Tag Archives: Miniature Schnauzer

Sleeping With Dogs

I have two of them. Two dogs.  Miniature Schnauzers, both.  Salt and pepper.  They came from the same breeder, though from different lines and they are the reason I get up every morning.  Really, really early.  Every single morning.

I am connected to them in ways I cannot explain; in ways I cannot connect with human beings.  They have a very special place deep within my heart.  One of them actually sleeps over my heart with her head resting on my neck, her nose tucked behind my ear.  The other sleeps nestled tightly to my side, her head laying on my stomach.  I love them so much, it hurts.

They adore me.  They furiously wiggle their butts and cropped little tails, jumping with unconstrained excitement when I come home from work.  They are a bright light in my dark and lonely world.  My reason for being. Their pint-sized hearts pump pure love into my life.  They make me laugh.  They give me a reason to smile.

Yet, it baffles me, this connection I have with them, these furry, four-legged, wonderful little creatures.  I am baffled by this meaningful bond that I can’t seem to forge with even one person who populates this planet.  It comes so naturally with them.  Why with dogs, but not people?  It baffles me mightily.

The oldest just turned 11.  The younger will be 6 in January.  Every second I have with them is becoming more and more precious.  I am aware time is running out.  That there will come a day when they no longer greet me at the door, wiggling furiously with joy.  And when their light goes out, my world will be far darker and fearfully empty.  My eyes will be filled with tears when my sweet girls no longer fill my heart with laughter.

I hold their warm bodies, count their soft breaths, feel their hearts  as they steadily beat next to mine.  It amazes me that they are autonomous, perfectly formed beings who carry within them the breath of life.  Their brains think independently.  They have their own unique personalities.  Their distinct likes, dislikes, quirks, needs and funny little ways of doing things.  I am overwhelmed by the miracle of them.  I am amazed at their innocence and vulnerability.  They are all in.  They are all mine.  And I am theirs.

I sleep with dogs.  Every night.  I hold them gently in my arms and in my heart.  I would rather die than hurt them.  I would do anything to protect them.

I would like to have a deep and strong connection with a human being.  A connection at least as deep and meaningful as the one I have with my four-legged children.  Not instead of the connection I have with my furry girls.  But along with, as well as, in addition to.  I want the other side of the bed to be used.  I want to listen to a person breathe as they lay beside me.  Feel their heart beat next to mine.  Marvel at their distinct personality and the miracle that makes them who they are.  Feel their breath on my cheek.  Sleep cuddled in their arms.  I want to belong by their side.  In their soul.

I long for someone to be delighted to see me when I come home.  And to be sorry to see me go.

I haven’t many more years with my oldest.  It terrifies me…the thought of her leaving.  There isn’t a thing I can do to avoid what is coming.  Dogs don’t live that long.  We are forced to let them go far too soon.  Even the younger one will be gone in the blink of an eye.

But when the eldest leaves me behind, I will have loved her well and hard and fully.  I will have known her, every odd little quirk.  All the contours of her soft, sturdy body.  I will have held her, physically and with every fiber of my mind and being, enjoyed her, cared for her, been bound to her.  She will always be a part of me.  She has given me a treasure that I will hold tight and never let go, no matter how many years pass after she is no longer lying faithfully beside me each night.  She will break my heart, even as she fills it.  I will never stop loving her.

I listen to them both snore softly as they rest upon me.  They trust me.  They know I will watch over them.  They know we are connected.  They are peaceful, without fear, because they are safe in my embrace.  We are content together.  We can plunge into deep slumber without distress or worry when we are snuggled together as one.

I sleep with dogs.  I bond with them.  I connect with them though I can’t connect with humans.  I am a stranger among my own species.  With those who are my kind.  But here, with my dogs, with their soft bodies cuddling mine, I am home.  And though I ache for want of more, I am eternally grateful to be the one who gets to hold their soft little paws in my hand as they warm me during the long, solitary nights.

 

If I Should Die

“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I had a really bad night a few nights ago.  A really bad night.

It started off with me just feeling extremely tired.  Later, I woke up with a bad acid reflux attack.  Thought that was the worst of it, but then I started to crash.  At least, I think I was crashing.  It’s a bit of a blur.

I realized too late that I was crashing.  Or was maybe crashing.  Probably crashing.  Went for the salt and potassium.  Knocked all the spices off the rack and broke the nutmeg bottle…it was glass; can you believe it?  Shards went everywhere.  I couldn’t think well enough to deal with it then, other than to get the pieces off the floor so my girls, my sweet Miniature Schnauzer girls, didn’t cut their little paws.

I drank a gallon of water with a sports additive included and held mouthfuls of salt on my tongue.  Used the last of my electrolyte strips.  I hadn’t been this bad off in a long time.

I don’t know why I crashed like this.  If I was crashing.

Whatever was going on, I was sick.  Extremely sick.

“…I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I have been careful.  I haven’t thrown up as much.  I have gained weight and I’m very upset about how much I have gained.  Very upset.  About how much I’ve gained.  Gone up a size or two.  I’ve kept food and I’m upset about that.  Very upset.  Still purging, but not as much.  Not as radically.  But here I was…crashing.  As I used to crash when I was at my worst.  When I was throwing up 5 or more times a day.  Getting rid of everything I ate.  Everything.  I was in a scary place.   Back then.  Maybe not surviving.

Maybe.  Not.  Surviving.

And somehow I was in that place again.

The only reason it mattered, the only reason I wanted to live was my dogs.  My Schnauzers.  My babies.  They need me.  I love them.  I want to be there for them.

I prayed that God would let me live so I could be there for them.  They are the best dogs I’ve ever had.  I want to take care of them.  I want to protect them.  I want to be a good mommy for them.

They are all that matters to me here on earth.  They dance and go crazy when I come home.  Kiss my face.  Wiggle little stubs and run in circles.  Affectionately nip my arm.  Make me feel like I matter.  They care if I come home.  Without them, it wouldn’t matter if I came or went.   Without them, I am totally alone.  Otherwise, my life is not worth living.  Otherwise, I would have let the darkness take me.

