Friday, March 17, 2017

The best laid plans...

Way back in July or August I signed up for the Gasparilla 15k race thinking it would give me something to train for and get my feet back on the running trails. I put together some very reasonable training plans and even went out for a few long runs early on Sunday mornings.

Then December and January bitch slapped me with fury, and running was the last thing on my mind.

I planned to go ahead and do the race anyway. After all, I did my first half-marathon even though I had never gone longer than 6 miles. It's still my best time. I'm definitely not in the same shape now that I was then, but I'm determined and willing to give it what I had.

My annual check-up changed all that. I had a ridiculous swelling in my ankles and feet that was the result of my thyroid gone wild again. Basically, I had proteins building up in the soft tissues of my body. I asked the doctor about the race, and he told me I would most likely have a heart attack on the course because what was happening in my ankles was also going on in my heart and my brain.

There have been three major times in my life when I've suffered some of these same symptoms. I didn't know at the time it could be thyroid-related. Neither did my doctors, because they always gave me advice for losing weight and exercising more. I see now that I was probably showing thyroid problems even then.

These periods: the end of my teen years when my mother's mental illness was at its worst for me; when my first marriage was falling apart. Then there's now. I didn't realize until I heard the word heart attack just how much life was affecting me.

The good news is that I bounced back in the past, and I think I can do it again. I'm in experimentation mode, trying to find the right formula for myself. I know it involves some alone time, exercise, and a bit of rearranging in my life. I have no idea what that's going to look like, but I'll play both scientist and patient for the next few weeks or months or whatever.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

First Rain

After any sort of loss, there's a series of firsts that mark the path through grief. I've already been through a few of them this week, but today's is a little bittersweet. It's raining outside. It's the first rain that I haven't had Winnipeg here freaking over the sound of drops striking the roof. She would pace the house looking for some place she felt safe. The process was often infuriating because nothing seemed to calm her, and I would watch her wander into the bathroom and close the door behind her or try to cram her body under an end table.

This past summer, I finally bought her a Thundershirt, and it made a world of difference. She wore that thing pretty much every day during the summer, and although it didn't stop the panic, it calmed her enough that she could at least stay in the room. Today it's been raining most of the morning, and there's Winnipeg wandering around the house. The only dogs here are quietly sleeping, and I'm not sure what to do with myself.

Her spirit isn't around here anymore, and I saw flies circling her grave yesterday. S had a dream the other night that she woke him up to take her outside, and he was relieved to see her running and jumping around the in the front yard. I haven't sensed her around here since then, so I can only imagine that the molecules that comprised her conscious have either floated somewhere else or reorganized into a different entity. I'm not sure I'm okay with that yet, but what can I do?

Each day, this process gets a little easier for me. I spent some time at the beach yesterday. I left there with the reminder that anything can happen at any time in life despite our best...or worst...efforts to preclude them. There's still a palpable emptiness in my life, and honestly, I'm not at the point yet to fill that emptiness with anything else. I guess that's okay for now. The bigger picture will appear when I'm ready for it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Chasing Bunnies

Today was the first morning I prepared for and left for work without Winnipeg here. Another first. It was also the first day I came home from work knowing that she wouldn't be here to greet me. But that wasn't entirely the case. I pulled up in the driveway and sat in the car for a minute and she was there on the other side of the gate.

That damn dog.

I went inside for a minute and then left again to fill the water tank, and there she was. So I talked to her for a minute and realized that she's been having a lot of fun doing all the exploring that I never let her do. I guess life is different when you don't have to pay attention to fences. The beautiful part is that I know she's no longer hindered by the lameness that was affecting her the last few weeks. It was rough watching her stumble on the floor and drag her leg behind her...to know that she could no longer go for the rides she loved because she couldn't jump up in the SUV anymore.

But no more.

