Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thorin Finds a New Home

            It’s hard to believe that only one week ago I was rushing home from work to walk Thorin, taking him with me whenever I could, worrying about him home alone, wondering how I would be able to afford to feed and care for him.  
          So much can change so quickly.
          As planned, we loaded the car on Sunday morning to take Thorin to meet his potential new family.  As we piled the kennel, dog bowls, and all evidence of our dogs into the car, we felt conflicted.  On the one hand, the dogs had taken up a lot of space in our lives:  physically in the condo as well as emotionally, mentally, financially, and time-consuming.  The stress and responsibility had taken a toll.  On the other hand, they had filled our lives with joy and play and unconditional love.  With both dogs gone and all of their things out of the condo, it suddenly felt empty.  Yet also familiar. 

At eleven years, Thorin is the same age as a human in his seventies, and it is a gift that we found someone interested in him at this advanced age.  For eleven years, Thorin has been part of our family.  Emotions flared during the somber ride as we fluctuated between relief and sadness, happiness and guilt, liberation and concern.  Will he be happy?  Will they like him?  Will the change be too much for him?  Will he miss us too much?  Will we miss him too much? 
          Since we missed church, we played our favorite praise songs and sang along on the drive to Apopka.  We pulled up to a nice house with a big, fenced-in backyard.  The couple greeted us with their small Yorkie, Hercules.  The two dogs sniffed each other, and when Thorin started to hump, Hercules snapped, putting Thorin in his place.  From then on, the dogs appeared to get along, and Thorin explored the new space.  He enjoyed the front yard, loved the wide, open rooms and wooden floors in the house, and adored the backyard.  We were shocked that he didn’t pee in the house and instead continuously begged to go outside.
          This couple shared about their two previous Australian terriers and how excited they were to welcome another one.  For an hour, we talked to them as Thorin investigated the area and got to know his new brother.  They were happy to have Thorin join their family, and he appeared content, more interested in the new space than us.  They called him Thor, for short, so they now have two dogs:  Hercules and Thor.

Finally, we said goodbye and went to the car as Thorin trotted out to the backyard again.  Sobbing, Lexi said, “We didn’t get to say a real goodbye.”  
          “Go back in, then.  Go ahead.  They won’t mind.”  Lexi and Laina went back inside to hug and kiss him and then returned to the car with tears flowing. 

Since the couple’s home is only minutes from Kelly Park, we made plans to return in the spring to go tubing in Rock Springs and to see our Thorin again.  Also, we decided to go tubing that afternoon to soak up the sun and enjoy the refreshing, cleansing waters.  As usual, we floated downstream and walked back upstream—four times. The water was invigorating, the exercise was stimulating, and the time together outside was healing.
          A few hours later, we were famished, so we followed the directions to one of our favorite restaurants, Chipotle, and ate burrito bols before heading home.
          When I texted to check on Thorin, they sent pictures and assured us that he is doing well.  He follows them around everywhere and sits right beside them.  They think he misses us and is a bit confused, but overall, he seems content, seems to belong.  And, he has someone to take care of him and give him the time he deserves, which is what we want for him.

We blasted Christmas carols on the way home, and I felt nostalgic.  For three years now, the three of us have been our own family, spending the holidays together, which has been precious but also very different as I come from an extremely large extended family as does their dad.  We are used to boisterous play, crazy conversation, lively activity, and lots of people around.  Thus, the holidays have felt a little lonely for the three of us.  We long to be swept back up into a large family for the holidays.  More than anything, we long to belong. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Heart That Blesses

