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Give Me A Hand

October 8, 2018

One of my new roommates is a sweet dog named Reggie. He’s a beagle/lab mix, which is as cute as you might imagine – a half-sized lab with round sea lion eyes.

He started his life with some bad people, and was apparently tied up in a garage. When my friend got him, he was almost hairless from allergies and skin diseases. She nursed him back to health and he is furry as can be. Despite his history he is as sweet as a sugar cookie – gentle and waggy and just a very, very good boy.

He also has some quirks. He won’t walk on slick floors. The house is a patchwork of area rugs, so Reggie can make his way from spot to spot. It’s not a problem around here, but the veterinarian is another story.

I decided to take Reggie to the vet to help my friend out. She works during the day, and I’m off, so I packed him and three carpet squares up and headed to the new vet’s, knowing this might be…challenging.

I opened the door of the veterinarian’s and laid down the carpet squares. Two staff members sat behind the front desk, staring at me. Reggie balked on the end of his leash, bracing his legs. I told them “He’s afraid of slick floors.” They continued to stare, wordless. I eventually persuaded Reggie to come in as far as the second carpet square, so we could sit in the waiting room.

When they tried to take us to an exam room, Reggie went into terror mode again. The staff just stood there with their paperwork, looking irritated.

Eventually the vet came out and, seeing the situation, kindly offered to examine Reggie outside where he would be comfortable. Easy peasy. She was great. He got his meds and we were on our way.

Why couldn’t the staff members have been more welcoming or warm? Why did they have to sit there so coldly and judgmentally? They made an awkward situation more awkward. They could see I was in a difficult situation – a frightened dog, a vast expanse of linoleum – and they did nothing whatsoever to help. They could have made a little joke or said a kind word or even smiled, but nope.

If I have one mission, it is that I want the whole world to be a more welcoming place. Look at people. Look in their eyes. Say hello. Say thank you. Ask how they are. Say “Welcome to…” wherever. Greet them. This stuff is basic. It’s important. It’s how we create our world and how we make friends. It’s worth asking: what kind of world do we want?

And how could you not welcome me and this dear dog? I mean, LOOK at his face. Such a good boy.

A tan mixed-breed dog faces the camera while lying down and chewing a red toy. He is wagging his tail.

Trying/Not Trying

October 5, 2018

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So what have I been doing? Losing my damn mind. No, seriously.

Somewhere between my mom’s last days and her death and getting kicked out of my apartment and having to get rid of my dog and deciding to live in an RV and dispose of most of my worldly belongings, I lost it.

Then this jackass at the mortuary called me to tell me that my mom was next up to be cremated. “We’ll be doing it within the hour,” he said. It hit me like a speeding truck. I started howling from all the way down around my ankles. It was something I hadn’t been expecting to be told, and I didn’t want to know, and it shook my bones and tore me UP.

(He wasn’t supposed to call me. It was a mistake. That did not make me feel better).

I wasn’t going to write about this. I went out of work on disability, you see, and I was worried what work would think if all that was wrong with me is that I was crying pretty much all the time, unable to think or focus, and completely miserable in every aspect. WHAT A WIMP, I KNOW.

I spent Labor Day weekend sobbing. The thought of returning to work made me panic and shake and sweat. I could not face trying to work and making mistake on top of mistake, which I had been doing the whole week before. I knew I had to do something, anything. I make a doctor appointment for Tuesday, calling as soon as their office opened, and I took the day off.

I spent the doctor visit failing at trying not to cry. She agreed I might be a little wound up. She recommended therapy and exercise and journaling and spending time outside, and told me to take at least 2 weeks off.

I spend the two weeks not doing much. Not journaling, not exercising, but sobbing less and meditating more.

About that time, I saw this video, and began to suspect I may have anxiety. Why? Because all the stuff in this video just seemed normal to me. I had no idea it was something everyone didn’t do.

I found a therapist who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, but who gave me hope for the first time that something could be done.

I have learned that thinking terrible things are going to happen all the time isn’t normal! Like my employer may actually UNDERSTAND that people have mental health issues and need time off to heal.

So I have been living with a kind friend, helping her walk her dogs, and learning to relax.

This is something my therapist insists I need to do. She says it is my job for now. I ask her how I can do better at relaxing, how I can try harder, and she tells me that’s not the tack I should be taking.

So here I am, trying not to relax too hard. Trying not to try to relax. Relaxing.

And guess what? I have started enjoying myself. In little flashes, in small moments, I’m relaxed and happy.

I could have a life I love. It seems that might be possible for me. Who knew? Please let me know if you have any advice about relaxing. I want to be sure to score 100% if there is a test.

