Beautiful You, Showing Up

Day 24 – Beautiful You – Describe Yourself

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From the book “Inward” by: Yung Pueblo

Today: In your Beautiful You journal, describe yourself as completely as you can.

I have put off writing this post for a week now because I’ve spent a lot of time wondering who I really am vs. who I think I am supposed to be in my too-high regard for what others think of me and how they perceive me. 

I’ve also spent a bit too much romanticizing some of my past and trying to recover who I’ve been at previous times, forgetting also what I’ve worked through since then.

Who am I now, at nearly 37 years old, married, and once again unemployed? Definitely more than just those things even if I allow just those labels to identify me all too often these days. 

I guess the answer is, who I am right now is fluid and forever transforming. Ugh, that sounds too vague. Even if the walls are constantly being repainted and the furniture changed out, the foundation of who I am is still pretty much the same.

So who I am right now? What is the foundation of me?

Last week, when I got a much-needed pedicure, the woman who did it and I got to talking about children and she asked me if I have any. I said, “No, but at nearly 37, I guess my window is starting to close and I need to decide soon, huh?” She said she would’ve guessed I was years younger and said, “It must be because you are a really happy person, I can see it in your face.” I joked back, “Having such chubby cheeks helps.”

Later, when I texted my mom and told her about it, she said, “I know you’ve had a rough year, but deep down, you are a joyful person. You laugh and smile a lot and that shows in your face and makes you look younger.”

I do find a lot to laugh about. I love to play around with my two dogs, Missy and Chewy. I find funny memes to share with John and my brothers. I think I’m pretty funny personally and laugh at my own jokes even when everyone else thinks my jokes aren’t that funny. My sense of humor varies from silly/goofy to sarcastic to dirty. 

As critically as I talk and think at times, I am also deeply optimistic. I’m currently in the midst of one of many deconstructing/sometimes self-destructive periods in my life, but I am still hopeful. I know it is temporary. I still know how to find something to smile and laugh about.

I love to read and learn and always have. I will read the book before I watch the movie, and though the book is better most of the time, I can think of several movie interpretations that turned out better, like The HelpThe Secret Life of BeesP.S., I Love You, A Time to Kill, and a few others. I read constantly, whether it is books, articles posted on social media, or stuff I google or see on Reddit. 

I’m on a lifelong path of continuous self-growth and self-evolving. I try to keep an open mind about most things and find the middle ground. I’m starting to learn it is okay to question the things I was once so sure about, like the Christian faith I was raised to believe in. 

In this process of continuous self-growth, my acute self-awareness flourishes. When I get angry with how others act or how I feel they’re treating me, I stop and think, Why does this bother me so much? What unhealed and hurting part of me is reacting to this? I am trying to become a more thoughtful and less reactive person.

I love to write. Author Jon Acuff wrote in his book Start that a passion is something you can do without ever being paid for it and something you lose track of time while doing. Writing is both of those for me.

I miss writing fiction. I miss writing songs. While I am getting better at verbally communicating my thoughts and emotions, which is especially important because tone can be hard to read in written communication and I can come across as a huge bitch sometimes, writing still helps me process my thoughts best. 

I’m an outgoing introvert. I can go between talking to people at 90 mph for hours to basically taking a vow of silence for 2 days. Like others in my family, I have rarely met a stranger. Being a southerner, this is especially true when I meet other college football fans because SEC football is its own language and religion. I have a very thick southern accent that refuses to subside despite John not having much of a southern accent. Not even living in Chicago for two years dampened it. Sometimes, I think it is charming; other times, I think it is annoying. Maybe those are the times I take the vow of silence, haha. 

I love to sing in the shower or alone in my car. I love singing along to Disney songs and musicals and often love movie soundtracks better than the movies. I also love to make up and sing silly songs about my dogs, mostly changing the words to songs already recorded. 

I love to dance and am not as shy about doing that in front of others if I’m at club or wedding. I mostly dance in the shower, while I’m getting dressed, baking, and/or waiting on my food to cook in the microwave. My dog Missy seems to love when I hold her and dance too, as she runs up to me whenever I start and waits for me to pick her up. It’s so cute.

