Heena

Published: 132 articles

Sturm und Drang

Sturm und DrangDo you know what Sturm und Drang means?  I only found out today, in the process of writing this blog. It originally comes from the title of a play by F. M. von Klinger(1752–1831), a German dramatist, and it means ‘storm and stress’.  The reason I was thinking about it is because I was looking for the right way and the right words to describe the current state of play.

As I’ve started waking up from the hibernation I’ve been in since Simba passed away, I’ve started catching up with friends and family.  In the last two months I have missed promotions and new jobs, trips away and birthdays, impending wedding celebrations and new babies.  There have also been some heart-breaking losses. New unfillable voids caused as a loved one has passed away. My heart aches with and for those gone and those left behind.  And I inevitably thought about my own recent loss and hibernation.

Hibernation is a cosy sounding word, to me anyway.  It conjures up images of cuddly furry bears burrowing away in a deep yet gentle slumber until the cold and the wind and the rain passes away.  They come out again into sunshine and spring.  The last two months have not felt cosy or gentle.

The first sentence of Wikipedia’s description of hibernation is probably more accurate – “a state of inactivity and metabolic depression.’  Which sounds much more familiar.  But that’s still not quite right.  There’s more to it.  Which is where the ‘Sturm und Drang’ comes into play.  Sturm und Drang – the stress and the storms that rage through your brain relentlessly, every minute of every waking hour of every exhausting day as you relearn the painful art of living with the void.

It’s funny isn’t it – all that activity, all that breaking down, falling apart and cracking up going on, mostly on the inside.  And on the outside, nothing.  Just hibernation and inertia. With the rest of the world continuing to move on and up and around you as if nothing has changed.

It’s odd when you’re the one coping and hibernating and standing still, because you can’t comprehend the movement going on around you.  You wonder how everything keeps flowing and shifting. It’s not that you want the world to stop.  It’s just that you can’t understand why it hasn’t already.

As I slowly rejoin the movers on, someone very dear to me is becoming a hibernator. It highlighted the heartrending quirkiness of life. We each move from one side to the other, from mover to hibernator to mover.  All the while everyone else is simultaneously doing their own side to side shuffle. Our combined planetary efforts probably look like some weird cosmic group dance.

I found this too…

This is where reality lives. In the epicenter of the paradox. Right at the meeting point of love and loss and life and leaving and beginnings and grief and joy. In the sweet sticky spill of that rough slice and in the invisible moments when heart is stitched together again. Anonymous.

I wish you a wonderful week of cosmic shuffling.

Bell curves and blossoms

Bell curves and blossomsTwo days after Simba passed away, a very kind friend left me a beautiful card and a plant with tiny golden coloured blossoms.  The colour reminded her of Simba’s golden fur, which made me cry (everything made me cry). It was a very thoughtful gesture.  The plant became something to look after and nurture in the absence of the furry one.

So I watered my little plant with zeal, making sure the soil was never too dry, never too wet, just slightly damp.  But the flowers starting falling off.  Maybe it needed more water than I was giving it.  So it got more water.  But not only had all the flowers fallen off, so did all the leaves.  Maybe I was watering it too much.  I stopped, and let the soil dry out a little bit.  Now even the branches themselves were decaying, turning from a lush green to a dull dark brown.

I had every sympathy with the plant.  I felt pretty much the same way – dull, dry and forlorn.  Since the furry one had moved on, the only people I saw were my family and my work colleagues.  And at work I could easily go a day or two without really talking to anyone apart from the obligatory ‘good morning’ and ‘see you tomorrow’.  I kept my head down, counting down the hours until I could go home and spend my time crying, looking at old photos, crying, looking at videos, crying, wishing I’d taken more photos and videos, and crying.  There were days when I cried so much I genuinely thought there would just be no more tears left.  My friends were amazing – the texts and messages and cards kept coming, even though I replied to none of them.  Replying somehow meant it was more real.  Ridiculous, right?  But there you go.  My parents and my brothers were and still are exceptional – I don’t know how they’ve managed to deal with their own grief and yet somehow take such good care of me, from the hugs and listening and wiping away tears to spider-proofing the house now that I don’t have a furry accomplice to calm me down when I see the pesky little things.

