Job Hunting

Today I had to go take a test for a job with the Postal Service (the place, not the band). I already took the first parts of the exam and apparently I didn’t get flagged as a psychopath or an idiot, so I got invited to take the third and final assessment. It was kind of funny; I had to go to Twin Falls to take the test at the college testing center, and it was all very professional, and they followed the rules set forth by the USPS to a T. Which is good, but slightly disconcerting. I mean, I had to empty my pockets and pull them inside out so they could see I had nothing in them, I was not able to wear my coat inside because it was too bulky (hello, winter? I froze all through the test!), they made me pull up my sleeves and shake the legs of my jeans to make sure I wasn’t carrying any materials with which to cheat. I had just gotten a coffee, and I knew I couldn’t take it in there, but I felt like I needed to needle them a little: “What? Do I have to leave my coffee in the locker? How could I possibly cheat with a cup of coffee?” It was like talking to a Secret Service person. No smile, just a very serious, “Oh no, you could spill it and ruin our computers.” Which of course, but I was secretly laughing. The proctors were all really lovely, though, and the test was-well. It was a test. I did pretty well until the very last, which was the portion involving memorizing different address ranges and picking out which route to put each piece of mail based on the address. It was brutal and was the one part of the test I knew I would have a hard time with.

My final score was a 79, which frankly isn’t that great. You have to get a 70 or above to be considered for a position, so I guess in that case it’s ok, but unless I got the highest score out of all the people who took or are taking the test, I suspect I am out of the running for this job. The proctor for the test told me I would hear back in 2-3 weeks, so I am not holding my breath. I will just continue to apply for other jobs and hope like hell something comes up very, very soon.

I have learned that finding a job when you are 46 and haven’t worked in the traditional job force for 7 years is nearly impossible. I did work from home and even had my own small business for 3 years, but I need something that pays more and offers benefits; everyone’s dream, right? But none of that really matters nowadays. Everything is online (I have applied for 20+ jobs and not once have I filled out a paper application), so if you don’t look good on the computer, you don’t even get called in for an interview. This is frustrating for me because I am super smart, I learn things really quickly, and I know I could easily sell myself to an employer if I could be granted an interview. It’s been rather depressing; I haven’t even been given an interview to work in a factory as a janitor.

If something doesn’t come up soon, I may have to sell myself to a totally different kind of employer, if you know what I mean. Which could actually create a whole other kind of problem in that I am old, and kind of fat, and not very pretty. I hear there’s a market for that kind of kink, but…let’s hope I don’t have to find out!

Anger

Today has been one of those days where I have just wanted to bite someone. I haven’t been angry yet, not like people have been telling me to expect anyway, but it’s been coming. Thursday, I stopped in at the grocery store and ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since the night after Sam died. She came up to the house and visited to lend her support. I wasn’t mad that I hadn’t seen her, but at the same time I didn’t really want to to engage with her, so the first time I saw her I hurriedly turned around and went down another aisle. As I was headed to the checkout, though, she was right in front of me and I couldn’t really avoid her.

So she gave me a hug and asked how I was doing and all of that, and it was fine. Then, though, she started telling me about a situation a mutual friend had gotten herself into and about how awful it has been for her (the friend). And it is awful-pain is pain and loss is loss, and I really feel for the mutual friend. That part wasn’t the issue. The problem was that Friend 1 looked me dead in the eye and told me, “You need to count your blessings.” Honestly, for a few seconds I was actually stunned into silence. It seemed like long, long minutes as I processed her words in my brain, comparing the two very different situations, trying to come up with a response that was even remotely appropriate, but in reality it wasn’t that long, maybe 30 seconds. And as gently and kindly as I could, I said, “Forgive me if I don’t think of my son being dead as a blessing.”

The look on her face was horrified. Shocked. Almost mad. I can’t remember what she said, something like “Oh, that’s not what I meant!” and then she hurriedly started asking me how the kids are doing, especially Josie, and then gave me a hug and almost ran out of the store. So she left me in tears, trying to pay for the damn groceries and get out of the store before I completely lost it.