I also love to bake, though I don’t do it as much as I used to because my body doesn’t react well to sweets anymore (yay, IBS, gastritis, and insulin resistance). Baking is one of the few things I connect with my dad on, and it is one of the few things that clears my head and helps me relax.

The other thing about me that connects my dad and me is that I’m a huge weather geek. I tell John every day I am ready to move closer to the beach because summer doesn’t feel right without afternoon thunderstorms and they seem to evade us here in Atlanta. I get mad when it storms down the road but not here. Thunder and lightning make me feel so alive.

I’m a night owl, something that I’ve been my whole life and probably always will be. Every time my schedule is interrupted when I’ve quit a job, I wind up sliding into my natural rhythm which puts me at staying up often until 3a or later and sleeping late. I’m most awake in the late afternoon and then again just after midnight. 

I wish I was more gentle, but I tend to be, as my great-grandmother Lib used to say, “a bull in a china shop.” I am strong and have strong enough hands to open my own jar, but often John has to take things from me before I destroy them. I also wish I was more patient, but I get frustrated and flustered easily. John says I have “Hulk hands,” strong and ferocious, so when I accidentally break something, the term is that I “Hulk-handed” it. 

I am sensitive and empathetic, no matter how I came about acquiring these traits. I can’t watch painfully awkward, violent, or sad parts of TV shows or movies. I cry easily. Get my feelings hurt easily. 

I am determined to have a vibrant, fulfilling life, so you can imagine how impatient and anxious I get when I don’t have the extra money to do things like travel. I’m also an all-or-nothing person so it is hard for me to see that even if I can’t fly across the country or world, there’s still plenty to see right where I live that doesn’t cost a lot of money or any, beyond maybe gas in my car.

I think I have this vision deep down of what I want my life to be like, but I can’t quite fully grasp it yet or I just see it in flashes. The flashes I see are things like living near the ocean, riding my bike in the sunshine, and having a small cottage style house with windows all around to let the sunlight in and a big kitchen, and baking for John, me, and friends. Lots of books to read, storms to watch roll in over the ocean, room to dance, songs to sing, conversations to have, and stories to listen to and write. This feels too easy at times or I don’t know how to get there so I ignore it, but I’m slowly learning it is okay to find joy in life, enjoy my life, and to stop rushing through the good to plan and brace for the inevitable pain and loss. To stop thinking I can’t just have good things, I have to earn or deserve them through lots of pain and suffering. That way of living and thinking is draining me though. I’m ready to experience and be enveloped in the good whether I deserve it or not. 

I could probably go on a bit more, but one thing is clear: I have a pretty good grasp of who I am. There are a lot of shifting parts going on inside of me and a lot I am moving through and healing from. I could’ve written about my struggles with my anxiety and depression, but even though these feel so big so often, they are really a mix of wonky brain chemicals, impatience, and the high expectations I hold for my life. I’m restless and antsy and so ready for more, but I also need to not neglect the present so often. It’s all just me trying to find balance, gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, and healing in my life. 

Even in the darkest depths of my sadness and worry, I’m excited about life and my potential to experience it. That’s a light that I don’t ever see going out because I’ve been through some shit and it’s yet to extinguish. It is a light that is with me for life.

 

Beautiful You, Showing Up

Day 16 – Beautiful You – Realize Everything is Just Information

Have you ever thought about how the way we describe ourselves, even to ourselves, affects how we feel about and perceive ourselves?

One way I’ve been thinking about this lately is when we use “I am…” versus “I feel…” and “I have…”

One way attaches a feeling, judgment, and even a diagnosis to encompass our identity which almost sets up a permanence in our self-perception and maybe how others perceive us. For example, saying, “I’m so dumb” when we make a mistake or “I’m a worrier” when we struggle with anxiety.

Another way is a description and observation. It could describe a chronic, permanent condition in your life, but if you say, for example, “I feel depressed” or “I have diabetes,” it feels more like we are describing just a small part of the wholeness of ourselves, like, “I have blue eyes and brown hair.” It solely describes us without trying to tell our whole story. In regards to chronic health issues or disabilities, it can put a responsibility on us that we don’t deserve and don’t need to bear beyond managing them with self-care.

