Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Up My Dog Herman

Herman's been away at boot camp this past week and a half. Boot camp is defined as staying with a woman that has a better grasp of how to control dogs than I do. She has 2 or 3 dogs and apparently Herman is having a ball romping in the fenced in back yard with the other dogs, rolling around in the living room and sleeping in his now appropriately sized crate (as compared to the too small one I'd been putting him in-and yes that was yet another source of guilt). The woman and I have spoken several times and it seems clear that she can provide him with the kind of energetic life he needs. I can't even walk him. It takes alot to get him across the deck and onto the run. I've discussed it with my children and my daughter said would I be willing to live with a boyfriend that only hit me a couple of times a month which is the equivalent of Herman biting me hard a couple of times a month. I've been doing some online reading about Lhasa Apsos and they're not sweet gentle dogs. In fact they tend to want to dominate the situation they live in and do not like being told to not do something. Not exactly the best type of pet for a disabled woman with mobility issues. So I'm seriously considering letting Herman stay with the family he's currently boarding with. Did I mention this is killing me emotionally?

One of the things I didn't know about myself until recently is that I'm very social. Finding myself home alone for hours is actually painful to me. Herman is company. Despite knowing he doesn't understand a word I say I talk at him incessantly. He'd tip his head and look at me as if to say that he did actually understand me. He is my company and companion. Giving him up means going back to spending alot of time alone again. I'm not so altruistic as to be able to just give the dog away because that's what's best for him. I'm really struggling with this. But I find myself beginning to fear being bitten more and more. When we curl up in bed together he growls at me if I expect him to move over. Given that he's only 8 months old this is not good. I keep wondering how he'll behave at the age of 1 year. I need to make a decision soon. At least I know he'll go to a really good home if I give him up.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I've Become One of Those Women That Calls Her Dog Sweetie

In my own defense I'd like to point out that these emotions sneaked up on me. Herman, my dog, has been behaving horribly, biting me hard enough to draw blood. He's been incredibly disobedient, destroying my glasses and numerous other things. A good friend runs a dog boarding and training business and suggested that Herman spend two weeks with her pack of dogs and I agreed. I didn't make it through one damn day without calling her to check on my dog. I needed to know he's OK. She was wonderfully patient explaining how Herman has already begun to change some of his negative behaviors. I'm the problem.

She pointed out that he's overweight. Well hell so am I! What's the problem? But I honestly do know it can be a problem for a pet. She explained that the mixture of wet and dry dog food I give him is great but stop feeding him all the people food. My motto has been "Whenever I eat Herman eats. Whatever I eat Herman eats." My first thought was "Who am I going to eat with now?" I had no idea I'd become so dependent upon the company of a dog. My husband works the night shift at a group home. When he comes home in the mornings he wants to play his computer games for awhile to unwind and then go to sleep. A thousand years ago when I worked the midnight shift in a hospital I'd wake up in two hours increments. He sleeps straight through for six hours. I've never seen anything like it. Consequently I'm left in total silent alone.

I started out fascinated by this then soon began talking to myself. From there I went to talking to the cat, who I might say NEVER responded to a single question I posed. Its like solitary confinement. Television is canned conversation. You have all these thoughts and nowhere to put them; Consider blogging she said slyly. Anyway Herman became my person to talk to. I've tried taking him for a drive in the car with me but each time so far he's thrown up. I can personally attest to how unpleasant it is to have a dog throw up when your going 50 miles an hour. I don't understand people with their dogs hanging out the car window. The dog looks happy as hell. How'd they get them to do that? I can't even get my dog to come when I call him. So I'm officially a woman that owns a dog she talks to. My mother took care of my dog after I ran away from home. When I'd visit years later she would talk to the dog as he was a person and I arrogantly laughed at her behavior. Now here I am living the retirement life, behaving strangely. Just wait. Your time will come. You'll get so desperate to hear the sound of another voice you'll go sit in a Starbucks and when you sit down you'll realize you don't even like coffee. Just like that Boston bar but instead of Norm they'll yell your name and you'll be delighted.

I feel sicker today. My ankle is so badly swollen I can't wear a shoe. The doctors warned me this would happen, that I would hurt myself and not know it happened because the nerves are dying. I have flash moments of absolute terror. Then the world settles down. My heart tells me somehow "not today" and I calm down. Every since the doctor backed away from his prognosis that I'm dying immediately, or as he said "You have 50% lung capacity. No transplant hospital will take you until your much lower than that." I've been living that tightrope life. My time appears to be about two years give or take a missed diagnosis, I'd like to see my time add up to about another 20 years. I can't swear that the universe agrees with me though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What Does Retirement Look Like for a Type A Persomality

I feel as if I jumped on a mental merry-go-round. I can't focus on one thought. Its the hurry hurries time 1000. Its as if something broke loose inside me. I keep thinking "Is this what true madness feels like?" A relentless whirling feeling? Well like dying I refuse to accept it. This is a question of determining what's keeping me up nights. I think I'm closing in on it. I don't know who retired Susan is. What does she do? What does she wear? From the simple to complex - all that I was was about the professional world, the business world, the world of achievement. These are the things that defined me. Being a fat black woman on a little red electric scooter is definitely NOT how I envisioned myself when I got older and lets not even talk about becoming disabled. I'm so disabled I got SSDI on my first try which I'm told is practically unheard in my category. So what does disabled retired Susan look like?

