Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weekend Warrior

A couple weekends ago, Sheldon and I went to a lake house for the weekend with five other people about our age.  It is the family cabin of a friend of his.  We had some rain, and some sun.  We enjoyed drinks, games, grilling, and swimming.  It was a very good time, and I really enjoyed meeting those folks (3 of the other 5) that I hadn't met before.  One thing that made this experience different?  I spent that much time in close quarters with those people, with lots of conversation and getting-to-know-you talk to fill the time, without once mentioning that I was a widow.  It felt good to just be Wendy, not a widow who is "recovering" or "rebuilding."  I was just me.  No awkward moments, filled with stammering condolences from someone who never knew my husband.  No uncomfortable silence wondering how to change the topic, or with each person mentally reviewing the words they'd previously spoken, hoping they hadn't uttered anything that would offend me.  I kind of felt like a normal young person, out at a cabin, having fun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Today marks 2.5 years since Brian died.  30 months, it's been.  It seems like an eternity, and just yesterday at the same time.  I'm halfway to five years out.  THAT seems like a long time, but still....I know it's not that long.

How am I doing at this stage?  Well, okay.  I have gotten praise for being "so strong," for being "brave" enough to move and start over, to forge a new relationship.  Yet I feel a bit like a hypocrite.  I purposely put a positive spin on my writing and try to focus on how to handle the challenges, and sometimes I feel like I don't share all my struggles.  I don't write every time I cry, every time my past makes me aware of how different I am, every time I struggle to decide how much to share with people I meet, and when. 

Most recently, I chose to not write about another step in my recovery.  I wanted to give it time, to think long and hard before sharing this publicly.  A message from a fellow widow yesterday that asked simply, "How do you stay so strong?" made me realize I need to share what's going on.  My blog is nothing if not a documentation of my journey, for better or for worse.

My "secret" is this:  I have started individual therapy.  Also, I'm planning to start participating in a grief support group here in San Antonio.  Two and a half years out, and I need a little help to work through some things.  This is the ebb and flow of grief, and this is how it can last, can effect people, how it carries on.

Right now, I am getting help because I'm feeling aftershocks -- the effects of so much change all at once (admittedly, a lot of this is by choice -- I chose to move, to change careers, etc.).  I am adjusting to a lot of change, struggling to accept some of it, grieving the loss of the life I used to know, making the most of the life I have (I'm doing okay with that), and searching for clues or signs about where I should be going in the future, while at the same time, trying to deal with a strong fear and apprehension about planning for the future, because, well, look where it got me last time, getting ahead of myself and planning a certain life and a certain future with a certain person.

I am feeling pulled in many directions -- I have my family, Brian's family, and Sheldon's family.  My friends, Brian's friends, Sheldon's friends.  It's hard to feel like I'm doing a good enough job filling all these roles -- daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, girlfriend, etc.  Compounding that is the stress of a new career that demands at all times -- nights, weekends, etc.  Every time I have gone on a family trip, something comes up for work.  Not to mention that I try to make sure I'm paying equal attention and visits to the parts of my family -- mine, his, and his.  I worry that my family will feel slighted if I visit Sheldon's family too often, or that Brian's family will feel like I've forgotten them.  I worry that I'm not being a good girlfriend if I miss special events like milestone birthdays and weddings, and I want to become a part of that family too.  And of course, all special events mean another weekend of not doing an Open House or setting client appointments.  It's hard to build a career like that.

I have had one session with a therapist so far.  We talked about a lot of things in just that hour.  Survivor's guilt, my feelings of worthlessness and frustration that I haven't made my career into something more self-sustaining and profitable, my desire to see everything in life click into place, my inability to plan for the future, my deep-seated fear that everything will fall apart again, my apprehension at realizing just how much is out of our control, my intimadation and cripping indecisiveness when it comes to how many avenues are open to me in the world.

Currently, I'm transitioning.  This is hard.  I'm mourning the fact that some things will never be the same, and that goes way beyond my home life with Brian.  I'll never have another Christmas season where I get to see all of my family and all of Brian's family over the course of a month, like we used to do every year.  I'll never have a Wine Club with the same friends it started with, the regulars with whom I there was such familiarity that hardly anyone even rang the doorbell before coming in on Wine Night.  I'm adapting to a new life, with new friends, new family.  There are a lot of wonderful things in my life, to be sure, but it is also difficult to realize that the old life is no more.  I have to let go of the past.....and I think I'm holding on a little bit.