This isn’t a “you aren’t fat, you have fat” type of thing or me trying to politicize how we describe ourselves. I AM tall. I AM fat. I AM white. I AM a cis-het woman. But that’s not my whole story. I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but they don’t identify me, just name how my body responds to my DNA and environment. I have privileges, but they don’t define me and they aren’t something to feel ashamed of. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in nature or nurture. You get what I’m saying, I hope.

It is about expanding, not diminishing, ourselves. Not narrowing ourselves down to a few words. Seeing what happens to us and how we perceive it is important. Attaching our identities to temporary experiences like making a mistake or permanent conditions like chronic mental or physical health or something traumatic that happened to us growing up limits us and can invoke unnecessary shame. Narrows our story.

It is totally okay to acknowledge the experiences we’ve had. To share what we feel and experience. I’m not trying to diminish that or silence anyone. Telling others what we feel, have, deal with, and are healing from is part of the human experience. All of our feelings and perceptions are valid and happen for a reason.

A few weeks ago, on my way home from a weekend at my mom’s, I decided to skip the 30 seconds it would take for my apartment complex’s entrance gate to open and go through the exit gate. Chewy, my dog, had to pee and had whined about it for 50 miles, it was 12:30a, and I was tired. All I could think about was “I hope no one tries to come out as I go in.” It was as I pulled over the tire strips that I realized what I’d done and why you don’t enter that exit gate.

“Oh, fuuuuck” came out of my mouth as air began gushing out of my front left tire. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten, the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. How could I be so stupid? I chastised myself.

But I had been thinking about the topic Rosie wrote about in the prompt at the. Bottom of this post, so when I walked into the house with Chewy, I looked at John and said, “I did something really stupid and I need your help.”

Calling running over the spike “stupid” is still a little shame-inducing, but separating my actions and my identity in the moment helped me realize it was a temporary experience, a mistake and lesson learned. I was tired and ready to get Chewy and me out of the car and I made a mistake. Shit happens, ya know? And thankfully John is a kind and compassionate husband. He and I immediately started making jokes about what happened while he put the spare on, and the next day, he took my car to Walmart and bought me a new tire. Crisis averted, gratefulness and relief felt, lesson learned.

It is so easy to allow shame, trauma, health issues, and abuse to reduce who we are and cloud our judgment and perception of ourselves. We can’t control a whole lot in life (but I struggle with control issues; I’m not a “control freak”), but we can decide how to perceive ourselves and how to live our lives.

One exception (but not the only one) in this I am vs. I have/feel/do idea I’m writing about here is when we want to label ourselves by things we do but feel like we can’t because we haven’t won public accolade for it. If you write, you’re a writer even if you never get your words published. If you sing, you’re a singer even if you never sing outside of your shower. Dancer, if you dance. Hiker, if you hike. Runner, if you run. This is where participation awards totally count. If you want it and do it – or sometimes not do it because creativity is vulnerable even with us as our only audience – you are it.

This is all just a little newborn idea in my head so I’d love to hear what others think. I like the idea of holding thoughts at an arm’s length and observing them, not immediately absorbing them. Being curious about them. Curiosity is how we keep ourselves open to what life has to offer and helps us expand and grow. Shame and judgment are the opposites of curiosity, creativity, and vulnerability.

Like Brené Brown says, while paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt’s grand speech, if you are brave with your life, if you live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked.

Don’t be an extra foot in your ribs and face in that arena. Use those feelings instead to pull yourself back up to persevere. There’s a lot of beautiful life to be lived in between those ass kickings.


Today: I want you to continue to shift your energy away from judgment to curiosity. When you feel inclined to judge yourself, shift your words. No longer condemn your choices or reality. Instead, I want you to gently ask, what information is this experience giving me? And prepare yourself to powerfully move forward with that information as a guide.

Showing Up

Self-Care is Hard

Last week, I signed up LA Fitness and went through the fitness evaluation. I did not sign up for personal training, but I told the guy who evaluated me that I would be coming to the gym and working out on my own.

I haven’t really started doing that yet.

Why?

Because I realized that if I go to the gym every night during the week immediately after work, the only days I will see John are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday because he leaves for work around 6:30p and gets home around 8:30a, after I have left for work.

