Even I Have Limits

Feedback can be painful to receive but it’s important to both accept it and refuse to be paralyzed by it. I’m pretty self-aware and I definitely know my limitations. Recently, I have heard from people who think I should continue sharing my struggles with anxiety and other life stuff despite my preference of writing about dogs, food, and fashion. I have been told the way I write about things which truly suck really resonates with people. Well I am GenX af so there’s that.

I attended I Dream in Widescreen at the Fox Tucson Theatre Saturday night and went in expecting some cute short films made by college students that would probably require lots of whiskey to enjoy. The films were terrific and they were far from cute. The subject matter was quite heavy and there were a couple that really punched me in the gut. If I had known in advance, I would have gone into the theatre completely sober. Drunk me was unprepared for being confronted with the lowest point of my life.

I started a Google Doc at the end of the event to blog about that day but my phone refused to cooperate with my drunk fingers. At the time, I didn’t want to forget whatever sentences my mind found brilliant in that moment. Spoiler alert: Those sentences were not brilliant and I will not be sharing them here. I’m not even sure if I will be sharing them with my therapist.

The day in question is obviously one I will never forget but it rarely crosses my mind. My grandmother always said (completely unironically) that there’s no use crying over spilt milk and she was right. But then I read a more in-depth piece about the price people pay for surface acting and it makes sense that sometimes the shit just comes right out. My liver, hardest hit.

I’m not one to allow feelings to ruin a perfectly good buzz so I did what any grown-up would do; I went into the restroom, fixed my makeup, and got on with my night like a fucking boss.

Doggy Dental Day

My mom calls me a helicopter parent. This is possibly because I barely even trust her to watch my dogs. I mean, there was that one time I was out of town on business and my two Rottweilers were found running down the middle of a busy road and had to be loaded into her clown car Mini Cooper tired and thirsty…but I digress.

Vet visits are always challenging for me because I have to Clark W. Griswold every single aspect of my life (and theirs, obviously).

The biggest problem is as dumb as my dogs are, they know when the morning routine is off. Good luck getting them to do their potties when I ask because the fact that I’m asking means we’re going someplace. Going someplace means they can’t think! They can’t drink! The cannot potty! They WILL NOT potty! And this time, by “they” I mean the psychotic hound who is normally my good potty girl.

Doggy Dental Day is an annual event that just really stresses me out. This is the first year that both of them are having their teeth cleaned (Sherman is still young) so I have to plan how to get them both loaded in the Jeep to come home while loopy from anesthesia. Also, I don’t trust the people in charge of their care so I worry about them all day. Helicopter parent.

I took the day off because their vet is 20 miles away, I had to drop them off at 0700, and I can’t do the working when I’m doing the worrying. I intended to come home and do stuff but now that I’m home with no one to attack the vacuum, I don’t know what to do with myself. Looks like I’ll be sitting here on the couch waiting for the call letting me know when they’ll be ready to come home. Helicopter parent.

How do people not have pets? There is no snoring, chewing, panting, or barking. It’s so quiet I can’t think. Instead, I’m just sitting here wondering if they’re okay. Did the vet tech take Lulu out to poop? Is their blood work normal? Do they miss me? Should I have asked for dental x-rays? That’s a thing, you know. Am I a bad person because I said to skip them? Sherman is having some tests done on one of his eyes. Am I a bad person because I waited to have it checked? What if it’s eye cancer? Then it’s all my fault if he dies. What if it’s a parasite and it spreads to Lulu and they both die? Helicopter parent.

This is a good time to rearrange my shoes or something. I’m sure they’re fine. But maybe I’ll just make a quick call to check on them first.

Note: To be fair, it wasn’t even my mom’s fault the Rommels escaped. That was a Kansas wind issue so she’s totally innocent. It’s just fun to give her grief.

The Lost Weekend

Years ago, I asked my grandmother to describe the personality of an uncle who was a trombone soloist for Arthur Pryor. His exploits were somewhat legendary but I was interested in who he was as a person. She suggested I watch The Lost Weekend with Ray Milland and Jane Wyman to really know what he was like. I doubt she intended it to serve as an instruction manual but I have a long history of learning the wrong lessons.

I wasn’t okay on Friday. I don’t know why and frankly, I don’t think there needs to be a why. I felt like I needed to unplug. The human race had disappointed me and my plan to recover involved two days of whiskey and skincare. No working on my family tree, no going out in public, and possibly turning my phone off for the entire weekend. I just wanted to stay home and watch Season 2 of The OA on Netflix. If it sounds stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

So rather than telling myself to suck it up, I leaned in to the suck and a funny thing happened. After consuming precisely four ounces of Jameson Friday night (counting calories!), I woke up Saturday morning with a different agenda. I drank half a pot of espresso and did some yoga. I brushed the dogs and did some pilates. I drank precisely two beers (still counting calories!) and did some light lifting. Skincare products were applied. And yes, I watched a few episodes of The OA. That was weird.

Sometimes adult decisions sneak up on us when we’re not paying attention. I worked out again on Sunday. I cleaned my kitchen and both bathrooms. I cleaned out my Jeep and even put leather conditioner on the seats. More skincare products were applied. And I consumed two more beers (always counting calories!) as a reward for picking up after the dogs in the backyard.

I went into the weekend fully intending to be a self-destructive, self-pitying mess. I came out with a clean-ish house and no dietary regrets. My therapist is constantly saying “notice that” whenever I have a feeling. So I did. I noticed I had too many projects going at once and I took a break. There are some things I have been trying to force and I stopped trying, at least for the moment. And I saved my liver from impending doom…at least until the next bad day.

