Lies, Superstitions, and Old Wives’ Tales

How can Donald Trump run for President in 2024 if the “Big Lie”, which is that he is still president because the election was stolen from him, is true? Isn’t he admitting he lost the 2020 election? We hear lots about this “Big Lie” but there are many others. The theory seems to be that which is repeated often enough must be true. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, which I am sure is a fun place to work, says that every Friday the 13th is hard on business, with estimates of losses to the tune of $800 million to $900 million. Some people are too superstitious to go out to take care of business or to go shopping. And yet, there is no real evidence that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but this old wives’ tale has proven to be very prolific.

An old wives’ tale is a “supposed truth which is actually spurious or a superstition.”  Spurious means that the “truth” is based on bad reasoning or false ideas. “Follow the science” is a current refrain, but old wives’ tales are not based on logical thinking or science. They are superstitions that help us feel safer, healthier or happier, which we all want. After all, I’m not going to pull out that single gray hair because 2 more will grow in its place! Now almost all pregnant women find out the sex of their baby before they are too far along, but prior to ultrasound how did women deal with the question? They tied their wedding ring on a string and hung it over their pregnant belly, if it swung in a circle it’s a girl and if it swung back and forth it’s a boy. If the ultrasound showed your baby was a girl but the “swing” test showed your baby was a boy, which would you believe? If Facebook says the Covid vaccine will implant a microchip in you, but medical professionals say this is not true, who will you believe?  Conspiracy theories are based on false ideas, and we know how prolific conspiracy theories are.  If your family, friends, culture, and your news sources all agree on what is true, you are likely to accept their truths as your own, even if their “truth” is a lie.

I know I heard, and I’m sure many of you did too, “Don’t sit too close to the T.V. you’ll go blind.” Not true!   But sitting too close to the T.V. in the 1960’s ,when G.E. produced a color T.V. that emitted 100,000 times the amount of radiation than was considered safe, was not a good idea. The t.v.s were immediately recalled. So a kernel of truth for a very brief period of time, and the old wives tale lives on. What used to be true, might no longer be true. There may be new information which supersedes old beliefs. Keep an open mind we’re told, but certainity is much more comfortable than anxious uncertainty. When doing “A” always leads to “B” we know what to expect so our anxiety is lessened.

And while you are reading this, stop cracking your knuckles or you’ll get arthritis. Seems to make sense, almost sounds like medical advice, but scientists and doctors have not been able to link cracking your knuckles to arthritis. Nor is there medical evidence to suggest that if you cross your eyes too long they will stay that way. And speaking of eyesight, eating a ton of carrots will not guarantee good eyesight. As a child some of these old wives’ tales kept me in line and also eating lots of carrots. I have worn glasses since my late 30’s anyway. What about vaccines for Covid and all sorts of diseases? Do they cause sterility or autism?

We all want to know how to ward off evil spirits or the devil, don’t we? Throw some salt over your left shoulder where the devil is and you will blind him and be safe. I suppose angels must be on your right side, so should you throw sugar over your right shoulder? I am convinced that bad things come in threes, but of course if you look for it you can make anything look like one of the three. I still find myself thinking and saying this, but of course it’s just a silly superstition. Meanwhile I walk with my head down hoping to spot that lucky penny.

The Information Age with internet, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Google means we are bombarded everyday with information that may or may not be true. Old wives’ tales and superstitions are unlikely to be dangerous misinformation, but what about the “Big Lie” and the January 6 picnic at the capital?

Oldish

I’m kind of old, but not really. You could say I’m “oldish”.  Around the edges, a hint of old. I’m young-old. People might refer to me as an older lady, but not as an old lady. Since we humans are living longer, we can be located on an age continuum that is growing longer each decade. So how old is 68? I think 68 is “oldish.”  So lets call it “50 Shades of Age” for fun!

Why does it matter how “oldish” I am?  I doubt it matters much at all to most people because they see what they have learned to see. Our mind wants to label things, to categorize things and understand the rules, because then we have the world out there figured out. It is likely that what I see and hear from others about “old” is the way I will see “old”. Unless I think critically  about what old means to me, I’ll just go along with the status quo. I will not be a pioneer or a catalyst for changing the stereotypes of aging. That’s a whole other subject, but for now I’m curious about how I am changing to meet the challenges of being “oldish”.

