Catching Up

Long post ahead! I realized I haven’t even told you about my flight or anything else.

Well, leading up to the flight was a lot of work. A lot of paperwork and vaccines and preparations for the dogs, a lot of packing. Selling things. Running around and paying bills. Purging. All while I was extremely sick; still think it’s covid.

So the day of the flight arrives and Angela and Paola come to the house, help me load up, and we take two SUV’s to the airport. I get to go to a different terminal building for charter flights and wow was that ever COOL. There was a nice luxurious waiting lounge with beverages. There were no TSA lines. No worries about missing your flight. It took a while just because there were 7 dogs and it wasn’t very organized on their end, but it was such a treat to fly this way. I’ll probably never be able to do it again, and what an adventure…

This plane arrives and it is TINY. I’m looking at it from a distance and it is TINY from afar. I thought my baggage would be below the plane – no. There is no below the plane. It’s going in the back of the plane in cabin. So we load everything and everyone up; three crew members, me, 7 dogs, 11 duffel bags, and 2 backpacks crammed into a tiny propeller plane that is going to carry us over open waters for 3.5 hours. Somehow we got off the ground and began what was a long and cramped ride in a cabin that was smaller than a cargo van. LOL I am not kidding. We were unable to move for the flight because it was SO cramped and tiny inside that plane. My crew guy and myself were sitting facing each other, and the plane was so small that our knees were touching. I’m not complaining, we did what we had to do – BUT for anyone who thinks I had a luxurious, rich people experience in a private plane can think again. The dogs were surprisingly well-behaved, Cass had bad anxiety as expected but the others did really well.

Tight flight
It’s smaller than it looks!
Coco says hi!
This is what Rosie has to say to the DR.
Our first peek at Florida. Coming in right behind tropical storm Eta.

After that daunting flight, my friend Melissa picked me up in Miami and we began a 30-hour road trip cross-country to get to Colorado. Again, the dogs were really great except for some anxiety. This anxiety led to me staying in the back of the van with the dogs almost the whole trip. 30 hours of being tossed around, sitting/ sleeping on a piece of plywood, not sleeping, no change of clothes, dealing with Covid, banging my head, bruised up everywhere, but again we made it!

30 hours.

Since arriving it’s been a process of decompressing. I’ve been sleeping really deeply. I’m so tired and still not feeling well. I’ll have to blog about my health in the next post.

I’m working through the learning curve of the new place. It takes time but I am getting there. I’m having lots of short term memory issues right now and problems retaining conversations. I feel that my cognitive setbacks are showing their colors at the moment. The memory and retention problems started when I had widow’s fog and I never got full function back. I’m feeling that in full force right now as I adjust to a new way of living and have a hard time remembering things. For all that time alone it wasn’t so apparent but now that I’m having some interaction, it is apparent.

I’m working with my dogs, mostly Donovan, quite a bit. He’s really testing limits and learning boundaries the hard way. It’s my fault – I don’t really create a structure for the dogs. Never had to. But now, sharing space and time has led to many more expectations of him. He also is getting less exercise and he’s been through a lot! All of this to say, in spite of these things he has been just testing my patience and every last nerve I have lately. Leashing him to me almost all the time is exhausting. He’s becoming my project. First priority – leave the other dogs alone. Second priority – 4 paws on the floor inside.

As far as my life and next steps, all of it is too big to think about right now. As I expected, I’m not really on my game right now and I’m pretty messed up after all I went through. Right now I’m trying to give myself the mental care I need. My next steps are just too overwhelming to even scratch the surface of, and I’m not capable of dealing with it all right now. I have so much to rebuild. Having nothing in the DR is actually a perk so you can move more easily. But here, having nothing literally means having nothing. I literally don’t have any pants to wear!

So for now the focus is keeping the dogs happy and healthy, and trying to rebuild my brain. And buying pants. As I mentioned, I’m having a hard time with cognitive abilities. It’s unclear whether full function will ever return, or if this is who I am now.

For now, the dogs are wonderful. I’m comfortable. I escaped a place that was going to kill me. I’m recovering.

One breath at a time.

And I miss him. 💔

My last night in the Dominican Republic

Tomorrow is the day. The day I have been anxiously waiting for. The day I get to leave this experience behind me where it belongs.

I’m having a mix of emotions that are hard to describe. And it’s a pretty big swing from 1-100. No in-between. Intense excitement, pain, anticipation, dread, confidence, fear, sadness, hopefulness, hopelessness. strength, fragility, proud, terrified. I feel it all.