But this night, my heart was beating too fast.  Hard.  I was freezing and then I was clammy, burning up, sweating, unable to breathe.  I couldn’t stand up.  I was too weak.  I thought I was going to die.  I prayed and asked God to help me.  Because my dogs are worth living for.  They depend on me.  They need me.

I need them.  I need their love.

They give me a reason to live.  They are my only reason to live.

If I should die before I wake…

Who will take care of my babies?

I need them.  They need me.

Because of them, I must not die before I wake.   Not yet.  Not now.

 

 

Angry

I had a dream last night.  I woke up in the middle of the night because of that dream.  I woke up angry.

It surprised me. 

It made me think.

It made me wonder.

Am I angry?  Really angry?  Inside?  An angry person?  Do I hide it, even from myself?  Am I deceiving myself into believing that I’m not an angry person?

Is that why I’m so depressed?

I’m asking myself the question…about whether or not I’m angry…because when I woke up, the anger was very, very, very intense.  I was angry with God. With my parents.  With the world.

Especially with God.  Because He has all the power.  To help me.  To make my life better.  But He hasn’t.  He doesn’t.

I felt the anger burning inside of me.

It’s stupid.  To be angry with God.  I know.  But…

He’s supposed to love me.  He’s supposed to want to have a relationship with me.  He’s supposed to be there.  To guide me.  To comfort me.  To bless me.  To provide for me.  He said He had a plan to bless me and not to harm me.  To prosper me.  He’s supposed to make a way when there is no way.  To protect me.  To look after me.  To care for me.  To want me.  He promised these things.  I didn’t ask for them.  He promised.  He said He loved me.  That he cared.  That I mattered to Him.

That’s what love means, right?

Son.  Of.  A.  Bitch.

Not much evidence of this going on in my life.

I’m alone.  I don’t make enough money to cover my basic expenses, much less to take care of all the financial things I should be dealing with.  I’m old.  I’m without a mate.  I’m still broken.  I am barely, barely, barely making ends meet.  Barely.  I have almost no, if any, friends.  I have nothing…except for my dogs and a few possessions that don’t matter in the grand scheme.  And I pray every day that God will please, I beg you, please, please, please take care of my dogs because they are all that I have ; all that really matters and they are the only reason I’m hanging on to life. 

I pray that my car will start.  It’s an old car.  Old, like me.  I thank God every time it starts.  Every time.  I thank God every time I come home and my dogs are happy to see me.  Every time they are okay.  Dancing and wiggling with little stubby tails wagging.

I want to be a nice person.  A good person. The person my dogs see.  But maybe I’m not.  Maybe I’m just an angry person.  A very angry person.  And there’s nothing good about me.

All I wanted was to be loved.  By God. By someone special.  A partner.  All I wanted was to be worth loving.  By God. By someone special.

I married a man, a man who never loved me.  I married him only because I felt in my spirit God was putting the two of us together.  God spoke to me.  Asked me to trust Him.  I trusted Him.  And my husband never, never, never not once, loved me.  In all those 22 years.  He never loved me.  That’s what I got for trusting God.

Thanks God.  For NOTHING.  This is love?

Thanks for putting me with a man who thought I was worthless and unlovable.  Who didn’t want me.  Thanks.

Maybe I’m a little angry about it.

Maybe.

Maybe I have a reason to be angry. 

Maybe I don’t have any reason to be angry.  He is God.  Perfect.  Never makes a mistake.  Knows all things.  Maybe I am worthless and unworthy of love.  Maybe He was right to put me with someone who would reject me every day of those 22 years we were together.

Maybe He is right in destroying my life.  Taking away almost every single thing that matters to me (except my dogs).  Maybe He is right to put me in a job where I can’t provide for myself.  Where it’s hostile and ugly.  Where nothing I do is good enough.

Because I’m never good enough.

Wasn’t good enough for my parents. Wasn’t worth anything.  Except to be used.  Abused.  Discarded.

They couldn’t love me.  I wasn’t worth anything to them beyond what they could get from me.

Wasn’t good enough for my ex.  Ex husband.  The “husband” that God led me to.  Bound me to. 

Was never good enough.  For anyone.  For him.  For any of them.

Why? 

Because somehow, I’m less than.  Somehow I’m worthless.  Lacking.  Somehow unlovable.  Unwanted.  Because God never led me to anyone who could see anything good in me.  Anything of value.

Why?

I don’t know.  I know I’m not perfect…far from it.  But am I really so much worse than everyone else on the planet?

Really?

Maybe that’s why I’m so deeply angry.

Heigh-Ho

My brother has a life.  My brother has a wife.  Heigh-ho the derry-o my brother has a life.

My aunt has a life.  A very active life.  Heigh-ho the derry-o, my aunt has a life.

She’s 80, by the way.  At that stage where she should be winding down. Where she should be more isolated and alone. But she isn’t.  She just keeps going and doing.  Church.  Groups. Friends.  Events. 

She makes me tired.

She is involved in more activities than I’ve ever been involved with.   She has…a life.  She has purpose.  She has a reason to get up each morning.  Even if she’s kind of depressed.  Because she’s 80.  Nearing the end.  And that’s a hard place to be.

I, on the other hand, have no life.  Never have.

I, on the other hand, don’t have a reason to keep going.  Or doing.  Other than my dogs. 

I have no reason to keep trying.  To be alive.  Been trying for a long time.  A very, very, very long time. 

I’m tired of trying to find a reason.  To keep going.  Tired of trying to find a purpose.  Tired of finding none and coming up empty over and over.  Tired of grinding everything out by nothing other than the power of my will.  Doing everything because I have to.

Oh, I guess I have a life of sorts.  Pathetic as it is.  Mostly it consists of just trying to get through the week.

I go to work.  Do the best I can within the parameters of the very limited authority and space I have been given on the job.  It’s the only place I have any hope of contributing.  The only place I have even a minimal amount of influence.  Not really much influence at all.  Not many options.  Not much hope.

They pay me very little.  I make barely enough to survive. 

Actually, I don’t make enough to survive. I’m going the hole.  Every month.  I’m going down the drain. 

Which means…

There’s no hope.  No hope.

And I’m old.  Which makes it ever worse.