There are a couple of things I’ve learned that have helped me through this health scare:  how we react is up to us, and perspective is everything.  So, I chose from the beginning to see the lab results as a sign from God.  The evening I got the results, I wrote:  He is showing me that it is time for real change and a lifestyle refurbishment.  I am okay.  Everything will be okay.  I trust God, myself, life, the world.  This will be a blessing.
I began the weekend with big lists and big plans for changes, things that I’ve been working towards for a while now.  Things like going to bed at a decent hour, getting back to exercising five times a week, and sticking with a strict but healthy nutrition plan.  The biggest change is to create more balance between our busyness and downtime.  Ultimately, I knew that I had to de-stress my life as well as learn to handle stress better.
Then, I talked to my uncle who cautioned me to start slow.  Yes, make real changes, he advised, but don’t try to do it all at once because that will create more stress as well as set you up for failure.  When I shared this with Lexi later, she said, “How’d he get so smart?!”  He’s absolutely correct.  One of my problems has been moving from extreme to extreme, and it’s time for balance.
During our phone conversation, my uncle mentioned something about how capable I am, and I began to cry because I finally figured out why I have felt so intensely stressed over the past several years.  Well, it’s partly because there have been so many “hits” to handle, and I feel overwhelmed.  Events and changes like the ones in my life are stressful.  Period.  Yet, it’s also because I feel so alone.  Now I know that I am capable and strong, that I can do whatever is needed, that I can make things work, create what I want.  A few years ago, I didn’t know this.  Now that I do, rather than taking comfort, I’ve felt stressed because it means more and more piled on top of me.  Just because I can handle a lot doesn’t mean I should.  Just because I am capable of doing it all alone doesn’t mean I should.  I have felt so alone for a long time, even during the latter part of my marriage, and that feeling had triggered a fight or flight response in my body that has been near the surface this whole time.  And, all last month with the added dog responsibility, the stress reflex went through the roof.  Wound way too tight, I was inhaling rescue remedy gummies like candy.  The conversation with my uncle and releasing tears helped me settle down.  Be more calm and at peace.  Since then, I have started incorporating small changes, little things at a time, things I know I can do on a consistent basis.
We were so glad to have a chance to go to church again on Sunday, and it was inspiring.  Everything was exactly what I needed to hear, as if God were talking directly to me.  This Sunday, the pastor started a new series called “Heart Strings,” and this week’s message was Psalm 139, about “The God who is always there” with his presence and love. I am keeping the notes along with the first 16 verses from the chapter next to my bed to read when needed.  If you are feeling alone or afraid, read that chapter! 
Near the end of the service, we sang some Kristian Stanfill lyrics: 
Trouble surrounds me, chaos abounding.
My soul will rest in you.
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm,
My help is on the way, my help is on the way.

Oh my God, He will not delay,
My refuge and strength, always.
I will not fear, His promise is true,
My God will come through always, always. 

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord. 
My eyes watered, but I sang along, letting the words wash over me, healing and soothing.  I felt my body release and my muscles unwind.  It was as if I let go of the stress, the weight that I had been holding onto so tightly for so long.
As usual, on the way home and around the lunch table, we discussed what we took from the service.  I realized that part of my stress has come from believing lies such as I am alone and I have to do it all alone.  It’s time to embrace the truth that God is always with me and that I have many wonderful people around me.
The next morning I woke up relaxed yet intensely sore.  It hurt to move, and I don’t remember feeling this level of pain since I started going to the Fix on a regular basis.  I stretched, took some deep breaths, walked Thorin for 30 minutes, and later went to my Fix muscle massage therapy appointment.  While there, I proposed that perhaps my muscle enzymes were high because of stress and maybe I am this sore because I had been clenching my muscles and finally released them.

In the Nehemiah study, we recently discussed being willing to be, simply be and “show up,” where God wants you and moving “full circle.”  Kelly Minter writes, “God had brought Nehemiah full circle, beginning at one broken gate on the circumference all the way around to the very same gate, only on this day all had been made new…we have reason to hope He will work with the same restorative power in our lives…Where the place we stand remains the same but everything around us has changed, this is full circle.  This is a miracle.”
On Monday night, the doctor called me.  I’d dropped my results off at his office on Saturday, and an evening phone call terrified me.  Would he tell me to go to the ER right now?  Would he want to run expensive tests, prescribe medicine, or perform surgery?  Would he say my heart was broken and needed repair?  How would I afford anything that he wanted me to do?    
I answered the phone, unlocked the patio door, opened it, and walked outside for better reception. 
“Everything looks good,” he said.  “Just have blood work done in another three months to see where you are then.”
At first I argued with him.  Not that I wanted anything to be wrong, but that I wanted to know I was really okay.  He said he wasn’t concerned with the one high number but that he could order a specific heart test, if I wanted.  He asked about other symptoms to confirm that he doesn’t think there’s a problem at this time.  He said to contact him if new symptoms appear, but other than that, simply test everything again in a few months.  He agreed with my theory about the high stress levels impacting the results of the blood work and even agreed with my uncle about making changes in a slow but steady manner. 
A small smile lingered as I hung up, and I rushed in to give the girls the good news.  “But we have to take this as a warning sign,” I cautioned.  “It’s still important to de-stress our lives and move towards balance and health.” 
A good writing friend sent me an email today, worried about me and the title of my blog and encouraging me to focus on the positive and be aware of self-fulfilling prophecies.  She’s right.  “A Heart That Breaks” is the title of the Nehemiah book that I’ve been studying at church, and having a heart that breaks is meant in a positive way in the book:  a compassionate heart, a heart like God’s, a heart that hurts for others and helps others.  I agree with these things, and I choose to express a compassionate heart a bit differently.  My heart has been broken—for myself, for my daughters, for others.  Now, I have a heart that heals—for myself, for my daughters, for others.  I have a heart that blesses—myself, my daughters, others.  We each have a choice.  Which do you choose?