My brain is scrolling through the lists: did I remember this, handle that, pay the other, get the dogs’ paperwork, put my passport in an easy place (after only one panic attack when I misplaced it and found it packed in a duffel bag). Is everything, and I mean everything, packed. My dogs are nervous and worried, I’m nervous and scared, and so it goes. The feelings don’t magically go away when I land, either. Landing in the US is not an ending to the emotional turmoil, it’s just the beginning of a different kind of emotional turmoil.

Here’s the thing. I think I can safely say that there is never going to be a day when Michael’s death doesn’t completely fuck me up in every way. No, I’m not in some deep state of “grief”; I simply won’t ever be complete without him. I’m working SO HARD to make something of what’s left of my life, and I hope that whatever I make of it will lead me to a happier “place”, but I will never, ever NOT miss him and I’ll never be okay with him being gone.

Realizing this isn’t upsetting. I truly believe that unless I acknowledge this and learn to walk with it, I’ll end up spiraling down. It’s okay to accept your reality. It’s also okay to say that your reality sucks. It’s honest and it’s true and it’s authentic.

For many months I have felt that there is a dark presence here; a black energy. There are many murders and suicides here on the North Coast. I haven’t talked about it in any sort of serious manner except with one friend in the DR, but for several months, serious suicidal thoughts took me over. I had a plan. I wanted to die. I felt stuck here in a place where I wasn’t safe. I felt that I couldn’t get out of this situation because of Covid and the flight situation and the number of dogs I have. After looking into every possible option, a private flight was the only way to get off the island right now. My mental health was/is poor enough that while others may think it’s ridiculous, it really was and is necessary to get myself closer to decent medical care for my RA and mental health resources. Luckily I have a loving circle of friends that pooled together and pitched in, getting me within $3500 of my goal. I had to borrow that, but there was no question. I need to get out of here.

This adventure has torn me apart. It’s taken so much from me and dragged me to rock bottom. Yes, there have been many good times, beautiful memories, and poignant lessons. But there is no doubt; this is not my place, my life, or my desire. I don’t fit here, and beyond that it’s a dark place for me.

I was robbed in my home while I slept a few feet away. I lost my vehicle and walked away from my house and my job at once. I then found a house all my own for the first time since I was divorced from husband #1. Later, I was sexually assaulted in my new home. The entire time, we are on lockdown because of covid ranging anywhere from borders being shut down and curfews that are still in place. For months, we couldn’t even go to the beach. So home is where everyone stayed. This threw me into a situation of so much isolation that it wasn’t healthy. And that’s when the darkness set in.

Some people say I’m strong but what is strong really? Is not killing yourself “strong”? I would say the only thing that got me through the past few weeks has been knowing I’m almost out of here. The business of readying for a huge international move on my own has occupied my mind and kept me from going under.

So, tomorrow one of my dearest friends Angela (who runs the horse rescue) is coming over in the morning with her big truck. Paola is coming with her because I’m renting Paola’s car. We will load up both vehicles with dogs, crates, and bags. Then we will drive to the airport, to a special terminal for private flights. I won’t have to deal with TSA and dragging the dogs through an airport. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Angela. She is my sister. For many months, we couldn’t understand each other because she spoke no English and I spoke almost no Spanish. But somehow, we got through to each other and formed a deep bond that we can’t explain. Saying goodbye to her will be very hard.

I’ll take my flight on a little prop plane, and I’ll land in Florida. There, my friend Melissa who is opening her home to me and the dogs will be waiting to load up my things into a fully stocked transport van, and she will accompany me for the 30-hour road trip home. As I write this, she’s on the road to come and get me.

After arriving “home”, the real shit begins. The recovery. Decompression. Gratitude. Not gonna lie. It’s scary.

So the next time I write, I’ll be back on US soil. I picked a lovely time to return, right? Why not plan to arrive in the middle of more political unrest and as the second wave of COVID begins? It makes perfect sense and falls right in line with the rest of my life.

Wish me luck for an uneventful trip, and let’s hope that as I lift off I can feel some of this black energy leaving me.

Time Stands Still

As I count down my time in the DR, it is CREEPING slowly towards my finish line. At the same time it’s moving pretty quick as I tie up loose ends. Leaving a country makes a move MUCH MUCH bigger than anything you can imagine. There’s no going back for anything you forgot. No multiple trips or trucks.

As I reflect on this time, it really is reaching a finish line of some sort of hellish punishing nightmare that feels more like a challenge and a test of my willingness and ability to live than anything else. It felt like an adventure of some sorts, but more like an adventure of pain, torture, and solitary confinement. A test of fortitude. A series of challenges including robbery and sexual assault. A series of people thrown at me to test how much cruelty and betrayal I could sustain. I’m tired. I’ll literally need recovery time to get over all I have experienced here.