Is my head in the sand or am I looking directly at the wrinkles on my face and the wrinkles in my life? I have lived in my body for almost 69 years and I know I’m not nearly as flexible as I once was. If I have to squat to reach something, I will not spring back up. At the same time I know I am more flexible in my approach, decisions and planning. Experience has taught me that few things are actually an emergency, and being inflexible means I may break into pieces. Square pegs do not fit in round holes no matter how much we may force it. I’m not likely to try and swim upstream and insist the world do my bidding. By electing to respond to challenging situations with changed attitudes and a willingness to look at different responses, I’m more flexible.

My reflexes and reaction time are slower. I may not be able to grab something in a millisecond to stop it from falling. My reaction time when I am driving is slower. Though I am older and slower I have found ways to respond in a timely matter, just in time, to what life sends my way. My car GPS helps me to keep on track and to think ahead, just as my inner navigator keeps me going in the direction I have decided is best for me. I practice my emotional skills and think ahead about where I want to be. Certainly things have happened and will continue to happen that catch me by surprise, but I am confident that I will be resilient and respond rather than react.  I may be slower, but I’m smarter. 

I hate to admit it, but I do have more aches and pains now. Just ask me and I will tell you!  I’m not a well-oiled machine, some parts of me are pretty rusty and they do hurt at times. Sometimes I can compensate for this by using supports like braces, splints and walking boots, and sometimes rest is the only way to heal myself. Not so good on “rest” yet, but gaining more patience and acceptance that  self-care sometimes requires that I stop and rest. Rather than focus on those things that I can no longer do, I choose to focus on what I can do. Maximizing my strengths can compensate for some of my weaknesses . Parts of me are still excellent!

So yes, I think I am “oldish”. Don’t worry I’m not going to write a trilogy of “50 Shades of Age”!

I’m too tired.

Giggling Girls

“Look at Rick R. He’s really cute!” (Giggles)  “ I think you should “like” him.” (More giggles) Junior High? Nope, just two girlfriends in their sixties checking out the guys on Match! It’s really not all that much different despite the huge gap in years. During that gap : dating, marriage(s) children, grandchildren and spouses passing away in their early sixties. The possibility of finding a male companion for dinner and social events, or a possible long term relationship, has turned both of us into giggling girls believing in possibilities. Maybe Rick R.,who is 70, might “like”one of us and even send a message, which leads to more giggles!  Are we trying to recapture our lost youth?  I don’t think its a matter of age so much as asserting that we are capable of feeling excited about love, and about men who are not boys anymore. We have minds which have sexual thoughts and bodies which have sexual feelings. We desire male companionship and friendship. We can still giggle.

Last week, in my post on “Selfies” I wrote about how I had difficulty deciding what pictures to use for my profile on Match. I elected to just take a couple of selfies and post them. My attitude was that I didn’t want to make a big effort to “present” myself and my goal was to be as real and authentic as possible. I see now that my attitude of “What you see is what you get.”may in part be self-defense for being disappointed or hurt if I put some real effort into it and no one is interested. There is a middle, sweet spot where I care about how I present myself to others and hope others perceive me positively, without paying excessive attention to my self- presentation and appearance. I haven’t hit that sweet spot yet, but I’m getting closer.

Tell me about yourself. What are you looking for? Well I haven’t been skiing in the Alps or scuba diving in Bali like you have. I don’t have a motorcycle or a boat. How will you ever find the time to be in a relationship? My weight is average, isn’t everyone 15 pounds overweight?  I’m spiritual, but not religious, and no I don’t want to go to church with you. Politically I’m left of center and Donald Trump makes me vomit. You say you are conservative, so do you use the words “like” and “Trump” in the same sentence?  The “girls” aren’t giggling now, we’re trying to decipher what “he” means. Thinking “He’s cute.” doesn’t mean much if we are total opposites. At this point in my life, I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not to impress the cute guy. Sure I want to make a good first impression, but I know the thousandth impression is really more important . But, and this is a big but, I need to get in the same room (coffee shop) with someone to make a good first impression and have a chance to get to know them. 

Scrolling through the photos and profiles on Match is fun, hence the giggles.  Things get more serious when considering who to reach out to and then waiting for responses. Then we’re on to being excited to see “You have a message from Joe Blow” and “OMG, he sent a message!” And more giggles. Of course, if and when, I actually get a meet-up scheduled there will be lots of giggles and discussions about what to wear. Maybe I should call some teenage girls I know and ask them for advice!

