Keep Your Goals In Sight…Especially If Your Goal Is The Bathroom

toilet

I was recently pretty sick and though the majority of my symptoms are gone, I still don’t feel 100% like myself. That’s probably due to the root reason for my illness. My mind. Not that I’m saying I’m sick in the head…wait, maybe that is what I’m saying….

So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a sensitive stomach. It wasn’t until a few years ago that my weak tum-tum got labeled as irritable, as if it were a fussy infant or a grouchy elderly gentleman.

Grandpa Simpson

After a series of tests, from food allergies to the most undesirable ‘oscopies, my condition got me lumped into the Irritable Bowel Syndrome category. I say lumped, because it seems like this diagnosis is what you get when there’s absolutely no reason for your symptoms, and yet, there they are. Basically, what it boiled down to was that it was all in my head. Now, as a long-time sufferer from this apparently mentally-driven illness, THAT IS THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO BE TOLD. It sounds messed up, but you almost hope that they find an ulcer just so you have a reason for feeling so awful. It’s not like the Dr. said verbatim, “You’re making this up in your head,” but it still felt like it was my fault.

Anxiety has plagued me as far back as the single digits, with depression joining the party in my teens, and apparently, when it runs amuck, it can cause major irritability in your guts. So, I literally worry myself sick. And trying not to, only makes me think about it more, and makes the rumbly in my tumbly rage on.

True story.
True story.

Aside from taking more pills, there doesn’t seem like a way to escape myself. I’ve considered meditation and heard good things about it. Maybe I’ll give it a try. I just can’t imagine turning off the unending movie in my head.

I know I’m not alone, even if the subject matter is a little, um “unmentionable.” Well, I’m mentioning it. And not like the cute little cartoon bowel in the commercial,

Yeah. No.
Yeah. No.

like the raging, angry, week-ruining, temper-tantrum-throwing jerk that it is.

There we go.
There we go.

The reason for this most recent flare-up? Well, I’m working up the courage to write it down…because once it’s down in writing, it becomes more than just a random, fleeting thought zipping down the interstate of my mind. Next rest stop: 50 miles. Uh-oh.

#WINNING
#WINNING

~L~

Good Girl

The air was cold. Not cold like it should’ve been on the 9th of February, but cold. Sort of crisp, like fall. The whole winter had been pretty mild and the day I’d decided would be her last to suffer, was no different. I was grateful the bitter cold had held off as I stood in her stall, running my hands over her face and neck, fluffy with her winter coat. My horse stood with her head down, her nose pointed into a corner and I wasn’t sure if she even knew I was there. One week had morphed into what felt like a moment that would both never end and end too soon.

It started like colic. She didn’t eat her supper one night and began pawing and stomping. After walking her around for a bit she seemed to have interest in her hay again and started to eat. I was mistakenly relieved. By the next day, it was apparent that she was sick enough to call the vet. After treatment for colic and bloodwork, it was concluded that her liver was failing. Without sending her to the state hospital, two hours and several thousand dollars beyond my reach, there’d be no way to really know what was happening to her. And I had to take into account her age. She was going to be 25 in March. It might’ve been easier to accept if she’d been in poor health along with her advancing age, but up until the week she fell ill, she’d always had the energy and attitude of a much younger horse. I’d read that Appaloosas often lived to be 30. I felt like she was being ripped off. That I was too. But I was also glad it was happening quickly and she’d never have to face the physical breakdown of growing old.

Scribbles

Warm tears streaked over my chilled cheeks, chapping them. I rested my forehead against her neck, my arm draped over her spotted back. My heart ached listening to her grinding her teeth so hard it sent chills up my back—a sign her liver had given up, left her brain to swim in a sea of toxins and robbed her of her mind. Over the last few days, I watched her put her nose into the feed bucket, not to eat but only to go through the motions, and steadily lose weight. My heart began to tear as I tried to see that putting her down was the right thing to do. But, there was no amount of rationalization that was going to make it alright that my friend, my confidant, was losing her life. I’d cried so much that week that it felt like my natural state of being. I breathed in her scent and sobbed. Then, she moved. Her face came out of the corner and her neck bent around me pressing me against her with her ever-soft nose. And my heart broke wide open. Her hug could’ve been just another odd reflex but to me, it was everything. She did it again and was done. Somehow, even with her body failing, she found a way to give me some peace.

