2020: Reflections, Thanks, and Stress

I’ve never been a “New Year” person. It’s never really mattered to me what a page on a calendar says, and I have definitely never held any sort of belief or superstition that flipping a page on that calendar is symbolic of anything but another passing day.

So all of this “out with 2020” and excitement for 2021 to arrive isn’t in my scope of understanding. To me, it’s another day closer to Trump leaving the WH. Other than that, it’s not much.

However, I think we can all agree that this has been a horrible year for all of us. And while it’s easy to look back on this year and think it completely sucked, I am looking back at the year with some pretty deep thoughts and intensely deep humility and gratitude.

One of the worst parts was/ is the isolation in general. But it occurred to me more than once that this new reality isn’t much different than my life felt before covid. The difference started to become that other people were, for the very first time, experiencing the world I have been stuck in since late 2018. Witnessing the impact of isolation on everyone else was fascinating, sad, scary, funny, and heartbreaking all at once. Me? I just felt less alone in my aloneness and was suddenly surrounded by people who had empathy for me whether they knew it or not. I never pointed it out or made any comments; I just observed their behavior and reaction to living for a brief moment in my shoes – alone, terrified, isolated, unsure about the future, helpless, out of control, restless, unhappy, paralyzed but hyper, in denial, whatever you all were feeling in that moment was an all-to-familiar feeling to me well before the pandemic.

When I look back at this awful year, I actually see a mixed bag. The history books will tell the truth and people truly won’t believe what Americans, and really the entire world, went through during this time. But beyond that, 2020 will always be the year that I learned what true friends I have in the world. I learned that friendship doesn’t have to mean daily contact or face-to-face friendships and that there are friends I’ve had for years that I’ve never actually met <3. I’ve learned that those are the friendships that really add up because when you admit that you’re in trouble, those are the people who help without judging. Who don’t imply that I should leave my dogs behind. Who just know that if I’m raising the white flag, I’m in trouble. Who pitch in if they can, and send love if they can’t. Friends who drive 60 hours round trip to get me in Florida and bring me back to invade their home for an indeterminate amount of time. Friends who reach out in PM and just say hi, or post something for you, or click a heart here and there just to let you know you’ve got people. Friends in the DR who let you share your shit and who understand and don’t judge and who can relate. Friends who become a part of your soul even though you don’t speak each other’s language at all. Friends from France, Germany, Canada, Russia, DR, Peru, Haiti, Holland, Mexico, and I know I’m forgetting other places. Friends all over the world who you would have never known, had you not been in the DR. Friends who are in your life for a reason – thereby meaning that I went to the DR for a reason.

I can look back at this awful year as the year I got to enact something out of an action movie where I got out of the DR running across a rainy tarmac with dogs in crates and on leashes and climbing the steepest tiniest stairs onto the tiniest propeller plane I ever knew existed (the van I rode in across country was larger inside I am NOT exaggerating!) across the ocean for hours because prop planes are slower. And the coolest (?) part, I got to do all my own stunts. I had the bruises, cuts, gashes, and torn clothing to prove it.

I can look back at this awful year as the year that I put my efforts into something and went against all the answers and made something happen. Against all common sense and literally everywhere I turned telling me it wasn’t possible to leave the DR, I learned that it was. I learned that fierce independence is a trauma response, and that it’s okay to ask for help. I learned that people WANT to help if they know WHAT you need. And by myself, I boarded a plane with seven dogs and everything I owned, flew across the ocean, got off the plane in the US, got into a van for another 30 hours with same seven dogs, and drove to a place I’d never seen before (again) to try and figure life out (again).

I can look back at this year as the year I ended up in the same state where I was born and raised, just by simple coincidence. But yet full circle…

I can actually look back at this awful year as a year when I learned SO much. I learned some hard lessons; I learned what really matters to me; I learned that in some ways I’m so much stronger than I ever knew, but I’m also disappointed in myself for failing and for my moments of weakness. BUT then I give myself the motivational speech that failure is just opportunity for growth. I guess I’m wondering, when can I say “uncle”? I think I’ve learned and grown and experienced a hell of a lot in a short period of time and I’m still standing, but can I please get a break? Can someone push the fucking Pause Button?