Selfies

I see my face on my iPhone screen as I take the selfie, so how can it be that I want to say “That’s not what I look like, that’s not me.” It IS me on the screen, but I don’t recognize myself.   The self is primarily an “inside” job, so I feel myself more than I see myself. I remember hearing my voice for the first time on those old tape recorders that actually used recording tape, and thinking “I sound like that?” There’s lots of discussion now about body image and positive body image. Most of us don’t see our body as it really is. There’s my cellulite and my pimples, but I’m still beautiful, or there’s the photoshopped image  without cellulite and pimples. We can make our flaws “disappear” by editing our photos and then posting this illusion. Who are we deceiving? I think mostly ourselves. 

I’m exploring on-line dating, and this is an arena where photos are a big part of the process. Some people have 2-3 photos and others have many more. I took a couple of selfies with my phone and posted them. I know a still shot of someone is a very poor representation of that person. Certainly a photo from 10 years ago is deceiving. I’ve seen several  people requesting “current” photos and one man who said “If you don’t look like your photo you’ll need to buy me  drinks until you do.” Aging women like me worry about looking “old”, grandmas aren’t supposed to be sexy! Hell, I can’t even figure out how to “dress my age”, if there is such a thing. My outsides are sometimes at war with my insides or vice versa. Or if it is really “You’re as young as you feel” why isn’t the face I see in the mirror as young as I feel?

It is said “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Different people have different perceptions of what is beautiful. Why would I presume there is one Barbie Doll standard of beauty wanted by all men? Richelle E. Goodrich said  “I will admit you are the finest if not the loveliest rose in the garden. But you see, my dear, I was looking for a sunflower.”  I don’t know if I am a rose or a sunflower!  After years of trying to control how others see me,  now I know that I want to be myself, damn the consequences. So if “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. (Coco Chanel),  my beauty is growing. Pamela Anderson says “Natural beauty takes at least two hours in front of a mirror.” and I would rather spend those 2 hours writing, creating, or snuggling with my dogs. Online dating sites are based on first impressions, and we all know how important first impressions are, but I have decided my first impression of men on Match, based strictly on their photos, needs to be held lightly. Maybe it’s a good photo or maybe its a bad photo. If they don’t have an eye in the middle of their forehead or look like the UniBomber, I give a second look. 

I’ve chatted online, but I haven’t met any Match in person so far. Now that will be interesting! How will I handle that? What are my options? Running away screaming or sitting still, suffering and sweating come to mind. To be honest, I’m more worried about what  they will think of me than I am of what I will think of them. This is way too passive for this woman of a certain age!  I really don’t want to waste my time  convincing someone that I am desirable. He may be looking for a petite, Barbie doll who giggles a lot and that is so not me. If my good points and bad points were averaged I would come out pretty amazing, but then I could have told you that.

“May You Always Be Forever Young”

Lately, I have been obsessed with videos, photos of and interviews by Rod Stewart. Yes,that “Maggie May” Rod Stewart. You could call me a super fan.  Young or old, it doesn’t matter, Rod and I are together. By the way Rod Stewart recently turned 76, and I would still answer yes, to his question “Do You Think I’m Sexy?”. I could try to figure out this obsession, but “I Don’t Wanna Talk about it.” I just know he’s “You’re in my heart”. He’s given me “A Reason to Believe” that the Danita today is greater than the sum of my years. I could add up all my years and life experiences, and I still wouldn’t have a clue how I got here, to this Danita, today, August 19, 2021. 

What do I think Rod can do for me now? If I close my eyes I can’t tell if the “Rhythm of My Heart” I’m hearing is sung by Rod at age 30 or last year. He looks older, he is lots older, but somehow he is “Forever Young” to me.  I want to be forever young too, and maybe Rod can guide me. After all he still has lots of spiky hair, it’s his trademark look. At least he has a “look”, unlike me, who is still experimenting with my look. People say that someone  looks “ageless”, but I don’t know what this means. Don’t I want to be “agefull”instead?  Even after all the answers I have found, I have lots of questions that keep coming. Rod seems comfortable in his own skin, relaxed and not self-conscious. He smiles a lot and looks like he enjoys singing and performing, now as much as ever. He often sings some of his classic hits with guest artists the likes of Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks and Elton John, always graciously sharing the stage and also recognizing the musicians and singers that are part of his show. Dare I say it? He seems like a nice guy, a loving husband and father, and— he could be none of these things for all I know! I still believe he’s real and genuine, and I stubbornly cling to this belief. Yes, Danita, you just need to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Rod Stewart.