But I’m alive. I survived. I’m getting out before this place kills me, which I wasn’t always sure I would be able to do. There were times when I really thought I would end up dying here, either the victim of a crime or death by suicide. There were SO MANY people who tried to ruin me or take me down. And while some of them succeeded in the short term, I’m getting out. And I’m proud of that.

This country has cost me money, a sense of security, my mental and physical health, my stability, my trust in human beings, and my peace. I don’t know what’s next but I do know that the other thing this country has given me is the knowledge that there’s no reason to be afraid. Fear doesn’t change anything except it weakens you. And I can’t afford to be weak. I must always, always be on my toes. I must always strap on the armor and be as strong as I can while I serve this life sentence. I can’t let my shields down and I can’t slack on protecting myself and my energy. It’s exhausting but I can’t show vulnerability or cracks in my shield. I don’t think I’ll be able to really let anyone in ever again. I hope I’m wrong.

And the countdown continues. Less than 2 weeks until I can begin my mental and physical recovery on US soil. Let’s just hope that my country is in a more positive place politically when I get there. I hope I am not going home to riots or violence, although I suspect I might have to. I hope I can return to a country that I’m proud of, a country that is rebuilding and recovering from its own trauma.

Keep marching onward.

Lisa

Chapter 3

I’ve changed the name of the blog to Chapter 3 now. Chapter One was the nightmare that was the death and immediate aftermath. Chapter Two was the nightmare that became my life in the Dominican Republic. Chapter 3 is now; leaving the DR, and settling back in the US in the near future. Hopefully without the descriptive word “nightmare”. But one can never get too confident.

I’m sure as time goes on, I’ll share more of my DR experiences. But I thought I’d put it into a nutshell for those of you who are catching up. In the span of 16 months, I have:

  • Been home invaded and had my car stolen while I slept just a few feet away
  • Lost/ Sold my home in MN because my renters screwed me over
  • Walked away from the job and the free house I came here for, losing my entire rescue in the process.
  • Lost my “circle” in the process of walking away from aforementioned job
  • Been sexually assaulted in my home by a service worker here to install internet
  • Taken on a foster puppy that has never left, leaving me with seven dogs, one of whom is said foster puppy that is a lot to handle.
  • Met a new group of friends who shunned me because I posted anti-racism things. (#blm)
  • Deteriorated rapidly with my RA symptoms and condition
  • Been taken advantage of to the tune of thousands of dollars, both here in the DR and by my supposed friend in MN.
  • Isolated for 7+ months now with ZERO human interaction except trips to the store.
  • Tried to date one guy who ended up being a stalker
  • Lost my best friend in MN (see reference to being taken advantage of above)
  • Lost my sanity

The sanity one has been a process, but I have literally found myself in a scary and unhealthy place when I decided if I don’t get out of here, I won’t live much longer. I just can’t do it anymore. There’s no safety, no companionship, no support system, no decent health care, no security, and no happiness here for me. It becomes a daily challenge to find something worth living for. It always comes back to my dogs. I’m here for them.

But then something happened. I wrote about it on my FB page, so sad that I couldn’t get out because I can’t get all my dogs on a plane, and my FB/ rescue friends rallied. These folks who I previously considered “rescue friends” proved themselves to be the true crew of people who cared and who had my back. They put together a GoFundMe to raise money to book a charter flight and get me out of here, and it has raised a little over $5000. I am so humbled and shocked and I’ve been so surprised by so many people that I thought really didn’t notice me much. I’m only a few thousand short of my goal and I’m borrowing that money if I can’t raise the rest. And that’s how the story has led to me getting off this hell island in just a few weeks.

I’ll be starting my US adventure with a friend who has very generously offered me a place to stay with my SEVEN dogs. I’m not sure what my end game is, but I have a soft place to land. It will probably take me a while to recover from this entire ordeal. I can’t believe all I have been through. But I am excited and grateful to have the chance to start over again. Again.

I’m not currently working. I was doing some freelance work but I gave that up because I found myself not enjoying it and life is too short.

I’ve learned so much. One of the biggest things I have learned and examined is the extent of my PTSD. The grief is always present, yes. But beyond losing my dad and my husband, the process of watching them die really impacted me. It’s hard enough to lose the two most important men in your life just months apart, but it’s just made more deep and complicated by the visions and the actions of them dying. Caring for and tending to their every need when they became helpless or incoherent. Those last comatose days. The middle of the night wailing, crying because they don’t want to die, unable to listen to reason and doing things that scare you to death. Losing them right before your eyes far before they are gone.

THAT fucks your head right up. So when people think I’m just stuck in grief, well to an extent I am. While I’m not walking around sobbing all the time, grief has become a monster that walks beside me. I’ve made friends with it. I know it’s there and it may not always stop me, but it’s ever present. And right beside that, the PTSD. The sights, the shapes, the sounds. The recall. The conversations. The good moments and the hard ones. The goodbyes.

