Was Lost, but Now I’m Found

The joke in my family is that if I say take a right, the correct action is go left. Most trips that end in being lost start with my directions. It has always been that way.

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My lack of directional skills combined with planning a solo vacation driving to unfamiliar places has been a recent cause of angst. Yes, I could get a GPS. Yes, I could use Mapquest. Deep down I knew no matter what I used, my driving would end with me pulling over to the side of the highway, curling into a fetal position and crying until the Highway Patrol rescued me. Call it fate.

Too ashamed to ask my daughter to call in sick for a week and act as my chauffeur, I downloaded Verizon navigator to my phone, printed out my maps and highlighted them, and headed out, determined to break the curse and not get lost. But, before I even pulled out of the hotel parking lot, I realized my problem. I had too much information and trusted none of it. It was time for a change. I threw my maps in the backseat and put my faith in GPS.

At first, listening to the Verizon navigator confused me. Directions like “turn right in 3.4 miles” and “go straight on highway 123” resulted in me second guessing the voice, turning too early or straining to see road signs. But then, after two very small mistakes trying to out think the system, I decided to listen to the voice and follow its commands.

Amazingly, I made it to all my destinations without getting lost. Once I gave myself over to it, driving became enjoyable. No edge of my seat second guessing. No worry that I’d end up the wrong way on a one way street. As long as I had an address, I could get there.

As I cruised along, content in the knowledge I’d reach my destination, I thought about how many times I’ve overloaded my personal GPS with facts and figures rather than listening to the inner voice trying to guide me on the right path. It’s easy to extinguish our faith in ourselves. It’s easy to second guess.

It’s hard to trust.

But I trusted a satellite navigation system that I couldn’t see, touch, or feel and ended up where I needed to go. Maybe it’s time to trust my personal navigation system to do the same.

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What We Shouldn’t Do For Love

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo ...

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo modified by author using Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Urban legends and medical lore are full of the things people do for love. The 22-year-old girl who lifts the car crushing her father. The mother who rushes into a burning building to rescue her children. The father who doesn’t know how to swim, but jumps into the water to save his drowning son.

There are some things, however, that push us to the edge of what we will do for love. Loving an addict is one of those things. It’s tough wondering when the phone call asking for bail money will turn into the one asking you to identify a body. No one’s morning should start in a bedroom doorway worrying if the person inside is passed out or dead.  Life is hard enough without a daily routine of second guessing whether to argue or remain silent. After a while, silence is easier.

Because, after a while you realize that no matter how much you love the addict, you can never make the right decision, say the right thing, or provide the missing ingredient to keep them clean and sober. No one is  capable of stopping the addiction except the addict. Until they admit their problem and get help, no amount of love will make them whole.

It truly is not you, it’s them.

And when you make the decision to leave, the heartache doesn’t stop. Who will take care of them if you’re gone? Make excuses to the few friends that are left? Divert the phone calls from work? Pick up the slack when they spend days in bed recovering from binges?

The pull to go back is stronger than a riptide. It sucks you back and keeps you in place.  To apologize, to make excuses, to take the blame. It’s familiar, comfortable, and as reassuring and necessary as the booze or pills are to the addict.

Until one day you realize that in order to save anyone, you have to save yourself first. You can’t move the car off a loved one if you’re pinned beside them. You can’t save someone from a burning building dressed in gasoline-soaked clothes. You can’t rescue a drowning man when he’s pulling you down with him.

You can’t.

Read all the fairy tales, urban legends, and medical myths you want on the power of love, not all of love stories have happy endings. There are some things love can’t fix. Addiction is one of them.

All you can do is save yourself.

Want more information? Check out the links below:

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon Family Groups, Nar-Anon Family Groups

Too Much Reality TV Isn’t a Good Thing

Don't be tardy for the party

Don’t be tardy for the party (Photo credit: Totally Severe)

I’ve been watching a lot of reality TV lately. It started innocently enough. A little Real Housewives of Atlanta, solely to get to the bottom of Kim‘s wig fetish. Then I half-watched a few episodes of Teen Mom and wondered why a license isn’t required to have a child. Catfish, a show that provides the opportunity for the internet lovelorn to discover their online sweetie is using someone else’s identity, quickly became repetitive, so I switched to the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to watch women dumped by semi-famous men. That became a gateway to the Shahs of Sunset. Reza had a haircut I needed to study and no one does mean girls, it turns out, quite like the Persians. Oh, and a Persian Barbie who was also a lawyer. Who knew? Every time I watched I’d promise myself it was the last episode, then something shocking would happen and I’d be on the hook for the next show.

Best part of Shahs of Sunset: the shots of the...