2020 hasn’t been my worst year. 2018 still holds that honor and hopefully will always be the worst and most painful year of my life (fingers crossed!!). I mostly look back and look at where I am with a bag of mixed emotions. My unknown is looming large and I literally have no idea what steps to take, but I am feeling drawn back to animal rescue. I know I don’t want to do another foster-based rescue organization, but there are countless other ideas and ways for me to rescue animals so I am trying to explore and find cool opportunities around the (preferably western) US.

And I’ll turn the page on the calendar and then it’ll be the next day. ❤

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. 💔

Homecoming

As I woke up I realized I was in more pain than I could describe. I couldn’t move. My spine and my hips were fused into some painful twist and couldn’t stretch out. I was rocking side to side, back and forth. I could hear and feel every tiny pebble on the road beneath. Every slight turn, my body painfully bracing to adjust and compensate. And it all came back to me. I was 52 years old, traveling with all my worldly possessions, my dogs, and myself. Sleeping in the back of a cargo van.

Fuck. How the fuck did I end up right here, right now? How did I end up homeless, in the back of a van, depressed, lost, and with zero direction in my life?

I can’t even begin to describe my feelings. I can only say I’m really, really going through a lot. Things I didn’t expect/have never considered have hit me. Reality hits me.

The dogs are adjusting well. Me, not as easily. It’s great to be in a place where conveniences exist again. Where I can understand and communicate more easily. Where I have more options and more connections. But I also have to adjust and accept what’s been lost. Moving here was giving up the last piece of independence I had; my own place. I’ve had my own place since I was 18. I have to look towards a future I’m not prepared for. I have to seek what I need and know it when I find it. I have to start again.

Fuck.

Melissa my host friend is a super talented vegan cook.
So I’ll be eating like this 😁
Making friends
Comfy

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

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.

8ghandi
Donkey name Ghandi with an injured foot.

2horse
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.

D
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!

1Rae
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

Pleased to Meet You?

I’m a research geek. Whenever I am trying to improve something about myself or understand anything in the world, I research it and delve into it and try to understand it better.

In all my research, there is no correlation between how a person handles grief and anything else. Some people can really put it away, others feel paralyzed for years and years. There is no predictor or commonality between the two extremes. Age, circumstances of death, length of relationship, social or economic status. Grief isn’t a choice and everyone processes it differently.

Having said that, I also really try to learn from my mistakes and I really try to understand them so that I don’t repeat them.

And here’s what I have learned…

Meeting people and trying to build new relationships during the worst time in your life, is a bad idea. A really bad idea.

Grief turns you into a person you don’t know. You are emotional, sensitive, at times irrational, at times too trusting, at times not trusting enough. For me personally, Michael is always present in my mind and heart, but it’s not just Michael. It’s his absence that screams at me. And the PTSD kicks in frequently. It takes a toll on you to watch the love of your life deteriorate in 7 weeks and die. You see, there was no nurse or doctor to call. There was no morphine drip. No aides. There was no hospital staff to come and help with meds or to help with physical tasks. It takes a toll hearing screams and wailing for hours a day, or hearing the person you love screaming that he doesn’t want to die. It takes a toll tending to their every need when they are inconsolable, in pain, or in a moment where they are raging at you. It takes a toll to go through this just MONTHS after going through the same thing with your father, all the while trying to be present but at the same time process that you are losing everything that matters right in front of your eyes. Be strong for him, you tell yourself. Because although you are losing him and you’re terrified, he is losing EVERYTHING and grieving his ENTIRE LIFE.  Take care of him. He needs you. You have plenty of time to be scared later.

It has changed me. I am quite often surprised at the emotions that come up and the timing in which they occur.

I’m not in a constant state of depression. I am emotionally all over the place, and that leads to high highs and low lows. It leads to me choosing to be alone a lot of the time because I don’t trust myself in public situations very often. I’m not a sad person; quite the opposite. I experience and seek out joy and new experiences and chances to grow and improve as often as I’m able. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot too, but there’s more to me than sadness.