The thing is, I know this woman. I know that she didn’t mean to be insensitive. I know that she was only trying to “help” somehow, but it left me feeling so, so angry that I wanted to punch her (hence part of my grief letter yesterday). What I am tired of, already, is how many people say things like that, or things like “How are you?” and I just want to scream at all of them today. “How the fuck do you think I am?” I want to scream! “How do you think my 7-year-old daughter is ‘holding up’ as she has to deal with this devastating loss of the big brother who was her life? How do you think my 12-year-old is dealing with the fact that his brother voluntarily chose to leave him?”

And I am tired, ya’ll. Tired of people telling me I have to be the one to provide understanding and accomodation for the words other people. They justify thoughtless, hurtful behavior by telling me,”Oh, you have to understand people don’t know what to say,” or “People just want to offer comfort and don’t know how to offer it” or any one of those things that places the responsibility for being hurt directly on me. Under other circumstances, I would usually be the first to give someone the benefit of the doubt and try to understand the intent and give them some grace, because I know well that we ALL say things without thinking. But this isn’t other circumstances, and I am pissed.

Yes. I am angry. I don’t know if I am angry at this woman, or those well-meaning people, or if they are easy targets. I can’t be mad at Sam; maybe that will come in time, maybe not. But I am so, so angry at this situation that I can barely breathe tonight. I have my grief class in a little while, and perhaps they will be able to help me through this. If not, someone might get their nose bitten off and it’s not going to be me.

Grief Letter

One of the tasks in the GriefShare support group I am in is to write a letter to friends and family letting them know how my grief is affecting me and what they can do (or not do) to help.

Dear Friends and Family,

Losing Sam 6 weeks ago was and continues to be the most traumatic event I have ever experienced.  Losing him to suicide has made an already-horrific event exponentially harder to deal with.  Here are a few things I need you all to know, and some suggestions about how to help me in the coming days, months, and even years.

I want you to understand that for me, six weeks is nothing. The numbness and shock that has enabled me to take care of business are only just now starting to wear off, and I am in more pain now than I was the day it happened.  This is especially true because most of you have started to move forward and I sense the exasperation and impatience with me for being, in your minds, “stuck.” Please try to understand that while we all share in the loss of Sam, he was my son, and I am not going to be able to process and work through this in a time frame that makes sense to you.

On that same note, I want you to know that when the house is a disaster or the kids eat cereal for dinner or I give in and let them play on their electronics too long, it does not mean that I am being lazy. It means I have reached the point where I simply cannot do anything more. Instead of criticizing or implying that I should be doing better, offer to bring a meal over, take my kids to do something fun, or offer to help me clean the house.

One of the most important things I want to tell you is that no matter how well-intentioned your words are, some of them not only do not help but also cause harm. Do not tell me Sam is in a better place. Do not tell me God must have needed him more than I do, or that is all part of God’s plan. Or, worse, that everything happens for a reason. You know I am a person of deep faith; I know Sam is in a far better place and that he is finally at peace. I don’t need that reassurance. But the rest? I don’t serve the kind of God who would take a child from me as part of some cosmic plan. The reason this happened is that Sam made a choice based on what was going on with his mental status. That’s the reason, and God had nothing to do with it.

Also: please do not remind me to count my blessings. I know very well how many wonderful things and people I have in my life. To say something like that diminishes my loss and implies that I could have it so much worse.  No, I couldn’t.  This is as bad as it gets. Truly. And the fact that there are many blessings does not mitigate that loss. The two-joy and pain, loss and hope, light and dark-they coexist.  One does not cancel out the other.

Please do not try to talk me out of my feelings.  Keep in mind that the rational part of me and the emotional part of me are at war every single second of every single day.  Telling me I shouldn’t feel guilty or that I did everything I could? Yeah-rationally I totally get that. But emotionally? Not so much.  Be patient with me-I will get there. Probably not when you think I should, but when I am ready.

If people ask you about what happened and how and why, please refer them to me. Even if they are your friends, the details surrounding Sam’s suicide are not their business. Also, please check people’s motives if they are asking questions about how I and the kids are doing. Are they really concerned or do they want to satisfy their prurient curiosity? Chances are if they are asking YOU how we are, they don’t really want to know out of genuine caring.