On top of the transition, I am dealing with complex emotions and thoughts that stem from being a widow.  There is the guilt of being the survivor, the one with the life insurance money that pays for things like dental surgery and trips home.  There is the neverending feeling of wanting to "justify" what happened by doing something great with my life, something to fulfill what I perceive to be some greater calling, though I don't hear the call.  I wonder why things happened like they did, what the plan for my life was.  I'm searching so hard for that path, that maybe I'm not allowing myself to just find my own way.

And how would I find my own way?  Since I was a teenager, there was one plan -- grow up, become a lawyer, marry Brian and (maybe) have children together.  I had a one-track mind for years, and I never thought about any other options.  I had a bit of tunnel vision for my life, but Brian's death was TNT that blew the shit out of that tunnel.  The tunnel now longer exists.  Now, I'm in the wide open, recovering from the blow, and it's scary.  The possibilites before me are never-ending, and that is overwhelming.  I don't even know where to begin, but I know I keep finding shrapnel in my skin. 

So that's how I'm doing at 2.5 years out.  I've accepted that Brian is gone....kind of.  I still wonder why him, and not me.  I'm still looking for answers that I probably won't find in this lifetime.  I guess I'm over the pain of missing him day-to-day, and now I'm stuck in bigger questions.  This is why I'm getting therapy and why I think it will help to talk to other widows again.  I am a little bit frozen, stuck.  I need a little help to get over some things and get moving again.

I keep trying to remember....the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.  Sometimes I get so bogged down trying to chart out the whole course of my life, when I should really focus on taking one step at a time.  That's new to me, just like so many other things I'm getting used to.

Still, "new" isn't bad.  There are a lot of things about my new life that I genuinely love.  Focusing on those things helps me so much.  Now, to learn to let go of the past, and of negative emotions.  That's what is holding me back.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Update on my Kitty Situation

After writing about my problems here, I posted a link to that post onto my Facebook page and asked my friends for their thoughts and suggestions.  After seeing the comments & suggestions of my FB friends and blog readers, I was inspired to keep working at a solution, or at least to keep handling things for a while longer. 

Over the weekend, I deep cleaned all the litter boxes (as in, emptied them and cleaned them with the hose and dishsoap), got a couple new kinds of litter to try, bought more pheromore plug-ins, got a "calming collar," and I plan to buy and install a kitty door so everyone can go in and out freely.  FYI -- for now, we have 5 indoor and 1 outdoor litter box, with 3 types of litter to see what is the preferred kind. 

I also am going to re-examine Ellie's vet records to see when the last time she had an x-ray and cat scan was, which would be needed to rule out something more serious than an UTI (which we know is not the case from prior vet visits). 

Thanks, everyone!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heartbroken, not Housebroken

Ellie, in the center, above me.  We are all ready for bed -- Picaboo, Ellie & me, and Mittons.  You can see the plastic on the human bed.

My cat Ellie has been causing a lot of problems in our house lately.  Specifically, she is peeing everywhere.  First, it was on beds.  We started covering beds in plastic during the day (see picture above) -- the kind of plastic you put under your office chair so you can roll on the carpet, but with the pointy sides up.  Then, it was on Sheldon's brand-new Laz-E-Boy recliner (which he handled very well).  Then, her kitty bed.  Then, the couch cushions (which are now ruined, torn and bleached due to my attempts to treat and clean them -- but hey, they don't smell anymore).  She has even peed on the bed with us in it!  Last night, it was my pillows (those weren't covered because she's never done that -- the plastic everywhere else keeps her off). 

This isn't a new thing.  I think it started in Austin; there, the beds and one part of the carpeted hallway were her targets.  I don't remember any peeing issues in Iowa, while Brian was alive.  She has always had issues with #2, but nothing major -- just going right next to the box, or in the middle of the bathroom (hardwood) floor, where it was easy to clean up.  Now, her number one spot for number two is in the bathtub.  Okay, again -- easy enough to clean.  The pee on all things fabric is not.