I’ve learned that PTSD is to be respected just as much as grief. It’s not something you ever “get over”. You can learn to cope with the thoughts for the most part, but you still have those dreams that you can’t shake when you wake up. Or those middle of the night screams that make you sit up in bed even though they aren’t real. Or those fucking moments when you think you want to pick up the phone and text your husband or call your dad.

So…yes, I’m walking with grief every day and functional for the most part. BUT – I’m a more fragile version of myself. A braver, more honest version of myself. A FAR more self-aware version of myself. More than ever I assess what is important and what isn’t. What’s worth my time and my life and what isn’t. What I want to feel and what I don’t. Who I want in my life and who I don’t. It all leads to a more evolved (albeit darker and more fragile) me.

Until next time, Peace.

~ Lisa

Smells, Safety, Sanity, Solitude

Well, it finally happened. I smelled him.

I’ve heard the stories, I see the references, but it’s never happened to me until last night. I was outside calling one of the dogs. It was dark and I had my flashlight. I was walking around and all of a sudden I walked through SUCH a strong scent of his aftershave, that I was scared that there was a man on my property. It took my breath away. I backtracked and the scent was still there, and then it traveled with me back to the house.

I felt such fear and got inside immediately. I don’t know if it was just such a shock to me or what, but I was shaken.

He’s been REALLY visible these past couple of weeks. The Bose Speaker yesterday was hooking up to his iPhone. And I no longer have that phone. I’ve had a firefly sit on my puzzle as I was working on it, I have heard one particularly secret song between us on a TV show (a song you wouldn’t hear anywhere, trust me). I have had one single mourning dove move into my waterfall area. He sits there and lets me almost touch him. He never moves when I’m in the pool. I know Michael senses that I need him right now. I know it because I know what I see and what I hear. And now, what I smell.

Thing is, there are things going in here that have me questioning my safety. There have been 4 expats murdered here in my smallish town since I moved here. Most of the deaths are home invasion style, violent, and involve torture. There are other things I’m not going to get into, but I will say that as a woman living alone, the only thing making me feel safe is that I have dogs. Most Dominicans fear dogs so I feel they will be less likely to try and scale my wall.

Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me with all this time alone, or maybe this is the truth. All I know is I’m feeling unsettled lately, and Michael’s signs have been INCREDIBLY consistent and impossible to miss. They’ve been loud, they’ve been highly visible and unmistakable. And I wonder, is he here to protect me from something, or is he just here because he knows how lonely I am? Either way, he knows I need him.

I have been keeping my head above water for the most part with a couple of meltdowns. I hear all the sad, sad stories of people leaving this earth and they can’t be with their families. Kids and grandkids that they can’t say goodbye to. They don’t get the beautiful moments, the hearts filled with love and joy as they transition to the next place. And I realized it.

That’s going to be me.

It has nothing to do with COVID. It’s the place where I have found myself. Grandkids I’ll never see again. A son I’ll never see again. A husband who left before me. And unless something miraculous were to happen, my daughter won’t be there.

I’m quite likely going to die alone. Maybe with a medical person, maybe not.

This doesn’t depress me so much. It fills me with self-loathing combined with a numbness that is the opposite of pain. It just is what it is. I must be a terrible human being. The whole world can’t be wrong. My son, my mom, my siblings, people I thought were my dear friends, they can’t all be wrong. There is a reason I find myself living this life.  And yet, I look back and see a very different picture. And I wonder if I’m crazy. Am I mentally ill to the point that I don’t even see who I am or why I’m alone? Have I always been mentally ill and I didn’t/don’t know it?

Lastly, I’ve decided that the Dominican Republic is not my forever place. Unless something extreme changes, I will eventually leave this place for new horizons. It won’t be anytime soon, but probably another year or so, give or take. LOL maybe this is a non-decision. What I do know, is that this isn’t my soul’s home. Too much has happened, too much is not practical for me, and I will want to find a place without these memories.

I guess I’ll keep running until I find where I belong or die trying. ❤

Peace and STAY SAFE.

~ Lisa

Pity/Panic Party for One

Yep. I know. We are all struggling.

I’m trying to be a good friend and a good listener. I care about others. I’ve given money, support, and love to my friends. And now, I’m suffering.

I did the best I knew at the time with very, very clouded judgment. I sold everything I owned including my home. I uprooted and moved to a new country with hopes of rescuing animals. I had a job and an income and free rent. It sounded like it was meant to be.

Months later, I had no job, no free rent, and no income. But I was going to be okay. I was going to make my way. And I still had my tribe in MN.