Best part of Shahs of Sunset: the shots of the kabobs at the very end (Photo credit: ario_)

And, let’s be honest here, no one watches these shows to learn about life or live vicariously through someone else. We watch because we’re fascinated by the grotesque and ugly things these people do. 450 cc fake boobs, drunken catfights, botox, and plastic surgery combine to make these people look less than human. And the way they live? Not like anyone I know. Daddy or hubby pays the bills. Jobs, if they have them, are as ridiculous as making diamond water (don’t ask) or selling books about the scandals they’ve already covered on the show. They travel in limousines, have outrageous parties, and raise children that are largely absent. Definitely not in my league.

And not a league I want to be in.

I understand that everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. I know if there isn’t controversy, no one will watch (me sitting on my couch in my pajamas would be an epic fail of a reality show). I acknowledge that good television requires good guys and villains and watching the conflict that develops between them is what keeps me tuning in.

But, there’s something inherently sad about watching people play a role on TV. The jilted lover, the lying stud, the long suffering wife, and the alcoholic, lonely single woman all seem comfortable to lay the pain and ugliness of their lives on the screen and have us watch. They want us to sympathize, understand, and ultimately learn from their story line.  Unfortunately all I’ve learned is that the tv viewing audience is no substitute for a trained therapist.

I think I’ll turn off my tv and leave them to their dysfunction.

Kicking Television

Kicking Television (Photo credit: dhammza)

Yes. It’s My Yappy Dog.

Yes, it’s my yappy dog. The one who barks and barks for no good reason in a tone guaranteed to disintegrate ear wax. I know it’s annoying.  But, he’s really cute.

nate sleeping

I try to be considerate. When I let him out in the morning, I wait in my pajamas at the patio door, ready to force him inside the second he lets out his first annoying bark of the day. That loud clunking sound you hear is a cardboard box full of zombie dice being vigorously shaken while I hiss “zombie dice” at my dog. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes it works.

After breakfast he likes to go out again. His quiet dog brother (oh, you didn’t realize I had two dogs? Of course not. The yappy one’s noise drowns out the pitter patter of my other dog’s silent feet) doesn’t appreciate the incessant barking any more than the rest of us. Every once in a while, when you hear a snarl, it’s him saying “shut the hell up” in dog language.

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Coming home for lunch means more barking. Barking as I pull into the driveway. Barking as I come up the walk way. More barking as I unlock the door and enter the kitchen. Luckily it’s inside barking, which, while annoying, I hope is not as loud as outside barking. Then it’s back outside again until the inevitable yapping returns and we’re back to zombie dice and treats.

Yes. I give him treats to come inside so I can shut him up. Remember when you didn’t want to screech at your children like a nut when they drove you crazy in the grocery store? That’s how I feel about my dog every single day, multiple times no less.

I’ve tried everything I can think of. Water bottles sprayed in his face temporarily stop him, but not for long. Shaking loud, noisy things in his face have the same brief effect. Bark collars? I’ve been through three of them.  They stop the barking for a while, but then it returns. My family says I should have his vocal cords removed.

If I didn’t love this dog so much, I’d probably contemplate foisting him off on some unsuspecting sucker. He’s good looking, friendly, and has a great personality. Until he opens his mouth.

nate and brady

Any ideas for how to make the perfect dog shut up (short of physically harming my precious)? Let me know in the comments. My neighbors will thank you.

Life’s Sending You a Message, Are You Listening?

cough drops

I have an addiction to Halls cherry cough drops. I love the taste of them, slightly medicinal with an underlying sweetness, and the size, one drop lasts about five minutes.  They’re portable, don’t have an expiration date, and the wax-paper like wrapping protects them from the abuse of being carried in pockets, purses, and the car console.

A few years ago I was attending yet another boring work meeting in a job that consisted of going to boring meetings. We were seated around a conference table so there was no way to secretly work on a grocery list or write hate mail. Opening up my laptop and checking my email was out, too. Looking at the small, crumpled pile of cough drop wrappers in front of me, I realized they had printing on them. I unwrinkled one and was surprised to find it covered with messages such as “Dust off and get up,” “You’re resilient,” “You’ve survived tougher,” and an explanation in all caps,  “A PEP TALK IN EVERY DROP.”

You tell 'em, little Halls cough drop wrapper

You tell ’em, little Halls cough drop wrapper (Photo credit: spiffie)

Five years of addiction to these delicious cough drops and now I find out there’s a pep talk in every drop? How could I have been so blind? Still, the messages started me on a path that included enrolling at Goddard College, inching my way out of the nursing profession, and starting this blog. All because of messages I had been carrying around for years, but had been too busy and preoccupied to see.

It’s like when you buy a red car and you start to see red cars everywhere, when you’re ready, you see that signs are everywhere.  Unhappy with your job? A college catalog with a certificate course you’ve always wanted to take ends up on your kitchen table. Stressed out over finances? You see a small notice on the bulletin board at your gym offering free membership in exchange for volunteer work. House falling apart? A little blurb in the newspaper asks for volunteers to learn about home repair through helping low-income homeowners.