And I felt guilty. Or felt like if I go, I am abandoning some part of my marriage by choosing to do something for myself over seeing my husband every night before he goes to work.

This is not even close to the only time I go through these thought cycles.

My issues and struggles in our marriage that come up every time we have a fight are that I am resentful because I am putting him first and trying to meet his needs and expect him to do the same, and he doesn’t and really, honestly, can’t. Not because he’s a terrible husband, but because a lot of my frustrations I am putting on myself. I do resent him at times for my perception of him as unavailable and closed off, but I mostly resent myself because I see myself as doing all of the work, getting nothing in return, and I am putting myself and my needs on the altar to be sacrificed for the sake of our marriage.

It has always been way easier for me to put all of my focus on my relationships and trying to make other people feel wanted and needed than to focus on my relationship with myself and my needs and desires. It is ingrained in me and has been from the very beginning.

In college, I saw my first therapist who listened to me tell her about my family history and everything I’d been through – and was still currently going through – and she listened, took notes, then recommended a book for me by Melody Beattie called Codependent No More.

I think I need to read it again now, some 17 years later.

Catching up on Shameless last night, I heard Fiona and Lip talking about the questions for Al-Anon, and one of them was about putting the needs of others before yourself. I went to see if I could find the actual questions online and I found Codependents Anonymous instead.

On their website, there is a list of patterns often seen in codependents, and I can check off quite a bit of them. Here are the ones that I know I do:

 

  1. Denial Patterns:
    • minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel
    • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
    • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
    • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
    • label others with their negative traits
  2. Low Self-Esteem Patterns:
    • have difficulty making decisions
    • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
    • are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts
    • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
    • do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons
    • seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than
    • have difficulty admitting a mistake
    • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
    • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
    • look to others to provide their sense of safety
    • have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects
    • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  3. Compliance Patterns:
    • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
    • compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger
    • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
    • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
    • are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others
    • accept sexual attention when they want love
    • give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change
  4. Control Patterns:
    • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
    • demand that their needs be met by others
    • use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally
    • adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes
    • pretend to agree with others to get what they want
  5. Avoidance Patterns:
    • act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them
    • judge harshly what others think, say, or do
    • avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance
    • allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships
    • use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation
    • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable
    • pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away
    • refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves
    • believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
    • withhold expressions of appreciation

 

A lot, huh? And unfortunately, John bears the brunt of a lot of this behavior. When we had our fight and I finally said a lot of the things I had felt unable to say, he asked, “Why don’t you talk to me like this to begin with?”

Because I don’t know how to. Because I’ve never felt allowed to. Because I feel like I will be judged or rejected for it. Because I still feel like a burden and too much and like I can’t ask for what I want or express how I feel. I just expect eye rolls, heavy sighs, and projections of shame, resentment, and anger like I always received growing up. “You’re the one with something wrong with you, not me.” That sort of thing.

I don’t speak up soon enough when my feelings are hurt or when there is something I want or need. I want sex but I don’t initiate so the only time we have sex is when John initiates which isn’t as often as I’d like to have sex. My reasoning for not initiating is that I fear rejection and I struggle so much to feel like I deserve sex and pleasure or like I am desirable because I still have such deeply rooted issues with my body shape, size, and weight.

But yet, I push all of that down and continue seeking validation, affirmation, and acceptance from John. I also don’t talk about what I really think or feel with my mom because if any of it goes against how she thinks or feels, a fight ensues and I feel completely powerless and feel like I have to earn my way back into her good graces so I continue to feel loved and accepted by her.

I am someone who desires being known wholly, but who is also afraid of this if it means by doing so, I create conflict with the people who want me to be who they want me to be. To believe in God the way they do. To have the same political opinions. To go against this creates a backlash, and I find myself scrambling and pretending to agree and pretending to believe something I don’t so I’m not once again rejected and abandoned.

During our fight back in January, I told John I too often try to meet his needs and ignore what I want. That year and a half that I lived on my own before I met John was the one brief time in my life where I had only myself to worry about. I could move freely. Go where I wanted. Do what I wanted. Sit in my pajamas all day, all weekend long and not worry about being seen as lazy or unattractive or boring. I ate what I wanted. Went to bed when I wanted. It was quiet, I was alone, and I really grew to love it.

