When You Fail

We try so hard sometimes, with the best of intentions, but despite this things don’t work out the way we hope. How do we accept defeat? How do you move forward with grace when you fail?

I will be the first to admit that when we got the green light for a family dog from my in-laws, who we were living with at the time, we moved too fast. In hindsight, I can see that we were looking for a balm to soothe a lot of wounds. A bit like those people who think a baby will make everything better (in our case, a human baby actually did, but that’s another story). We thought we knew what we were doing. We even planned to bring our dear friend and amazing dog trainer with us to choose the puppy, but a scheduling burp on our part messed that up, and we ended up with a very beautiful, and very deaf dog. We had her nearly a week before we realized she was deaf. That’s how puppy savvy I am.

Then some things happened, and I had to be away from home, and the dog for a week or two. During some pivotal training and bonding opportunities. We had lots of hands trying to puppy wrangle, and no real clear alpha. And she was so damned mouthy – something I had never really even thought about in a puppy. Soon the kids, one of whom is only two years old, were too afraid to go near her.

Then we found a place of our own, a place we really needed, with a landlady who is passionately against dogs in her house, though ironically a dog owner herself. Yes, this is illegal in this province. But yes, it’s been a huge source of stress/nightmares for me. I know, I need to learn to let go.

Then, with the dog finally in our care full time, we learned she cannot settle unless she’s crated, she continues to teethe and chew and bite things we don’t want her to, she needs lots of hands-on attention and special training with a vibrating collar. Like any puppy, she needs as much attention as my toddler, and I’m the only adult who has the time and space to give it to her, and I. Just. Don’t.

I’m trying to be brave when my landlady threatens to call her lawyer.

I’m trying to transition my son into his own bed/room and so I’m not sleeping through the night. My adult time is entirely gone. I’m exhausted.

I’m trying to run our household while my poor wife drives nearly five hours each day to commute to work and my husband is pouring his blood sweat and tears into a start up.

I’m trying to be patient, and realistic about my nine and almost twelve year old daughters who can really only do a little to help with this high energy pooch.

I’m trying to prove myself to everyone, to show them I can do this, I can handle it. I’m a dog person after all! I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying.

The dog flops at my feet as I’m working. She gazes up at me with huge, dark green eyes. That look of love and trust that only a dog can bless you with. I feel that I am failing her, and that I am failing my entire family by insisting that I can be the person she needs in her life. I am not that person.

She needs someone who can give her a vigorous walk each day.

She needs someone who can spend lots of time helping her learn her hand signals. We got her to learn ‘sit’ and ‘lay down’ and she’s getting better and better at ‘stay’. Now she needs someone who can teach her that her vibe collar means ‘look at me’ or ‘come to me’. I just don’t have the time each day to do this.

She needs a family with people who can be dedicated to her training, and not so distracted and busy with all the other stuff of life.

She would greatly benefit from a home with another dog who is tolerant of puppies.

She needs lots of things she can chew because she lost almost four bottom teeth at once and the adult teeth are all coming in. Too many toddler toys, shoes, and rocks have been pressed into service for this at our home.

She needs a little patch of earth to dig and to bury all of the various bull pizzels and greenies she is given, to save for a rainy day.

She’s a wonderful dog. She loves people, loves kids, LOVES other dogs. She’s happy to rest in her crate when she’s worn out, she’s house broken, and we’re going to turn her over to a rescue through our trainer so she can find a home that is better for her. Where she can get the attention that she deserves.

Tonight we’re going to talk to our children and tell them about our decision. You will read this post the morning after. My heart is breaking because I know how empowering this dog has been for our middle daughter, who really needed something to feel proud of. They have a beautiful bond, and I feel sick about separating them. I remember when my own childhood puppy became too much for our family, and she had to be turned over to a family friend. I was devastated, but now I really understand what my poor mom was going through.

Our life just isn’t meant for pets right now, so what do we do when we are faced with the hard realities of our failure? We take a deep breath and listen to our hearts. We face the truth and push away the fear of failure. We reach out with vulnerability to friends who can help. We accept and try to empathize with all of the feelings from all of the people. We take each moment slowly. We practice self-care and self-love instead of allowing guilt and regret to take over. We feel grateful that we have options, that there can still be a happy ending for this beautiful four-legged soul that we crossed paths with.

Now, if any of you are looking for a deeply loving animal companion, and you have the time and energy for a smart and energetic puppy. Please let me know with an email and I’ll put you in touch with the rescue organization.

Resistance Is Fertile

There’s a thing I do in relationships which has been making relationships of all kinds incredibly difficult for most of my life. I take everything very, very personally. I can’t hear emotional criticism without falling deep into a black hole of self loathing, where the only thing that makes sense is leaving the relationship to spare everyone the awful reality of me. As I type this, from a well-rested, un-triggered and objective perspective this sentiment is totally ridiculous, but in those bleak moments it feels very, very real. On Tuesday, therapy day, I arrived at a new reality where I finally learned that resistance is fertile.