I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.  Because I’m going down the drain. Because there is no hope.  Because I can’t change my destiny.  No matter how hard I work. No matter how hard I try.  I’m doomed.  Nothing is going to change that.  It never has and therefore, it’s impossible to believe it ever will.

Heigh-ho…

Hannah & Zoe 9-7-2015 fb1The good in my pathetic life is my dogs.  Hannah and Zoe.  They are the reason I keep going.

But beyond them, well, there’s nothing.  I sit here alone, typing words on this blank screen, hoping to connect with some unseen person out there.  Someone who will hear my heart.  Someone who will understand. Who will care.

I’m listening to TV without watching, drinking a glass of wine to dull the pain.  Or to anesthetist the lack of pain.

Maybe even drinking a couple of glasses.

Maybe even drinking three.

Because not being able to feel is just as painful as feeling.  Or maybe it’s even more painful.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work I go.

To a place that is hostile.  That place where I work.  Where I’m under attack.  I’m trying to hang on.  I’m trying to get through.  But it isn’t working out.  It isn’t working out because this isn’t living.   Not at all.  This is barely getting by.  This is really not even getting by.  And I’m tired of barely, not even really getting by.  Tired of just surviving.

Just like I’m tired of being alone.

Just like I’m tired of not being able to find a reason to live.

Heigh-ho. 

The only reason I keep hanging on is because I want to leave a record behind.  A record of what happens when a person is sexually abused.  By their father.  When they’re a child. I want people to understand what it does to that child.  I want people to know it destroys their soul.  Their whole life.  Everything.  All that they might have, could have, should have been.  It’s gone before they even got started living.

All that I might have been, could have been, should have been.  Gone.

It destroyed me.  In spite of all my efforts to heal.  To overcome.  I am hoping it will matter.  I’m hoping what I went through will make a difference somehow.  To someone.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work I go…

I go to work where I make next to nothing.  Where I am nothing.

Then I go home to my Miniature Schnauzers.  They’re happy to see me.  They think I’m something.  They love me.  They think I’m wonderful. They dance and wiggle when they see me.  My heart comes alive when I see them.

But I don’t matter.  I don’t think I’m anything.  I don’t think I have any value.

So I drink wine.  Too many glasses sometimes.  I hold them on my lap and love them while I drink my wine.  To dull the pain.  To dull the lack of pain.

Then I go to sleep. 

And do it all over again the next day.  Hoping against hope that tomorrow will be different. Better.

That the weekend will be better.  Will make life better.

Heigh-ho the derry-o, I want to have a life.

But all I have is this pathetic imitation.  This pathetic imitation of life. 

I live in a vacuum.  I try to deceive myself into believing I have a reason to keep living.  That life is worth living.  Or will be.  Tomorrow.

Heigh-ho.

It’s not working.

I don’t have a life.  Or a reason to live.  Beyond my dogs.  Beyond loving them. Taking care of them.

I need a real life.  I need to finally live.

Heigh-ho…

 

 

 

The More We Love

The more we love, the more it hurts.

Sometimes the hurt is good, when all is well, when the object of our love is with us and loves us in return.  We get that full feeling in our heart and a sweet ache that makes us feel as if we will burst.  In those moments, we hold our love close to us, appreciating them for simply being who they are, for being part of our lives, for their faithfulness and dependability.  We capture that little moment of time and commit it to memory, realizing it doesn’t get any better than this.  There is nothing more precious in life.  Nothing that could make our world better than it is right then, with the one we love, because we are not alone.  They are with us.  And that makes everything right somehow.

Sometimes the hurt is wrenching.  Unbearable.  When the one we love dies.  When they are unfaithful.  When they betray us; betray our love and confidence in them.  When they leave us, throwing us away as if we are of no consequence.  At those times, we doubt life will ever be worth living.  The pain threatens to explode our heart.  Our tears flow in spite of all efforts to contain them. The agony shows in our eyes, even if we paste a smile on our face.  Everything that mattered, that made life worth living, has been taken from us in a moment and there is nothing we can do to fix what has been destroyed.  No amount of praying or working will bring restoration.  Now, our good memories wound us.  All the wonderful times we spent together are daggers plunged into our gut.  We don’t want to remember because it’s an excruciating reminder of how much we have lost.  They are no longer with us.  It feels as if nothing will ever be right again.

The more we love, the more joy we feel and the more despair we experience when it’s over.  The more we love, the more it hurts when that love is no more.

I know this from experience.  I have loved deeply and intensely.  Loved and paid the price.

I loved my father.  When I was a young child, I wanted to be like him.  I refused to wear a shirt in the summer because he didn’t wear one.  I learned how to fish and could cast better than many grown men, all because my father loved to fish.  When I was 4, I recited a poem to my kindergarten class entitled, “I Wish I Was a Boy” because I wanted to be a boy like my father.  I thought he hung the moon and the stars.  Until the abuse started.  Until the “other” daddy showed his sick face.  That father was not a daddy.  That father was frightening and cold.  He hit and molested and exploded without warning.  He used the belt, buckle end first, to spank.  He used his fists to hit.  He lashed out with a fierce fury.  He was sneaky and quivery and horrible when he took what he wanted and did what he wanted sexually.  I was suddenly afraid.  I didn’t want to be like him any longer.  I tried to avoid him.  Kept my head down when I couldn’t.  Tried to go unnoticed.  The love I had for him hurt horribly.  At first, it was a wonderful hurt because I thought he was the best daddy in the world.  But sometime during the year I turned 4 or 5, I realized the real daddy was evil and he hid behind a mask.  The mask was the daddy I thought was mine, but it was only a facade.  That’s when love started to hurt like a gaping wound, raw and ferocious.  I lost my daddy that year.  And the pain was unbearable.

I loved my first husband.  He was only 18 when we married; I was 17.  But he was more man than boy, at least in appearance.  Maybe not so much in maturity.  He was a hippie, like me, with long hair, a full beard, and he was taller than most men.  I liked tall guys.  He was a talented musician who wrote songs, occasionally about me, and made me feel special and wanted.  Until we married.  Then he didn’t want me anymore.  I remember vividly as we were driving to the hotel where we were going to spend our honeymoon how a sense of dread began to creep over me.  A knowledge that he had suddenly decided he had made a grave mistake and wanted out.  I knew then, in that moment, I shouldn’t have married him.  My fear was confirmed when we went to lunch on our way to the hotel.  He flirted outrageously with the waitress who was wearing short shorts and a skimpy top.  A mere two weeks later, he asked me for a divorce.  The love that had felt so wonderful suddenly cut me like a knife.

