Well, we made it through the first decade of the 2000's in one piece. Kind of.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Well, we made it through the first decade of the 2000's in one piece. Kind of.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Max died yesterday morning. Our old, arthritic cocker spaniel couldn’t manage to die peacefully in his sleep- no, he had to tumble down the stairs and break every bone in his body. We don’t go quietly into the night, We Gattones. It’s a testament to Max’s importance to our family that as much of my family as could do so made the trip to the vet’s office to be with him while he died. He went with his boots on and died in the arms of the woman he loved most (that would be my mother). An honorable death, and I suspect one Max would have preferred to going quietly in his sleep.
Max wasn’t our dog. We were his people. He so had the Gattone personality- he barked so much when he was outside Mom and Dad had to put a bark collar on him (which my brother stupidly put over his own throat and found out it works by zapping you), he was constantly running so fast that he would trip over his paws and slide across the hardwood floors and he ate pretty much whatever you handed to him or made the mistake of putting within his reach. If any of us were fighting or wrestling he jumped into the middle of it. Not to defend anyone, mind you, just for the pure joy of fighting.
Ever since my brother Anthony gave me the news, I’ve been crying off and on. I did what I think he would have done himself if able- had a good long walk, ate a cheeseburger for lunch. I think the best way I can honor him is to list the things he taught me and that we all could learn from:
- Max got off his leash once as a puppy and was chased by a bigger neighbor dog. I chased him for about a block before he heard me calling him and just stopped, turned around, and waited for me to catch up, tail wagging, and let me hook his leash back on. He also knew when my mother was due home from work every day (how?!?) and waited by the door for her.
Lesson: If you love someone, you should wait for them.
- Max always barked when he went outside to announce his presence.
Lesson: Always make an entrance.
- Max used to climb the porch stairs and stare right into the family room window and watch us eat with sad eyes. If he was in the house, he would hang out under the table, and would stick his muzzle in the laps of people he knew he had a chance of getting food from. He let us know he was out of water by shoving the empty dish at us. He would chew on your hand to show affection and demand yours by rolling onto his back or shoving his head under your hand. He never got that he was too big to be carried like a puppy and unapologetically climbed onto the leather furniture til my parents gave up and let him stay on it.
Lesson: Never be too ashamed to go after what you want and go after it til you get it.
- Ryan had charmed everyone else, but Max always growled at him when he came into our house. Max was right in the end.
Lesson: If you get a bad feeling about something or someone, trust it.
- His first Christmas I got him some Beggin’ Strips. They were too big and tough for him to handle but darned if he didn’t try and try until finally I broke it into small pieces he would handle.
Lesson: Don’t be too proud to take help when you need it.
- When Max was neutered, he wouldn’t let my parents, who had taken him to the vet, near him for the rest of the night. The next morning he was back to his loving self with everyone.
Lesson: When someone does something that hurts you (intentionally or not), its okay to need some space. But you also need to forgive.
- Max would lay on the armchair and listen to Anthony play the piano and sing for hours but would howl whenever I sang.
Lesson: There’s no accounting for taste.
- The groomers would always put a kerchief on Max’s neck and he wore it politely until my mom took it off. There was also an ugly sweater for when it got cold.
Lesson: There will be times when you look awfully foolish, be it by your hand or someone else’s, and you may be humiliated. But you can also bear it gracefully.
- Max never walked anywhere he couldn’t run to, he didn’t let any dangling food go unsnatched, and he was completely oblivious to your situation when he decided he wanted to lay on your lap.
- Lesson: When opportunity knocks, hurry your ass there.
- Max’s idea of a great present was usually a bird, maybe a mouse or chipmunk. It was disgusting, but he always presented them so sweetly. Note: This was usually my mother’s problem.
Lesson: It’s the thought that counts.
- One day, Mom caught Max red-handed digging a hole in the backyard and yelled for him to stop. Max looked up at my mother and casually laid down and stretched himself over the hole and looked at her innocently. It didn’t work but it was as smooth as any time one of my brothers tried to charm their way out of trouble.