I sat in our therapist’s office with both of my partners and listened to feedback directly linked to my parenting shortcomings and for the first time I was able to talk myself down from the ledge. As I teetered on the lip of that black well of self loathing my inner voice said “hey, don’t do that. You’ve made some mistakes, some big ones, but you’re working really hard, and growing and all of the wonderful change you are making will be bigger and more memorable than any pain you’ve caused because you’re waking up now, and that is awesome.”

It wasn’t easy. I don’t want to mislead anyone here. As I realized my inner narrative was shifting, sounding so cheerily unlike me, my gut was to scoff at this, to dismiss it as cheesy and foolish but somehow I pushed through. I don’t know how I did it. I resisted the urge to go to that bleak place, and a bounty of open listening and present attention was waiting. Instead of having a shitty post-therapy day I enjoyed a yummy lunch with my partners at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and then got some good work done.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and I think my success is thanks to these combined efforts:

Taking my vitamins regularly

Making careful, less carb-intense food choices and ‘treating’ myself with fruit and good chocolate instead of whatever crap I can grab from the candy shelf. (In our new house, the candy shelf will be eliminated.)

Exercising every day with at least twenty minutes of yoga

Going to bed earlier to make sure I can get eight hours of sleep and still wake up at 5:30 for my quiet, meditative yoga time

Tackling home organizing projects

Approaching work and money with care and organization

Taking self-imposed time outs when I need to, adjusting plans to reflect my level of anxiety (I love you, and I’ll see you soon, when I am more able to be present in your company!)

My internal/emotional process is finally slowing down, especially when I am triggered. There is time and space to be objective, and more empathetic. I can take better care of myself, and those around me. I’m resisting the old normal, and even in the moments when I slip, when I can’t catch myself before falling into negative behavior, I can bounce back more quickly and make apologies and amends with humility and grace.

I am good. I am a child of the Universe. I can change and grow and be deserving of the abundance of love in my life, and so can you.

 

Magical Pest Control

Image Credit - 'Demons In My Head' by MissFried on Deviant Art

I was winding my way slowly through the still unfamiliar York campus the other day, extra alert for student pedestrians and enthusiastic protestors, when I found myself behind a white utility truck with a very unusual sign. Across the back it read: Magical Pest Control.

My first thought was “Ew, rats.” Then I paused to consider what made the service magical. Was the company run by wizards who would banish vermin into oblivion with the wave of a wand? Were they armed with potions wrought by a league of ancient hags? Better yet, what if the pests themselves were magical? The theatre department overrun by unicorns, again. Perhaps the Shulich business school was besieged by gryphons. All this time, we are convinced this company has made some silly branding choices when all the while they are exterminating a legion of demons doing the evil bidding of the devil himself right under our noses.

My spring transformation will be a failed exercise without my own brand of Magical Pest Control. I’ve got some real noisy demons in this head o’mine that can really wreak havoc. They bubble up all hungry and ugly and I get so dazzled by them, that I forget they aren’t really part of me at all. If I get diverted from my writing they say “Don’t bother getting back to that novel. It’s silly, nobody will want to read it, and you’re wasting your time.” When I have a bad moment with one of the children they say “You don’t deserve to be their mother. They would be happier without you.” When I disconnect from one of my partners they say “You are too messed up to be in a loving relationship, you should just be alone and that way you won’t hurt anyone.” See? Real asshole demons, right?

Maybe you have a few of those magical pests knocking around in there too? An infestation can be a real disaster, but we’ve all had to deal with unwanted guests of the nasty variety. The following extermination exercises have helped me immensely.

The Sensory Check In

Pause. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. What do you hear around you? What can you smell? How does your body feel? As you focus on these elements, just recognize them, and breathe through each moment of awareness. Now open your eyes and look around, taking note of the things you see around you. Continue breathing. Feel what it’s like to be present in the moment.

Take a Look at the Beasts

What happens when you turn a blind eye to a pest situation? They run rampant, and multiply, until you are overrun. The same is true for those Magical Pests, those demons in your head. Don’t ignore them. Don’t try to distract yourself from them. Take a look at them. Sit with them in a quiet space and allow yourself to really feel them. Turn to your breathing again and just let the feelings come. Cry if you need to. Feel whatever you feel. Just face those pesky bastards and keep breathing. I’m usually surprised at how quickly this makes them go away.

