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Hello friends, My sincerest apologies for my lengthy absence. Yes, it's happened before and it's likely to happen again, but we all know that I always, always come back to my writing space - I will go through times where I do not really know what to write but as soon as I sit down, I am often hit with a little reminder of how much of a help it is to process things through blogging. Sometimes it takes a little while for things to start to flow, sometimes I have to get up and return the following day. This particular entry has been sitting in draft mode for a few days, already, but - finally, it's made its way to you all. It has been a very, very long and emotional week. For those of you who don't know, our beloved kitty has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He was an otherwise healthy 8-year-old boy - until one month ago, everything changed for him when he suddenly became paralyzed in his hind legs. Nearly one month from this discovery, he is gone. I am still absolutely heartbroken, although with each day, I am comforted a little bit more, knowing he isn't suffering nor is he in pain. He's probably extremely happy now, having been reunited with his hind legs in the afterlife, and is purring while running, jumping, chasing other animals in the fields of Heaven. We honored our boy's wishes and made the call when he let us know that he was struggling just to stay with us. We chose to do the euthanasia at home, so that he wasn't having to experience the stress of being transported to an unfamiliar location, especially being as sick as he was. He was surrounded by people (and his cat siblings) who loved him dearly and at 4:35pm 2/11/19, he passed peacefully in J's arms. There is a very noticeable emptiness in the house - our boy was 'the man of the house' and he was ALWAYS present, ALWAYS where we were. Whenever we had guests - there he was, to 'observe' everything. He was docile, he was patient, and he was approachable. Although he was more J's cat than he was mine, (he preferred her presence over mine, although he would sometimes demand that I allow him to climb onto my chest while I laid down) I am taking his passing VERY hard. I am the one who is home most of the time - and so, I was the one to provide the around-the-clock care, medicate him, clean his litter box messes, transfer him and his bed, food/water dishes and litter apparatus from room to room, keep him company, etc, for the last month. The day following his passing was especially difficult, for it was finally hitting me - there was nothing for me to do for him, no way I can make him comfortable, he was no longer there for me to open the blinds for so that he could enjoy the natural sunlight. Just seeing his empty bed and empty food and water dish and rolled-up litter mat would send me into fits of ugly-crying - and even as I write this - I can feel that lump in the back of my throat and the tears begging to fall. I've just ordered cremation vials/pendants for J and for myself. His ashes will be returned to us within the week by the vet that put him down and handled his cremation arrangements, and we plan to carry a piece of him with us wherever we go - when the pendants arrive, we will fill them with some of his ashes and surely as he's in our hearts, he will also be on our person, even in the smallest way. It is one way we are made a little bit more okay with his (sudden) departure. I am also considering a small paw print tattoo, while J, his preferred 'human,' is wanting a more elaborate likeness of his beautiful face tattooed onto her arm, so that when positioned a certain way, it will look as if he's resting atop her chest like he used to do every night. Moving along, though, before I really DO ugly-cry some more and have to postpone the release of this blog entry for another day. Survivor's Art Group was canceled this month - we had snow on the actual day it was planned for, and there weren't enough confirmed guests when it was rescheduled for a couple days later. M, the leader, had sent me the topic of discussion so that I could give things some thought. Ironically, this would be a 'Helping Hands' workshop/group and since I'd expressed an interest in knowing the topics beforehand so that I could better prepare my responses - so M has helped me to do this, in a sense. There WERE more questions listed than the ones to follow, but these were the ones that stood out and were what I felt related the most to some things I've been recently dealing with. The rest, I omitted, but saved for a later time/train of thought. (And let it be known and understood that my 'train schedule' is AWFULLY unstable right now! I never know what I am going to end up pondering and when.) Name something your hands have helped someone else with that you are proud of. How does it feel when you think about a time when you helped someone? I don't think it's my actual, physical hands that actually help others. Yes, I help physically by giving assistance or even affection when asked - but this is just what's expected of anyone - when you see someone struggling with physical baggage and your hands are free - you help them. If they need their hand held, you offer yours. When they ask for a hug, you open your arms. Other than that, my hands are not my best way of helping others. As most of my interactions are online, it's my mind and my heart that does most of the helping. My voice. Even if and when it is not my physical voice, as that's not one I am very comfortable using, especially around strangers. While I do not hear with my ears, I do with my eyes and I respond with my heart where applicable. I am told I am empathetic, have a very calming presence, a patient and caring disposition. Lately, I'm not so sure this is the case as each and every one of my senses is being put to the challenge. Not in small ways, either. And I truly do wonder if I am indeed helpful. I believe that no matter how much we help others - ultimately they have to help themselves. Perhaps we've helped them to reach the point where they're able to. I have mixed feelings about my 'help.' Sometimes it feels good to have been there when I was needed, and sometimes it feels terrible. Especially having to make the difficult choice to 'help' along my cat's transition into his end-of-life stages, and eventually over the Rainbow Bridge in a humane, loving manner. Imagine all that your hands may hold for you, or for others, either materially or energetically. Over time, this may become very heavy and you may have your hands full. Is there anything you are holding that you would like to let go of now? Describe what you are holding and how it feels to let go of this. I have let go of more than one thing, lately. The most obvious answer is, of course, my cat's required, continuous care. I received these questions, ironically, a couple of days before his passing. While taking care of him, I was also relentlessly researching how to care for cats with hind-leg paralysis. I'd even joined a Facebook group for people dealing with handicapped/disabled felines and had conversed with a few on what to expect, how can I help him? What can I do? What toys can I buy him to boost his morale? Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to apply too many of their suggestions, as the upper respiratory infection soon began to batter away at his reserves. Both vets we had taken him to were quick to say that his quality of life needed to be considered. J and I agreed that as long as he wasn't in pain and was doing all of the important things (eating, drinking, eliminating), we were going to let him call the shots - for as long as he was able. And here I am - browsing the 'net for alternative treatments, etc that would help him to thrive and adapt to his now-new lifestyle. My plan was - get him strong enough, then help him learn to get around on his front legs - was fully prepared to buy him 'drag pants' (to protect his lower end from rug burn/skin irritation that the dragging was likely to cause) and work with him on his balancing so that he could properly and comfortably position himself to use the litter box. This quickly became an obsession. I wanted to hear the words 'euthanasia is probably best for him,' less and less. He wasn't showing that he was in pain....why was this coming out of the vet's mouth, rather than, 'let's try this...'? I felt like I was his biggest advocate; even J had to keep me in check by pointing out to me certain things - 'look at his legs, they're rock solid and it's just a matter of time before the rest of him is affected,' 'he's not eating,' 'he's suffering, even if he's not showing us as clearly...' Slowly, I began to see she was right. I was holding on too tightly, to the idea that I could fix our kitty. I needed to - not give up - but to step back a little bit and let J decide. I was not helping him anymore. Not that we were hurting him, but perhaps those words we'd heard from the vet were indeed the truth - there was nothing under the sun that could be done for him. I have also learned that, in general, when there is nothing I can do, then I must stop trying. It's time to let go and to let things happen as they're supposed to. It is not healthy for me to stick on this same obsessive path to nowhere. There are more ways than one to learn this very important lesson and I've learned it in many ways recently. It is not easy for me to let go - not by any means, and NOT with how much of my heart and soul I invest into it in the first place. Think of a time when someone else loaned you a helping hand. What did it feel like to receive help? Tricky, this one. I am not a big fan of asking for help. Ever. My mother taught me well - when you ask for help, you had better be readily available when someone asks YOU for help. It's a tit for tat kind of thing - to ask for help gives someone something to hold over your head. At least, in adulthood - this is the case. But, I don't know if it was always this way. You see, I don't remember ever asking for help before I was seventeen. Sure, my parents did mostly everything for me - they cooked, they provided a roof over my head, they bought my clothes, they gave an allowance so I had 'pocket money.' There wasn't really much I needed 'help' with. To me, this likely wasn't 'help' - they were doing what they, as parents, do. What I do for my own children. I don't look at this as 'helping them,' but as obligatory nurturing, instead. I asked for help twice on the night I was raped. Once directly, to the man who would rape me instead of helping me. And the second, indirectly; for it was not even a 'help me,' but instead, a 'can I have a glass of water and can I use your bathroom?' The help came in an unexpected form and was more accepted than asked for - from a kind-hearted stranger, a diner waitress, who, without my asking her to, called me a cab. I didn't tell her anything - nor did I say anything about what had just happened at the time of my arrival. My understanding was - you couldn't use a business's facilities without being a customer. And I might've been somewhat stuck on the fact that she'd done what I asked my rapist to do. I didn't supply him with the number to a cab, but did intend for him to call a friend to let her know I needed a ride back to where my car was. But somehow, this woman knew that something was wrong. She was very careful not to touch me - even though I was trying my hardest to put on the 'I'm fine,' face; obviously ineffective. My body language was likely suggesting differently. When I returned from the bathroom, she handed me the glass of water and a menu, (just in case, I guess) and gently told me that there was a cab on the way, and that the driver was a relative of hers. I must have been able to mumble a 'thanks,' because she said, 'take care.' The cab was there shortly after, although it felt like hours and I'd hardly touched the water and still being under the impression that I had to be a customer to have the right to sit at the counter, had mindlessly stared at the menu without intending to order anything. The driver came inside and the waitress conversed with him for a brief time before he went back into the car. On a normal day, I'd likely be able to lip-read the entire conversation. Not tonight, though. I did catch, 'when you're ready, he's waiting outside. Just let him know where you need to go.' It didn't occur until later...YEARS later...that she'd also given me something that my attacker hadn't that night. A choice. Medical attention was likely what I needed, but it wasn't what I had the common sense to say at the moment. Physically, I was hurting. Mentally, I was telling myself that I was 'fine' and that the bleeding had already slowed - it would stop eventually. So would the searing pain in places I'd never felt pain before. All I could think of at the moment was how angry my parents would be at me if they ever knew about what had just happened - especially since I'd gone to lengths to