All the things I believe Rod Stewart possesses, I want for myself.  Eureka! I just realized that I look at Mr. Stewart as an excellent example of positive aging. He fills many roles, as performer, husband, father and model railway builder. Yes, you read that right, for over 25 years, Sir Rod Stewart has been building an intricate model of a railway which is set in an American city. It currently fills almost the entire third floor of his Beverly Hills Mansion. In fact, he has frequently booked an extra hotel room while on tour so he can work on construction and landscapes for his model railway. So he has a public passion for his music and also a very personal passion for model railways. And he even has a song titled “Passion”! What I see is someone who has a fire in his belly for creativity, and it is still burning at 76. His very public life is balanced by a rich private life filled with family and model railway construction. 

Since I retired a couple of months ago, I have been constructing a life that doesn’t include paid employment. It seems like all my interests and passions have rushed in to fill the space once filled with my job. I’m learning to be “age-full”. My fingers itch to create, to craft and to write. I’m completely comfortable saying that my son Tyler and my family is my “Reason to Believe.” Friendships are a priority for me, and I am willing to invest my trust and love in them. I won’t be singing “Do You think I’m Sexy”, but I am still a sexual being. My hair is not spiky like Rod’s, but my hair is longer than ever before, allowing for some styling experimentation.  I’ve been finding inspiration to fill my life with riches by watching Rod Stewart’s example. “This Old Heart of Mine” gets many life lessons from Rod Stewart, so I guess you could say I’m a student of Rod Stewart. I trust him. We grew up together.

Twisties

I’m sure most of you heard that Simone Biles, considered by many to be the best gymnast in the world, elected not to participate in most of her events during the Olympics because she was suffering from the “twisties”. 

The “twisties” in gymnastics refer to a phenomenon wherein an experienced athlete suddenly loses their sense of where their body is in space – a sense that is crucial to the sport and the sudden loss of which could result not just in an Olympic loss but in serious bodily injury or even paralysis.

Its a mental thing. She didn’t twist her ankle, she had an injury to her mental health. She chose to take care of herself and give herself the time and space to heal. A psychic wound needs “wound-care”, just as a physical wound does. She was criticized by some for backing out, being weak, or being a quitter and trying to cover-up a poor performance. Biles defended her choice to take care of herself and many applauded the example she set. Her voice was powerful.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have felt the “twisties”. I can’t even do a somersault, but sometimes I don’t know where I am in space. Where is up and where is down? How will I land? On my head or on my feet? I don’t wear a bandaid on my psyche, but I have been injured and struggled. Even though I feel I am the only one who gets the “ twisties”, now I know I’m not alone.  Mental illness hurts, pain can be rated at 10, and therapy is often needed, just not of the physical therapy kind. Should we all “just get over it”? Push it down, put on a brave face and don’t let them see you sweat. Sometimes I have been able to keep it together, but the glue ended up being toxic. There is a huge cost to denying the truth about our mental health. It is far easier to fix a wall when only one brick is out of place than when half the wall has fallen down. 

For me, one “wonder” of aging has been my increasing unwillingness to stoically disregard my emotional health, and my increasing willingness to accept my imperfections and recognize my emotional needs.  I’ve often said and thought “I won’t twist myself into a pretzel to get you to like me, to meet expectations, to people please, to impress you …etc., but now my actions are usually consistent with these words. I’m much more aware of when I may be getting sick with the “twisties” and take actions like self-care to boost my immunity to this malady. Self-awareness can be bolstered, so I can better judge where I am in space, stay in the moment  and live my life by my own rules. 