I loved my second husband with my whole heart.  We were 25 when we married and I believed he was everything I could have ever wanted in a man.  He was also tall and he was intelligent, interesting, and fun.  He had a great sense of humor and knew what he wanted to do with his life.  We were both Christians, so we shared a spiritual connection as well.  The summer and fall we fell in love were incredibly wonderful and magical.  I had never experienced anything that felt so good and I looked forward to being his wife for the rest of my life.  I wrote him notes, poems, love letters.  I was giddy and deliriously happy, knowing I would soon be his forever.  After the ceremony, I didn’t immediately feel that nightmarish dread and fear that had overwhelmed me only an hour after my first marriage.  I was relieved and grateful.  I thought, this time, finally, all was right and well with the world.  But two weeks later, when we loaded up all our belongings and moved to Santa Fe, NM, just as we approached the city, I felt those horrible feelings of not being wanted.  I could feel what he was feeling and he didn’t want me there with him in this place where he grew up.  It was as if in seeing his home town, he realized how far I was from being the ideal woman he had dreamed of during his formative years.  He was ashamed of me.  Embarrassed by me.  He didn’t want me to be his wife.

I asked him about it later that evening and he denied it. Initially.  But a month or two later, he finally acknowledged his feelings of having made a mistake.  He confessed he really didn’t love me or want me.  I couldn’t believe it was happening again.  I loved him so much, the knife of his rejection tore deeply into my heart.  I began to die that day.

The more you love, the more it hurts.

Now, I love my dogs.  The people in my life are fairly distant.  But my dogs have captured my heart totally and completely.  There are times when I sit with them sleeping securely on my lap and I feel as if I will explode from all the love I have in my heart for them. I am overwhelmed with a desire to protect them, to keep their world safe and secure.  To make them happy and keep them healthy.  I want them to know they can always trust me, that I will do everything in my power to take care of them and I will give them every ounce of love I have in my soul because they are so sweet and wonderful and treasured.  In those moments, I hold them close and cherish the warmth of their little bodies, the little yips they make as they dream, the way they snuggle in close and burrow their little bodies into my neck or stomach or lap.  I hold those moments and burn them into my memory, almost bursting with the feelings of love I have for them.  The more you love…

I know the day will come when they are no longer with me.  I can barely stand the thought because even the idea brings searing pain.  When they are gone, all the memories of them that I have treasured inside of me will rip me asunder.  Knowing I will never feel their sleeping bodies snuggling in close, their warm breath and cold nose on my neck, their soft fur tickling my nose.  I don’t know how I will survive.  I don’t know if I will survive.  I know I will cry tears that can’t be dried and because I love them so much, the pain of losing them will be unbearable.

The more we love, the more it hurts. 

But still, it is better to love.

Rescued

Many years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to give a little abused Miniature Schnauzer a home.  I was hesitant.  I had lost my previous Schnauzer a year prior and it was such a painful experience when she died, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be up to opening my heart that wide again.  I agreed to go take a look at her, however, because I really did miss having a little creature with a wiggling butt greet me enthusiastically when I came home each day.  I missed the companionship.  I missed the joy a dog brings into one’s world.  The laughter.  The fun.

So I went to the house where she was being fostered to check her out.  The moment I walked into the room, she made a bee-line for me, jumped up on my legs with a happy smile on her face, declaring me to be her “mom.”  She went home with me that very evening.

Maddie was in bad shape.  She had had so little interaction, she didn’t even know her name.  But this allowed me the opportunity to rename her.  She had been covered in ticks and fleas and was so horribly matted when she was rescued, she had been shaved down to the skin, beard, furnishings and all.  Because of this, she barely looked like a Schnauzer.  She had also been badly beaten by her previous owners.  If you moved very fast around her, she would roll over and shoot a stream of urine through the air, so great was her fear of being hit.  As a result of the mistreatment she suffered, she was destructive.  Her first day at her new home, a brand new house I had recently moved in to, she dug a hole in the linoleum floor of the utility room.  Thus, she launched a reign of destruction, destroying books and pillows with abandon, along with anything else she could put in her mouth or sink her teeth into.  I despaired, fearing I wasn’t going to be able to handle her violence.  She was very submissive to me, but otherwise, she was a terror!

So began my discipline plan.  I wasn’t mean; she had already experienced far too much of that in her short life.  But to try to teach her that certain behavior was acceptable and other behavior wasn’t, I would scold her and sometimes grab her by the collar and give her the recommended two finger tap on the nose to let her know I meant business.  I had to remove everything from her reach each time I left the house, and even then, she usually found something to get into or to destroy.  I would tell her she was a bad dog with a very stern, disappointed voice.  I would look at her with a frown and rejection plastered on my face, placing my hands on my hips as I towered over her, when she misbehaved.  I was firm and consistent, believing repetition would teach her to leave forbidden objects alone.  But instead of improving, instead of learning, she actually seemed to be getting worse.

That’s when the light bulb went on.  That’s when I decided to try a different approach.

This little girl dog was 1-1/2 years old when she came to live with me.  During her previous lifetime, she had been horribly beaten and left in a small wire crate out in the owner’s yard.  Schnauzers don’t develop a winter coat and they don’t shed in the summer, so they don’t have any defense against the elements.  This is why they are inside dogs.  But Maddie had been made to endure extremes of temperatures and conditions that should have killed her.  She had been scolded, disapproved of, rejected, disciplined, and hit.  The one thing she had never been was loved.

And so began my new plan, a deceptively simple ploy.  I was going to love Maddie.  No. Matter. What.