A few weeks in, and there might be a whole day where I thought I was doing ok.  Where I thought I’d kept it together, had an almost normal day.  Until something happened, something ordinary, that hit me like a gut punch from a heavyweight.  Like the time I was chopping vegetables and went to throw a piece to Simba, but he wasn’t there, or the first time I went to work with a skirt that I didn’t have to brush golden fur from.  But still I didn’t want to see anyone, or do anything or participate in life.  I was stuck.

What I wanted was to rescue my plant.  So on my Mum’s advice, I repotted it.  The new pot, bigger and stronger, and with new compost in it, wouldn’t fit in the living room where the old pot had been sitting.  The only place the new pot fitted was the empty space in the kitchen where Simba’s food and water bowl used to be.  So that’s where it went.  I wasn’t sure at first whether it had made any difference.  It didn’t look any different.  But a couple of weeks ago I noticed a tiny little green leaf in amongst the dark dull branches.  And when I looked closer, not all the branches were dull brown.  There were some green ones there.  Now, two weeks after the repotting and the move, in the place where my greedy boy guzzled his food three times a day, the plant seems to be thriving.  There are green leaves, big and small, all over the shop.

Like a little bell curve, the plant started off thriving and healthy, dropped to near death, and now seems to be making a gentle but steady recovery.

It’s funny how life works in synchronicity when you most need it to.  Just as I feared I was turning into a sad loner and feeling as though I didn’t know how to rejoin the world, I had two invitations that helped me take a few wobbly, wavering steps back into the fray.  An invitation from my fabulously wise coach, Judith Morgan and a text from a lovely friend inviting me to dinner at hers.

I also came across this graph. grief_curve

It helped me validate what I’d been going through, and gave me hope that although I might be mooching around at the bottom of the curve right now, there’s every chance that it’s not a permanent fixture.

So although we’re heading into Autumn, where nature shuts down and leaves start falling, I’m hopeful that when the time is right, my little plant and I will blossom again.

 

Simba Pattni – sweet dreams my beautiful boy

Simba PattniIt’s been six weeks since I wrote a blog. Actually, it’s been six weeks since I wrote anything. It’s been six weeks since I got through twenty-four hours without bursting into tears, and it’s been six weeks since I slept soundly and woke up looking forward to the day ahead.

 

It’s been six weeks since Simba went to sleep for the last time.

 

He padded into my life fourteen years ago, when I went to see a litter of Golden Retriever puppies on a warm breezy day in July 2001. I knew I wanted a male, and there were three in the litter. Two were frolicking in the garden, playing together. The third one took some time to locate – when we eventually found him, he was fast asleep underneath three of his sisters, who were bundled on top of him. That was Simba (or Big Boy as he was called by the breeder). When the breeder asked me which puppy I wanted, I looked down at the one who had been sleeping under his sisters, and who had followed me over to the table, rolled over onto his back and was gently playing tug with the hem of the long skirt I was wearing, trying to get my attention. I’d completely forgotten all the things I was supposed to check before choosing. I looked down at him and knew he’d already made my choice for me.

 

Three weeks later, when he was seven weeks and a day old, I brought him home. I’d never owned a dog. I’d never even been around them much, so when Simba arrived, I had a vague notion of what I thought it would mean – an angelic puppy to play with, who quickly learnt all the house rules I’d decided on and who would generally be the perfect dog.

 

It didn’t really pan out like that. Here’s an example – one of my house rules was that for the first few months he would live in the kitchen. It was a safe, contained space, and seemed ideal. On the second day, once he’d gotten the lay of the land, I decided to start getting him used to being on his own in the kitchen. As soon as I closed the kitchen/living room door he started crying. My mum was with me as we listened from the other side of the door. We agreed we needed to let him cry himself out but stick to the rules. He’d quieten down eventually. We waited. And waited. And waited. He didn’t. He cried so long and piteously that we shed a couple of tears on the other side of the door. It didn’t take us too long after that to cave in and let him have the run of the living room and kitchen. He was ecstatic. When we listened from the other side of the living room/hall door, we heard silence. It was the silence of a little furry victory snooze.

 

That was to be the blueprint of my life with him. He was allowed in the living room and kitchen, but definitely wasn’t going to be allowed on the living room furniture. He’s not even here, but I still find it odd if I sit on his side of the sofa. He was allowed downstairs but definitely not upstairs. That lasted until he learnt to climb the stairs. Alright then, he was allowed upstairs but had to sleep downstairs. I can’t remember when or how that changed, but it did, years ago. Still – he might be allowed to sleep upstairs, but only on the landing – definitely not in my room. Well, ok, so he slept in the room, but he definitely, definitely was not going to share my bed. I’m struggling to fall asleep these days because there isn’t a warm furry body hogging three-quarters of my bed.