Scribbles under saddle
So many memories had battered me as I struggled for that week, and came to terms with the reality of my impending loss.

I remembered the first time I saw her at the boarding stable where I cleaned stalls, pulling the cross-ties tight, the whites of her eyes gleaming. She’d injured herself running through her owner’s fence and had nasty slices on her front and back legs. She was there while her owner repaired the fence. The weeks passed and instead of fearing her, like I probably should’ve, every time I cleaned her stall, I grabbed a soft bristled brush and carefully brushed her between the eyes. I offered her the ends of carrots from my other job in a restaurant kitchen and though it would be months before she would take them from my hand, I felt a connection to her.

Scribbles

I remember how she got her name when friend/co-poop-shoveler called her Scribbles, because “she looks like a kid drew her.”

I remembered the excitement I felt when that same friend offered a place to keep a horse so I could realize a life-long dream. Then, the giddiness when I offered to take Scribbles off her owner’s hands and she agreed.

I remembered the first time I sat on her back, after months of ground work and trust building.

I remembered when she took a carrot from my palm for the first time.

I remembered the way she’d be completely calm as I sat on the built-in feeder in her stall and scratched the place where her rump met her tail. How she’d often back herself gently toward me, suggesting that it was time for another scratch.

I remembered every fight, lie, and betrayal that she helped me through just by standing in her stall while I brushed her.

I remember the debilitating depression and how sometimes, the only thing I looked forward to was barn time.

I remembered how after every ride, she tossed her head excitedly in her stall, waiting for her apple.

I remembered the day she broke my arm, the day I learned the value of not skipping steps just to get to the fun part.

I remembered how nearly every time I came to the stable, America’s “Horse With No Name” would play on the barn radio and it became something of an inside joke with Husband and me.
Most of all, I thought about that soft nicker she gave when I came into the barn and how much of a hole its absence would leave in my heart.

Scribbles

That afternoon, as the sun was looming just over the horizon, I led her from her stall for the last time. She was very weak from not eating all week and we moved slowly through the grass. Her stablemate, Bo, was placed in a pasture near the place that had been chosen for her. They didn’t do well apart and there was hope that if he saw her fall, he would understand. As we approached the spot, she lifted her head high, her nostrils pulling in the chilled February air, and she called out to him as he grazed in the pasture they’d shared. For a few seconds, the light that her eyes always held came back and my breath caught in my throat. Then the burst of energy was gone and her head drooped again.

meNscribbles07

It was suggested to me that I might not want to be there for the euthanasia, or that I might at least want to turn around. There was no doubt in my heart that I would hold onto her as long as I could. There was an inner conflict like I’d never experienced before, as I watched the vet put the needle of the catheter into her neck. My heart was screaming “STOP” but my mind held my tongue. I grudgingly handed over the lead rope when the vet said the first injection, a sedative, would cause her to collapse and he didn’t want me to get hurt. I stepped back.
He held her head by her halter as his wife and fellow veterinarian administered the first syringe. While the visual of Scribbles’ eyes rolling back in her head and her body going limp is an image that will likely stay with me forever, I couldn’t have left her. She went to her knees first and as she fell like a marionette whose strings were abruptly cut, the vet dug his boots into the soft ground and maneuvered her to the ground. Her eyes were open but there was no life behind them. I sank to my knees at her head and stroked her face, my tears falling into her hair. The vet administered the unbelievably large syringe of pink liquid and I continued to pet and murmur that I was there and she was a good girl. And then she was gone.

Scribbles headshot
But she was a good girl. She was flighty and clingy to her stablemates. She was too lame to ride sometimes, thanks to poor care from the owner that had her first. She was as sloppy as any pig when kept in her stall. But she was my friend. It wasn’t about her perfection or her usefulness. It was about love.
The vet removed his stethoscope from her ribs and stood to let me have my time with her. While I’m not religious at all, I am spiritual. I imagined her energy leaving her broken body, flowing through me and running through the nearby field.

Scribbles running

As if my feeling was reality, Bo, who had been grazing in the pasture a few feet away, seemingly ignoring us, suddenly jerked his head up. He let out a high-pitched whinny and took off across the pasture. He ran, screaming, from fence to fence. It was several minutes before he stopped, and even then, he was alert, snorting as he looked around.