When she did something that was even slightly praiseworthy, I let her know I was delighted with her.  I told her I loved her and often stroked her tenderly, for no reason, demanding nothing in return.  Any time I could reward her for a small action of positive behavior, I did.  I spoke to her with soft, loving, comforting words of acceptance.  I cradled her, touched her gently, and made over her.  When she did something awful, I gave her a quick look of disappointment – which always caused her to cringe, duck her head, and tuck her little cropped tail – but I never spoke to her harshly or tapped her nose with my fingers ever again.  I continued to remove everything from her reach that I could if it was something she might be tempted to destroy, but I started to leave a few paper towels out for her each day.  I wanted her to have something she could tear up if she felt the need.  And she did. Almost every day.  Inevitably, I would come home to a pile of shredded paper towels, ripped into tiny pieces, left laying in the middle of the floor.  But that was all she destroyed.  Slowly, I returned a pillow or two to the couch, to the bed, or I left a book on the coffee table, a decorative item on a low shelf.  She tore up the paper towels and left everything else alone.  I bragged on her, letting her know how proud I was of her for learning and for being so good.  She flourished.

I applied the same method to teaching her to do her business outside.  It wasn’t long until she was completely housebroken.

Not very long after I put my new plan into play, I found I could leave anything that couldn’t be eaten out within her reach.  She wouldn’t touch it. The only sign of her previously destructive behavior was the consistently shredded paper towels.  Every day, she would tear up two or three of them, releasing her fear and anxiety.  I had more and more opportunities to praise my little rescued dog.  And she continued to blossom.

She had been with me over six months before I heard her bark for the first time.  She saw a bird in the yard and when she barked at this intruder, I realized she had finally come to think of my house as her home.  It was now HER yard.  She was feeling more secure.  She knew she belonged and was accepted.

As time went on, she improved even more.  She was always a shy and submissive dog.  She especially feared children, fast movements, and loud noises continued to terrify her.  But she stopped spraying urine through the air, tending rather to hide or cower.  The beatings had damaged her neck and roughly 8 months after I got her, she had to have neck surgery to repair the injury.  The surgery was successful.  She continued to rely on ripping up her daily supply of paper towels when she became anxious.  Such a small concession.  In every other way, she was one of the best dogs I’ve ever had.  She never touched anything she wasn’t supposed to touch.  Until she was old and her kidneys failed, she never had an accident in the house.  She was sweet and innocent, fun and funny, loving and totally wonderful.

After a couple of years, I would occasionally come home to find the paper towels untouched.

Roughly 3 years into our relationship, she rarely ripped them up.  I still left one out for her every day.  For the rest of her life.  Just in case.

MaddieThe transformation was a bit of a miracle.  I trusted her completely and loved her with all of my heart.  When she died at the age of 12-1/2, I was inconsolable.

Reflecting back on her life, I realized that discipline, expecting a certain level of performance, demanding, shunning, disapproving…none of that had a positive impact on Maddie.  It just made her feel awful and so she behaved worse.  It reinforced the mistreatment she had experienced in her earlier life.  It told her she wasn’t worth it.  That she didn’t have value.  That she didn’t matter.

The thing that transformed her was love.

Interesting, isn’t it?  We are all treated harshly.  We are required to perform and are disciplined if we don’t meet everyone’s exacting standards.  We are often judged and rejected, found worthless and wanting.  Some of us are beaten and abused.  We may have physical injuries and scars or only invisible emotional wounds of which no one else is aware.  All the hate in the world won’t rescue us.  All the rejection in the universe won’t whip us into shape.  Maybe, just maybe, the only thing that will save us is the same thing that saved Maddie.

Maybe love is the only thing that will transform and rescue us all.

Angry

I am angry.  Really angry. With God.  Stupid, I know.  For all the good it will do me.  But there, I said it.  I’m boiling angry with Him and here are the reasons why.

Very early in my Christian walk, I did something really awful.  I was deceived and believed it wasn’t awful. But over the span of a few months, I began to realize, just because all the rules changed when I became a Christian, some things didn’t change and this thing was one of them.  It was a relationship.  A wrong relationship.  And I broke it off as soon as I realized the deception and sin.  I begged God for forgiveness.  I begged Him to take me back, make me clean again, to be my friend and lord.  But a chasm had been opened and nothing I did or said seemed able to close it.  It was as if I had one chance and having screwed up, I was forever doomed to be kept at a distance and cast away.  For years, I prayed, read the Bible every day, repented, did my best to keep all sin out of my life…but nothing changed.  God had become a distant and uncaring, demanding and cold, Father.  I had been rejected. And nothing could ever make me acceptable.

I thought God was kind enough to have a little mercy on me when He lead me to the man I eventually married.  I fell so deeply in love.  I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time.  Didn’t expect one.  I sought prayer and guidance from some solid Christians because I didn’t want to make another stupid mistake.  I received reassurance from God, in my heart, and from others who prayed with and for me.  They felt God was leading us together.  So I put my fears aside and married.  Only to find out a few short months later that he didn’t love me; didn’t even really like me.  I was a continual disappointment to him.  He disdained the things that matter to me.  Everything about me was wrong and unacceptable.  And I died inside a little more every day until I was nothing more than a zombie.  The walking dead.  I was faithful to him for 22 years, praying for a miracle.  Believing the best God could do for a worthless mess like me was to find someone who would tolerate me.  And then, even being tolerated was too much to ask.  He left me for another woman after all that time.  After I gave him my youth and my heart.  All hope was lost and I crashed.  My life has never been the same.

While I know I haven’t done everything in the best possible way throughout my life, I have sought God’s counsel continually.  I have sinned.  I have made wrong choices.  But I have tried to the best of my ability to be the Christian God would want me to be.  In the process, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong has gone wrong and I have been continually rejected.  By friends, employers, my spouse, family.  Nothing I ever was or did was good enough to buy me any degree of acceptance.  And I’ve worked hard to be good enough.  Very, very hard.  While others found mentors who encouraged them and helped them to succeed, I’ve been thrown away, overlooked, judged and found to have no value.  Others have found surrogate parents.  People who made a difference in the course of their life.  I prayed for parental figures in my life and had exactly zero people who fit that role.  Zero.  I have had to go it alone.  I have had to take the hard road and do things the hard way.  I have had to fight for every scrap.

Do I deserve better?  No.  I’m a sinner, a failure, a mess.  I try.  To do the right things.  To perform.  To be good.  To make a difference.  To be what I’m supposed to be.  But I’m like everyone else in that I experience varying degrees of success in my attempts to be perfect.  I don’t deserve better; but I expected a little more from God.