Pamper Yourself

When the exterminator comes to visit, you usually get to check into a motel for a night or two. When your little demons start raging, treat yourself to something special, like an unexpected night away. It doesn’t have to be a hotel visit, of course. Even a quiet moment of leisure reading with a cup of tea will do the trick. When I neglect myself, or rush through my days, or get too bogged down with stress, it’s like little cracks start to appear in my psyche, allowing the nasty pests to creep in. I’ve started taking the arrival of the demons as a sign to slow down, take time out for me, or do something purely for joy or pleasure.

With the right ammo, and a healthy dose of determination, any pest can be vanquished without burning down the house. I’ll probably need to get rid of a few things, there’s always a casualty in these situations, but it’s usually a saggy couch, or a forgotten box in the basement somewhere that I don’t really need anyway.

Magical Pest Control – another hilarious message delivered by the Universe, exactly when I needed it. Thanks for that. xo

Confronting My Inner Shia LaBeouf

*Trigger alert my darlings. I was so wrapped up in my own emotional experience of this powerful piece, that I almost forgot to include this, but please proceed with whatever self-care you need, okay?

First, you have to watch this. Remove yourself from any distractions and really watch this video. It’s the Sia video for ‘Elastic Heart’ featuring Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf. If you’ve already seen it, and can watch it again, please indulge me.

 

Are you back? Great. Now I can tell you that at the exact moment this landed in my lap, at the exact time the Universe decided to hand me this little gem, I was alone, in a familiar bed that was not my own. The video extracted the slow, hot, fat tears that brim up and then roll down one’s cheeks with unapologetic abandon. The kind of tears you can’t hold back because you don’t even know they are there until they are staining your shirt. Or a pillowcase that isn’t your own.

When you are standing on these cataclysmic precipices, life is cast in a strange filter. Everything starts to feel like a movie that you’ve been cast in, and you’re standing in the wings waiting for your cue. You are in it, but you aren’t really in it yet.

Here’s what amazed me most about this video; I was so locked in the intimately familiar dance of this prepubescent girl and the comfortable monster she has grown to hold as close to her as her own heart, I couldn’t even tell you a single lyric to the song the video is attached to. I know the artist is Sia, who I have decided has a secret window into the angsty teenager who lives in my brain, but beyond that, I have no idea.

Shia LaBeouf makes me feel things. Dark, complex, beautiful and terrifying things. Not just in this video, but in interviews, articles, appearances on Jimmy Kimmel. He’s intensely attractive to me as an archetype. I’m fairly certain he represents the tortured, tormented male figure who I want to save. I always thought the narrative was that I want to help him before he hurts someone, but I think I’m realizing that the real story goes like this; I want to help him before he hurts me.

The end of the video haunts me. I can’t shake it. I can’t stop thinking about it. If she lets him go, what will she be? What will happen to her? More painfully, ironically, what will happen to him? To think of the monster as feeling, and hurting in his own right, well…that’s just…

It’s only Tuesday, the peppermint tea feels like it needs gin to snuggle with, and this is another beginning.

 

Avoiding Cranky

moustache

The Noodle rocks a beet and kale shake moustache.

On Thursday I was a cranky, stressed-out grumpy pants, feeling frustrated with our lack of routine and our inability to make a schedule, even though we’d moved only less than a week ago. Sometimes I’m pretty unreasonable. I was short, weepy, and so wound up that I had to check the calendar to see if PMS was the cause. It was not.

In a moment where I perched on the edge of losing my temper, I suddenly changed direction and sent myself upstairs for a nap with the Noodle. That blissful hour of quiet, free from childcare responsibility and the chaos of setting up a home was heavenly, and I realized how essential it is to take time out.

These last couple of months I’ve been spoiled. My mom has been making the drive to Toronto once a week to spend the day with the Noodle while I get some work done and she would often sleep over and give me another half day of support. First my focus was on tax preparation, then on moving, but it was wonderful to just be able to switch off and know that baby was in good hands. I’d like to continue this awesome tradition and focus now on my writing, and homeschool prep because there just isn’t time in this busy house unless I carve it out. We now live much closer to mom, but I’m housebound, so I wonder how best to make this work? Maybe I could have a very early start with Mama S once a week where she drops me off in Hamilton for the day? Perhaps there is transit available to Hamilton? Maybe Daddy can zip me there? Man, I need a driver’s license, now more than ever!

My point is, everyone needs time alone to pursue their own interests or their burn out factor will be high. I need to know that there is space for me during each busy week to do whatever I like, and I don’t mean laundry, cooking, meal planning or chores. This isn’t selfish, or indulgent. It’s practical self-care and it makes me better in all of my roles.

When is the last time you took even an hour for yourself to just do something entirely for your own pleasure? Make it happen, even once a week, and tell your partners you need their support. Alone time is essential for recharging your batteries, and you’ll feel so much more capable. What are your favorite ways to spend your time alone?