But alas, here I am. 10 months after arriving in the DR. I am out of money. I have no tribe. My RA is in full flare-up and I’m in constant pain. My MN friends don’t check on me. The ones I gave money to, aren’t giving anything back. The ones I have listened to in the middle of the night, the ones I have helped in any way I could, the ones I was always there for – they’ve moved on and are in their own worlds now. Their worlds no longer include me.

Here I am. On an island. No way to leave but even if there were, I have no place to go. I’m homeless in every sense of the word except I have a house. I have no roots, no connections, nobody longing to see me. I miss a life and people that no longer exist. My oldest friends don’t exist in my world anymore. My new friends here are wonderful and kind, but they’re also in relationships and have someone to lean on. It’s not that they don’t try, it’s that it’s not enough.

My mind is starting to fight with me. I keep reflecting on all I have lost. My life. My loves. My parents. My rescue. My country. My health. My money. My confidence. My abilities. And now, I don’t know what comes next.

I can’t make plans. I don’t know where I belong. I know that saving dogs is all that comforts me, but the stress and people-part of rescue is too much for me to deal with.

I don’t know if I like myself very much. I see where I’ve landed in life, and I am so disappointed in the choices I have made and I believe I’m alone because I deserve to be. This is how things end when you aren’t a good mother. This is how things go when you don’t deserve to be happy or to have loved ones in your life.

I’m incredibly angry at myself for making the mistakes I have made, all of which have led me to this moment and this place and this life situation. I’m incredibly angry at the universe for punishing me so much and leaving me with nobody to share my life with. I have a long list of people who think poorly of me, and I have the life to reflect that.

All of the friends in the world don’t help when it’s the middle of the night and you don’t want to live anymore. All the messaging and chats don’t help when there’s nothing to look forward to. If anything, they just magnify how alone I really am.

I look around my island and I see people and animals starving. I see people with no homes. I have a home, a beautiful view, my dogs. And I’m angry that I can’t appreciate that.

Being quarantined with someone you don’t like is a bitch. Especially when that someone is yourself.

Be safe friends. Appreciate what you have, and do a better job than I have. ❤

Peace.

~ Lisa

I Didn’t Know I was in Training

Pretty much wherever you are in the world, you are probably experiencing some type of quarantine/isolation/curfew rules in your area. I HOPE you are, anyway.

I’m on day 22. I a little ahead of most people, because I’m immuno-compromised and the DR is getting hit with COVID-19, so in my paranoia and attempt to stay covid-free I began isolating a week before everyone else. Isolation has been lonely. We all are having our own experiences but I think it’s safe to say that I’m the only person I know who is on an island with no roots or family, and no real way to get back to the US (even though I don’t want to, it’s weird that I can’t).

I’m going a little stir crazy but mostly because I’m an errand-runner. I’m not too people-y but I do enjoy leaving the house and seeing something besides my 4 walls. But overall I’m handling this pretty well, more so than many. And then I realize…here’s another example of a man I loved teaching me something so valuable.

When I was hospicing my dad, I didn’t know it then but he was training me. Teaching me how to help Michael die just a few months later. The experience I gained helping my dad was invaluable when Michael got sick. I knew all about what he was going to experience. I know what to expect. What to watch for. How to “cancer-proof” the house. How to help him prepare to die.

And here we are. A year and a half later, and the world is in quarantine. Particularly in the Dominican Republic, for the moment the regulations are more strict. We have a nationwide curfew from 5pm-6am, and it’s being enforced. Similar to the US, all the stores and small businesses are closed. Nothing here is open except food or life sustaining places. Our confirmed cases are still growing quickly and our death rate is high, last time I checked it was over 6%. And all we can do is stay home.

And then, I realize it again. I’m actually handling this quarantine okay all things considered. It’s been 22 days of isolation, but this is just a physical isolation. Losing Michael was my training for this. Because since he has been gone, I’ve been isolated anyway. No, perhaps not physically isolated – but I locked myself away in a safe place where nobody else was allowed. I depended on a few but that didn’t work out, so I went inside myself. And I’ve been here ever since.

Yes, it’s lonely. My life has a huge gaping hole in it. But that’s not to say I’m sad or depressed. I’m not. I’m feeling pretty hopeless for the moment and pretty numb, but like with all other horrible things, I can say I’ve been through much worse. So the fear doesn’t exist for me.

Michael taught me that love is whole, and he taught me that loss is deep. He taught me that some losses will be felt forever. He taught me how to go inside myself and count on me, because I’m the only one I had for the most part.