 

And when he was younger, in what I think of as his ‘furry destructor’ days, it wasn’t just house rules that he bent, damaged and broke.

 

He ate through the Sky cable three times, until the engineer had the genius idea of pinning the cable up along the wall, around the door, across the wall and out of reach of puppy teeth. It cost me £60 for each visit. During his teething phase he also ate through the legs of the dining table, three of the dining chairs, a few pairs of shoes, CDs, books and my brother’s wallet (including cash and credit cards). During the destructor days he was also an absolute nightmare to walk. He would pull on his lead so hard my wrists were red raw and he was constantly strangling himself – it didn’t seem to slow him down. He would see a leaf in the middle of the road and decide he needed to investigate it instantly, oncoming cars be damned. He once pulled on his lead so hard when he spotted a stray carrier bag on the other side of the road that my Dad, who was walking him at the time, actually took a nasty tumble. Did Simba stop and check up on his pal? Erm, eventually, yes… Once he’d confirmed the carrier bag had no food. Ahem.

 

Which brings me onto his greatest love and pleasure in life – food. Food was the way to his heart. Food was Simba’s overriding lifetime goal – how to get food, how to get more food, how quickly he could gobble up his food, how much of my food he could persuade me to share, how much food he could hoover off the floor, what food he could find on our walks, food, glorious food.

 

An example of his dedication to food from the brief time he slept downstairs…

 

I’d held a birthday party and barbecue at my house. A great time had been had by all, including Simba. He’d enjoyed going from guest to guest claiming treats and cuddles and gobbling up dropped crisps. Eventually the party wound down, the guests left and I went to bed. In the middle of the night I heard a thumping sound downstairs. Thump, thump, THUMP. Silence. Thump, thump, THUMP. Silence. I thought someone was trying to break in through the back door. I was terrified. I couldn’t hear Simba and I was even more terrified. I phoned my brother and he promised to be over within the next five minutes. Knowing back-up was on the way, and with shaking legs and an umbrella as a temporary weapon, I crept downstairs to check on my poor puppy. Complete silence. I listened at the hall door and heard nothing. Taking a deep breath I opened the door and hit the light switch, ready to scream and attack at the same time. Nothing. The living room looked fine. Simba was sitting up in his bed, looking at me with a very odd expression. He didn’t come and greet me, tail wagging like the tails of a helicopter, as he usually did. Odd. I ventured into the kitchen and the only thing that looked out-of-place was a square of grey cardboard in the middle of the kitchen floor. For a moment I couldn’t understand. I picked the cardboard up and as I turned it over I suddenly understood. Earlier that evening I’d put the leftover birthday cake, still on its silver stand, in the far corner of the kitchen, tucked into the corner of the counter. Thump, thump, thump as he jumped and pulled the cake towards him, inch by inch. Silence as he took a break and then as he ate the evidence. I looked at Simba. He looked at me. I called my brother and explained. There may have been expletives from the other end of the phone.

 

I’m so used to giving him a tiny crumb of whatever I’m eating that even now, six weeks later, I still leave a corner of my toast, or a morsel of dinner, and it takes a second before I remember my furry foodie friend isn’t here to gobble it up.

 

But he was so much more than that. He was an absolute sweetheart. He had the gentlest nature, even for a Golden. We once had some relatives over who had a young child with them. She was fascinated with Simba. He was a real life teddy bear. She started off gently enough, stroking him and hugging him. But it quickly took a more exploratory and annoying turn – she started trying to put her fingers up his nose, and in his mouth, wanting to inspect his ear canal and so on. I tried pushing her away and gently hinting to her mother that it wasn’t a good idea. I could see Simba had had enough – he kept trying to walk away and she kept chasing him. In the end, he hid behind my legs. But not once did he growl or snarl or snap. He just came to me for help.

 

Another time, I had a friend over who was going through a tough time. Instead of enthusiastically humping her leg (his favourite game with this particular friend) he quietly put his paw on her knee, and then lay down at her feet.