Let me talk about Sam; share your memories of him, let me share mine, even if you have heard the same story from me already. Several times. Or a dozen.

**to be continued. Or not. This is too dang hard today**

A Conversation on Writing

One of the last “real” conversations I had with Sam was on the way home from a Thanksgiving gathering at one of my sisters’ houses, in the dark car with music playing quietly.  Some of our best conversations have taken place in the car, where there are no outside distractions and neither of us can actually leave or ignore the other person (this is actually true with all of my children).

At any rate, we were talking about our individual spiritual callings and how hard it is to discern them, about where our journeys were leading us, about our talents and gifts. Sam was telling me that I need to write. “Mom,” he said, “you have gone through so much and survived and you are such a good writer, you need to write your book.” At that point, he got emotional and emphasized, “You have important things to say and people need to hear them.” At the time, I was touched that he felt so sure of my abilities and believed in me so much that he was getting emotional about it.

Now, of course, the entire conversation is different when you take into account the fact that he committed suicide two days later. Many different things have come up that indicate (prove, to me) that his suicide was not an impulsive decision but a well-thought-out plan. In that context, I believe that he was silently telling me that he was going to be giving me another chapter, knowing that I process things by writing about them and encouraging me to do that so “the people” could also see.

That conversation with Sam is why I joined this 500 Word Challenge. It isn’t as if I am compelled to write simply because Sam wanted me to, although of course, his words carry some weight. Instead, it’s like I don’t have anything to be afraid of anymore. I have always wanted to write a book, ever since I was a small child, and I have always been crippled by self-doubt and fear of failure and fear of success and all of the other fears that get in the way of me not working toward my dreams. 

So doing this challenge, reviving the old blog ( I chose this just because the platform was already established), writing every day, is how I start actively pursuing this-not a dream, but a goal-book-writing thing.  Some of my words here will be used in it, but since I am not supposed to worry much about editing or how I “sound” or anything like that, I can simply write. The rest will come, as long as I just write. I am a routine-oriented person (which sounds so much better than rigid and averse to change!), so I know that establishing a daily habit will help immensely. 

Also? I am learning that part of the grieving process involves a lack of decision-making ability, poor focus, brain fog, numbness, and a general inability to function at anywhere near a “normal” level. I do not know how long this will last, and I accept that there are days where I will only be able to do the bare minimum. Some days, if all I can do is write 500 words and cook dinner, then that’s going to have to be ok. 

41 Days

41 days is not much time.  It isn’t time enough to, say, lose 30 pounds or write a book or undo a lifetime of mistakes or save enough money to buy a new car.  However, 41 days is enough time to have your life change irrevocably, for a cataclysmic event to occur that will shatter you into a million pieces with no hope of being put back together in any recognizable way.

41 days ago, my 19-year-old son committed suicide. On November 24th, 2018, at 3:26 in the morning, a county sheriff’s deputy rang my doorbell.  When I answered it ( after several rings; I was asleep and initially thought I was dreaming because the dogs asleep in my bed were not barking at the first ring. By the second ring, I thought I had mistakenly locked my oldest son out of the house, and by the third ring the dogs were barking like mad and I was annoyed as heck that my oldest wouldn’t just give me a second to get to the door), I saw one sheriff’s department vehicle, and then another, and possibly a third. Obviously, I knew it was bad. At that moment, though, my thoughts were still on my oldest, who had gone out with friends and maybe he got into an accident because the other kids were all safe at home with me, sleeping.

Only-they weren’t. When the deputy told me that my Sam had tried to commit suicide in my garage, I knew. I asked him, “Is he ok?” while knowing that he wasn’t. The answer was, “We performed CPR until the ambulance got here, and they continued it and are on the way to the hospital and all the while, in those first few minutes, there was a knowing inside me.  I was shaking and in shock and trying to rush around and find my clothes and call a friend to come to the house to sit with my younger two, while the deputies waited in my front room, I knew.  Before one of the deputies asked if I could answer a couple of quick questions, I knew. Before I asked if it was ok if I smoked while we talked outside and he said sure, there is no hurry, I knew. They wouldn’t (couldn’t) tell me, but I knew.  All the way to the hospital, I was shaking and driving more and more slowly, trying to postpone knowing the thing I already knew.