Lesson: Go down swinging. Why deny when you can finesse?
- Max always had time to listen to us. He had no use for cell phones or email or facebook. He could tell if someone was down and would go comfort them. He got endless hours of fun from string and empty pop bottles, always had a good stretch before he got up. He would wake us up by climbing onto our chests and licking our faces til we begged for mercy. He always sprang to our defense and always made sure we knew what he was feeling. He understood that when you start to smell bad, its time for a shower. He always made sure he got enough sleep.
Lesson: He knew how to love and he knew how to live.
Last but not least…
- Whenever I was at my parents’ house, every night Max would climb up on my bed for a while and just sit there, standing watch over me. Eventually he would want to climb in, which of course I let him do. He would snuggle in for a while, then kick the covers off and scramble out of the bed and go downstairs. Yet every night I would still leave the door open so he could do it.
Lesson: There is not another male alive that I would let do that, so don’t get any ideas.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I've always loved Thanksgiving. I could pretty much eat nothing but pumpkin pie for the rest of my life, and its good to sit down and be grateful for what you have. Plus at my parents' house, its when the Christmas tree goes up and is decorated, and its the beginning of the holiday season, which is my favorite time of year. This one has been pretty interesting- both of my partners in hiking bailed last-minute- one had a late night and the other got sick, No worries, I thought, shit happens. Then my phone decided it didn't want to work anymore. I was able to reach my friend Michael and make plans with him for later but I missed my call from one of my best friends, also known as my wife, who was calling from London. Not cool. I spent most of my Thanksgiving hike fuming about that, and forgot to chant at the top like I meant to, instead plotting how I was going to give Sprint ten kinds of hell about it. After a nice hot shower and fixing my phone by rebooting it, I know that's just silly. Why am I telling you this? To avoid sounding too smaltzy when I now count the things I am thankful for:
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Title got you to read this, huh? Well, its not false advertising. I was reading a magazine today, and there was a feature that caught my eye- a series of essays by writers who are also breast cancer survivors. One essay in particular spoke to me. She had been 32 when she had cancer- my age- had always been, say, on the buxom side, didn’t like it, and after she lost hers to cancer even preferred her new, reconstructed bosom. She had her children afterwards. She didn’t regret not having her breasts anymore until one day 15 years later when all of a sudden she remembered everything that was wonderful about them and just cried.
It broke my heart. I suppose there are levels on which I related- same age, I actually had to have a lump in my breast checked out this August- my second- well, it turned out to be the same lump both times, just a different doctor this time. Awesome. Better safe than sorry, I guess. Able to relate to being proud of one’s chest (her the reconstructed chest, me the original)- heck yeah I am. What struck me more was her regret at not appreciating what she had when she had it. We’re all guilty of that, of course. As Joni Mitchell sang in “Big Yellow Taxi,” Don’t it always seem to go that we don’t know what we got til its gone? This is the woman that brought us “Both Sides Now.” All hail Joni.
In March 2007, I was mugged by a gang of teenagers. That was followed by the first lump in my breast, my home being broken into and the piece de resistance, a huge car wreck 2 weeks before my birthday that totaled my car on body damage alone and left me pretty battered too. I now call 2007 my landslide year. Two weeks later, on my birthday, July 24th, arm still in a sling, we toasted that I had made it to 29 at all. We made light of it, but seriously, three bullets had just whizzed by my ear. I was so grateful to be alive at that point, and swore never to forget how short life is- tried to make up with a few family members I don’t get along with, tried to get back in the dating pool- it worked temporarily. Thing is, when the euphoria wore off, I still had to do the work to heal from everything that happened, which I still wasn’t interested in doing. Hell, I didn’t bother to start doing the work until last fall. I have some issues with depression, and in the throes of it, I’m not particularly grateful for anything, not even being alive. It’s an ugly place to be, scary to be in, scarier to get out of, and scariest to try and heal what put you there so you can try to avoid falling in again, as I've been doing this last year. But I also wonder what life could have had for me had I been open to it sooner. Oops.
