drowning pool who ended up becoming seeing-eye dogs thanks to my mother’s quick thinking.  There was a neighbor’s beaten, broken dog who I stole with the complicity of a friend. He lived out his life on a farm, guarding the kitchen door.  There was Dugan, who came into my life with his owner’s son in tow.  He opened the door to my heart for dogs after a long, dry spell.  I lived with him in the winter of his life and loved him through his death. After he died, about  6 weeks passed and I had a recurring dream.  (If this is too, woo-woo for you, oh well.)  Dugan ran toward me, would stop, and then run back the way he had come.  One night, in the dream, he ran forward with a yellow puppy.  A month or so passed and for the first time ever, I got a dog, a pure breed dog, who was not lost or abused and had not been named by anyone else.   I thought he was my indulgence.  He was not.  He was a teacher and friend who showed me so much.

The lessons are about optimism, being present, thin skinned/thick skinned, just being and letting go, remembering the future, silence and the importance of weakness.   I’m going to write about this.  I am going to get through it.


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Just Calm

Days 98 & 99:  There has been calm.  It makes it sound as if this should be a rather boring piece of writing.  Scribbling about the placid.  When did we learn to think that drama-free equals boring?  I have been to drama.  It is not an experience that I need.  Today has a very small tale to tell:  I drove to work talking to the full moon and reciting things for which I am grateful.  I drove home talking to by daughter on nifty new earphone thingies that were an unexpected gift from a friend.  I listened to my daughter’s hard day and some of her drama.  And the thought that brought tears to my eyes was that she has a lover who understands her and cares deeply for her.  I can release some of that mommy-fear about my adult daughter’s unhappy day 1500 miles from home.  I can trust her, her girlfriend, and myself and release it. And keep my own calm.  Tonight I didn’t eat dinner.  I didn’t work on anything.  I re-filled the bird feeder and passed out dog treats.  And I did something I wouldn’t have done a while back–identified myself.  There was an email from our neighborhood chat board.  Folks were asking about the free libraries by the park, talking about what a treat they are and that they could use a paint job.  And they wanted to know who put them there.  I confessed.  It felt good and it felt connected.  No fireworks.  Just calm.


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What’s In a Name?

Day 97:  The other day it felt as if the world was deliberately inundating me with Qs. Every license plate in traffic was QQQ-something, There were an unusual number of Qs on my Alpha Bear board.  My son complained because he ran out of Q-tips.  It was bizarre.  Then the same thing started happening with information about authenticity, truth, and compassion.

Over the weekend I met a woman who was bright, funny, artistic and recovering from cancer.  We hit it off and had instant stories to tell one another and ideas to share.  I was able to give her ideas about some things she could do to help herself heal, tools that I had used–visualization, battle statements, paying attention about expending energy.  She seemed eager to do anything that would take her forward and shared some like information with me.  And I could not remember her name.  I struggled with it for days. Her name is a bit unusual and when I was reminded of it yesterday, there was a sharp tug on my heart and memory.  About 10 years ago I called to a close an important friendship with a person by the very same name.  This person was bright, funny, artistic, and suffering from a debilitating condition.  I pulled every tool from my toolbox and offered to help her learn to use them and pull herself from the place she was in. I tried doing things for her, asking, and stupidly, tried to fix issues for her.  It was a hard lesson.  Nobody can fix anybody.  We cannot love someone well or bully someone into a happier place in life.  Love and friendship do not conquer all. We have to want to fix our own stuff. Someone else may lend us tools or a map, but it’s up to us to put one foot in front of the other on the road to Change.  

One of the things Jean Shinoda Bolen writes about in Crones Don’t Whine is the difficulty of balancing truth and compassion.  I don’t know if I balanced those two thing well when I parted ways with this friend. I do know that my word for the year afterward was Compassion and I spent a lot of time developing a better grasp on that.  After writing here last night, I continued my slow read of Crones Don’t Whine and read the following:  Are you polite or cowardly?  Women are inclined to withhold truth from those emotionally most important to them and in doing so nurture and sustain their weakness.  (Well, ouch.)  To not want to embarrass a friend and withhold the truth does not serve her; friends tell one another the truth.  Whoever described truth as a double edged sword had a limited imagination.  Truth has as many facets and perspectives as any gem.  Have you ever noticed that gems are always presented on velvet? We touch the soft surface before the hard stone at the center.

This is the second hard lesson.  We must address our own truths before we can address them with others.  It requires the courage to ask yourself if you are enabling weakness in someone else with your good intentions. It can require hard questions like ‘Do I hold on to this person or relationship as a means to an end in my own life?’ It is not very lovely to consider how disrespectful it is to hold someone back for our own comfort.  The thing to remember is that whether you are facing an unpleasant moment parting with someone else or facing the unpleasant truth in the mirror, both situations require compassion.