I had to leave again to go to the store because the refrigerator went out and we only have a little mini fridge here for food. Honestly, food is the last thing on my mind right now, but someone else here still has an appetite, so I had to get something. When I came back from the store, the dog was still in the front yard. She ran over, and I said, "It's okay, girl." When I looked up at the spot where I sensed her, I saw a rabbit run off.

This is nothing new. I live in the country, and there are plenty of rabbits around, but it's been a while since I've seen one on the property. My dear one had posted his own grief on Facebook about how she was a part of him and he would never forget her until they can be together again. Then he said, "keep chasing bunnies." Now, Winnipeg never in her life chased a rabbit. That just wasn't her thing. But when I saw that rabbit, I just felt like it was her way of saying that she's okay and she wanted him to know that she's okay.

I told him as soon as I went inside, and his response was, "really?" and for the first time I saw some relief on his face. I initially thought that was Winnipeg's way of reaching out to him, but I think it was also for me. Since that moment, I felt a release, too. She's okay. I'm okay. We're okay. And it's okay if you think I'm nuts for talking about and to my dead dog. I really don't care. I know what I know. Her body may be gone, but her spirit is still as vibrant as ever.

That's my girl.

Monday, January 02, 2017

A New Morning

I knew this morning would be difficult. For the first time in 10 years, I did not have Winnipeg here in the morning to take out and feed. There was no call, "Come on, Winnipeg. Let's go inside." Okay, there was, but she didn't come back inside.

I've cried several times. I've retold the story of how she and I both knew yesterday morning that January 1 would be her last day...how that dog lived her life on her own terms and she died on her own terms. At her own home. In my arms. In the light of the sun.

I also noticed her presence very clearly when I went outside this morning. I've always had a sense of spirits around me. In fact, when our mother died, the first thing my sister asked me to do was walk around my aunt's house to see if she was around. She wasn't, and we were a little angry with her for not sticking around for us in those early, painful moments.

But not my Winnipeg. Her spirit is very much here. It's like when she would go out in the dark night and walk so far away I couldn't see her. I can't see her, but she's really here. That's my girl. From the day she arrived at my house, she was my dog. She always looked out for me, and in some ways I think her death was just another way of protecting me...from watching her limp toward death.

I went through pictures this morning, digging back to her puppy pics. As I arranged them in chronological order, one thing was obvious. She really was fading. As I flipped through her life, I could see the exhaustion setting in, picture by picture, and it grew more intense after July of this past year. She was a gentle creature with a glint in her eye. Yet, while I continued to see her gentleness in the pictures, I also noted the loss of that spark.

I don't blame her. Life with me can be dramatic at times. The last two years have been especially dramatic, and it's hard to watch the people you love struggle. Winnipeg took it all in stride. She loved me deeply. That I know. She was desperately afraid to be without me. That anyone who ever saw her when I left knows. I loved that dog just as deeply. We walked side by side through so much life and death and drama.

And she did it so beautifully. Winnipeg was never in your face (unless you had some pizza), but you were always aware of her presence. There was something special about that one, and I'm so glad that I was her person...the one who got to witness such a beautiful creature. Thank you, God for the opportunity. Thank you, Winnipeg for sharing this stretch of life with me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Hey, My Name is Winnipeg

Ten years ago, I welcomed a tiny gray bundle from Marianna, Florida into my life. She was a beautiful blue Great Dane with a silvery coat and big floppy ears that I later had clipped. When I made the move to south Florida, she was my traveling companion who rode shotgun with me between Kissimmee and Fort Myers every week.

After my divorce, she stayed with me and we formed such a strong bond that leaving her to travel was one of the hardest things I ever did. I could walk her without a leash because she never left my side for too long. I even had to hide suitcases from her because she knew that it meant I was leaving. She ran with me, leaned against me, slept with me, rode in the car with me. She lived through several other dogs here in the house, always by my side,

I said good-bye to her today. I've had a feeling for the last few weeks that she was slowing down. Last night, she started throwing up just before midnight. This morning she wanted to walk the entire length of the property here just before the sun came up, and I knew that today was going to be it. I prayed that God would take her quickly and not let her suffer.