You see, Sam attempted suicide one other time before, in September of 2017.  I told my ex-husband, “He is going to kill himself.” He kind of blew me off, not in a derogatory way, just in the, “no, we will get him some help, he will be ok” kind of way. Sam spent a week at a mental health facility, and during that time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was prescribed medication and attended therapy for a time, but since that day there was always that ever-present fear in the back of my head. The feeling of waiting, always.

Even at the hospital, the deputy who had followed me to town and a police officer who was there waiting for us would not tell me the words.  They led me to a room, and I remember stopping at the doorway and saying, “That’s the dead room.  That’s where the doctor is going to come to tell me he’s dead. Why can’t you just SAY it?” And they very kindly and gently led me to the room and held my hand when the doctor came in to tell me that they had done everything they could but…”Unfortunately, your son has passed.”

41 days. Enough time for many things, but not for absorbing this horrible thing we are experiencing. Most days? Still numb. Other days? Wishing I was still numb. I am participating in this 500 Words Daily Challenge for many reasons, not the least of which is that it will give each day some sort of routine-a new routine, trying to figure out how to get to a new “normal.”

 

Food Stuff-Whole30 Week 1

I started the Whole30 last Saturday and am happy to say that I made it through the entire week without cheating, killing anyone, or crying. There is this Whole30 Timeline that details the things you will go through during the program, and I am also happy to say that so far I haven’t really had to go through any really really tough times this week. I did get a slight, nagging headache on Day 3, but I drank lots of water and took some ibuprofen and it really wasn’t awful. Yesterday I was a little cranky, but again, not awful. Overall, the first week wasn’t terrible at all. In fact, at one point I posted on the forum asking if I was doing it right simple because I didn’t feel awful!

That being said, I think I have a couple of advantages that I wouldn’t have had, say, a year ago. For one, I went through a stretch (almost 9 months) of being gluten and sugar free, and I went through withdrawals like the world’s worst hangover for about a week. Even though I did not maintain that lifestyle (because gluten and sugar, yum!), I did learn then to be much more mindful about what I was eating. I stopped buying many processed foods and made things at home-I think that truly helped lessen my withdrawal/detox time and symptoms. Don’t get me wrong-I still ate all sorts of crap, but it was homemade crap. Still not at all good for me and still not in any way conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but at least it was minimally processed crap. Hey-it makes me feel slightly better, so let me enjoy that one small thing.

Another advantage: I don’t take cream or sugar in my coffee, I rarely eat cereal, and to drink a glass of milk is, for me, about as rare as a purple giraffe. So in giving up dairy, I really don’t feel like I am missing anything. Cheese, maybe a little-because eggs. There are a lot of eggs to be eaten on this program and I don’t love or even particularly like eggs, so I have always used cheese and jalapenos to mask the taste. Still, overall dairy hasn’t been a problem.

Actually so far not much has been a problem as far as food goes. When I was gluten and sugar free, I had to overcome a lot of my food issues and remind myself that food is fuel. Sometime it tastes like ambrosia, other times it’s simply something to provide fuel. It really is a simple as that. So, with that in mind, I haven’t had much of an issue with eating leftovers or partaking of something I would previously choose not to eat. It’s just fuel. I still haven’t eaten Brussels sprouts or beets-but it’s only been a week.

Also: I like to eat the same foods often. As in, I could (and have) eaten a turkey sandwich for lunch for weeks at a time. While variety is nice, routine is even nicer. So what looks like a food rut for many people is, for me, simply how I am. Again, only week one, but if I am changing dinner up regularly (which I do, because I love to cook and love making new recipes!) than breakfast and lunch are no big deal (yet).And you don’t HAVE To eat the same thing all the time-there are so many wonderful foods you can eat that you could conceivably eat something entirely different every meal during the 30 days. Really.