Things in the DR got off on a bad foot. Things happened, things were said, things were done, and through all of it I’ve been hurt and frustrated and scared. And really examining it lately, I realized…these people have only known me through the worst time of my life. A time when I am lost and lonely and trying to learn how to live alone for the first time ever, and a time when my life support system has vanished. My dad leaving just months before Michael, my friends at home who have lives to live, my circle. Add to that my physical situation that I’m working on addressing and living in a new country (alone), and it just amounts to the fact that my start-over was a fucked-up mess because I was a fucked-up mess.

I’m told by people who know these things that I’m doing really well and I shouldn’t be worried about my process at all. I’m told that the steps I have taken since he passed are signs of strength and hope and wanting to improve my outlook and the rest of the days I have to serve the life sentence. And I do believe that in familiar company that may be true. But trying to start a new life with strangers who know nothing more than this emotional and lost side is a recipe for failure.

There are a few people who have gotten to know me personally. They know I have kids. They know where I’m from and things I like. They know stories and they’ve shared laughs. We’ve found things in common and basis for friendships. They know a little more about me as a human than most others here do, and I THINK those relationships are blooming.

When things here get overwhelming, I talk to my core people who knew and loved me before death changed me. And they’re loving and supportive. They’re my cheerleaders. They’re my laughers and my criers. They’re my compass to who I used to be. They knew me when I was at my best, not just at my worst.

So today I let all my frustrations go. I realize that I’ve given nobody reason to think anything differently of me, and I accept that because I can’t change it and because I cannot control my process or my feelings or the way I handle this loss.  All I can do is apologize when I’ve wronged someone, try to help others understand me if they choose to, and put one foot in front of the other.

For any other new widows who may be reading this, here’s the other thing I’ve learned. Give yourself a full year after loss before making life-changing decisions. One full year. I didn’t. And I should have.

There are some good things happening in my life :). I was offered a position with a US rescue yesterday, and I’ve also been approached by several people in response to my posts seeking freelance writing work. After some thought and talking with a couple of trusted friends, I decided rather than accept a full time position with this rescue, I am going to instead be a consultant working with non-profits and small businesses to help them organize, establish, market, fund raise, write, and communicate. I already have three private clients not including the US Rescue, so I think maybe I’m finding a niche. Time will tell! This will give me an excellent diversity in my days as well as the freedom to work as I wish, travel when I need or want to, pay the bills, and not be tied directly to any one operation. It will allow me to help whomever I want or whatever cause I believe in. And give me time to just be.

Take care of you, friends.

Peace,

~ Lisa

 

The Brain Behind this Operation

I’ve never written a blog (well at least I have never PUBLISHED a blog that was written) in the midst of a manic or frenetic state. Many times this state is physical like when I built a shed in 3 hours or redecorated my entire house in a couple of days, but it’s also mental. My brain just bounces. I probably could stop it, but I don’t. I give it time to sort out and if I’m ready for bed and it’s still going, I take a Xanax and fall asleep. NOT a panic attack, just a pretty intense period of insane brain activity going a million directions. A million things on my mind. And it’s all happening at once. So tonight I’m actually going to publish it – a live-time insight into my manic brain., as it happens.

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There’s a gecko in my kitchen. He scares the shit out of me every time I walk in! I am not afraid of geckos. This guy is just unusually big and out of the corner of my eye it freaks me out.

The house walls are so dirty. For starters, everything in the house except for the kitchen is stark white. Not eggshell, not ivory, not linen. WHITE. You know, like an asylum? White doors, white floors, white walls, white banisters. WHITE (except creepy room #1 with the chalkboard wall). And did I mention they are dirty? I need to paint. I wonder what color? I would like a cool color since it’s so warm here. But I don’t know what that means. It is all an open space so it will be a lot of the same color with maybe an accent here or there. Gray won’t work with the floor because the tiles have a sepia-type hue to them. So I was thinking of going with a turquoise/chocolate brown color scheme, BUT a lot of the furniture is black wood. And what am I supposed to do with that funky space beneath the stairs?