We are at our wit's end.  I have taken her to the vet repeatedly, enough that I now just have the urine collection kit at home -- plastic, sandy litter, eyedropper syringe, and vial for containing the sample.  Just a month ago, after the couch incidents and her peeing in her own bed, I found out that she is perfectly healthy.  We use prescription food for urinary health just to be on the safe side, as she has had a couple of legitimate UTIs and other urinary issues.  We clean litter boxes daily, and have at least three in different locations throughout the house at all times.  I've tried different styles of boxes, different brands and types of litter, litter additives, special hormone plug-ins and sprays, everything.  I've tried every kind of cleaning product imaginable, even ones you buy from the vet (that one was best at removing smell, but also best at ruining sofa cushions).  In the last two years, it would not be an exaggeration to say I've spent thousands of dollars on this issue -- many vet bills, special foods, new products, litter boxes, an expensive cat tree to make sure she has her own space, linens and dry cleaning galore, stays at the best "kitty spa" in town while we (or sometimes just I) are away or while we have guests (any change in her routine upsets her), pillows, furniture, a "Scat Mat" to keep her off furniture, etc. 

Last night, I realized we are coming close to being at a breaking point.  I don't know what to do, but I also know we can't cover everything in static electricity mats or sharp plastic all the time, and we can't be having all our furniture, bedding, and pillows ruined on a weekly basis.  I am so frustrated that I can't find a solution, despite the inordinate amount of time, energy, thought, and money that has gone into this problem.

I am really thinking that it's time to take an awful, dreaded step.  I am considering taking Ellie to a no-kill shelter or even, I hate to say, putting her down.  I legitimately can't think of anything else to do -- I can't imagine anyone I know would want to take on a cat with these issues, so re-homing her doesn't seem like a viable solution.  I am agonzing over what the most humane course of action is.  If I take her to a shelter, she may or may not be happy there.  She may or may not get adopted, and if she does -- what happens if she pees on some man's recliner who is a raging drunk with a temper, who never wanted a cat in the first place but got talked into it by his wife and kid?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.  (Then I wonder if I'm being overly anxious and pessimistic, or am considering a very real possibility in looking out for her best interest.....thoughts?)  Is it really a good life for her to spend the next 7-8 years in a shelter, caged?  (She is 7 now.)  Some places are good, others not so much.  Or is it best to have her euthanized, knowing her life was short and troubled in the end (obviously, something is wrong), but that she was loved immensely and spoiled ridiculously while she was on this earth?  At least with the latter course of action, she would be with Brian again....and she loved him SO much.  He would want her to go to a shelter; I know he didn't agree with euthanasia for behavioral issues.  He said there was always another solution.  Still, he never went through what I've been dealing with on a daily basis for the last seven hundred-odd days.

I spent hours crying over this last night, on a spare pillow taken from the guest room after most of our nice, temperpedic pillows got taken out to the trash.  Hours of agony and tears, struggling to come across some solution or answer that doesn't seem to exist.  My heart is breaking at any of the "answers" I have thought of, yet I know we can't live like this for another 7-8 years.  We can't have a child and expect to maintain the scrupulously high levels of cleanliness, plasticity, and routine that minimalize (but still don't eliminate) the problem.  As it is, I feel like I am watching her all the time now to make sure she is behaving (or "being have," as Brian would say).

I have thought about making her an outside cat, but she doesn't have front claws, so she couldn't defend herself against animals, like the opossum and raccoon that come to our backyard at night.  Besides, with the heat of Texas summers, it's not humane.  She is also a bit too spoiled and just plain weird for that I think.  Maybe I should try it might beat all the other alternatives.

I have identified two no-kill shelters in San Antonio that are options, and I've thought about bringing her back to Des Moines to the shelter where Brian was on the board of directors.  I hate the thought of this option because I feel like I'm abandoning her, that I am shirking my duties as a pet parent.  I don't like the idea of taking on a pet until it's no longer convenient; however, in this case, it is no longer viable.  I'm devastated that we are at this place and completely at a loss for how to best move forward from here.

Readers -- any suggestions???  What would you do?