Sharing the lessons along the way…

Archive for the ‘living with illness’ Category

Unlikely Gratitude

I have a neighbor who has a little Chihuahua dog and he never kept him on a leash when they were in their front yard.  My boys and I struggled going past the house on our because my boy Amore’ often would get aggressive with other dogs.  When Amore died, Duke met the dog and the dog would often come to the other side of the street to see us on our walks.  Ruby met him too.  The guy seemed like a nice enough guy despite the one negative experience I had.

When I was using the walker and the motorized wheelchair, we didn’t have a choice but to go by his house because the sidewalks on the other street were better and I was less likely to fall.  But we always had to take that chance of the little dog coming and my dog or dogs pulling me off balance.  Once the neighbor yelled at me because I wouldn’t just go on down the same street instead of passing his street.  I yelled back that the sidewalks sucked and that the walker didn’t work well and to please get his dog.

We still exchanged pleasantries after that incident and I had no hard feelings because he couldn’t understand why sidewalks would be a problem or that Amore was often unpredictable—who could who hadn’t had to try using a walker or had a problem dog.

Fast forward from that moment three or four years ago to July 2017.

Hope Fiona and I were walking on a Friday evening past his house, which is our normal route.  I had noticed I hadn’t seen much of him this year and that he appeared to be frail and wasn’t walking that well in the past month I had seen him.  He stops me to tell me he was in a bad car accident in January and when he was having to learn to walk again, his first thought was of me.

He said he remembered me always continuing to walk my dogs whether it was with a wheelchair, a walker or a cane and that he hoped he had the same strength as he was struggling through his recovery.

He shared his journey from wheelchair to walker to cane and was proud to say he was getting around pretty well without the cane now and could walk around the block.  He asked me how I found the strength to do it and continued to say how much he thought of me during and still because he had a tremendous head injury that has to continue to heal.

We talked about muscle memory and physical therapy and water therapy, and even though it was starting to rain and Hope really wanted to walk, we talked about the importance of continuing to move forward no matter what.

He asked me my name because in the 12 years I have passed his house and talked with him, we had never exchanged names.  He thanked me for something I had no idea even happened.

This experience reminded me that I was doing something right in this life, but also reminded me about how someone is always watching you and that making an impact on others’ lives is far bigger than what you deliberately do for someone else.  It is more about who you are and how you are while you are doing the simple, routine things in this life that has just as much of an impact.

 

 

Maybe I do

PhotoMail (5)

I have been without a canine companion for nearly two full months since Ruby died.  I have lost count of the number of people who have sent me posts of a dog in need of re-homing, the number of texts to take a dog, foster, and the number of times I have been asked, “Have you gotten another dog yet?”

Ruby was my back up dog for Duke and I did not have a backup dog for Ruby because I did not imagine I would need one for many years.  Her death was sudden and traumatic.  While I could not imagine a life without a dog exactly, I knew I was in no way ready for another.

My friends and I talked at great length about how we do not know me without a dog because for the last 16 years, I have had one or two.  My brother said I could not be me without one.

I made a conscious decision not to rush into another because emotionally, losing three dogs in three years was a lot.  I went on the hope method that I had learned how to stay grounded without the need of an external grounding source, which for me was always a dog or two.  My dogs taught me how to do this over the years, and I felt somewhat confident in the lessons I had learned from them.

Still, I was not sure.  I wasn’t sure if I would feel lonely without one.  I was not sure that I wouldn’t lose my mind or otherwise lose my sense of mission and purpose.

Two months in, I have not lost my mind or otherwise lost my sense of mission and purpose.  I still do not feel lonely.  I do miss having a living, breathing, always loving being under foot, but have watched others’ dogs and getting my dog fixes often.

I figured I would be trying to find ways to avoid coming home to an empty house, but as it has turned out, I still like my place.  It is still the refuge and the Zen space I created for my dogs and I.  While I have the freedom to do other things, and sometimes choose to do them, I am often simply choosing to come home after work.

It is not uncomfortable.  I do not feel like I am missing anything in my life.  I do plan to add another dog into my life next year.  I honestly never thought I would be ok under these circumstances.