Trauma, like grief or excessive stress, can destroy equilibrium and throw anyone’s life into chaos. This is not the time to expect optimal performance from ourselves. Do not operate heavy machinery or do the Yurchenko double pike vault as Biles did in May, making her the only woman to ever complete this vault. If we pay attention to our state of mind and emotions and allow ourselves to focus on healing what needs to be healed, emotionally and physically, then we will  overcome our “twisties”. The gymnastics of living are very difficult, and thank God we do not receive a score for our performance. There is no perfect 10, and believe me you do not want to see me in a leotard!

True Colors

Yesterday I went with my sister Ann, and my friend Missey to the CSU Experimental Gardens. We  took a walk thru the rows and rows of flowers and plants and read the signs with identifying info and color names. There is no such thing as a “blue” flower or “pink” flower: there is a “summer sky” or “tickled pink” flower. It’s like paint colors. Benjamin Moore, for example, has “white” paint names like Chantilly Lace,  Simply White, Cloud White, White Heron and Paperwhite, and this is only the tip of the Iceberg, which is another Benjamin Moore paint color! We are surrounded by color, but some` people are color blind and are unable to distinguish certain colors, most often red and green. Your friend tells you they have achromatopsia and you think this sounds like a fatal illness, but you are relieved to find out that achromatopsia is the rarest form of color-blindness and your friend cannot see any color, instead everything appears in shades of gray. Now, at least you know you will never ask your friend”Does this color look good on me?”, but you may feel sad for your colorless friend as you witness a beautiful sunset or a rainbow.

“People of color” is a descriptor we hear a lot today. We are in the midst of a racial reckoning and unfortunately as a society we are not “color-blind”. We are influenced by racial prejudice and skin color. White, black, and brown are more than skin colors, they are part of our identity and can affect all aspects of our lives. Discrimination based on skin color is also known as colorism. Wikipedia says”…people who share similar ethnicity traits or perceived race are treated differently based on the social implications that come with the cultural meanings that are attached to skin color.” Historically even within the African -American Community skin tone has been used to determine social status and privilege. Lighter-skinned African-Americans sometimes benefit from having a skin color that is closer to that of whites. What do paper bags have to do with colorism? “Paper bag parties” common from 1900 up to the 1950’s were held in neighborhoods with a high concentration of African-Americans. Clubs, churches, fraternities and other organizations based admittance on whether a persons skin color was darker or lighter than a brown paper bag. There is such a thing as being “too black” or just “white enough”.

“Color my World”. Chicago

show one’s true colors:
To reveal what one truly believes, thinks, or wants; to act in accordance with one’s real personality, temperament, or disposition

True-blue: unwavering in one’s commitment, extremely loyal. Blue: sad or unhappy

Yellow or yellow-bellied:cowardly, behave in a way that makes you unable to do what is right or expected

Seeing red: refers to when someone becomes so angered that it controls them, enraging them

Green · inexperienced at a particular task or in a line of business · a : marked by a pale, sickly, or nauseated appearance, b : envious

We color our world. I spend lots of time playing with the colors on my ipad. Us older folks remember that fresh box of crayons we took to school. I loved the  colors in the box and the fresh tips on the crayons. It made me feel there were endless possibilities. I perused the colors and chose one and began to color outside the lines.

I Can Do It Myself!

If a toddler is attempting to button his/her shirt and is having having fumbling finger problems,  asking them if they need any help, ‘Can Mommy help  you.”, is likely to elicit a strong “I do it myself!”.  If you are in a hurry to get out the door with said toddler in tow, this expression of competence may cause impatience, but generally we encourage children to learn how to do things for themselves. Independence and competence are traits we teach our children and we expect from adults. Our expectations of others and of ourselves are often based on our judgement of competency. “Don”t you know how to do ___? Have you been living under a rock? She acts so helpless, she needs to grow up.” But as we humans often do, we may have gone too far in promoting and valuing independence. After all how do we “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”? Is that even possible? 

I fell on my stairs yesterday morning. I think I tripped on my bootstraps! I realized I forgot something and turned to go back down the steps and slipped and landed hard on my right side.  Luckily it was only a couple of steps, my injuries were minor, but my vulnerability meter went off the charts. What if I was really hurt and had to crawl up the stairs to my phone? Or lay there and do the ‘Help I can’t get up.” T.V. commercial. I was safe, but I’m older and weaker and not naive enough to believe I will always be able to take care of myself.  All’s well that ends well right? I survive a natural disaster, or fight off an attacker or heal from a serious illness and I am a poster child for self-reliance. Or am I?  What about PTSD? The “getting through” a traumatic event often leaves invisible wounds that need to be healed. Can I heal myself too?  Even though our first inclination may be to withdraw or isolate, it is necessary to connect with others to heal. We all need validation from others to help us process our emotions.