First of all, there’s that forgiveness thing.  As in, He says He will, if we turn from our sin; if we turn to Him.  Then, there’s the grace and mercy thing He’s supposed to have going on.  And He’s supposed to love us.  All of us.  Even me.  And He’s supposed to supply some wisdom to influence us when we ask for it.  And provide for our needs.  You know, ask and you shall receive and all that.

Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  Life is like that.  But we are supposed to be able to pray for, and receive, God’s protection, help, provision, healing and guidance.  I know I’m pa pretty inferior, worthless piece of meat…but, damn it!  I’m NOT chopped liver!  I’m a human being too, though a vastly inferior human being.  One who has called out to Him, begged and pleaded for His forgiveness and acceptance, done the best I could in really bad situations and tried to do what was right, even when it was hard.  Why won’t He help me?  Why won’t He accept me?  Why?!!!

And now, the most wonderful, perfect, sweet little dog I’ve ever had is sick.  Her liver is not functioning properly.  She’s only three years old and I shouldn’t have to be worrying about her at this stage in life.  But I’m very worried.  And I pray for her all the time.  Again, begging.  For God to heal her.  She is so precious to me.  She is all I have to live for.  All I ask is that He give her a little touch and fix what is broken.  Is that really asking too much from a big, powerful and mighty God?  A God who is supposed to care?

Oh, and how about a job?  It’s been over a year.  I’ve applied for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of positions.  Positions for which I am amply qualified, which proven experience and ability.  Over 25 years of experience.  And 90% of the time, I don’t even get an interview.  I’ve also applied for jobs I could do with one hand, in my sleep, with no effort.  Jobs I’m vastly overqualified to handle.  But they don’t interview me either.  Why?  What is going on?  Why are God and the universe against me?

Yes, I’m old.  I have wrinkles and sags.  Employers see this and they have a choice of a young person or me.  They choose the young person.  But where is the “God factor” in all of this?  The provision?  The opening of doors and leading me to a place where I can belong?  Where is God?  And why does He hate me?

I may not be much, but I expect more from God.  What I’m experiencing doesn’t line up with His Word and that makes me mad.  So, God, if you aren’t going to come through, don’t make the promises.  If you aren’t going to love everyone…even me…don’t say you do.  If you don’t want a relationship with worthless pieces of crap like me, don’t put it in writing and say that you want a relationship with everyone.  And try communicating!  Stop slamming doors in my face and help me with at least a few things here.  You won’t heal me, but can you please heal my dog?  You don’t love me, but she is nothing but a little unconditional love machine.  If that doesn’t touch your heart, what will?  Just THINK in her direction and she will be okay!  Can’t you do that one little thing for me?  Just this once?  You won’t help me or open any doors to provide a job for me, in spite of all my effort, but can you please provide for her?  Please?  Won’t you let me have her for a normal life span?  A life span that is already too short?  Or are you going to rip her away from me this early because she means everything to me?

Why are you still punishing me?  For that relationship so long?  For my every failure?  My utter decimation isn’t enough payment?  What do you want from me?  Why do you hate me so?

It may be what I deserve.  But I expected more.  I expected a little bit better.  From you, God.  I expected you to love me.  Even though no one else in the world can love me.  I expected mercy.  I expected guidance.  I expected protection and care.  I’ve never had that; not from anyone on earth.  But I expected it from you.  I expected you to be who you say you are.  And I’m beyond disappointed that you haven’t come through.  I believed.  I believed you.  But now, I’m just angry.  With both of us.  And I don’t believe anymore.  Your live is a lie, at least for me.  I’m tired of hanging on, waiting for your approval and assistance. 

Prove me wrong.  Heal my dog.  Then I may be able to hang on a little longer.  Just one act of mercy and intervention in almost 60 years…can you do that?  Or do I have a very real reason to be angry with you?

 

 

 

Am I Bad Because I Want to Die?

I have spent almost 45 years trying to recover from my childhood. 

Since my abusive childhood, during the time that has come after, things have not gone well in spite of all efforts to overcome.  I have been married twice. I have held 7 major jobs, after working my way up from a slew of menial, mind-numbing assignments.  Jobs lost due to the economy and greedy, unethical men who have no conscience, compassion, or mercy.  No morals.  I have become a Christian, having had a life-changing encounter with the living God.  Started attending church, stopped, thought about starting again.  I’ve had 4 dogs; buried 2, and cried broken-hearted tears over their loss.  I’ve owned 3 houses, lost the last one that, though modest, was my dream home and meant to be where I retired.  I’ve been in horrid debt.  Now owe and own nothing much to speak of.  Owned two new cars and now drive one that is 16 years old.  Had adequate money; had no money.  I’ve never been loved and wanted by my partner.  I’ve never had plenty.  It has never been easy.  In fact, life has been terribly difficult.

During both marriages, my ex-husbands told me they didn’t love me.  The first husband, who I married when I was 17, told me after 2 weeks of marriage that he wanted a divorce.  The second told me during our first year of marriage that he didn’t love me.  But because I was a Christian and didn’t believe divorce was an option…and I loved him totally…I stayed.  Like a fool.  Believing a miracle would occur and he would someday awake to realize he did love me after all.

Both of those ex-husbands didn’t really want to work.  The first was a musician who wanted to make a go of it in the music business.  I worked at places like garment factories, egg processing plants, and chicken processing plants to support us.  We divorced after 3-1/2 years.  It hurt like hell, but I got over it.  I was young enough to believe I had a future.  I still had hope.

The second ex wanted to be a fireman.  When he couldn’t get hired on due to failure of some weird medical test, he worked menial minimum wage jobs during our entire marriage. He didn’t want responsibility and didn’t want things to be too difficult.   I started at the bottom and worked hard.  Worked my way up into management.  Worked long hours.  Hard days.  Came home to his rejection and disgust every single one of those days for 22 years.  Trying to support us so we wouldn’t be living hand to mouth and so we could enjoy a little security in life.  A few splurges.  Nothing fancy.  But I wanted to do a little more than just pay the bills.  We finally reached that place…where we could breathe a bit.  Then he left me for another woman.  A woman he fell in love with.  Something he could never do with me, apparently.  I was never worth his love.  Never received his acceptance.

