Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Monster in the Closet

When I was a child, there was a monster living in my closet. I never saw it but I just knew it was there. Every night when I’d go to sleep, Dad would tuck me into bed, he would make sure the closet door was firmly closed and I’d blow out the light. I wouldn’t dare to get up again because night was the monster’s domain.

As an adult, I still have a monster in my closet. And just like as a child, I’ve found ways to make sure that monster remains hidden.

People have told me that I have many layers. Some say I’m outgoing and bubbly, and others have said that I am chill and don’t seem to get angry a lot, but the consensus has been that I don’t often show how I’m feeling. You know, that stuff deep inside.

And the truth is, I don’t.

Growing up, it was almost dangerous to show my feelings. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, however, if I showed that something bothered me, that often meant more of it. I learned to not show what I was feeling because it wasn’t safe.

As a child, that was my truth.

This coping mechanism may have been useful then, but no longer serves me. However, it’s been ingrained in my behavior and is conditioned so deeply that it’s difficult for me to behave any other way.

And what’s often worse is that I bottle up those feelings until I either blow up, or I’m so resentful that I walk away because the thought of opening the closet door is so scary and painful, that it’s easier to walk away.

Self-preservation.

It has been really hard for me to communicate my feelings and my needs, especially if I’m not feeling comfortable with them. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several friends that I can work on this with. They recognize how hard this is for me and just allow me to say what I need to in my time and my way. The delivery is usually awesome.

“You know three months again when you did this? Well, it really pissed me off because…”

I try, and the more I try, I will get better. And I think they appreciate that I trust them enough to make the effort, even though it makes for an awkward conversation. Of course we laugh about it afterwards (over drinks) because it really is funny. And kind of sad.

Windmill 08-04-09 © Wellych

I met a guy who is challenging me on this and “calls me on my shit,” so to speak. He asks lots of questions, because the silly man wants to understand me, and then asks more questions about my answers. He makes me think and pushes me to question what I believe I’ve always known, challenging me to confront the monster head on instead of retreating under the covers.

It’s scary as hell, and exhilarating.

What would life be without a closet monster? The funny thing is, that I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding out.

Don_Quixote 10-07-12 © JuanDarien

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Sisters

“A sister is a forever friend.” Author Unknown

Image

One of my oldest friends visited this past weekend. We met right after I graduated college, though she still had a couple of years to go. We’ve known each other for over twenty years—half of our lives. 

There’s something incredibly comforting having a friend, and such a close friend, for so long. We’ve had our ups and downs—times when we bickered and annoyed each other, and times when we went with long gaps between talking or seeing each other, but we’re such an integral part of each other’s lives that we always circle back.

She’s my chosen sister. 

She’s my go-to-person, and I’m hers. If I ever needed someone, she’s the person I’d call. I’m not the kind of person to reach out when I’m in that place, but I have no doubt that she’d be there as I was for her not too long ago. I dropped everything and flew out to see her two days after she asked. It was such an amazing feeling to be that person that she reached out to, and to be able to be there.

It’s also incredible to have someone who is lovingly honest. She is as direct and blunt as I am and I know what she says comes from a place of love so I don’t find it threatening. I don’t always like what I hear, but I know that she loves me and that it comes from her heart. 

I was sharing with her some of the changes going on in my life and at one point said to her, “But I’m not that person. I don’t do that—I can’t do that.” She smiled and looked at me, replying after a few moments, “Well, maybe you weren’t that person, but maybe you are now.”

Huh.

The saying about “old dogs” learning new tricks circles my brain.

I can count on one hand the people that I can truly be open with. I don’t tend to share a lot when it comes to my feelings. And even with my “inner sanctum” people, I still hold back a bit. I’ve been practicing, and trying to open up more as this is an area that I want to work on. It’s still hard—really hard. There are things that I haven’t been honest with myself until recently, and trying to find the words to express those things is really uncomfortable.

Growth is good and change is good and she’s right. Just because I wasn’t that person, doesn’t mean I can’t be now, if I want to be. I appreciate having a sister to share this journey with.

I close my eyes and feel the feeling of openness. It’s frightening. It’s exhilarating. The feeling of vulnerability courses through my body. Brene Brown would be so stinkin’ proud.

 

The Ultimate (Oh,) Hello

Dexter & lucy

Two weeks ago on New Years Eve day, I lost my first hospice patient. I visited with Lucy for almost a year, a blessing in hospice work. I spent a lot of time with her and her family, first starting in direct patient volunteering and then shifting to pet therapy once she moved into a group home.

It was a truly amazing experience.

I joined Hospice of the Valley as a volunteer not only because they are a truly incredible organization, but also because I wanted to work on my views and perspectives about loss and death. Loss and abandonment are two issues from my childhood that I have always struggled with, so I figured I could work to learn a lesson while giving something back.

The roller coaster of her health was gut wrenching, but we all know that no one lives forever. She was doing great for weeks and months, and then I missed one of my weekly visits and was told that she took a downward turn.

I rushed over to see her between meetings on a workday, the day before New Years Eve Day. Dexter, my dog and I were excited to see her. He even did his happy dance that he does when I get his vest out. I’m not sure he truly knows what it means, but he does know that it means good things.

We walked into her room, and I burst into tears. Lying in her bed, she didn’t look like Lucy. She didn’t smile and say, “Oh, hello,” as if she was thrilled to see us but slightly surprised that she didn’t know we were coming. She didn’t even know we were there. Ten days earlier, she lit up the room with her smile, and today she was no longer Lucy.

I don’t know what compelled me to visit her that day, but I was glad  I did when I found out early the next morning she had passed. I had planned to visit her again on New Years Day, and didn’t know when I said goodbye the day before, that it would be the final one.

Again, I cried.

I had plans and tried to pull myself together and did a reasonably ok job, but I knew I really had to get a grip before my visit to see the family. It was then that I was blessed with another gift.

Her husband told me everything from the last day and I barely kept it together. He was so happy he was there with her in her final moments, and so grateful for the experience. And he was ready to let her go. “It was time,” he said. “She fought so hard for so long, and it was her time.”

I’ve heard the words before, but never have I truly felt them. Looking at his face, he looked so serene and so at peace. He just lost the woman that he spent over sixty years of his life with, and he was grateful to have been there in her final moments.

I will always share a piece of my heart with Lucy. Until now, writing this post, I haven’t cried again for her loss since the day I heard about it. Instead I smile when I think of some of the funny things she said, the way she would light up when she’d she Dexter and me, and the way she’d say, “Oh hello, heh, heh,” when Dexter would nudge her to remind her that he’d love some more attention.

Death is the ultimate goodbye, and the ultimate abandonment.

I’ve already reached out to my hospice coordinator to let him know I’m ready for my next assignment.

What a gift.