I’m going to try and build up some freelance writing gigs! I REALLY hope I can pick up some work to help pay my rent 😊. I’m an experienced writer and my previous experience includes being Managing Editor of WestCoast Magazine, Senior copywriter/ Social Media coordinator for Regency Beauty Institute (National HQ writing for nationwide, not specific campuses), and too many freelance gigs to count. TOO MANY. I know AP and Chicago style, and I am also really experienced in helping establish brand voice and presence. I know marketing and I am just kind-of a kick-ass person to have on your side. So, if you or someone you know needs some help with writing copy, marketing collateral, articles, or consult/writing to establish your brand voice, hit me up.  😊 My Brain is for Hire 😊 Obviously it would need to be a remote position, but I’m super responsive. I would love to stay in the non-profit sector but I’m also really open to a change of scenery. My writing style is surprisingly adaptable. So hit me upppp!

There are a million other fleeting things in my brain right now:

  • Why isn’t Nathan eating.
  • BabyFaye is sad because Ranger Girl is spending the night at Debbie’s tonight.
  • How am I going to get the pool scratches out that are underwater? The ones above water I can pumice away but that won’t work underwater. I wonder if I can just get a blue underwater epoxy and touch up the pool stairs myself?
  • I can definitely get a screen kit and fix the screens. My body is so sore and I have zero stamina. Maybe tomorrow.
  • I have to remember to go get a gas can and gas for the lawn mower tomorrow. Oh then maybe I will do the screens the next day. Thursday, yeah. No, Thursday is Give to the Max Day and I do a vigil all day online to steer the campaign as needed. So maybe Friday. Yeah, Friday. I’ll do the screens.
  • I need to get my hair done.
  • I hope the house in MN is “broom-swept”.
  • Wow the house is no longer mine after Monday. I’m no longer a homeowner. It’s a weird feeling! Not good or bad. Just surprisingly in the front of my head a lot.
  • I hope the internet guy can get that router I want so I can get US Netflix.
  • I hope I pick up some writing work. Because that would be cool. I can sit on my patio or my balcony and see the ocean and write. Come ON.
  • Give to the Max Day is Thursday. For those who don’t know, this is an annual day of Giving for non-profits in MN. I hope we do well. I don’t know what to expect as we are raising money for a whole new purpose this year! To help the dogs of the Dominican Republic.
  • I’d REALLY love to get into marine life…I wonder if there’s a marine rescue? No I am not qualified for that…
  • I am GOING to get the zika virus I just KNOW it. And those noseeums? My legs are on fire. I wonder if you can scratch yourself insane…
  • House sells next week. I need a car. It feels amazing to have money in the bank for a few days between these transactions. 🙂

So there you have it! My brain right now. Fun? Scary? What’s your feedback?

In other news.

My driveway gate has been all messed up and tonight I think it’s FINALLY resolved. The gate is a double gate with a right and a left side that part in the center and open inward as you come into the driveway. Which means two separate hydraulic motors, one for each door. Well, I had a gate guy come to “tighten a bracket” last week and that turned into him fabricating a new one and that turned into the hydraulic things being out of whack and that turned into FOUR DAYS at my house and that turned into 4 days of my dogs being stuck inside on hot days, barking and going crazy. It sucked! But tonight…I think we FINALLY have it.

I’ve been descaling the pool. It was SO BAD. I will post before and after pics when it’s done. At first I thought the the tiles were ombre. From white to turquoise to green. NOPE. LOL They’re supposed to be all white. So I have been HAND scraping the lime/calcium off with a flathead screwdriver and a metal spatula :D!

I started my pills and I am SO. SICK. I remember why I stopped taking them in MN. The positive effects of methotrexate take 6-8 weeks to show. Unfortunately, the side effects do not. But I’m going to give this a chance.

The DR house is dirty and needs a LOT of work. BUT…I love it! I love where I am, the view is my constant therapy, I’m close to everything I need, the dogs are really happy with a great big yard, I’m really happy feeling safe. And I do love a good project. I had the gardener trim down a LOT of the shrubs and trees, one in particular has opened up the ocean view from the ENTIRE house now. You don’t have to go upstairs anymore. You can see the ocean from my entire downstairs. 😊

I’ve had some really sad moments recently and I’ve stumbled upon a few triggers of memories that caught me off-guard, but I’m doing a really good job of getting back up. I’m not staying down when I get knocked down. I’m still not really ready to talk about what is happening here. I’m doing fine. I love it here and I don’t want to leave. I rented this house for one year. If I still love it, I’ll stay. If I’m not happy, I will move back to the US, or maybe Mexico. Who knows! I am finding my peace and enjoying the house, I’m getting my things trickled down to me in small boxes, thanks to my friend Pat. It’s not a LOT of things in the big picture, but for example today I received a box that contained those clear lucite bins for makeup brushes and toothpaste and stuff. Plastic storage baskets too. Just stuff you like to have around and can be put to REALLY good use here.