I was also trying to heal, particularly during the last 15 years.  I was trying to heal from the parental abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and neglect I experienced until I left home at age 17.  Having been sexually abused by my father from approximately age 5 until I was 14, I had a few “issues.”  I was broken.  At times, I was a mess.  Not being loved made that worse.  It’s hard to heal when you’re still in a negative, unloving relationship.  Hard to believe you have value when you’re continually being rejected.  So I went to counseling, attended groups, read books, prayed, attended church, prayed some more, went to more counseling, enrolled in Celebrate Recovery…I pursued every avenue of healing I could afford and lay my hands on.

Nothing worked.

I lost jobs, dogs, houses, marriages, opportunities…I lost everything. I’m alone.  I’ve been trying, at an age where most of my friends are retiring and starting to enjoy life, to find another job because I literally have nothing but my modest household goods, a 1999 car, and my dogs.  I must work.  Yet, I’ve applied for well over 400 jobs, many for which I am vastly overqualified, based on my skills and experience, and NOTHING has panned out.  Nothing.  My family is ready to boot me out the door and I don’t blame them.  They’ve tried to help me.  But nothing works out. Good things don’t come my way.  Life hasn’t been a treasure.  It hasn’t been precious.  It could be worse.  But it’s pretty awful and it has been that way for a very, very, very long time.

Which is why I asked the question, “Am I bad because I want to die?”

The onlyHannah & Zoe barrier to voluntarily hopping off the planet, the only thing keeping me alive, is my dogs.  I love them dearly.  I want to be the person who gets to love them.  One of them is 8.  The other is 3.  I don’t want to leave them. Or cause them trauma.  They tether me to the earth. But I don’t know if they are going to continue to be enough. Because things are so bad, I don’t know how much longer I can will myself to hang on. I don’t even know if I want to keep up the struggle.   I’ve lost hope. The best I can believe for at this point is to find a way to get by. Can that be enough? Days without meaning. Arduous and tedious. Empty. I’m really, really, really, really tired of fighting this battle to survive. Really. Tired.

So, am I a bad person because I want to die?

I’ve tried EVERYTHING I can think of to the best of my ability.  Is it worth soldiering on when everything has fallen apart and I continually come up empty handed and alone?

Now, I’m filling out forms to receive government assistance, government subsidized insurance, help with utilities.  Which is utterly humiliating.  I’m being told to go to Dairy Queen and get any job I can get there.  Never mind that I should be able to do a little better.  Or that standing all day causes my legs and feet to swell up so much I can’t wear my shoes and can’t even walk.  I haven’t had a standing job since I was a teenager.  I’ve been in human resources management for 25 years.  I am old enough now that trying to acclimate to a physically demanding job feels impossible.  I don’t even want to have to try it.  I think I would rather die.

Except for my dogs.  The conflict between wanting to stay so I can care for them and wanting to die is tearing me apart.

The best I can do is to want to want to live.  I want to have the will and the strength.  I want to have hope to fight and vision to believe.  I want to want to.  But I don’t want to.

I pray that’s enough.  That there is yet something positive ahead of me.  I guess time will tell.  If I’m still here tomorrow.

 

Thanksgiving Day

I have been trying to work at being more thankful.  I tend to be a “glass half (or more) empty” type person.  And that’s something I don’t like about myself.  I don’t fully understand why this is my tendency, but I recognize it.  And I try to change it.
 
To be certain, my life has not been especially easy or blessed.  It has been an uphill climb, wrought with struggles, challenges, difficulties, wounds and trauma.  I’ve had to fight and work diligently to get to the starting line…the place where most people being their journey…because of the abuse I experienced during my formative years, thanks to my parents.  The past 10 years have also been especially brutal. But, having said that, I do still have things for which to be thankful.
 
On the negative side, I’ve experienced extended periods of unemployment and they have devastated me financially.  I don’t even have a job at the moment and the little unemployment that was available to me ran out long ago.  But thanks to my brother, his wife, and my aunt, I do have a roof over my head, even though I lost my house along with my last job.  I don’t know what I would do without their help, but I do know I would be homeless.  I’m thankful for my family and a warm place to live this winter.
 
Hannah & Zoe
I am thankful.

Waiting inside the house my family provides, I have the two most wonderful little Miniature Schnauzers on the face of the earth.  That’s certainly something to be thankful for.  They greet me with wiggles, dances, and yips of joy when I arrive, even if I’ve only been gone long enough to check the mail.  I get kisses as they vie for attention, longing to be petted and held.  They fill my house with life.  In the evenings, they snuggle with me on the couch, lying on my lap.  And at night, they cuddle close, keeping me warm, kissing my nose or hand from time to time.  We are pack mates.  They love me totally, completely, unconditionally.  They need me.  I need them even more.  They give me a reason to keep going; to get up in the morning.  I’m very thankful for their sweet, innocent, tender little hearts and humbled that they have been entrusted into my care.

 
Though I am very alone, having experienced the collapse of my marriage when my spouse left me for another woman, I have family who loves me, even though I don’t think I deserve their love.  I also have a couple of friends who care about me, in spite of my glaring flaws, faults, and deficiencies.  I rarely see them.  Still, I know they care.  This is yet another thing for which to give thanks.
 
My problem in all of this is that, though I am grateful, I find myself incredibly overwhelmed by lack, emptiness, and the hardships of my life.  I try to look for the positives, to find things for which to be grateful, but it’s often not easy.  There are so many difficulties, hurts, and needs.  So much brokenness and destruction.  My financial challenges tend to make me feel so overwhelmed, I have anxiety attacks.  I can’t sleep.  I am terrified of what is going to become of me if I can’t find work soon.  I’ve been looking since February and though I’ve been in a professional position for over 20 years, I can’t even find something as unskilled as a receptionist position.  My teeth need a lot of work and I don’t have the money to fix them.  My car is very old.   I am often overwhelmed with depression and anxiety.  I fight an eating disorder and feelings of worthlessness.  I also have a hard time forming meaningful connections and healthy relationships.  And I feel so stupid.  Because I got myself into a mess somehow and I can’t find a way out.
 