Since I seem to be, I will go with that.

Letting Go Goes Deeper

Run Free Sweet Girl

Run Free Sweet Girl

It is certainly not my first post on letting go, nor do I suspect it will be my last post on the subject.  The last few weeks, the universe has honed my ability to do so more quickly.

I am no stranger to traumatic experiences, nor am I trauma’s biggest fan despite the familiarity.  What I have learned about trauma is that no matter how quickly you pick up the leftover pieces and continue moving forward, the imprint physiologically remains far longer.

Loss and trauma are strange bedfellows, I have also learned.  Not all losses are traumatic, but most trauma involves a loss of something/someone.

With the vicarious trauma professionally, and from simply watching the news about the various tragedies happening world-wide, experiencing a personal trauma in addition, has created a variety of interesting visceral responses.

Nearly 2 ½ weeks ago, I unexpectedly lost my third dog in three years.  The first two were inevitable as they were seniors, but the third was only five years old, and we experienced a painful final 72 hours of her life together.  She was very vocal about her pain and suffering, and no amount of medication was easing that for her.  I chose not to prolong her suffering.

While I chose to let her go, the experience of her suffering remains both in my heart and in my mind.

I went back to work the following week, and while apparently numb, I found myself extra sensitive to suffering of all kinds.  In my semi-conscious waking state for the first week, I saw her eyes and felt her pressing her painful self into me attempting to ease her pain.  The second week was a bit more interesting in my sleeping state.

Nearly every soul connection I have had in the last decade came flooding back in my dreams.  The gist I could gather when I would awaken was the theme of letting go on a different level.  Interestingly enough, Duke was not among them because he was in my dreams the week before all this happened with Ruby.  It was his death anniversary, which is the last time I posted a blog.

Because it is my nature to look for the lesson and potential growth opportunity in everything, I cannot help but to think more about these losses and the residual effects they may be having on my ability to move forward in my life.  Perhaps that was Ruby’s ultimate lesson for me in our relatively short time together.

Grieving, letting go and healing trauma happens as a process.  It appears to be happening on a global scale, and not just in my personal and professional life, so I have to believe that continuing to move forward while being open to the process itself, will promote that healing process.

 

I am not a Unicorn!!

Photo Courtesy of Chilledworld.com

Photo Courtesy of Chilledworld.com

I know this might be hard to believe, but I am a human being.  As such, I find that others often expect the alternate universe Tawny who has magical powers, is a unicorn or perhaps the Tawny that flies in invisible planes and can be in more than one place at a time.

Unlike the superhero Tawny who may or may not live in an alternate universe, I am not available 24/7 ready and willing to leap a tall buildings in a single bound.

In this reality, I need time to recuperate rest and not be “on” for others 24/7.  This was true long before my chronic condition, in fact.  I have known this about myself for a long time.  It wasn’t until after my diagnosis that I began to honor it more.  I know when I can absolutely do nothing more for anyone else unless I take care of myself.

Every now and again, I wish I could be in that alternate universe.  I wish I was a unicorn, had some magical beans or a wand or something so that I could continue to help all who need it in the best possible way.  Or to simply get to hang out with people I miss terribly and don’t get to see that often anymore.

And every now and again, I have others place these superhuman expectation on me.  To help in ways I am unable, or to do just that one more thing.  Sometimes they even use guilt to push me to wave my magic wand despite having already done as much as I could.

In this universe, I do the very best I can from the time I get up until the time I go to bed.  If anyone is going to challenge that “best” then it will be me because I know more than anyone else does just how important it is for me to do as much as I can to make life just a little bit better than it was before I arrived.

Believe me when I say this, I will always be harder on myself about it than anyone’s guilt trip or anyone’s attempt to push one of my buttons.  That’s why those guilt trips and button pushing attempts are less likely to work anymore and the answer is still no.

Actually, I hardly have anyone in my inner circle who doesn’t respect the answer no because they know me well enough to know that I totally would if I could.  They know it isn’t personal.  They know that I am not a unicorn and I love them for it!