A thousand years ago my first step towards professionalism was shopping at Kmart. Yes I said Kmart. I was working nights at a psych center and having some very unpleasant things thrown at me. My clothes stunk so badly I usually thew them away after a few months. But I also wanted to dress a little better than the standard uniform when I went to my college class. Blue jeans and a nice blouse was a step up. The other day I found myself back in Kmart. I needed a new watch and my days of buying at Macy's are over. It was startling to find myself back where it all began and it felt like a major failure. When you work towards going up you never imagine you could go back down too. I'm reading a series of articles about who are you in the November Oprah (I just love that magazine) and the article is timely for me because that's my big question - who is retired Susan? What resonates about these articles is how many of the women they interviewed knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. For me there was absolutely no expectation that I would be anything when I grew up. Remember this was the 60's and MLK hadn't gone to the mountaintop yet. Little black girls were rarely encouraged to envision much more than a good cleaning job. My mother would often tell me I was too ugly to expect to marry so I needed a trade to support me. Consequently each summer I spent time with various women learning everything from plain sewing, to knitting, crocheting, tatting and finally quilting. The quilting remains with me even today. Yet through all those years the one thing that never left was an intense desire to write. I'd write about anything and on anything I could get my hands on. I can still hear my mother saying "You'd better not be writing about me girl." Of course I was usually writing about her.

Writing is why I originally went to college. I published in both literary reviews and published in a literary review called "Ploughshare" at the end of my senior year at Vassar. I turned away from my writing for the same reason most people turn away from their dreams - I had a family to support. Now the family has long since grown and gone, although I'm deeply grateful for how often they stay in touch. So I guess there's no time like the present to dust off my creaky writing skills. It's a very good sign that my college writing teacher is excited about having lunch with me. Winter maybe approaching but its starting to feel a bit like spring to me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Living In The Shadows of Fear

I've been walking in the shadows of fear for three years now and its hard to believe. Ten yearsn ago I gave a speech to an audience of over 1,000 people. Afterward I was asked if I was afraid and I arrogantly replied "Yes but I did it anyway." The woman was astonished and said she couldn't imagine doing something like that. When I worked for the Governor of NYS I flew all over New York teaching about grants. I was usually alone and traveling alone when you're disabled is no picnic but I did it and then I retired and shortly thereafter became severely disabled. For me, being retired sucks. If you don't work you cease to exist, have nothing to discuss, see no one outside of your house. I lost my definition and worse I had no income. I knew that money mattered to me, was important to me but I'd forgotten how defined people are by their incomes. Without one I had no bargaining chip, nothing to negotiate with when talking to the telephone or electric company. In the space of three years I went from someone In a position of authority with a six figure income to someone begging and pleading for help, borrowing twenty dollars from a neighbor to buy groceries and I couldn't handle it.

At this moment in time I'm cracking up which is a polite way of saying I'm dancing on the head of a pin on the verge of falling off. I rarely leave the house because if I run into anyone I know they'll ask what I'm doing and I don't know what to say. "Well I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown but thanks to the work of a wonderful therapist I haven't been hospitalized yet. Why is this so damn hard? I've never failed at anything I've tried in my adult life. I've had set backs but hell we've all had set backs. So what is this, this fearfulness of failure? My daughter said that the primary reason most people go to college is to improve their income...period. She's absolutely right. Its certainly the reason I worked a full time night shift at the local psychiatric hospital and went to Vassar College full time days and yes it was hell thank you very much, but I did it anyway. Now to be fair to myself being disabled and in poor health really really sucks. I leave the house with enough equipment to start up a small war and that's not counting my little red scooter. Between my fear of actually needing the equipment and my fear of passing out somewhere without the appropriate medical notes readily available for a stranger to read I'm carrying some serious fear AND my large purple bag full of medical equipment. You can see why I've got issues. Nonetheless I've got to find a way to break out of this. My newest idea is to plan around errands. Since I seem to live at the pharmacy I'm trying to make going there the goal of the day. I figure if I can get over my agoraphobia I can move on to larger goals like reinventing myself and figuring out who "retired Susan" is. Stay tuned. The doctor now says he was wrong about my death time table and I actually have time to figure all this out. Not as much as most people but alot more than I initially thought.