I am thankful.  It’s just that I have fairly desperate needs that extend far beyond the meager resources available to me.   I am on a sinking ship with no lifeboat and little hope.  And I can’t swim.  I need a few major miracles…without which, I’m probably not going to survive.
 
I also fear the future as I get older and older, all alone.  I so wanted to share life with someone who would love me.  Someone I could love and trust and give myself to fully and completely.  Someone who would believe in me and who would find the person I am to be worth loving, caring for, cherishing, keeping.  My heart aches, throbs, longs for this.  Instead, I have my two little dogs who wag their stubby tails every time they see me.  They jump up and down for joy and can’t get enough stroking.  Belly rubs are heaven. They follow me everywhere.  But even they cannot bring to me the fulfillment my heart has so long desired.  They fill a need.  A big need.  Just not that one special need.  I am thankful for them.  I adore them.  They are my world.   But them being in my life doesn’t heal the bleeding, oozing, overwhelming wound in my heart, nor does it completely chase the loneliness away.
 
I am thankful this Thanksgiving season.  Truly I am.  In spite of all the (seemingly) impossible challenges I face.  And certainly, I’m thankful life is not worse than it is.  I could be on the street right now, without my precious Schnauzers, living under a bridge.  Yet, I feel terrible because I need so much more.  I feel terrible that there are so many areas of lack.  I’ve failed to overcome.  I am consumed by despair.  For there are many things that steal my joy.  Things that etch the pain ever deeper into my raw and broken soul.
 
Today is a day to give thanks for what we have.  I’m attempting to do that.  I hope, in spite of all the difficulties and hard times each of us may be facing, we all find many things in life for which to be thankful.   Even if we have to look long and hard to find them.  Even if every moment is a struggle for survival.  I hope you have more blessings than hardships.  I hope we can all find something to cling to that gives us the strength to continue.   Even if the darkness of our world is threatening to consume us like a Thanksgiving turkey.  There are always leftovers.  And they can be quite tasty.
 
 
 

Stranglehold

I am sitting in the silent living room of the house where my brother and his wife are letting me live. Immobile.  In this house that is not my house.  This place that is a last resort.  That is not “home.”  
 
It is yet another gloomy, rainy day.  The air smells moldy and moist.  Though it is dark this morning, all the lights are out and blinds are closed.  My dogs sleep on my lap, curled into tight little balls, snoring lightly.  I am sitting quietly, remaining still, so as not to disturb them.  But inside, everything is churning. Everything is in turmoil.  A hurricane rages in my soul.
 
I am walking in quicksand.  It is sucking me ever downward.  It has me in a stranglehold.
 
The storm has destroyed my final dream.  Dreams are hard to come by.  I hung on to mine for a long time.  Tenacious.  Determined.  I believed that hard work would produce a happy ending and perseverance would pay off.  I also believed I could be made whole.  Restored.  Wanted. Worthy.  The storms that have decimated my life have proven me wrong, and then some.  One after another, they have swept through my world, laying waste all that was in their path.  Me. Every part of me.  All has been torn apart.   My hopes.  My will to live.  To go on.  My ability to believe in tomorrow.  All has been lost in fierce winds and beating rains.  Swept out to sea, I flail my arms, frantically clawing to reach the surface where I can grab a quick breath before being sucked down into the depths yet again.  The storm has me in a stranglehold.
 
I am growing weaker.
 
Time and the unrelenting storms have washed away all hope.  My world has been destroyed.  Dreams have been smashed and scattered on the wet, soggy ground, tossed by massive ocean waves, dashed on the rocks of experience.  The beating, driving rain is washing away what little is left of all that I was and all that I desired.  The quicksand takes most of the rest.  The quicksand of depression.  And the driving wind blows away whatever little crumbs are left behind.  Until there is nothing.
 
I’ve been struggling in the storms for my entire life.  I’ve been fighting off depression since I was a child. I have been battered and beaten, broken and bruised, bashed and banished for so long, I don’t know what it feels like to have my feet on solid ground.
 
Since the sale of my modest dream house, move to the city where I was raised, where the memories of my mother and father are in my face everywhere I turn, my depression has intensified.  Memories of their abuse of me are inescapable.  The loss of my independence is demeaning.  The end of my hope is demoralizing and dispiriting.  Returning, tail tucked, shamefully unemployed and unable to pay my way, is crushing.  I hate this place.  I hate the weather here.  The smallness of the city.  The backwardness.  The lack of opportunity.  The only good thing is my brother…and that’s very good.  But.
 
I’ve given my brother money I don’t have to try to help pay my way in spite of him telling me it wasn’t necessary.  Because words say one thing and all the other signs that are unconsciously communicated say another.  He and his wife want to be generous.  Their heart is in the right place.  But this is costing them…trying to rescue me.  And the cost is too high a price to pay.  For me.
 
I feel it; I’m nothing but a leach.  A worthless bum. 
 
For many years, I have dreamed of having value. I have attempted to believe I have worth, in spite of my experience, my upbringing, the rejection that has plagued me.  Yet, somehow, every time I try to get to my hands and knees hoping to eventually stand, my limbs are kicked out from under me again.  Every time I try to breathe a few breaths, the waves wash over me and carry me down once more.  I kick and strain and struggle to no avail.  I am weary.
 
Life has been strangling the life out of me for most of my life.  I have reached a point where all the fight has left my body and I can no longer breathe.  I feel myself being dragged ever downward into the mire, the depression, the discouragement.   I fear I will not be able to escape the stranglehold fate has on me.  Its harsh fingers are digging into my neck.  Its breath is hot upon my cheek.  Sucking the air out of my lungs.  Laughing, laughing crazily, as it takes me down into the darkness from which there is no return.
 
I am sitting quietly in the darkened living room of my brother’s house, watching over my sweet, innocent, sleeping dogs as they lay securely on my lap.  I am listening to them snore lightly as I am being drowned.    As I am being strangled.  I listen to them whimper and chase rabbits in their sleep…they are all that is left of my world.  They breathe in and out.  I breathe with them; slowly.  Painfully.  I don’t know how much longer I will have air.