I am grateful for everything I can do and spend my time and energy figuring out ways to do even more without sacrificing my well-being in the process.

Wouldn’t it be just a little bit fun though to have a super power, have unlimited energy (not the pathological kind), to constantly be able to serve humanity without any regard for self-care, have magic wands or magic beans or fly invisible planes?

The Magic of Rainbows and Unicorns

me and dad lightning hero 4-10-16

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

I have spent my lifetime trying to explain my seeming compulsion to serve to others, but have never found adequate words or descriptions to do justice to how I have always felt.

Last night, a thirteen-year-old struggled to find those same words.  This young man was awarded the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero award and was chosen to speak at an event where all 220 community heroes, from the last five years, were being honored for their passion and service.

When he shared about the healing power of giving back and how he had been pain-free for two years from his juvenile arthritis, I could feel his compulsion to serve from far back in the room at my table.  I thought, this kid and I could sit quietly in a room together and totally “get” where the other was coming from.

I am not sure there weren’t 218 others and their guests in the room thinking the same thing or at  least, being appreciative of his ability to share it that way.  Feeling a purpose and a drive to do something outside of ourselves is service and the benefits of it have the potential to be a life changer.

There is a healing power to giving and serving others, and to doing so from the heart and from the depths of our being.  It is the real deal—seriously, unicorns, rainbows and fairy dust kind of stuff you cannot imagine is possible.

It is far more magical when it is focused, ego-less and fiery with passion.  And even more magical when you can balance the service with self-care so that fire doesn’t burn itself out along the way.

After the program concluded and all the heroes left their respective tables to go back into the lobby for coffee and desert, I had only two thoughts in mind.  One was that I really needed to find that kid, shake his hand, and say something encouraging.  The second was that I needed to hug the amazing woman who helped behind the scenes to orchestrate all the hero events.

I found the young man in the line of people who also wanted to hug her before leaving.  I had no real encouraging or profound words as I shook his hand, but I did thank him and tell him to be sure to take care of himself too as he continued with his service.

The Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation has changed so many lives as a result of the unrestricted funding they give in honor of each Community Hero award.  There were 220 heroes in five years and I believe there were nearly 350 different nonprofit organizations that benefited from those award dollars.  I am proud and humbled to be among those honored.

If you ever find yourself in need of inspiration, click here and simply watch or read the stories of all the passionate people living in the Tampa Bay area!

 

 

 

 

 

March Madness

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~Margaret Mead

For most of my teenage and adult life, madness has been a part of my March.  I love college basketball, so each year basketball season is one of my favorite times.  I love watching a team working together and rising no matter what the other team throws at them.

All of the sports I played were team sports.  To me, there is nothing like being a part of and watching a team playing/working well together.

I am aware that my team mentality is often lost on those who didn’t play sports or played individual sports, but most workplaces want someone who is a team player.  Even the college classes I teach require some part of the work to be produced by a team.

Every team has a leader—a true leader.  It doesn’t matter the sport and it doesn’t matter the position or role within the team unit.  Invariably a team leader will emerge and provide encouragement, guidance and support for the rest of the team.  A team who respects and trusts the leader will work well as a unit.  A team who doesn’t, isn’t likely to do as well.

Last year, as I launched the wellness initiatives at work, there wasn’t a team.  It was just me to start with, and I couldn’t wait to get others on board.  I worked with other teams and remembered just how much fun it can be when everyone works together and does their part to find creative solutions.  And of course, just how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t work so well.

In a short time, the team has grown.  The team has not only grown with employees, but also with volunteer team members and other partner agencies.  I look forward to watching the teamwork become more seamless as we all move forward.  And to then watch how much better we are all able to impact someone’s life as we do so.

It is almost as exciting to me as watching the tournament games, but as I am watching the games, I am really looking at the teamwork from a bigger vantage point.

What I know for sure is that at some point along the way in this life, we are going to need a team.  It might be a treatment team or some other group of folks banning together to help us get through something we never imagined.  Should that happen again in my life, I certainly want to have a team that works well together guiding me through the madness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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