And that, if you’ve stuck with me long enough, is my brain. I am used to the ticker-tape, and if it really bothers me I can get out of my own head, this isn’t uncontrollable. I like to let it run its course because the act of solving things and being able to put them to bed, lets ME go to bed. This isn’t new or anything to do with widowhood. It is just how I cope. When I feel helpless or that I have no control, I go into hyper mode and take on tasks because I can control that. I can control how perfectly the pool will be descaled. I can control when the screens go up. Baby steps but I’m in control of SOMETHING.  And I have solved many, many problems and come up with many, many great ideas working this way. It’s just who I am.

Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. I promise photos are coming. I’ve been on the couch for two days and not up for taking pics.

Peace,

Lisa

Cold November

Wow. The beginning of the end of this chapter in my life. The MN chapter. This is was our home.

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The whole sale of the house has been a pretty okay process. It was a hard decision but I haven’t been struggling since I listed it. Until tonight when I needed to dig up some paperwork. Paperwork in the dreaded file.

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What’s in this file of fun? Oh, nothing much. Just a play-by-play of my husband’s death. Social Security stuff, Death Certificates (EVERYONE told me to order a LOT and now I can wallpaper a room with them), Mortgage Info, cremation forms. The receipt for the Lyons Club where we held his memorial and yes even the receipts for the food and desserts. The pieces of his existence, summarized in a purple fucking file folder.

The other dreaded file is in a dreaded box with everything from his memorial. I’m not going there.

Anyway, this week has been HECTIC. I LOVE the house but it’s a lot of work and needs a lot of work done right off the bat – which is okay, I’m getting it for cheap. But that requires workmen. I needed new water heaters, internet, major lawn work, gate repaired. I also have a house manager-type person who feels the need to have a lengthy phone call about each one of these things, and if she cannot reach me, she comes over. Each one of these is an hours-long ordeal with the dogs barking and me not being able to catch a break, and I realize. My physical deterioration is rapid. Just ONE day like that is wiping me out, but several in a week have me completely and utterly fried. I woke up this morning not being able to bend my hands and that never improved. All over body pain that’s more than just aches. PAIN. Add to that, we are trying to wrap some things up for the rescue in MN and that’s not going super smoothly. I’m also dealing with people’s emotions and thoughts on MY choices and how those choices affect THEM, and a lot of emotions about what is happening here that I have chosen not to write a lot about. Someday.

It’s no secret that stress wreaks havoc on a person but when you have an auto immune disease, it’s especially important to manage your stress levels. I need things to slow down. I need to rest.

I’m feeling overwhelmed. My house sale in MN is closing in 10 days. My rescue is clearing everything out of the space we worked so hard to get into. Pieces of my life. Pieces of our history together. Our home goods sold. Our rescue stuff sold. Our home sold.

It all feels like it never existed. Like we never existed. When he first died, I hoped it was a nightmare I would wake from. And now it feels like a dream that never happened in the first place. 😥

And now I’m in a place I love, but I regret coming. I am here and I will make this work and I will be happy. But knowing now what I didn’t know then, I wouldn’t have come. I wouldn’t have found myself thousands of miles away from anyone who loves me, or from getting a prescription for the pain management I need. I wouldn’t have trusted people the way I did. I would have honored my gut to not make any decisions for a year. That doesn’t mean I am miserable here. I’m not. I just miss being around people who know and accept me and who love me. I have a few really kind friends here, and I am thinking about how I’m going to spend the rest of my life. It’s scary and exciting at once. The one beautiful thing about having no roots anywhere is that I now have the freedom to go anywhere I please.

For now, it’s here. Missing him and watching tiny pieces of our history and my heart blow away into the wind.

~ Lisa