Children need to depend on their parents to get their needs met, then they can grow up with a sense of security and eventually grow in independence.  Solitary confinement is the most punishing kind of imprisonment, being alone without human interaction can cause prisoners to become psychotic. We need others to be our mirrors, to see ourselves as human beings, others to push against to know we are real. Hearing ‘Help me!”reaches into our heart, our compassionate awareness, and we go towards the voice we hear. There is this sense that helping others is helping ourselves. As John Dunne said, “Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Remember the iconic movie scenes where the hero or heroine asks “Who’s with me?” and one hand slowly comes up, and another,  then quickly everyone puts their hands up. Cue the stirring music. We need our tribe.

Whether we’re referring to a cake, a carpentry project or a complex computer hard drive, there is satisfaction in being able to say: “I made it myself.”  Still we had to count on other people to make the materials and supplies we needed to make our personal creation. Our biggest creation is our lives, all the moments between birth and death. We will not survive if there is no one to care for us as an infant and small child, and as we age we may need others to care for us to have a good quality of life. What does aging gracefully mean? I think it may mean that as we age we need to be a realist, recognize our assets and deficits, and live within those limits.  If we need help to move a piece of furniture we can ask for help, and if we have learned how to organize a meeting, care for others, or make everyone’s favorite dessert we can share that. Giving help and receiving help are really the flip sides of the coin of inter-dependence. Quality alone time is important, but it is in the gathering and coming together with others where we find our purpose and become our best selves.

Roscoe, Molly And Me

                                             ROSCOE, MOLLY AND ME       

Roscoe T. Molly G.

Some of you have heard me say  “Roscoe is a hard dog to love, and I love him extra hard.” A mix of Chihuahua, wiener dog, mini pin and ?, Roscoe is cantankerous, nippy, a scaredy cat ( my apologies to cat lovers) and he’s a “barky”dog who’s also got an annoying whine. Right now he is whining and waiting for me to finish my T.V. dinner and set the bowl on the floor so he can lick it clean. He doesn’t know that I leave a couple of teaspoons in the bowl for him. Roscoe is on a diet, actually a diet to help him gain or maintain his weight. He lives and plays hard so burns a lot of calories. So I can kinda justify giving him people food. Entitled and insecure, Roscoe is full of contradictions. He hogs the bed but begs for comfort when he hears loud thunder. He loved our neighbor Larraine immediately, but takes awhile to accept my son Tyler, who Roscoe has known since he came home with me 5+ years ago. When Tyler visits he must woo Roscoe with treats before he will stop barking and settle in on the sofa. Roscoe plays with all the dogs at daycare and has no hesitancy with getting up close and personal with the big dogs. Roscoe is a big brother to Molly, my other little dog, and watches out for her at daycare. Don’t mess with Molly or you will have to deal with Roscoe. Dogs have personalities, and Roscoe has a BIG personality. He stands up on his hind legs and braces himself on my knee and looks up at me with adoring eyes. Roscoe loves me, and he loves me BIG. 

And then there’s Molly, my sweet little dog who weighs in between seven and eight pounds. Molly has a big bark and will bark at a dog 10 times her size. A mix of Chihuahua and ?, she can run circles around Roscoe and can get from the patio door to the back yard fence in a few seconds. She spins when she is waiting to get fed and I am amazed she does not get dizzy. She’s light on her feet and moves gracefully. When she perks up her ears she seems to be all ears, and her eyes are like the eyes of a deer. She gets what she wants with honey. Belly rubs are her favorite thing,  if you stop she will reach out with her paw to get you to keep going. She wiggles her way in to get a space on your lap and even Roscoe has to defer to her. Roscoe rules the roost, but Molly has her share of work-arounds. No matter how hot the day, Molly likes to sun herself.  It fun to watch her dig, as long as she is not digging up flowers. The dirt comes flying out and she is  like a machine. She escaped to the neighbors yard once by furtively tunneling under the fence in an area under the deck. Now, needless to say, the yard perimeter is checked frequently for any suspicious movement of dirt, but she does have a safe, small spot she can dig in to scratch her itch to dig. 