I think back to the first Thanksgiving by myself. My 50th birthday, two weeks after he died. Alone. I think of every lonely night, every conversation I wish I could have with him. I think of the decisions I’ve made without his counsel. I think of the night of his service and my sister asking my daughter to take her home because she didn’t want to stay with me because I was a drag. I think of the future. I think of all the times I REALLY need him to help me decide on something. All the times I was lost and had no idea what to do. And more times like that to come. All the times we were robbed of. And I realize, losing him just prepped me for this. I’m pretty good at emotional survival skills, turns out.

I think the word expert is earned through experiences, not degrees. And I would say that I am an expert in death and emotional survival. It sucks to be an expert in these things, but here I am.

And I suppose I am grateful. Grateful that the gut wrenching loneliness and pain have equipped me to just keep on keeping on. And to those who are new to this isolation, welcome to my world. ❤ Take comfort in knowing that someday, your isolation will end. ❤

Stay safe.

Peace,

~ Lisa

The Experiment Continues

Hi, guys.

After a couple of months off the blog, here I am again! The past couple months have been spent processing, breaking away from toxicity, clearing my energy, and letting go. I had a really hard holiday season this year for lots of reasons, but I came through and now I’m coasting in a pretty chill place in my mind.

There’s a lot going on, much of it trivial, so I’ll stick to the notable things.

Yes, I’m still in the Dominican Republic. I dig it here! Are there frustrations and things I don’t like? Absolutely. But I’m not planning on going anywhere for a bit. I love my view, I love the climate, and I love that I’m not in the US. I love the friends that are truly friends, and there’s never a dull moment. 😂

I haven’t been doing a ton, but I’m taking steps to find my groove here. I’ve been doing some freelance writing for friends in the states mostly, writing blogs and newsletters and other marketing things. I’m also working on starting up a small cupcake side biz.

I’m still rescuing dogs. Not with any rescue in particular, but I’ve made lots of rescuer friends here and that’s been a wonderful experience. I’m itching to start something up, but I’m also really evaluating what I want and can do. I currently have two foster pups here, Newman and Donovan. ❤️

Newman – sweet mixed breed, 3 yrs old

Donovan- Pitbull puppy

My RA sucks here. I’m aggressively working on addressing the rapid progression. I’m dramatically changing my nutrition to focus on anti/inflammatory foods in hopes that I can get some relief. I’m committed to staying on the poison pills for at least 6 months. I’m spending time in the pool which feels great and helps.

Michael. Well, he’s always in my heart and my head. I’m still having tsunamis, but they seem less frequent. I have meltdowns and I also have many great days. I still break into tears sometimes for reasons I don’t understand and I’m very fragile.

I find myself wondering a lot if he’s disappointed in me. And that’s a heavy, sad burden to carry. I also have frequent nightmares and waking flashbacks. I always feel doubt and insecurity, wondering if he’s just shaking his head at me. It’s pretty tough.

I’m trying to discover who I am as just Lisa. I’m trying to learn where I’m going without controlling it too much. I’m just observing and seeing who I am.

One thing is for sure: Michael was the biggest thing I liked about myself. Having him was like having a built-in support system all the time. And that support made me confident. It made me an over-achiever. It drove me and lifted me.

He really was the best thing about me.

Now, I’m just…I don’t know. What I do know, is that I miss being someone’s everything. I miss having someone who was also my everything. I miss the team we were. I miss the trust we shared. I miss my partner. I miss having someone to hash things out with, to help me reason things out, to help me plan or decide big things. I’m just…I don’t know. Invisible.

It’s been a year and a half. And it’s not easier. I’m more used to it, but it is not any easier.

My life sentence.

Now that’s not to say I’m depressed or walking around wanting to die. It just means that my life isn’t the same. Never will be. And I’ll always miss him so much.

I promised an experiment when I started this. Sharing my private life very publicly, believe it or not, hasn’t been easy. My readers have been privy to all of it. It damaged my relationships with some, and it has earned me respect and new friendships with others. Come what may, the experiment continues.

Peace out, and I’ll be checking in more often.

~ Lisa

Depression Confessions

Hello everyone 🙂

My heart is heavy today, actually the last couple of days. And I need to talk about it.

For starters, let me say that as a rule, people here shame me for grieving. This isn’t the case with EVERYONE – but a large part of the people I have spent time with in the DR quite simply have very little compassion or understanding, and they are of the 1950’s belief that you just pull up your boot straps, get over shit and move on. If you are in a sad place, something is wrong with you and you really should hide that because it’s boring, nobody cares, you’re a negative person, and nobody likes you. This, I learned quickly and harshly.