He didn’t stop looking for her for months and neither did I. I never got used to her stall being empty. Eventually, I didn’t need to come to the barn to help out anymore. And a few months later, when I felt like I could handle it, I returned for her tack.

Scribbles tack

As I entered the barn, I heard the song. “Horse With No Name” was on the radio. It felt like she was letting me know that she was still there for me, even if it was just the result of a radio station with a limited playlist. A tear rolled down my cheek and I couldn’t help but smile.

Scribbles in the barn

~L~

My Craft Wife

It’s a pretty helpless feeling watching someone suffer physically and being unable to do anything to make them feel better. You can speak all the encouraging words you know but it doesn’t do a thing for the actual pain. I’ve been witness to the premature wreckage of my mother and more recently, one of my best friends and co-author of this blog.

Mom has a bad back, neck, and joints among a slew of other issues probably exacerbated by the medication she takes for said back, neck, and joints. I can’t pinpoint when she really started to go downhill but I remember her back and neck surgeries starting somewhere when I was in elementary school. Every year afterward seemed to get just a bit worse than the previous. Then she wound up in an emotionally abusive relationship and spent a great deal of time in bed. Depression knocked her down and when she finally removed the abuser—after 8 years—she’d been sedentary for so long I think it had ruined her. What the boyfriend hadn’t robbed from her quality of life, her Degenerative Joint and Disc disease and immobility had helped itself to. He’s been gone for five years and she is only a tiny fraction of the person she used to be.

And it hurts. Her pain is physical and I can’t begin to understand. What I do comprehend is how heartbreaking this has been for all of us. The pain has robbed her of so much. She can’t keep up after her house like she should, she can’t do yard work, she can’t even carry in heavy groceries. She battles depression every single day and every day she’s able to get out of bed, I’m grateful.

With my history or chronic depression, I know how I would react were I in her shoes. I encourage her and try to help when the chaos allows, but the truth is, I’m weak. I couldn’t handle what she deals with every second of her life.

Now I see *d* fighting the same monster and I break inside. I want to be able to help, to make her more comfortable. I know there is nothing I can do for the physical aspect. All I can do is be there to listen and to try to make her laugh. I know she appreciates my efforts but it doesn’t make me any less angry. She’s not even 35 and so much is being taken from her. We’re the same age. I gripe about a sore back from cleaning houses and she just wishes she could clean her own house. It’s not fair. She’s young and a momma to four kids she doesn’t get to enjoy like she should. Still she stays strong because she has to. Because it’s who she is. Because she is braver than I will ever be.

When she vents to me about the pain, the debilitation, I don’t always know what to say. There are only so many ways to say that you’re sorry. And no matter how literally sorry I am, the word isn’t enough. Not for me.

She is my Craft Wife and I am hers, silly nicknames for two women who love Hobby Lobby and the craft of writing. We also love each other, as great friends who share the darkest parts of their hearts with each other, often do. If I could do anything for her, I would take away the pain. But since I can’t, I will let her know that it’s ok if she’s not always strong. It’s ok to feel the anger and sadness and mourn for the things she’s missing out on. It’s alright to feel robbed. She’s handled every curve ball life’s thrown at her with a grace that I can’t begin to emulate and she deserves to fall apart from time to time. She has people who love her who will scrape her back together to face another day. And as long as I’m around, someone who will whisk her away for greasy bar food, conversation, and trips to the Hobby Lobby.

We're a couple of sketchy characters...haha
We’re a couple of sketchy characters…haha

~L~

Selling the Balance

When I left my job as a hospital housekeeper in April of 2013, I left behind the blood, the tissue, the vomit and urine and most of all, the DRAMA. I left it to finish my novel and take a break after planning our wedding, the wedding of the century—ok, not quite that big, but an ordeal nonetheless. My break went from a month to three months to a year to almost two years. Initially, the plan was to take the break, then look for another job. What we discovered while having me home was that it was nice. There was someone at home to keep the house and yard up, and do the daytime running that would otherwise have to wait for Saturday or result in someone having to take time off from their daytime job. With no kids, I could do all of that and still had time to write and read, which, aside from horses, is inarguably my life’s passion. I also had time to cook and try all of those long-pinned Pinterest recipes. That benefited my husband and me greatly since we’d been guilty of dining out virtually every day of the week and wasting money and gaining weight.