We sat on the couch this morning for several hours, and I knew. She collapsed at the door at 2:45 this afternoon. I laid down next to her and wrapped my arms around her. Forty-five minutes later, my Winnipeg breathed her last breath in my arms. We wrapped her in her favorite blanket--an old comforter that she stole from me--and buried her outside.

I know dog people love their dogs, and I'm no different. This girl saw me through a major move, a divorce, the death of my mother, and a million other minor abrasions with life. There's a hole in my heart right now. There's an emptiness in my home right now. Winnipeg was one in a million, and everyone who ever met her would tell you that. Even people who hated dogs fell in love with her and said that they would take her in heart beat.

Good-bye, my sweet furry friend. This is such a sad day.

Winnipeg
September 28, 2006-January 1, 2017

Friday, December 30, 2016

Two More Days

The final week of 2016 is proving to be quite challenging as everything decided to run amok and go awry all at the same time. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling like the desperate sailors on the ship Jonah was on, and my endless stream of phone calls, lists, budgets, and text messages is my own version of casting lots, a tool proving as useful as other forms of divination. Most of the answers are still blowing in the wind.

Basically, all I want to do is curl up on the couch under a blanket and watch Roseanne reruns for days. I turned to the sitcom following my mother's death, and it's the one thing I crave when I need comfort. You know the yule log video of a fireplace that gives you the feeling of sitting in front of an open flame? Having the Connors on my television is like sitting in their living room, and it all feels so familiar to me.

I guess that's the point of comfort, huh? It's a piece of familiarity that grounds us in the midst of the unknown. For me, right now, there's the immediate unknown of deciding what to do with my vehicles, my dog, and my refrigerator. There's also the far-reaching unknown that spans to the far reaches of the universe. I'm not sure which is most responsible for the sheer exhaustion I feel and the tears that don't seem to stop.

What I do know, is that I hope 2017 is a better year for me. I entered third decade of my life with so much hope. I'm ending it with an equal degree of despair.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

My Christmas Morning

I've been feeling rather reflective these last few days as I've watched life and death work its wonder. I'm sad. I've been sad for a while, but I've been afraid to admit it to myself. Admitting this means so much more than fessing up to the emotion underlying all the complaining and hiding I've been doing. Admitting to the sadness means letting go of something that I let define me...something I've let define me for more than 20 years.

Yeah, we go way back, and letting go of something that's been part of your life for so long is really tough. Yet, I've been in enough therapy to know that until I acknowledge and deal with the emotions that connect me to this...this...thing, moving forward will be difficult. Honestly, I think my failure to deal (whatever that means) with this is the reason so much of my life feels stagnant. My thyroid. My weight. My creativity.

But today is Christmas. I ran out last night to return a shirt, and the clerk asked me if I was ready for Christmas. My response was a shoulder shrug. "Honestly, it's just another day." He agreed with me and mentioned that his family tends to go overboard. I don't get it. I'm sure there have been years when I enjoyed Christmas, and I know for a fact that I was overwhelmed with joy that year my colleagues and I threw a special Christmas party for the underprivileged kids at our school. Other than that...meh.

I mean, I'm glad that other people really get into the season, but it stresses me. The crowds. The shopping. The traveling. All I want to do is sit home with my dogs, wear pajamas all day, and watch t.v. while curled  up under a blanket. But in the spirit of the season, I'm going to put real clothes on and drive up to see my family. I'll eat, chat with my nephews and sister, force everyone to take some photos and bide my time until I'm back in the car listening to a podcast. I love my family, but I enjoy my time with them more when there's not a throng of people raising the decibel levels.

I know this is all rather melancholy, so I'll finish with a few things that make me smile right now and warm my heart with gratitude.

1. My dogs
2. Running as the sun rises
3. God's provision
4. Podcasts

Merry Christmas!