lie to my father to get him to allow me to go. In hindsight, I probably didn't even HAVE to lie to him - my father isn't the type to question where I was or who I was with - his usual is, 'have fun and be careful.' (Which, further thought processing would tell me I failed at that, too.) And WHAT would they both say, should the police be called? I was a minor; they'd be called. And then my parents, in turn, would be called. All of these thoughts sending me into instant panic, I gave the driver my home address and he asked no questions. He drove. And when he arrived at my Dad's house, he let me know that the fare was already taken care of, likely by the woman at the diner or it had been an 'off duty' favor. Either way, no explanation was provided and another 'thanks' mumbled. The help was greatly appreciated, but the choice was what I was more grateful for. She COULD have called the police, especially if she knew something was wrong. She COULD have told her family member to take me to the hospital, likely closer to the diner than where I lived. She COULD have done so many things differently - just as I could have, too. She chose, though, to allow me to make the choice between going to a hospital or going home. What I wouldn't give, today, to thank both of these kind people for giving me what I needed at the time, no questions asked. This still scares me when I find myself needing help, whether it's with something simple - like taking out the trash or other household chores. Or when I'm grappling with those deep, invasive thoughts. My first notion is to make it clear that it's something I'll eventually finish (chores) or figure out on my own (thoughts) - but I never, EVER ask for help with these things. J will attest to this, and often scolds me for taking things on by myself. My usual response is, 'Well, if I want it done right, I have to do it, myself!' But I cannot and still will not ask a stranger for help; the biggest reason for this is obvious. Even today, I am very, VERY choosy with who I ask for help. J is my first and (I tell myself) ONLY option. If it's not possible, I'll approach the Son. I refuse to ask my parents for help - although my mother will offer it verbally and although she'll not say 'and in return, I want....' I will always know it's coming and she will always hold whatever it is that she's helping with over my head. My father seemingly offers it freely and without strings, but I've never asked him for anything. And it is only in desperation that I accept help - and even so, I am uneasy in doing so. I'm just not comfortable admitting the need for help - I know, in reality it is not the case, but my own, stupid brain tells me that to do so is an admission of weakness. I am quick to let others know that there's nothing wrong with asking for help - and I believe this. It's just, with myself, there is a barrier, a strong, almost impenetrable one - and that annoying voice in the back of my head, 'Capulet, you must deal with it yourself. If you can't, go to J, but you MUST try to figure out your own shit!' If you could reach out with your hands and take in everything you have ever wanted for yourself, what would your hands reach for? Not sure there's any material thing that I could physically reach out for that I want right now - other than my cat being alive and well, which is obviously unrealistic. Aside from a million (or two or twenty million?) bucks, there's really nothing I want for as far as the material things or the money to pay for it all. No, what I want is more those things nobody can see, the things nobody can give me. I want to be normal, but don't know how that's possible, as for me, my definition of the word was tainted VERY early on in life. What if THIS is all normal, based on what I've already seen? I'd LOVE to have been left unscathed by life's ugliness. I'd love to not understand heartbreak, trauma and its effects, loneliness, depression. There are times where I wish I were the perfectly-formed person - the one who has it all - but there is NO 'all' without the bad, is there? An 'all' good just doesn't exist. Not for me, not for anyone. Air. That's all my hands are going to reach for. Maybe some understanding. Maybe wisdom. Maybe motivation. All of those things that are unseen to the naked eye, but would make sense of everything at the same time. So yes, I'd most likely reach for clarity. Not just with myself, but in everything I've ever questioned in life. In closing, this is the gist of what I've been struggling with this week. A whole lot of everything and nothing. My search for additional purpose continues - I did have a temporary, very important one for the last month - my fur baby's care and medical needs - but now that he is gone, so is that particular purpose. I am well aware that one adopts many, MANY different purposes in the course of their lives. I know I have great purpose here, and that is not in any way diminished nor will it ever be. I love being here, I love this site, and love ALL of you. It just seems when one alternate purpose disappears or is cut short, it is very, very hard to see what still remains as we grieve that loss. That being said, I wish to thank everyone who has reached out and who has sent me kind messages and who has allowed me to feel what I was feeling without judgement or criticism. There was an outpouring of support, both before and after my beloved cat's passing, and I will NOT forget this. On a positive note, amidst all of last week's insanity, I've submitted one college application for this coming fall's semester - to the local university where my son is now a student. I paid to have my transcripts sent over to them and I am now waiting for a response. The next step will be to meet with the Dean of Transfer Admissions - and this will hopefully happen soon. I am trying to remain focused on moving forward with life, because this is, above all, what we must ALL do whenever we're knocked down or otherwise delayed, be it through loss, or any other significant life event. It is important to pick ourselves up, to re-emerge, to re-focus, and to keep going. And this is something we survivors have to learn to do - not just once or twice, but SEVERAL times as we continue on our healing paths. I am hoping everyone is doing well, or at least as well as they can possibly be. I am sending my love and thoughts. Be good to yourselves - this is not something I say easily as it's something I am also having to remember to do for myself. Love and light. - Capulet