As Mr Rogers’ mom said, “Look for the helpers”. Fortunately for me, there are helpers and beautiful souls who do understand that there are many layers to a person and that I am much more than just this mood or that state. There are those helpers who cared enough about human connection to do just that – connect with me. I think maybe they’re surprised to find out I’m not the loser that others think I am, and I can tell you I’ve had some of the sweetest and most fun times with them. They are my people. They’re messy, they’re complicated, they’re dealing with their own stuff, they’re honest, they’re authentic, and they’re there. For good days or bad. They don’t say stupid shit like “well you have a lot to be thankful for!” or “well you know, the reason everything is sad is your fault for looking at it that way”.

Anyway, suffice it to say I have very limited outlets for my feelings and learned very fast that it’s not everyone is “safe” to be yourself with. I used to wish I could help them understand me, but then I realized that I have no desire to spend time with human beings who can be mean and who can judge anyone in my situation so I no longer have the need to earn their respect or affection.

But let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about how some days it’s all I can do to get dressed. Or some days, the thought of leaving my house is paralyzing. Let’s talk about how the chronic physical pain adds to the sadness. The medications that are kicking my ass, all in the name of some sort of improvement on the physical side. Let’s talk about the added element of PTSD and waking up to night terrors and voices and replays of horrific moments in time. Let’s talk about waking up in another country with a dead husband and the number of people you can really trust in your country is like, three – and there’s a whole faction out there that has belittled you, lied about you, and left you with nothing. Let’s talk about the friends you thought you had; the ones who said how much they loved you and yet never reach out; the ones who promised they would come to see you yet there’s been not a mention; the ones who have stopped messaging and barely reply to you when you message them. Let’s talk about the HELLIDAYS. OMG, it’s brutal and painful and sad to live through this time of year. Let’s talk about how in spite of all of these forces I managed to find a house, I am working on finding a car, I am building a small business and making income, I am taking excellent care of my dogs and the house, and I am making time to build the connections with the few people who don’t choose to think they are above me. I am actually creating a life, all by myself, in another country. Nobody gave me this house. Nobody is giving me money. Nobody is supporting me.

Yes, I have really bad days. And I have really good ones too. Do I suffer from depression? Absolutely. PTSD? Yes. Does that mean I don’t have joy? A sense of humor? Have fun? Absolutely not. Do these conditions define me? Absolutely not. They’re just another layer.

Every day starts anew with a beautiful view, a delicious cup of coffee, time with my life dogs, and a fresh slate. Some days are so amazingly happy, and others are empty. This is life. And anyone who represents themselves as always happy and always grateful and always on the sunny side is full of shit. Because newsflash friends: this is the human condition. We are not robots. We aren’t always “on” and anyone who claims they are is lying to themselves and to you.

Depression isn’t an attitude. PTSD isn’t “hanging onto the past”. Grief isn’t a mood or a choice to be sad. This shit is real. It’s hard. It feels insurmountable some days. I wish he had never died. I wish I had never ended up “relying” on others. I wish I wasn’t a widow. But I’m not going to hide from it either. I wish everything was different. But it’s not.

In the very beginning of this hell or as I call it the Life Sentence, a friend Cheryl (who just recently passed away from cancer 😥 because why the fuck not), told me something I will always remember. When Michael got diagnosed she reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to hear the good news. And the good news was that when this was all said and done, I’d know who my real friends were. She told me, even those who were there during the worst may not turn out to be my people. She told me that I would lose far more than just my husband. But what I’d be left with would be a treasure. And she was right on every single count.

I have lost much of what I “thought” I had, but anything I have lost wasn’t mine to begin with. I have in my hand a few beautiful diamonds, and I’m slowly adding another one here or there. The coal has all fallen away, and while it was and is a painful process, who wants a handful of coal anyway. It just gets everything dirty and taints everything it touches.

My diamonds know who they are.  I will always treasure them and carry them with me. The ones in the DR have had such an amazing impact on my life and have given me so many reasons to keep going.  And I do have true friends in the states, those who talk to me late at night or send me a quick message to tell me they miss me or they’re proud of me. They tell me the drama in THEIR lives because they trust I’m not a fragile cracker and that maybe, just maybe, I can be of help.  Leaning on me shows faith in me.

And that’s all. All we can do is the best we can do. We can choose to be diamonds or we can choose to be coal. There’s nothing “wrong” with me. And the diamonds know that. The coal isn’t for any of us to worry about. All you’ll get is dirty hands.

Peace,

~ Lisa

 

From Barrio to Opera – Finding my Groove!

Hello everyone! Wow what an amazing week I have had really enjoying and seeing so much more of this beautiful place where I live.

One day this week, I spent the day with my good friend Nancy. Nancy is a New Yorker (Brooklyn baby!) but she’s been here for many years. And Nancy ain’t screwin’ around. Nancy lives in Puerto Plata right in a barrio. And hanging out with her was awesome. She taught me how to make rice old school, and showed me the Dominican washing machine OMG…her house is tiny but has everything you would need. In her living room, one chair and a motorbike parked so it doesn’t get vandalized or stolen outside.