Some, I Assume

August 25, 2018

The first time I went to college, I studied horticulture. A bookish person, I wasn’t suited to it, because it involved physical effort. This explains why I can tell you the botanic names of herbaceous perennials, but my back yard is a barren wasteland.

Between my junior and senior years, I did an internship in a greenhouse in Carpinteria. They grew cut chrysanthemums for the wholesale market. I went to try to learn everything about growing flowers, and left at the end of the summer, having learned mostly that growing flowers was too hard.At the greenhouse

“It’s a perishable luxury item,” said one of the owners. “If you have a luxury item like Mercedes cars and you have an economic downturn, you still have cars. If you have a perishable necessity item like milk, people still need that. But flowers? They’re the first thing people cut out in tough times.”

It wasn’t just economically hard. It was physically brutal. I worked with a crew of about 20 guys and 3 women, all Mexicans. They worked 9 hours per day, 6 days per week. I worked 8 hours, 5 days. They planted and harvested all day long. I did it four or five hours per day. And I could not handle even that. I would go home at the end of the day, empty the dirt out of my pockets and ears, and lay on the floor, immobile, my back aching. Eventually I would work up enough energy to go take a shower and eat something.

I didn’t have kids. I didn’t have any other responsibilities. I had my mommy to make food for me. And even then, I couldn’t cope.

The greenhouses were hot, sweaty, dirty. Workers sprayed pesticide at one end while people worked at the other – the rule for many types of poison was that if it was dry, it was ok to go back and handle the plants. People got rashes. They got respiratory ailments. Who knows what long-term problems they got?

I started thinking about this experience today when I read about high-schoolers trying to pick strawberries. I tried to do farm work, and I failed.

Trump and his cronies are trying to force farm workers out of the country because they are “illegal.” My question is this: when they’re gone, who is going to pick our crops and raise and slaughter our food animals? I’m not arguing that we should keep exploiting undocumented farm workers. I’m saying that we either need serious immigration reform and/or we need to pay citizens enough so that they have an incentive to perform farm work. In either case, food is going to be a lot more expensive.

Until then, I give thanks for the many labors that bring me my food each day. I got a tiny sliver of experience doing ag work, and it gave me a lifetime of compassion.

 

 

 

 

Heads

June 3, 2018

The dog and I love this weedy field a couple blocks away. She loves it because it is a large space for her to run around and explore. I love it because it is fenced all the way around except for one gap, and because the dog gets to run around and get tired.

She was running and I was checking my phone and standing at the gap in the fence. I glanced up and she was eating something. In a weedy field? I don’t want to know. Probably either something gross, something dangerous, or both.

I tossed a rock in her direction. She was about 100 feet away, and I thought it would startle her away and stop her consuming something that was going to end us up at the vet.

I’m a bad shot. I regularly miss the trash can from 3 feet away. But that day was my 3-pointer at the buzzer moment. My friends, I bonked my dog on the head with a rock.

World’s worst dog mom. She yelped and came running toward me, scared out of her mind. She has a bruise under one eye visible through her white fur.

I will stop feeling bad about it someday.

Showtime

May 30, 2018

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Walking the dog this misty morning.

I see a person sitting in the picture window of a darling Spanish-style bungalow, enjoying coffee and pensively enjoying the view.

Dog immediately squats on their lawn and drops a giant steaming load.

Why, dog, why?

Why do dogs need an audience?

 

Photo copyright Sue Davis 2017

Pace Yourselves

May 27, 2018

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Many moons ago, when I was youngish and dumb, I got invited to go hiking with a group of eight people, seven of whom I did not know well.

We were driving about 90 minutes north to a wilderness area, where we were to park by a river, take a leisurely stroll up the banks, and then come to the major attraction, some slot canyons filled with water, where we could swim and clamber up small waterfalls and enjoy the warm afternoon.

At least that’s what they told me. In reality, the park had been closed off many miles from the river, so we had to hike in and up and up and then down and down into the river valley, THEN do the slot canyon swim/hike.

We parked our cars and took off, kind of fast. Faster than I was comfortable hiking, but damned if I was going to be the laggard. I moved my chunky short legs so fast that I was almost running. And they upped their pace. It happened over and over. We were flying along, up these dirt roads, faster and faster.

After our swim in the canyons, I was determined not to be the one who pooped out early, so I took off while they were still changing their clothes. I zoomed alone along the path, keeping a sharp ear for approaching footfalls.

Someone eventually caught me and we made good hiking partners. We got back to the cars just a little before the others.

Hot, sweaty, tired and starving, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant. Over our second beer, someone finally said “Why did we have to walk so fast?”

Someone else said “Why did YOU have to walk so fast? I was just trying to keep up with YOU. I didn’t want to walk that fast.”