 

I’m convinced he thought he was human, or at least more human than dog. He was never interested in playing with other dogs. When we took him to puppy classes he used to go and sit behind the chairs – he didn’t want to be around the other dogs. But as soon as there were more humans than dogs he’d be out and jumping up on everyone wanting to be friends. It was the same in the park – he’d ignore the dog and jump all over the owner. He had a huge personality. I’d be walking him and we’d get stopped by someone who knew him already, who had made friends with him on an outing with my Dad or the dog-walker. They’d always stop and play with him and he’d greet them enthusiastically like a long-lost friend – I just happened to be attached to his lead, one of his many minions attending to his needs.

 

That was part of his magic though. Everyone wanted to be around him. And that magic brought our little family even closer together. We all loved him. We all wanted to spend time with him. He was the baby of the family. If I hadn’t taken him over to my Mum’s for a couple of days she’d ring me and ask if everything was okay. My brothers were always involving him in some comical scheme for their amusement, and he was (mostly) a willing participant. My Dad moaned about having to take him for lunchtime walks and yet he was offended if I mentioned getting a dog-walker to help out. Lunchtime walks were his job. Even our family holidays revolved around Simba – CenterParcs became our favourite place, because they were so dog-friendly.

 

That’s what I miss most. I miss his friendship. It might have been a friendship without words, but what we lacked in actual conversation we more than made up for in gestures and routines and the language of looks.

 

We understood each other. He knew when I was feeling down – he would look at me, give me a gentle lick and then come and cuddle up next to me. I knew when he was feeling ignored and needed some TLC (he was an absolute doggy diva when he wanted to be, and would dramatically sit on his side of the sofa and make a point of turning his back to me and then looking over his shoulder to make sure I was watching and feeling appropriately guilty).

 

No matter how much time I did or didn’t spend with him, no matter how bad my mood when I walked through the door, there he was, with those beautiful sparkly brown eyes, looking at me with adoration, his tail thumping, just happy to be with me, doing whatever I was doing. If I was in the kitchen, he’d be there, drooling as he watched me cook. If I was unpacking groceries, he’d be inspecting each item that came out of the bags. If I was upstairs getting ready, he’d be sitting on the bed, watching me put my make-up on or doing my hair. If I was watching TV, he’d be on the sofa next to me, his head in my lap so I could give him a cuddle.

 

Simba taught me what it really means to love unconditionally.

 

He saw me through family traumas, through boy trouble and through two bouts of cancer (on the days I couldn’t get out of bed, he didn’t leave my side – he wouldn’t even budge for my mum when she tried to move him so she could sit next to me. He left my side to go for a wee or to eat and then he was back next to me, guarding over me). He was instrumental in helping me find my writing mojo and change my career – I wanted to write about him (my first attempt at a book was about a little girl and her dog) and I wanted to be at home writing so I could spend more time with him.

 

Nothing fazed him or kept him down for long – not the four bouts of cancer he overcame, not the awful attack by two dogs he survived, not the change in his daily routines depending on whether I was at home or on a contract.

 

He taught me that once you’ve found your life goal (food, in his case), you never give up on that goal – he spent his whole life single-mindedly looking for, eating and enjoying all sorts of food.

 

He was my companion, my housemate, my friend. A gentle, sweet, funny, stubborn, loving soul that I was lucky enough to spend fourteen years living with and learning from.

 

I’ve heard people say that you can have many pets in your lifetime but there will always be that one special one. He was my special one. There will never be another quite like him.

 

When he died, he took a piece of my heart with him. But, just as in life, he gave so much more than he took. He may have taken a piece of my heart with him, but he left a piece of his heart with me.

Sick as a Dog

Sick as a DogI realised something the other day.  As you know, my pooch has been very poorly for over six weeks now. Because of the illness he hasn’t been able to eat properly, he’s lost weight and his energy has dropped dramatically.

Here’s the realisation – through all of that trauma and difficulty he has remained the same silly, funny, sweet and ever hopeful little furball he always was, albeit he has been a little less greedy and a little more quiet sometimes.

I’ve noted below some of the ways he has been sick, that might help me and you, next time we’re a little (or a lot) under the weather:

  • He never whinges about his ailments (not even in doggy whimpers) – he just gets on with it,
  • He doesn’t worry about how bad it could get – he lives in the moment.  If he’s being ill, he’ll be ill.  Once that’s done, he goes back to his blanket and his toys and his routine,
  • He takes all the rest he needs.  This is an important one.  There have been days where he has struggled more than others.  On those days, he will just sleep more and play less.  He will slow down completely on our walks, to make sure I know he’s not really up for it, and as soon as I’ve figured it out (as a human it takes me longer!) and turned to go home, he practically races home so he can flop on his blanket and recover,
  • He doesn’t let it mess up his day.  He might have been ill in the morning, but if he’s feeling better in the evening, he’ll be there, in my face, with his favourite toy (Monkey) dangling from his mouth, ready to play.  If he’s feeling really good, he’ll pull me towards the park when we’re out on our walk, so I know he wants to stay out and play.  And if he’s feeling really good he’ll attempt to have a good old roll around in the grass.