Now that I’m essentially working full-time again, with the cleaning I do for several families and the position in the insurance agency, I’m scrambling for balance. Along with the increased out-of-the-house work, I still have to maintain my home and I also lend a hand to my disabled mother and 84-year-old grandmother. I share the responsibility of keeping Granny living independently in her own home with my mom. We shop for her and mom gets her to appointments. I mow her yard and clean her house and make sure her pills for the week get set up. Mom and I call her throughout the day to remind her to take her medication. For my mom, I do heavy lifting and offer moral support. Being disabled has caused her to be depressed and unable to push forward sometimes. Dealing with my own depression hasn’t always made me the best pep-talker, but I feel like if I go down, we all do. So I keep my head up, my nose just above the lapping waters of anxiety and depression at times, and keep pushing. With everything on my plate, it’s been easy to feel overwhelmed. I have to straighten the chaos.

I know I’m not alone. And that hurts my heart. This country is full of people who’ve given up on their dreams because they have to work. So many are busy working to live that they indeed forget to live. My husband is probably the example of this closest to me. I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want to give up the cooking new recipes and keeping us out of the fast food joints. I don’t want to forfeit my clean house and all the projects I have in mind for this summer and our home. Mostly, I don’t want to let my writing be put on a back burner again.

Right now, it feels like it might be on the back burner of someone else’s stove. I let that happen for years and that’s why it took me a decade to get my novel done. This blog and *d* and joining the writing community Scribophile has allowed me to enjoy writing like I’ve never been able before. I am desperate to not let it go. I don’t want to sell my dreams for a steady paycheck no matter how much I enjoy the work. There is a way to do it all. I know there is. There has to be.

~L~

Knee High in a Rant

Sometimes when I have a difficult day  I imagine sitting in front of a tall window dressed in sheer covering. The sun is amber and the wind is trickling in the crack of the window to disturb the sheer. I imagine the blue sky beyond and feel the warm breeze rise up my feet. It pulls at me and dares me to chase. I could run barefoot until I could run no longer. I would then lay back and watch the clouds float further than I could ever go. It would be quiet, it would be peace.

I love nature but find it hard to leave the comfort of my house. It has been hard to handle all my children outside the home with my special needs son. I never know when and what may set him off so it is less anxious for us both to remain here. I save my dreams for days when I have helping hands. There are also dreams I may never fulfill. These dreams are simple but it feels like they were taken from us by a thief. Taken by a greedy disease with it’s fear and unpredictability. I want a life back and it will never happen. I can try to be optimistic, but it won’t change the facts. I grieved for the life my son will never have and now I grieve for the life we have left behind. It sounds selfish but it’s true. Disease has a grieving process very similar to death. Maybe I have yet to reach acceptance.

This window I dream about is something I have been escaping to since I was a child. I had found that I had the ability to escape in my mind when my body could not. I hope my son can figure out how to do the same. I hope he can find a place far from his sometimes sad reality. He will never know a day without medicine. He may never understand why he must live with this burden and I may never be able to explain it to him. He just doesn’t understand but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle because I assure you he does. That is a hard pill to swallow, even for a faithful person. He has purpose and meaning. His life has already made differences, although he may never know.

For all he is, it makes my heart hurt to know that I cannot provide him all that he deserves. I can’t provide him a beautiful day in the park if his disease won’t allow me the ability to help him enjoy it. I am angry that so much has been taken from all of us. I have lost my identity in this disease right along with him. I didn’t want it to take over my life, it just happened. I have to think about it every day. I think about it the four times a day he gets his medicine. I think about it every time he gets on a bus and isn’t able to attend school with the peers in our hometown. I will think about it every time a school milestone occurs and he won’t be asked to participate. Sadly I can’t carry this for him. I can only grab his hand and help him along and when it’s really bad, I can carry him.  Mostly, I wish I could take it away.

I feel removed from this life in a lot ways so please excuse me when I seem put off by the problems I wish I had and forgive me if I can’t be more sympathetic. I am busy staring out my window. My mind is too busy running out the window and toward the sun and imagining a normal existence.

*d*

Year End Reflections

I married him in the late of summer. He didn’t want to see his bride in sleeveless so I wore a long sleeved white dress in the hot of day. My hair was down, sweltering on my neck. It couldn’t be put up, it wouldn’t have been suitable for him. All the details of that day were as he desired. The floral arrangements, the bridal band, and bridesmaids’ dresses were all in his favorite color. My special color was too feminine for his special day.  Everything was suited for a day as he dreamed and we set off for a honeymoon as he always imagined.