Being married with two small, very needy dogs, life is a lot different. I love both of our dogs (and I loved Louie, who recently passed), but oh my god, they need so much. Sometimes it is sweet, and I like being on the couch with them on each side of me. Other times, it feels like way too much, and I want to go into another room, and I can’t stand the idea of anyone or anything touching me.

So much of this is because I spend so much energy trying to meet others’ needs and keep others happy that I am overwhelmed. I know no one has asked me to do this. John doesn’t want me to be his mother. He knows he has a great one. I have dug into my maternal instinct for so long, I don’t know how to dial it back.

I know I’ve seen myself as a martyr and victim to this, I still do sometimes. I know why I do it. I know it can be manipulative as well as controlling. I also see how I use it to avoid taking care of myself.

Self-care is hard. It has always felt selfish and like I’m not supposed to do it but allow someone else to do it, though that is way too much to put on another person. I’m not saying I shouldn’t allow someone else to be there for me, listen to me, or help me. It’s not black or white, and John shows up in so many ways to do those things. I lose sight of it sometimes because I still carry a dysfunctional view from my dysfunctional family of what it means to be in a relationship with someone and to love and be loved by them.

I told John last night how I felt torn about going to the gym after work and not seeing him. He said, well, you can get up and go early in the morning. I said, yeah, no, I value my sleep and don’t want to go to bed early. He said, well, just go after work then. Simple as that, I guess.

I don’t think he worries about our marriage the way I do, but maybe he also knows I’m worrying so much about it he doesn’t have to. He also doesn’t seek validation or approval from me, which I just realized it this week.

I love John and want to be married to him, of course, but I also want to get back some of what I stopped doing (of my own volition) when he and the dogs moved in. I am not the sole guardian of our marriage nor the sole gatekeeper. I don’t have to do all of the work. I need to understand that I am safe to speak up and I will be heard even if I don’t always get the response I want. I am still figuring this out.

I’m going to go to the gym after work. I need some exercise for my self-care. I also need to learn to differentiate self-care from the diet mentality, but that’s another post of its own that is likely coming. I need to put my oxygen mask on.

I put in a request for that Melody Beattie book so I can read it again.

I know I need to try therapy again as well as see a HAES/IE nutritionist to help me work through my dysfunctional history with food and my body.

I know I need to work on my relationship with myself and stop doing my own projecting on others, especially John.

It feels so uncomfortable and difficult, but I know it is necessary. This is just another level of all of the work and healing I’ve already done. I guess the closer to the center of the pain I get, the harder the layer is to peel off. This feels like the hardest one thus far, but I guess so did all of them as I progressed through them. Healing is the hardest thing we can do in life.

Uncategorized

Goodbye, Louie

Dachshunds

John and I said goodbye to Louie Thursday morning after a rapid decline and a horrific night of suffering physically for him and emotionally for me Wednesday night. He was about 14 or 15 years old, and he lived an amazing life.

He found John in Savannah back in 2004. He lived down the street from the house John grew up in and kept coming over to play with the dogs they had. John took him back a couple of times and he returned over and over again. Finally, the last time John took him home, the owners told John he could have him. John named him Louie and they were immediate best friends forever.

He was the most charming, sweetest, friendliest dog ever and had so much personality and the biggest, saddest eyes that made you want to endlessly feed and pet him. You knew what he wanted and when and most of the time, it was food.

He had a stomach of steel. One time, when John and I were dating and they came to spend the weekend with me, I made some cream cheese chocolate chip cookies and left them on the table to go watch a football game with John. When we came back, the Ziploc bag the cookies were in was ripped open and there were no cookies to be found. Not even a crumb. Missy, our Jack Russell, was sick as, well, a dog for the rest of the night, but Louie just pooped a lot after and was fine.

Before John and I met, he was in the army and stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. At the time he and his ex-wife Angel left for Alaska, Louie could not fly because he was not adjusted to the cold of Alaska. Instead, John and Angel found a couple on Craigslist who were horse trainers and driving their horses from Savannah to Fairbanks and for a small fee, they were willing to drive Louie up there with them.