Processing Anger

This afternoon I will be asked to think back to my earliest memories and find anger. Then I will watch all of the images flash through my mind until the trip down memory lane becomes one static image. At that point, I will begin processing anger. This could take a while.

My default method of handling emotions is to keep that shit in the vault. Pretend whatever happened didn’t happen. I forget certain people even exist until something or someone reminds me. Then I promptly forget again. This is something one side of my family is famous for and I inherited that ability to the point where it’s as natural as breathing.

It doesn’t take a licensed professional to see how that operating mode can backfire and feelings can manifest themselves in unexpected ways. You know…like anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, etc. Several years ago, I had a dream I literally choked to death a person I had excommunicated from my life. And that was years after the fact. I guess I wasn’t over it.

So back to anger. Anger is kind of like sunshine in the desert. I can easily go inside and turn up the A/C but sometimes it’s nice to sit outside and just soak it all in. Sometimes, anger is the one thing that reminds me I’m still alive. It’s kind of like the chronic pain in my back and neck; I’ve dealt with it for so long that most days I forget it’s even there. Then the humidity spikes and all of a sudden, I feel every injury I’ve ever had.

There is extreme humidity in today’s forecast. I don’t want to think about the things that make me angry. I don’t want to think about losing my temper. I don’t want my dogs to wonder WTF happened when I get home from my appointment. I’m a river; I go with the flow. I’m a tree; I bend.

Why I Can’t Have Nice Things

So here’s what happened: After work last Friday, I stopped at the grocery store and spent $140 on beer & Lean Cuisine. Actually, it was worse than that. Half of the frozen meals I bought were store brand.

After I got home and stuffed all of the boxes in my freezer, I opened a beer and called my mom. I walked out to the patio to enjoy some Arizona sunshine and noticed a dead lizard on the artificial turf. My dogs have a long and storied history of murdering lizards so this was not altogether surprising.

As I was talking to my mom, I grabbed the poop scooper to dispose of the lizard carcass. I distinctly recall turning off my phone screen when she answered but somehow, holding my phone with my shoulder and jaw caused it to initiate another call to an unfortunate number. I could no longer hear my mom talking so I put down the poop scooper and saw my phone was dialing the number of a guy I used to…ummm…”date” several years ago. I panicked and hung up on both of them. He called me right back and I declined the call so I could talk to my mom.

About an hour later, I texted him to apologize for my shitty multitasking skills. If that had happened circa 2014, I would have been immediately pressured into allowing him to visit for a long weekend. The last time he visited me, I smelled the whiskey pouring off him from more than 10 feet away when I picked him up at the airport. We spent a weekend in Vail once that was just exhausting. At one point, we ended up driving to Breckenridge to have lunch with an old friend of his and it was quickly apparent that they were all used to the transient ski bum lifestyle.

I understood within five minutes of meeting him why his ex-wife had divorced him. It’s not that he’s a bad person; I just don’t have the ability to roll like that. I don’t have the ability to just decide I’m going to live in a different country for the next year. For hell’s sake, I spent a year and a half talking myself into buying a new vehicle. I’m not wired to allow people to fly in and out of my life at a moment’s notice. His background and income level were attractive to me (in addition to the physical attraction) but his frenetic lifestyle was not. He finally understood that about me and stopped asking.

Boundaries, people. They exist for a reason. Set them and enforce them. Everything about your life will improve.

Recurring Nightmare

When I was in elementary school and junior high, I had a recurring nightmare. It went on for years and the details changed each time but the plot was always the same: My great-grandmother came back from the dead and was trying to kill me.

Nanny died when I was about nine years old but when I was much younger, she wasn’t nice to me at all. She had some health issues that apparently changed her personality and made her quite difficult to handle. When I was a toddler (and frankly not yet great at the walking), she would reach her foot out to trip me when I walked past her chair. Other times, she would just out of the blue pinch me on the arm or the leg. I don’t recall her ever saying anything to warn me of an imminent attack; she would just go for it.

When her diabetes began progressing, my grandma and I would physically have to bar her from the refrigerator. That was super uncomfortable for me as a grade-schooler. Nanny wasn’t a large person at all but she was mean as hell. She became too much for my grandma to care for so she went to a nursing home and died not long after having her leg amputated. I was told I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because I was too young and didn’t really care one way or the other by the time she was gone.

The nightmare always started with a large gray blob flying into our neighborhood. It never said anything but I knew it was there for me. There was never anyone around to help me so I just hid. Sometimes, I was at my grandma’s house and would hide in a closet. Other times, I was caught outside without any cover and would run into tall weeds and hide on the ground. Sometimes when I was trying to hide, I didn’t have legs with which to run. Each time, I would wake up in a panic right before she was able to get me.

My grandma told me many times she wished I could have known Nanny when she was younger because she was such a fun person to be around. She loved hunting and riding horses and led a life of great adventure. In 2018, she and my great-grandfather were inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Nanny was very involved in historic preservation and had lots of famous contacts.

Unfortunately, my experiences with her as a child prevented me from wanting to get to know her history or her family’s history. Only now am I discovering the tales of her ancestors as well as our living cousins in the US and Germany. The world has become a much smaller place and I am able to reach out to my relatives around the world from the super computer I carry in my purse. One of the benefits of being an adult is I can do so without falling out of bed and hitting my head on the nightstand.

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