Then we went out on the bike! I was on the back of a moto for the first time. Part of Puerto Plata day was getting a hot fresh-made empanada from a little hole in the wall (literally). SO delicious. This little video at the very end, you will see the empanada hole in the wall. 🙂

 

Then we went to the port. It was cruise ship arrival day so Nancy knew that the vendors would be out selling their little knick knacks. So we bummed around there, there’s an AWESOME amphitheater, and then we cruised through town on the moto. MOTO!!

 

We stopped and saw umbrella street and the pink street. Went back to Nancy’s and had real Dominican food (minus the meat!). It was just a fabulous day that was so good for my soul and my mood. I can’t wait to do it again. I put the photos of Puerto Plata into a slideshow.

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Then Thursday, I went to the horse ranch where I’m volunteering for them to help them raise some funds and awareness. Angela and her brother Manuel are seriously some of the most pure, accepting, kind, grateful, humble and insightful people. Angela is with her horses like I am with my dogs. Excellent care for every animal in her care. The ranch currently has 17 horses, a donkey, two geese, some chickens, a rooster and some dogs. ❤ All in the most beautiful and peaceful setting. Angela and I are becoming friends and we don’t speak the same language. It’s almost comical. She speaks FRENCH. And I DON’T. She speaks NO English. And we both speak AWFUL and VERY LITTLE Spanish. LOL but somehow we connect and we laugh and communicate. Manuel and Angela are also musicians. Angela is a vocalist. When I arrived this week, I accidentally interrupted their rehearsal. When they told me to sit and enjoy, I was STUNNED when Angela opened her mouth to sing. STUNNED. Out of her tiny body and soft spoken demeanor, the most powerful voice came.  It gave me chills. She was rehearsing, Manuel on the keyboard, dogs lying around, horses in the distance. Just ethereal.

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Donkey name Ghandi with an injured foot.

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One of the beautiful horses getting his daily grooming.

 

Thursday was just that – Thursday. And I like it that way. After I went to the ranch,  I went out to the local watering hole with a couple of friends. It was a nice, chill, no-pressure day.

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Happy Thursday!

Today, my foster girl Rae left on a jet plane to meet her new family in Canada! We will miss her a lot, but she’s going to have a wonderful life. She was with us for a couple of months!

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Sweet life, baby girl! 

This was by far the absolute best week I’ve had.

When I decided to move here, I didn’t want to live like an American in another country. I didn’t want to live in the all-white gated communities because I felt like, why live behind a gate? If you live here, you live here. But after the robbery, I feel differently. ONLY because I am alone. If I were here with Michael we would never live in this house. He would have laughed at the idea and told me to come down from the pedestal and reminded me that we aren’t big huge McMansion people. Truthfully the house is uncomfortable in that it’s too much. It’s so big. SO BIG. Much more than I need. But I digress.

I can live behind a guarded gate and still not let my life be whitewashed. I have ALWAYS really dug diversity and I’ve always really dug people that can just be. No plans. No money needs to be spent. Just come over and we’ll screw around or hang out or go act like tourists. Come over and hang out with horses and share some coconut water and listen to people’s dreams. My circle of friends is SO diverse and I’m loving the way my life is setting up. I don’t need to surround myself with people like me. I need to grow and explore and take it in and DO. I don’t mind being the only person that looks like me in a whole crowd. I LOVE it. I love to look at my circle of friends and realize they are all so interesting and so different but yet there’s a way to connect with them all.

And I just ended the week by announcing publicly that I am moving on from my rescue and the DR rescue. It was incredibly freeing and felt really good. I also finalized some chats with an upstart rescue in the US who is focused on the China Dog Meat Trade. I am officially taking on their communications. It’s bittersweet because it carries a very heavy responsibility with it, and I know it’s going to be emotionally draining, hard work. But I have decided that while I serve my life sentence I’m going to LIVE. I’m going to travel to China. I’m going to do everything I can to bring light to the subject.  It crosses into some grey areas for me…such as, how do I advocate about this without preaching vegetarianism? It’s a whole other topic for another day, but there’s an invisible line somewhere saying it’s okay to kill certain animals to eat them and not others. I’m a veggie for those that don’t know.

And that wraps up my week in pictures and video! Just a happy week. The first of many now that I’m in a good headspace.

I hope you’ve all hung in there, and if you’re a holiday loather I hope you made it through the first wave alright. The next month is going to be a sick torturous ride of merriment and happy families. Hang on tight.

Peace,

~ Lisa