Over the weekend we had three good days where the medication was kicking in, he wasn’t ill and there was lots of playing.  We’re having a couple of bad ones at the moment – but it’s in the mornings, and guess what?  In the evenings we still have a cuddle and he still wants to play with Monkey and investigate all movements in the kitchen.

So next time you’re ill, whether it’s a cold or something more serious, see if you can be sick as a dog.  It might just help you recover that little bit faster.

Leptins and Ghrelins

Leptins and GhrelinsThis week has been all about Leptins and Ghrelins for me. Leptins and Ghrelins you say? I can see you nodding intelligently as you head for Google.  Let me explain.

As you’re probably aware, my boy has been poorly for over a month.Which means I’ve been getting less and less sleep over the last month.  In addition, it’s been getting progressively more stressful at work this week, as we head into half-yearly reporting.  We hit out first reporting deadline on Friday and it was a long, long day.

So by Friday night, I was so tired that I crashed completely at about 11pm and fell asleep on my sofa, remote in hand, pooch in lap.  Although I kept waking up every couple of hours, it was only at around 6am on Saturday morning that I finally mustered enough energy to make it upstairs and get into bed for a few more hours.

I also saw the effects of the accumulated lack of sleep this week.  I have developed an insatiable and extremely unhealthy appetite.  No matter what I eat, when I eat or how much I eat, it doesn’t seem to be enough.  It’s not satisfying.  And it comes down to those pesky Leptins and Ghrelins I mentioned earlier.

So what are they?  Well, I talk about in much more detail in Chapter 8 of the book, but briefly they’re both types of hormones that influence our appetite.  And sleep, or lack of it, can affect the production of these hormones.  So lack of sleep can have a direct effect on how much you want to eat.

This week I’ve actually been able to (completely unintentionally) prove it for you (so you don’t have to bother testing it out yourself, lovely reader) – it’s all true.  Sadly, I can confirm that lack of sleep turns you into a greedy little food monster, who constantly needs to be appeased with anything and everything you can get your hands on.  It’s scary how easily it can happen, and I definitely don’t recommend it.

So my plan this week is to work on getting into a healthy sleep routine, and enjoy seeing the results of this extra sleep, not only in the reduction of those pesky dark circles under my eyes, but also by measuring how many times I do or don’t hit up the snack machine!  Hopefully I’ll be getting some shut-eye, saving some pennies, and reducing the lbs all at the same time.

(PS – it looks like the Pooch has turned a corner, and is finally responding to the new medication – hooray!)

New Neighbours

NEW NEIGHBOURSI have new neighbours.  To be more specific, I have new work neighbours. In the little corner of the west wing of the first floor of the huge office where I and two thousand other people work, there is a cluster of four desks and a neighbouring cluster of two desks.  I am in the four desk cluster, with one sometimes loud but always lovely full-timer and one very quiet part-timer.  There has been one occasionally chatty cat-lover in the three-cluster, so between us we’re a fairly quiet bunch. I like working in peace and quiet so this has suited me perfectly. 

This week we had two more contractors moving in – they filled in the remaining spaces on the three desk cluster.  Which has led to a little indulgence in one of life’s pleasures for me – people watching.  Well – actually, it’s more ‘people-listening’.  The way our desks are all positioned, the full-timer and I have our backs to the three desk cluster.

So here is what I’ve observed in the last three days.

New Neighbour Number One (NNN1) is very quietly spoken, has an even quieter footfall and is the manager of this tiny unit.  She’s very apologetic sounding, but seems to know exactly what she’s doing.  A lovely lady, but not much help when I’m looking for inspiration for characters for the new book.

Now New Neighbour Number Two is a completely different (and frankly much more exciting prospect).  The collection of attributes are unusual and interesting.  She favours a very ‘Goth’ style of dress, wearing head to toe black draperies.  Her long dirty blonde hair is normally piled into some kind of beehive style.  She has a really interesting sound – it’s a cross between a very relaxed, bordering on slightly drunk, drawl and the slightly high-pitched whine of a five-year old about to head into a full on tantrum. 