This is how freaking charming Louie is: he was supposed to ride in the back with the horses the whole time, but not too long into the road trip, he found his way into the lap of the wife and rode there the rest of the way to Alaska.

Louie was KING of loving car rides. Sometimes when we took him outside to go potty, he roamed around to each car trying to figure out how to get in. When we lived in Smyrna, he ran out of our apartment when we left the door cracked accidentally and scared this poor woman to death when he ran in front of her car. When she stopped (thank goodness) and opened her car door to check on him, he ran to the driver’s side and jumped in the car with her. John and I ran out and John had to pick him up out of the car and bring him inside. He was not happy.

He always knew when we were going to leave too and worried so much he would get left behind. In his younger years, he sang an opera every time we walked out the door and didn’t take him with us even if we were just going to put bags in the car before we came to get him and Missy and take them with us.

Dachshunds

John was his absolute favorite person, through and through. When I first met Louie, he made it clear I was not his “real mom.” He and I went round and round as I tried to get him to back away from me when I ate at the table or to get out from under me whenever I was in the kitchen. He preferred John’s sister Sara, who took care of him in both Savannah and Alaska when John was shipped to Iraq for a 16-month tour of duty, over me, and he always had so much to “say” to her whenever he saw her. I always said he had to tell her how horribly I treated him because I didn’t let him sit in my lap while I ate dinner or didn’t just give him my dinner every night.

I never had indoor dogs growing up, and I never understood the close relationships people had with their dogs. I just thought they were cute and fun to play with but that’s it. It took me a long time to warm up to both Missy and Louie.

It was hard for a while because they were both so needy. Before they and John came along, I could go places at a moment’s notice and not worry about coming home in time to feed or take the dogs outside. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night because one of the dogs really had to potty. I didn’t have to deal with dog hair, vomit, accidents, or incessant whining and barking.

When John first moved in with me after he was out of the army, he joined the national guard and wound up spending 4 months at Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. I came down with the flu the day before he left, so I spent the first week he was gone feeling near death on the couch. This was probably when Louie and I first started bonding because he jumped up on the couch and laid at my feet nearly the entire time.

Dachshunds

The first picture on this entry was taken on April 23, 2017. We lived in Chicago at the time, and that morning, he woke up and could not use his back legs at all whatsoever. They just dragged behind him. Everything I read said once a dachshund’s back goes out, that’s it for them because of their body structure.

He looks happy but he was in tremendous pain.

That day was the first day I began worrying about losing Louie. I thought he might die that day or that we would have to put him to sleep as he laid on the couch with his head in my lap, panting heavily in pain. We took him to the vet and she gave us some anti-inflammatory medication for him and told us to shorten his walks, keep him from jumping up on or down from furniture, and make sure he got lots of rest.

His life slowed down considerably after that point, though he still went to the dog park in our neighborhood with Missy and ran around to all the dog owners and requested they pet him and tell him how cute he was and barked his tail off.

Thankfully, he returned to Georgia in October 2017 with us despite several scares. The second picture in this entry is from our road trip from Chicago to Atlanta. He was the best passenger ever. He occasionally looked out the window or leaned his head over for me to pet him, but he mostly slept in the seat for the duration of the trip.

Life slowed down even more so for Louie once we got settled back into Atlanta. We got him a comfy bed for his crate and my mom bought him a nice bed to have in our bedroom, and he often slept next to John’s side of the bed. If I ever closed the bedroom door while John slept and did not let Louie in the room with him, he cried and cried. He also cried and cried when he was ready for John to get up and pet him and feed him, haha.

He had quite a routine down. He was supposed to eat dinner around 5 or 6p, then sit and watch us eat dinner, then clean our plates. After about 9p, it was time for him to go outside, then come in, go to his room, get his treat, and go to bed.

He got to where we could open the door and let him go outside, do his business, and come back inside without a leash and without us watching him every second he was outside. Unlike Miss, we never worried about him taking off for the parking lot, especially because it involved running up a pretty steep hill for an old dog with a bad back and short legs.

Last Christmas, my friend Sia bought John and me a little Christmas tree and decorations because we didn’t have the money to buy a big tree and didn’t have any decorations. John had to work Christmas Eve and it was just Lou, Miss, and me, so I decided to try to take a picture of them in front of the little tree.