Which leads me back to our friend- when she got a pang, she would remind herself that she was alive, that’s what counted, and remind herself of what she didn’t miss about them. I think we’ve all done that too. When we’re dumped, our friends remind us of all the reasons we won’t miss the person who cast us aside. Ditto any possession we lose. Lost a ring? I didn’t like it anyway- and so forth. I read the regret in our friend’s writing that she would never feel anything there when making love, had never breastfed, and how weird it was that they were just oddly perfect. It made me think- the only thing harder than appreciating something you have is appreciating something you had. Its scarier, more painful. But we have to do it. As Lee Ann Womack sang, “Loving might be a mistake but its worth making.” A Republican, but still…
In Buddhism we acknowledge that both lightness and dark, both joy and sorrow are part of life, and to be thankful for the lights and try to learn from the darks. As I find my daily chanting changing to be less “please help me be/ please give me” and more “thank you for,” our friend reminded me of the repercussions of not appreciating what you have til its gone and of how thankful I am that I am not in that mindset anymore. As painful as it is to acknowledge how valuable someone or something that I do not have is, I do it. And if there’s a third time at the Disney Cancer Center (apparently a breast man- funny, yes, but think about it- those Disney princesses are stacked!) and the third time isn’t a charm (knock on wood), my girls will be well-loved and appreciated every moment that they are still a part of my body. As for those whom I love, I aim for them to feel fully appreciated by me every second that they are part of my life. And like our friend who appreciates what she lost from afar, I will appreciate the value of what I lost, from afar.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There was a sitcom theme song that has the line, "The more you learn, the less you know." Its totally true. I have learned a lot this past month and realized how much I thought I knew and actually didn’t. I think this stupid eye thing may be the best thing to happen to my adult self because being forced to slow down forced me to think more, and I realized I was not thinking enough. Well, no- I was actually thinking too much, but at the wrong time. Its amazing how much less I overthink things after they happen when I am thinking about it while they happen and not just shooting off my mouth. Fascinating how much less I get myself into trouble when I take more than a minute to absorb things before I respond. Its good for the whole being less stressed out thing too.
Now when I have an impulse to do something, say something, right that minute, I stop and give myself time- an hour, even a day or two to mull it over, and most of the time I realize its not a good idea. Not that I don't still have my moments or fly off the handle- sure I do. Not that I don't still have to be scraped off the ceiling when something upsets me enough. Oh, I do. The moments are fewer and farther between, but I’m still me. That being said, when I do, I tend to take responsibility for my words or actions on the spot. Before, I tended to not realize my misstep until after the fact then be too chicken to take responsibility because I didn't want the reprimand I knew I deserved, or I simply called it a wash and walked away. I don’t really regret things that I do or that happen, they made me who I am today and I am awesome. I do regret things I have said without thinking. Heck, I'm even taking responsibility for words and actions that were months, years old, but still regretted. Have I understood I was going to get shut down for even bringing it up, let alone apologizing? Sure I have. And it sure didn't sting any less now than if I had just womaned up and taken responsibility for my actions on the spot. Yep, still hurt- can't really fault 'em, though. I kind of feel like Jack Nicholson at the end of Something’s Gotta Give. I ‘m better for it- I’m creating a new neural pathway- a more responsible and considerate one.
My Buddhist mentor would probably tell me it’s the chanting that is creating change. Well, I did chant for my eye to heal and not be damaged. Did it. Chanted for my gohonzon (scroll for the altar)- got it. Chanted to learn to handle stress better and let go, not try and control so much. Working on it. Chanted for help losing weight- as the Wicked Witch of the West said, I’m melting. Not to be a bad Buddhist, but I think I’m just doing some well past due growing up.
By the way, when you chant for clarity- be prepared to get it. Be prepared to get it in spades.
As the Wicked Witch of the West also says, Oh, what a world.