The resemblance to a stubborn child doesn’t end there – and I have to admit, it’s ever so slightly disconcerting to see and hear a mid to late forties (I hope!) professional adult exhibit the attributes of a recalcitrant and sulky child.  Today for example, she was advised that a process she thought she’d completed was actually missing a key component and therefore she needed to action it.  We were given a twenty-minute diatribe on the pickiness of those pesky authoritarians who require an authorising signature on paperwork, the huge inconvenience this would cause to her personally, the ineptitude of the staff pointing out her error and so on, and on, and on, and on.

On top of this indignity she got into a random conversation with her indulgent and meek mama of a manager about benefit scroungers. Mama Manager gently commented that not all benefit claimants are indeed scroungers and may have fallen on hard times.  Well!  WELL!  “Of course they are.  OF COURSE THEY’RE SCROUNGERS!” our woman-child practically spat out.  “I have a friend that used to work at the council and she told me all about it, about how they all play the system.  They’re all scroungers.  Let me tell you what real hardship is.”  And then we were treated to a half-hour potted history demonstrating the dire straits she and her family are in.

“I mean, I’ve bought no clothes – NONE – in years.  It’s been years, I’m telling you Mama Manager.  Well, except these shoes I suppose.  I mean, I’ve bought a few bits.  But it doesn’t count.” she reasoned before treating us to yet more of her potted difficult, dramatic history.

You get the gist.

I was initially a bit dismayed at this intrusion into and disturbance of our once peaceful little corner, but it hit me as I was pulling out my notes for the new book.  I can see it for the blessing it really is – what fabulous character inspiration, on tap, whenever I want it!

Let’s see if you spot her in the new book…

Pooch vs. Pipette

Pooch vs PipetteIt’s been a funny few days – and by that I don’t mean odd or weird.  I mean laugh out loud funny.  And I’ve found that laughter in the oddest place of all – in my dog’s new medication routine.

He is also fourteen years old today.  So as a way of sharing his birthday with you, I’m going to share our adventures over the last couple of days – this is just a flavour of what life with my dog is like…

As you know, he’s been put on an intensive medication and diet regime for the next thirty days to treat a very serious inflammatory disease.  We have to follow this routine morning and evening, and it goes something like this – we start with a tablet, then thirty minutes later a pipette of doggy Gaviscon then thirty minutes later some raw meat and rice, then thirty minutes later another tablet.

The first time we tried it, it all went ok, and I was mostly just relieved that he was eating again, as he’d completely gone off his food for a day or so.  Since then, there’s been an unexpected development.

A little battle has developed.  The dog has become sworn enemies with the pipette.  He doesn’t like have something a bit icky smelling (and probably icky tasting) being squirted down his throat. And it only took him two days to take against the pipette.  So I tried leaving the liquid in his food bowl, hoping he’d just lick it up.  Nope, no such luck.  I tried holding him with one hand and squirting with the other.  Not a good move – the result was a lot of mess and liquid everywhere except where it should be, and a slightly smug looking pooch.  So far, the score is Pipette 3 – Pooch 2.

Yesterday evening and this morning the Pipette and I became a little more devious.  I loaded it up, then hid it behind me, snuck up on him and whilst stroking his head with one hand and murmuring ‘Good boy’, snuck the other into position and squirted – success!  But at a cost.  Never have I seen him give me such a baleful disappointed stare.  “Not cool Mum, not cool.” his big brown eyes insinuated.

The thing is, this has all happened over the weekend, when I’ve had time to deal with it.  Tomorrow morning and a pre-work routine to add into the mix will make things…erm..interesting.  Luckily, if I do get a little bit stressed by it all, I came across an article which also made me laugh out loud, given our current situation.

It advised, rightly, that petting a dog is scientifically proven to reduce stress, in you and the dog. Ha!  I wonder if that still applies when your dog things you’re deceiving him so you can squirt horrible pipettes full of icky pink gunk at him?

It’s entirely possible that if it all goes awry tomorrow morning, you’ll find me hysterically trying to hug my suspicious and wary pooch, both of us covered in doggy Gaviscon, with the scoreboard reading Pipette 0 – Pooch 0.