It took some wrangling but miracle of miracles, I got the third picture in this entry. When I looked at it, I started crying because I knew it was going to be our last Christmas with Louie.

While we were in Chicago, we noticed Lou had a mole on his chest but didn’t think anything of it because he had a lot of bumps and moles all over him. I called them his old man liver spots.

But then that mole started growing and the growth picked up rapidly over the summer of this year and it started oozing and bleeding. We thought it was some sort of fatty cyst and harmless for a little while, but in late August, I decided Louie had to get it checked out because it was almost as large as a tennis ball.

The vet biopsied it and said it was cancerous and needed to come off so we scheduled the surgery. The morning of his surgery, the vet called and said while examining Louie before his surgery, she noticed his belly was really rigid and Louie, normally calm and quiet, yelped when she pushed on it. She then did some other tests and determined his prostate was enlarged.

The surgery was postponed for early October and he was given anti-inflammatory medication as well an antibiotics to see if the swelling in his prostate would go down. This was when I noticed he started having a lot of poop accidents in the house and then, once on the antibiotics, he seemed to almost stop pooping entirely.

He had the surgery on October 2nd and everything went well. His prostate had reduced in size so the medicine seemed to help but he still could not poop. He tried and tried. I gave him canned pumpkin and it didn’t help.

When I took Missy to the vet two weeks ago because she’d developed another mouth infection (her third in the past year), I told the vet my concerns about him not pooping as well as how lethargic he’d become and that I think he had a seizure a few nights before the appointment. She was most concerned about the constipation and said his prostate was enlarged again and pushing down on his colon and bladder, making it hard for him to relieve himself. She gave me some more anti-inflammatory medication to give him to see if it helped.

Last Monday night, Louie was restless all night long. Usually, the only time he was like that before was if John was at work, but John was home and in bed. Neither John nor I slept that much Monday night because Louie could not get settled. Tuesday morning, we got up and took Missy to the vet to have four more teeth removed, and when we came home, Louie was still restless. When the vet asked us about Louie that morning, we told her he still couldn’t poop and how restless he had been the night before. She said we were at the point of keeping him comfortable, that he didn’t have much time left.

We didn’t realize then how little time there really was left.

He kept following both of us around when we got home so I sat with him on the floor and hugged and petted him then John put him on the couch with me so he could vacuum and I petted and hugged him some more. He wanted John more than he wanted me but John wanted him to go to his room so he could settle down and rest. We gave him some medicine and he finally laid down and rested.

Everything began going downhill Tuesday night.

First, he kept trying to go outside and go to the bathroom and couldn’t and then about 6p, vomited twice outside, something he almost never did. He came back inside and did not want to eat or drink any water. He just laid on his side by the back door. I laid on the floor and petted and talked to him for a while. We tried to see if he could get up to go outside, but he could barely hold his head up.

John and I stayed up til 3a hoping to find out who the next governor in Georgia would be and gave up around that time. I picked Louie up and carried him to his bed in our bedroom because I was worried about leaving him alone in the living room all night in case something happened.

I woke up to Louie vomiting again Wednesday around noon. He managed to walk over to my side of the bed then flop over on his side again. I woke John up and told him, “Louie is dying and he is in a lot of pain now.” He’d started panting Tuesday afternoon too but by Wednesday morning, he was just lying on his side and breathing in short, quick bursts.

The vet closed at noon on Wednesday, which now makes me wish I’d woken up earlier in the day because of how much he suffered Wednesday night. I emailed the vet and told her what was going on and she said to bring him in first thing Thursday morning.

Wednesday night was the worst night of his life and mine. John had to go to work so I sat watching Louie off and on. We gave him some anti-inflammatory medication to help him rest and it worked for a while before he vomited it up. Nothing was being digested and he did not go to the bathroom, even as an accident, all day.

I guess the gift in not being able to take him to the vet Wednesday morning was that he had more time to say goodbye. I laid on the floor next to him and petted him, kissed him on his forehead, and told him how much I love him and how good a dog he has been. I joked how I knew he didn’t like me at first because he and John were supposed to live the bachelor life once John’s first marriage ended and I ruined that, but I knew he secretly loved me because I fed him so many snacks and rubbed his belly and back for him and took him on car rides to Montgomery to run and bark freely all over Mama’s backyard.