My main reason for starting the Whole30 is simply a desire to feel better. Ya’ll, I have been feeling basically shitty for the last several years. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I am tired all.the.time, I am irritable and anxious and I simply hurt everywhere, all the time. During my GF/SF time, I felt like ten tons of awesome. I walked four miles a day, I didn’t nap, I felt strangely zen most of the time. Shit still happened because life, but I felt mentally and physically really good. I want that back. And I want to remember how crappy I have felt for the last long time and remind myself that certain foods just aren’t worth it.

That being said, it’s been a good week. I am pretty proud of myself (and the lovely friend who is doing this with me!) for getting through it. Here’s to Week 2, one meal at a time!

A Goodbye

Weekend Recap With Photos and a Reminder

We had to put our dog down last week, this beautiful girl who was just coming up on 11 years old. I was looking through my camera for photos of her, lamenting the fact that I just did not have very many. I was wrong-not only do I have a ton of photos of just her, or her and the kids, probably a good third of the photos taken have her in them inadvertently. That’s just how much a part of our life she was.

I just can't do it.....

 

Making the decision the put her down was both one of the easiest and the most difficult things we have had to do. She got sick and we took her to the vet, where we found out she had kidney disease. Initially we thought (hoped) that it was an acute attack and that with a change in diet we could give her a good, comfortable life for another 6 months to a year. However, after we researched the symptoms we realized she likely had the disease for 6 months or more before we realized it. All of these symptoms were seemingly unrelated, things we put down to getting older or hot days or arthritis from a broken leg back in the day. Two days at the vet, more blood work, and they called with the news that it was not, in fact, an acute attack and that her time was very limited. At that point, we had to decide whether to provide hospice care for her until the end or put her down.

hallie1

Steve and I had already agreed that we would care for her until she could no longer go outside on her own or was in great pain. When I went to pick her up from the vet on Thursday, it was obvious that she was in fact in pain and absolutely miserable. I made arrangements for the vet to come to our house on Friday afternoon to put her down, and we took her home to love her to the end.

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And that is exactly what we did. Her bed has always been in the living room, so we put her there with comfy blankets and we all just sort of hung out with her. The kids took turns laying with her and talking to her, and when Steve got home from work he did the same. We brought her all sorts of treats, previously forbidden things like pork and chicken bones (because really, at that point it really didn’t matter). She didn’t eat anything but I am sure she was internally delighted. She drank lots of water and simply rested.

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Friday came around and it was increasingly obvious that even without intervention, she wasn’t going to last long. What was interesting to me was that she was still able to go to the bathroom outside, and both times she did on Friday she made an entire circuit around the house, from the chicken coop to the rabbit pen to the garden and back around. I swear it was almost like she was saying goodbye. She would come back in and slowly make her way back to her bed and would just sigh.

Throughout all of this, we talked with the kids (especially Josie) about what was happening and what to expect and most importantly, why we were making the decision to put her down. All day we told stories about her and lay with her and pet her, telling her it was okay to go. When the vet came, I mixed up some essential oils to help her with the transition from life to death, and we all took turns dipping our fingers in the oils and anointing her while whispering our private words in her ears.

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When we were ready, we got her head settle in Steve’s lap and we all touched her and cried while the vet gave her the shot. It was so fast; a mere couple of minutes and it was all over. How can I describe the beauty and the pain all at once?

We are so lucky, so blessed to have been able to give this girl both a life and a death full of love and mercy and yes, grace. It was heartbreaking, the wails of the kids and the tears of Steve and I, yet we were able to be with her until the last second. Even after death, we were able to sit with her until we were ready to let go.

She now rests in an antique trunk that belonged to my grandma, wrapped in a lovely embroidered tablecloth. Because it is so bitter cold, we were unable to bury her, so for the winter she sits under the trees in the back of our house. It was one of her favorite spots, looking out over the fields behind us. It might be gross to some, but it doesn’t bother us any. After all, she was a part of the family, and we wouldn’t do anything less for a human member.

And now the house is quiet; it is always full of kids and noise and chaos of some type, but underneath there is no click of toenails or water being slurped out of the toiled or the clinking of a collar on the food bowl. I am sad-more sad, maybe, than I “should” be, but she was my companion, my bed partner on the night when Steve was gone, my watchdog, my chore buddy. At some point we will certainly get another dog, but for now we rest in this sadness and honor our girl by missing her.