Crazy "do not" signs

Crazy “do not” signs (Photo credit: remysharp)

It isn’t that the catalog, notice or blurb decided to show up that day to entice you. It’s been there a while, waiting for you to take the time to see it.

Once you see the signs, it’s up to you to act on them.  Leaving behind the comfort of the life you know for the life you don’t isn’t easy, but whenever I get discouraged or second guess myself, I remind myself to, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim” (Nora Ephron) and that “Its better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” (Emiliano Zapata).

Sure, getting out of the passive, mindset that life-is-happening-to-me-like-a-slow-motion-crash is hard, and sometimes it seems that every step you take toward a new future, gets you forcibly dragged back three steps, but if you are ready for a change, look around and notice the signs. The universe is trying to point you in the right direction.

I’d love to hear how life sent you a sign in the comments section.

 

Not Dealing with Dementia

 

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Television moms and dads are kind, generous, clean, independent, and a source of wisdom. Real life moms and dads can be mean, self-centered, critical, and looking for a handout.  Such is the cards some children are dealt.

 

Dementia

Dementia (Photo credit: Fulla T)

These abusive moms and dads don’t miraculously turn into saints as they age, either. Most of the time the dysfunctional behavior they’ve exhibited worsens, rather than improves, as they age. If they’ve abused drugs, alcohol, or neglected their health, they may get much worse.

 

What to do when bad mom or bad dad (or both) are no longer functioning well at home alone? I don’t mean the not able to shovel out their driveway or lift the air conditioner out of the window type problems. I mean when they think strangers are coming in through the drainpipes and they think one of the intruders stole their gun. That scary not functioning well may be dementia.

 

Dementia is a broad term used to describe difficulties in the areas of language, judgment, behavior, thinking, and memory. Some causes of dementia, such as metabolic disorders and tumors, can be reversed. Other causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can only be slowed down, not cured. Repeat, not cured.  Pay careful attention to the part of the happy pharmaceutical commercials that caution,  “All patients will get worse over time, even if they take wondrous dementia drug.”

 

If you’ve had a great relationship with your parents, filled with mutual respect and assistance, it’s easy to say you’ll do whatever it takes to keep mom and dad safe. Even if it means moving them out of the home they’ve lived in for the last thirty years. Even if it means hiring someone to stay with them so they don’t burn the house down. Even if it means hiding the car or car keys to prevent them from driving to their favorite store that went out of business twenty years ago. Even if it means taking time off from work to accompany them to doctor’s appointments or leaving work early to rush home to deal with emergencies.

 

But if you haven’t had a great relationship with your parent, maybe haven’t even talked to them in five, ten, fifteen, or twenty plus years, what’s your responsibility when the neighbors start calling with their concerns? Do you forget the past and hope they’ll become nice? Put on your martyr uniform and hope for the best? Make an anonymous call to Elder Services and wash your hands of it?

 

There is no easy answer to these questions. Letting your conscience be your guide doesn’t mitigate the guilt that comes with the decision to keep your distance from a demented parent. If you decide to re-engage with the parent, there will still be the resentment that comes with putting your own life on hold to care for a parent who never cared for you. It’s an intensely personal decision that each adult child must wrestle with and decide based on all of the myriad considerations and individual details of their life. If you do decide to ride to the rescue, don’t expect the parent to be grateful for your efforts. Age doesn’t make people any less dick-ish, nor does dementia.

 

As someone who has wrestled with this issue, rest assured I don’t take my abandonment of my parent lightly. There’s a better than average chance that I am the best suited of my siblings for understanding and navigating the complexities of having someone declared incapable of making decisions to pave the way for admission to a nursing home. Not just because I’m a nurse, but also because I’m the oldest. Unfortunately I can’t forget or forgive the toxic parent-child relationship that ultimately ended with my decision to stop speaking to my parent over twenty years ago. I can’t let that go, even though part of me says it’s my duty and part of me feels incredibly guilty that I can’t caretake this person who can no longer caretake themselves.

 

I won’t deny that seeing my parent in their current state, even from a distance without saying a word or them being aware of my presence, breaks my heart. I wish I could find it within myself to soften, bend, and do what some would insist is the right thing. But I can’t.

 

And as much as I salute those who can, I acknowledge that there are those of us who can’t. Age and infirmity doesn’t turn a toxic parent into a saint, it only turns them into a old, sick toxic parent. Don’t judge me for turning my back.  It’s like they say when you fly, if the oxygen mask drops down, you have to put it on yourself before you can help someone else. Unfortunately my parent has demonstrated that they would suck up all the oxygen in my world if they could. As bad as I feel about their condition, I won’t let them.

Day 3: flight to Yazd - inflight safety card

Day 3: flight to Yazd – inflight safety card (Photo credit: birdfarm)