I called Caleb over FaceTime on my iPad and he and Mama both talked to Louie and told him how much they love him and what a good, sweet boy he is. He visibly relaxed seeing Caleb’s face, as Caleb became his second favorite boy in his final year of life. Not surprising since Caleb and John are a lot alike.

Louie dozed off some while Caleb and I talked but then opened his eyes and looked around for me. I caught his eye and reminded him I was with him.

I went to bed around 3a again and I found a relaxing playlist on Spotify to play to help Louie relax and maybe rest and help me rest. I was just falling asleep finally when he started dry heaving again. He’d done it once towards the end of my call with Caleb, but then calmed down, but around 4a, it started up again and the whole room smelled acrid and the smell burned my nostrils.

I had to get up and go lie down on the couch in the living room because of the smell and the sounds Louie made when trying to vomit again and again.

Thankfully John got home about two hours early Thursday morning and was able to go sit with Louie and pet him and talk to him. I sat with Louie while John went to put a towel in the backseat of my car for Louie to lie down on and Louie started wildly looking for John.

John carried him out to the car and got in the backseat with him and I drove us to the vet.

I could barely talk when I walked into the vet’s office and told them why I was there. The vet tech had me come into one of the rooms and she closed the blinds. John carried Louie into the room and held him in his lap. He was completely slumped over. Didn’t raise his head or wag his tail. You could see in his whole demeanor he was done.

The vet tech asked if we wanted the vet to examine him to see if there was anything we could do to prolong his life. I looked at John. He looked at Louie and then told the tech, “No, I’ve never seen him as bad off as he is right now. It’s time.”

She said okay and took him to the back to put the IV catheter in.

She and the vet came back a few minutes later. The vet told us how sorry she was about Louie, that she knew he didn’t have much time left but didn’t realize his decline would come so quickly. She laid him on the table and told us she would first give him the anesthetic and make sure he was out. His eyes were open the entire time, but she waved her hand in front of his face and there was no movement in his eyes. I think he stopped breathing then too because I had my hand on his side and watched his belly and there was no movement.

Then she gave him the barbiturates that stopped his heart and checked for a heartbeat. Within less than two minutes, he was gone.

His eyes were still open and he was still so warm. I couldn’t stop running my fingers through his fluffy salt and pepper hair. He was so soft, like a fluffy pillow. I kissed his forehead several times and told him we love him and will miss him so much. The vet hugged us both and told us he will be in good care, that he will be cremated and his ashes will be spread around a communal garden.

When we left our apartment with Louie, it was sunny and so beautiful outside. We went and got breakfast at Chick-Fil-A afterwards and when we came out of there, it was cloudy, gloomy, and grey like it had been all day Wednesday.

I realized Wednesday night while talking to Louie that I have known him almost exactly half of his life. He was so full of energy when I met him. He loved talking shit to his cousins (much larger cousins, I might add) whenever we visited them in Savannah. He was so passionate about food, car rides, his schedule, squirrels, and John. He is so lucky John was able to take him in when he was still so young and give him the long, amazing life he would not have gotten otherwise. John is so lucky he got to be so dearly loved by such a sweet boy.

Louie isn’t just a dog. When I met him along with John and Missy, he became my family and stole a big chunk of my heart. I had no idea how much he would steal when I met him 7.5 years ago. I have cried more in the past three days than I have in a very long time. So much of it is because of how deeply I miss him, but also, there’s a sense of relief because I’ve held my breath for the past year and a half. I knew when his back went out, his time was coming to a close, but I didn’t know when. He held on for so much longer than we expected, and I am thankful for all the borrowed time we got with him.

Our apartment feels so sad and heavy and empty without him, but he isn’t gone from us. I can’t stop talking about him. I still think I hear him at times and I keep looking for him every time I go into the kitchen to get something to eat or drink. It is going to be so hard to adjust to life without him.

I told him Wednesday night, when he gets to Heaven, please look for June and keep her company. She’s not a big dog lover and she probably won’t give him her bacon at first, but keep working on her. Not even June can resist his charm.