Roscoe, Molly and Me. I’m the only human member of this warm-blooded trio. Who’s in charge? I’d like to believe its me, but to be honest, some days I’d bet on the doggies. I sleep in rather contorted positions because I don’t want to disturb Roscoe or Molly, who own the bed despite the small amount of physical space they occupy. Admit it dog owners— you too try not to disturb your canine bedfellows.  Spooning with your dog doesn’t need to be our dirty little secret!  I usually allow Roscoe and Molly to determine the pace of their walks, but I can override them with my power of the leash or simply pick them up and carry them home. When I say “sit”or “wait” that is what I mean and I expect them to do it  now. They have learned many commands but they have more to learn and I intend to teach them. 

How do I explain how much I love Roscoe and Molly? We are like the 3 musketeers, “One for all and all for one.” I take care of them the best way I know how and I am fiercely protective of them. There are lots of people who aren’t as human as Roscoe and Molly. For their part, they are dogs, but dogs that seem to know when I need comforting,and comfort me, play with me when I want to play, and love me always. I don’t feel lonely when I can pet my dogs. I feel blessed. I’m so grateful to be Roscoe’s and Molly’s human. 

The Paradox of Healing

I was very moved by “Between Two Kingdoms” and wholeheartedly recommend  the book.  Saleika Jaouad writes about her life before cancer and after cancer. Her words on pain and healing are bittersweet and full of wisdom:

“I used to think healing meant ridding the body and the heart of anything that hurt. It meant putting your pain behind you, leaving it in the past. But I’m learning that’s not how it works. Healing is figuring out how to coexist with the pain that will always live inside of you, without pretending it isn’t there or allowing it to hijack your day. It is learning to confront ghosts and to carry what lingers. It is learning to embrace the people I love now instead of protecting against a future in which I am gutted by their loss.” 

Excerpt From

“Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted”

by Saleika Jaouad

For almost five years, I facilitated support groups for caregivers who were caring for people with dementia. I have witnessed the myriad of ways in which people grieve. I have seen the anguish in their faces and heard their desperate questions that had no answers. Pain etched on a sleepless caregivers face. My husband Roger died from dementia in 2015, so I too live with grief. With dementia, a caregiver’s grief/pain begins the day we recognize “something is wrong”, we may not have a diagnosis yet but we feel a loss we may not even be able to name. There is pain and more pain to come as dementia progresses and our loved one eventually dies. The best we can hope for is to travel the dementia journey with our loved one with grace and compassion. Pain is inevitable, we will not escape it, but perhaps as Suleika suggests we may learn “how to coexist with the pain”.

Caregivers have asked me how long grief lasts, and I always answer “Grief does not end.” What do I mean by that? I know if I think that on July 15, 2021, my grief at losing Roger will end, I’ll be disappointed, in denial, and cause even more pain for myself. Grief does not go away. I believe our lives are transformed when we allow grief to mold us, teach us and soften our edges. I think Suleika is saying this when she says healing “is learning to confront ghosts and to carry what lingers.” Grief is not something to tame or control, it will always be wild, but we can learn from it and go forward without looking at it and feeling it every minute of every day. As Suleika says we don’t have to allow grief to “hijack” our days. When Roger died my days were consumed by grief and shadowed by memories, but I still walked the dogs everyday. I made my bed everyday. I loved my son and listened to him and my sisters and friends. I continued to put one foot in front of the other, and sometimes I’d have to stop because I was doubled over with grief. And repeat…

Laughter and humor “coexist” with grief. We can laugh at the absurdity of life and death. Caregivers are a boisterous bunch. All emotions are ready to be pulled out of the quiver of arrows on our back. Grieving is messy, unpredictable and mysterious. Suleika found there are a ghosts to fight with and the pain of the unknown. We can’t put our pain in a pretty box, put it on the shelf and take it down every now and then when it is convenient for us.  There is no “place” to put grief. It is everywhere in the air and water and no vaccine exists to make us immune to pain. When I looked at my son’s newborn face I was overcome with love for him  AND overcome with fear of harm to him or losing him.  I knew there was no way that I could escape the love or the pain. It was hopeless. The act that sustains us and requires  the most courage is loving another human being with our whole heart, even when, especially when, we are hopeless.