This was the first day of the rest of his life. It was the  first day ending my independent life. There was no longer a “me” but an us where he decided what was best for the two of us. I was there that day. I stood before the closed sanctuary doors sick with fear. I recalled the day he proposed. I wanted to run then and I wanted to run at that moment. I thought I was in too deep but I was expected to consider his feelings first in all things.

I was expected to relinquish myself and become his wife. In that moment, on that day, I inherited the responsibilities of a wife. I was solely responsible for cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation while remaining physically pleasing and readily available to him. There was no fair turn in the marriage as my attire was rebuked down to my undergarments while he slowly allowed himself a great deal of comfort with his hygiene and appearance. The small requests continued until larger uncomfortable desires were expected to be met with silent submission. After several years I no longer thought about what I wanted, I just did as he asked. My hair was to a length he preferred, my eyebrows were favored at an appropriate width, and money was never at my disposal. He refused to part with the mutual earnings to allow spending that would not  be a benefit to him. I worked full time but found myself in tears when making the agonizing choice to purchase much needed items, even if it were for my career. I was also not allowed the security of a cell phone after accepting a job forty miles from home. When my salary met his own, my position was downplayed as subjacent to his own.

I was not perfect but I don’t believe he thought what he was doing was wrong. We both had flaws. I was immature and I had a temper. When my requests to talk about marital issues were met with complete silence, I would blow up in frustration. For him, the only problems with our marriage were the issues I refused to drop. The bad fights started with requests to put down the toilet seat, brushing teeth before bed, or my desire to include my family and friends in my life. For me, marriage became about isolation, unresolved issues and silence. He thought his marriage was perfect. He was shocked when I finally left.

The weeks before I left became littered with fights and broken furniture. One afternoon we had the last fight of our marriage. I left for my parent’s home and he never came for me. He spent his time calling me and asking me to come home or making accusatory calls to me while I was at work. He wanted me back but was angry that I was not doing as he asked. He also had too much pride to follow his wife to the ends of the Earth, or a mere few miles up the road.

Some say divorce is worse than death. I can agree with this on some level because running into an ex can almost be like seeing a ghost. I haven’t seen mine since our disillusion was final. I was thankful we had no children thus making the separation of our lives a clean cut.

You may wonder why this would be the subject of my next post in light of the holiday season. New Year’s Eve fifteen years ago, I was laying on the bathroom floor my ex and I shared wondering if I wanted my life to continue. I heard the laughter from the party going on in the basement beneath and felt it was not for me. Against my natural desire to live grew this terrifying thought grown out of depression. Marriage was not like most things in my young life, it would continue until death. I realized I had no second chance and I should have felt more desire for my husband and my marriage. I had ignored my heart and did what I thought was “right.”

I stayed for a few more New Year’s Eve parties until I matured and made the difficult decision to make our separation permanent. The day I left, I had no idea how I would come to that choice but when he never came for me, it was easier to make. I had to be worth the fight.

………….

Years later, I married him on a cold spring day in the dress of my dreams (it was sleeveless) and prepared confidently, knowing however I came down the aisle, he unconditionally loved me. My heart and my mind were no longer at conflict.

During the approach of the holiday season, many thoughts turn to resolutions or putting behind a bad year. Isn’t it silly to think the same problems won’t follow through to the next year or resolutions will be easier to keep because we can open another calendar? Making a resolution to run away from problems does not work any better than running from them the remainder of the year. What happened to accepting the year we were given and using the short-falls of that year for our betterment?

My New Year’s advice for you: look back and enjoy this year. Do not be in a rush to discard it. Fifteen years ago when I was laying on my bathroom floor, I lost hope. My life was certainly going to be more of the same disappointment but that disappointment led me to where I am. My husband was worth the previous years I was ready to forget. If I would have known the heartache I experienced would bring me to where I am, I would have met it with more joy. There can be joy in our sadness. Unfortunately we don’t realize all that is meant for us until it has come to pass. Don’t regret an entire year based on difficulty, remember the clay is stronger when burned by fire. The heat may sometimes be intense but it is preparation for many things yet to come. Be patient. True happiness is always worth the wait.

Happy New Year! Wishing you the confidence to make the hard decisions and waiting for the best return the new year has to offer.

*d*