It’s been an amazing fourteen years, full of lots of crazy adventures, learning, love and lots and lots and lots of laughter – and I’m looking forward to many more years of regaling anyone who’ll listen to tales of me and my dog.

Boxing Dogs

Boxing DogsIf you’ve been following the adventures (or misadventures at the moment) of my fur-baby through the blog, you’ll know he’s been really poorly. We got to the stage this week where he had been ill at least once or twice a day (often in the middle of the night just as he was getting some much-needed rest) for over a week, and even though he had been prescribed tablets to help with the sickness they were merely blurring the rough edges of the symptoms.

 

I also took the decision a couple of weeks ago to change his Vet.  He’d been with the same practice since he came home with me at seven weeks old, but recently I’d trusted their judgements and decisions less and less – it was a gut feeling and I finally went with it.  We needed a restart. We moved to another Vet, who is a little further away and a little more expensive but who I feel much more comfortable with.  Because it was a new Vet they started from scratch, redid some blood tests, re-assessed the long-term medication he was on and basically came at the whole issue with fresh eyes. And one of the blood tests confirmed my gut feeling over the last two years – there was a long-term medication prescribed which wasn’t warranted and could actually be causing some of the symptoms.  Apart from feeling guilty that I hadn’t challenged the original diagnosis I was just relieved and felt a little vindicated in following my gut instincts to move.

 

If you follow the blog you might also, if you’re particularly eagle-eyed, have noticed that this mid-week blog post is a day late. For good reason – yesterday evening (normally blog post time) the pooch and I were meeting with the new Vet to go over the results of all the exploratory procedures.  I was a little bit wobbly going in as we’d been referred to the head Vet for this particular appointment.  I won’t do what she did and go through every procedure and the results linked – I’ll just tell you – it’s treatable, manageable and he should be back to his old self within the next month or two.

 

It would be impossible to express how relieved I feel. Watching him go through all the traumas of being ill without understanding what’s going on, and not being able to do anything to help ease his pain has been awful.  The lack of sleep and anxiety over the potential results hasn’t helped.

 

That’s all done with though – I won’t have time for much worrying in the next month. The head Vet was very kind and but very firm.  To get the pooch back to fighting fitness we will be stripping away anything and everything that could possibly cause a problem.  He will be having big doses of medication to fight the inflammation, and he’ll be on a raw meat and rice diet.  We are literally doing the doggy equivalent of a thirty-day detox.  It will mean waking up early (bleurgh!) to administer the various tablets at the right intervals.  It will mean Herculean strength of will not to give in to his huge beautiful brown puppy dog eyes when he wants some of my food or a treat – that’s all off the menu.  And it means that I, a lifelong vegetarian, will be preparing two meals a day of red raw meat – eek!

 

It got me thinking though.  He’s been messed up, mixed up and churned up for almost six weeks.  And to get him back on track the first thing we did was Stop.  We stopped all the old medication and old food and old habits.  And now we’ve Stopped, we’re Starting.  Starting over, starting again.  We’re building back from basics towards his good health.

 

I’m an occasional boxing fan, and I noticed that some boxers have a similar process.  They’ve lost more than one important fight.  They can’t see a way through.  Everyone starts to write them off, to label them as ‘Has-Beens’.  Do they give up?  Nope.  They Stop.  They regroup.  They build themselves back up, they start with smaller fights and work back slowly but surely towards the larger ones.  Eventually you see them back up there, fighting the big fights, tougher, stronger and more successful than ever.

 

It’s something we could all apply to our own situations too. If there’s an area that you feel is messed up, that you can’t see your way through no matter what you throw at it, maybe it’s time to Stop.  We don’t even need to wait for things to go awry.  Maybe we just draw a line in the sand, strip everything back, focus on what our goal is, assess where we are with it, then go back to basics to build back up towards it. What do you think- shall we be Boxing Dogs where it matters?

Dropping balls

Dropping ballsThe first thing I want to say to you is ‘Thank You’ – thank you for the lovely healing vibes and messages on my FB page for the pooch.  I’m pleased and relieved to be able to tell you he’s had his exploratory surgery and is back at home with me, resting and healing and hopefully on his way to a full recovery.  We’re still waiting for tests results, so if you can spare another healing thought for the best outcome possible, that would be awesome.

Looking back on last week, I realise that the change from stress-bucket to milder smaller stress-bucket (I can’t say I’m completely calm, because that’s only going to happen when my fur-baby is back to full health) happened towards the end of a crazy week.

After I told you about the pooch going into surgery, I had to focus on him and only him.  In doing so I had to force myself to drop all the other balls I was juggling.  You might recognise some of them, but even if you don’t you’ll recognise the pattern – you might be juggling with different balls but I’m pretty sure you’re juggling.

My particular balls have been the contract, the dog, the new book, the current book, an online course, housework, eating more healthily, socialising with friends, seeing my family, reading, social media, a garden full of weeds.  And that’s just the jumble of larger balls that come to mind.

But juggling them all became impossible and on Thursday morning, as I dropped the pooch off for his surgery, I also very quickly started dropping balls too.  I didn’t have the time, energy or focus to keep juggling them all.  So all but the most important ones, the ones that I needed to keep juggling to get me through the next few days,  got dropped. And it felt like such a huge relief not to have to worry about them.  (Although it took a conversation with my coach to drop the ‘Guilt’ ball – that one kept bouncing back up trying to claim my attention for a while).

That’s what I want to share with you today – we all spend most of our time frantically juggling a whole load of balls.  When something big happens, it shocks us out of that pattern and we drop a few balls. That’s ok, it’s perfectly natural and necessary for us to be able to cope with the ‘something big’.  But what happens when we’re done coping, and we’re ready to juggle again?  The tendency is to pick up all the balls we had going, and resume our impressive but exhausting juggling act again.

I’m not sure that’s what we should be doing though.

Maybe what we need to do, you and I, is to look at each dropped ball and decide whether it’s really worth adding to our pile again.  For example, that bouncy little (or often not so little) ‘Guilt’ ball – do we really need that one?  Probably not, it’s just sneaked in there and become part of the action.

Once I’m ready to pick up the dropped balls, I think I might take a little time to pick and choose which ones I actually want in my personal juggling act – not all of them will make it back in.  And that’s ok.  What about you?  Which balls will you drop?

Virtual Healing

VirtualI’d like to call in a favour today please, my gorgeous reader.

If you’ve been following my little adventures via the blog you’ll know that my beautiful fur-baby hasn’t been very well recently. It’s been over a month, and rather than improving, he’s been deteriorating. So tomorrow he goes into fur-baby hospital, where they’ll do ultrasounds and x-rays and endoscopies and try to work out what exactly is going on inside his little tummy that’s causing him such big problems.

As the situation has gone on, I’ve become a bit of a stress bucket these last few weeks. The more my pooch has suffered, the more my stress levels have increased.  Completely normal and understandable, I hear you say. Well, yes, I guess it is. But (and it’s a big but – ha!) – it’s not helpful to me or to the pooch.

The more I stress, the more I focus on all sorts of ‘worst case’ scenarios. And of course that just makes me feel worse than I did before. Not only that, the pooch has his own little ‘feelings’ antennae and can pick up on my stress, so I’m not helping him either. Which means neither of us is getting much sleep or rest at the moment.  We’re waking up tired, which is a great recipe for the stress snowball effect to continue.

The worst thing is, I know better. As part of my NLP training, I learned how the brain thinks in pictures and feelings. I learned how the brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imagined, so of course it reacts to my imagined scenarios in the same way as it does the real ones, causing me just as much anguish and as many tears as if it had actually happened. Virtual scenario, but real pain.

I know that the best way for me to cope is to stop wallowing in virtual pain and to start thinking about what it’ll be like to see the pooch eating properly, sleeping well, rolling around in the grass in his usual flamboyant, inelegant, joyful style. It’s virtual healing – the more I replay that picture of the pooch at play, having fun in the sun, the more happy hormones will kick in for me, and the better I’ll feel. The better I feel, the better I’ll be able to cope. The better I’m able to cope, the more use I’ll be to the pooch.

So here’s where I’d like to ask for the favour – can you help me and the pooch please? If you have a minute to spare, can you also imagine my pooch rolling around in the grass, under the warmth of the sun, having a good old time. I’m sure that the more good health vibes we can send his way, the quicker his recovery will be. A different but just as important style of virtual healing 🙂

And I’m going to ask you for one more favour – I want you to help yourself too. If there’s something you’re struggling with right now, big or small, I want you to take five minutes to imagine what the best outcome would be for you. Imagine what you would see, what words you might hear, what smells might be wafting your way, and how all of this would make you feel.

Let’s practice our virtual healing together and make our little corner of the world a stronger, healthier, happier place.