It turns out no one had wanted to walk that fast, but we were all too intimidated to say “Hey, can we slow down?” No one wanted to be the weakest link.

You can draw your own life lesson from this one.

 

Photo copyright: Sue Davis

Up n At ‘Em

May 23, 2018

Conversation with my doc during my annual physical, as I got ready for my Pap smear. She is a treat.

Doc: And I see you got your colonoscopy?
Suebob: Yes, I stayed awake
Doc: WHY? OMG WHY?
Suebob: It was entertaining. I got to see my shiny colon. I expected it to look horrible and it was all pink and clean
Doc: Well, of course it was, considering the prep they do. I never wanted to see mine. I saw enough in medical school. It was like when I had my kids. I said “No, don’t show me. Just get them out and clean them up.”
Suebob: I was kind of afraid of the colonoscopy
Doc: Yeah, people generally are
Suebob: Well, I assumed that…you know the position for the Pap smear? I thought it was going to be like that, but with your buns up and everyone looking at you…
Doc, laughing: Oh, no, no, they put you on your side, right?
Suebob: Yes, and I was all covered up. It was very discreet
Doc: They don’t even have to look to insert the scope, they do it so often. But back in school, we did rectal exams like that for prostate cancer
Suebob: What?
Doc: Well, this was training, and they were volunteers. We would come in and there would be a whole room with men lined up on both sides with their butts up in the air…
Suebob: [Shrieking]
Doc: I know. At least they got paid for it.
Suebob: And at least it was before social media.

Perfect Stillness

May 20, 2018

I began meditating in earnest in January. I committed myself to half an hour per day for 40 days, and I did that thing. Even on days when I had no time. Even when I didn’t want to. Even when I really, really didn’t want to, I still did it.

Here’s how I meditate: I just sit there. I begin by saying “Quiet the body, quiet the mind,” but that’s it. Then I just sit there and breathe and come back to breathing instead of everything else and then do that 1,000 more times, then the timer goes off.

I keep hearing about fancy meditation things – bells and candles and prayer beads and guided meditations and such.

One day, an ad for a free meditation app popped up in my Facebook feed, so I downloaded it. There were a handful of free guided meditations and videos about meditating on it, then everything else you had to pay for. Typical.

I listened to a 5-minute guided meditation, which was actually kind of nice. Then I started my regular practice of just sitting there.

BOING went my phone. BOING. BOING. I had forgotten to silence the thing.

I looked at it. There were a series of texts.

“Hi, Suebob!”
“This is Chad from The Annoying Meditation App!”
(Why all the exclamation points, Chad? I thought we were supposed to be calming down here!!!)
“I just wanted to know if you need any help getting started with meditation!”
(Yes, Chad, the help I need is for you to quit texting me.)

I deleted the app and went back to just sitting there.

Ah, much better.

Chi and Me

May 13, 2018

I have taken Tai Chi a couple times, once from a good teacher and once from a bad one. Tai Chi Chuan is a series of 108 movements meant to exercise the body, calm the mind and improve the flow of vital energy – chi.

In the search for a new, good teacher, I went to a Tai Chi class at my favorite yoga studio. I found it wasn’t the Chinese practice, but a shorter, American version that was created as warm-up exercises for the longer form. The short form, Tai Chi Chih, took on a life of its own.

Halfway through the first class, I knew this was My New Thing. I felt like I was born to do this. I left class so happy and with so much energy that it was almost like not being me at all.

That was three weeks ago and now I have taken classes from three different teachers, including a class at park on Saturday morning at 8:30 in a neighboring town, which meant I had to get up at 6 to have breakfast, walk the dog and drive over there.

During the third class I took, someting remarkable happened. I felt the chi. Not as an imagined thing. As a real force. The chi is not some woo-woo thing. It exists just like my hand exists and my pants exist.

I was doing the closing movement (each exercise has the same closing movement) and suddenly my left hand felt it. I don’t know what I did, but my teacher instantly knew I felt it.

She said “I spend years teaching people to try to feel that.”

I know I’m going to teach this class someday. Mark my words.

In case you’re curious, here’s the founder doing the opening warm-up.

Mansplaining

May 12, 2018

Back story: I answer my phone with my name because my phone number once belonged to Jim Schwartz, a guy who does some kind of financial thingy. For the first year I had the phone number, I got at least a dozen calls per week for Jim.

After blocking hundreds of numbers and explaining the finer points of the Telecommunications Privacy Act to a bunch of people (“It doesn’t matter if you are a vendor. You STILL need to comply!”), I’m down to about one call per week for Jim, but I still answer the phone that way for unknown numbers just in case.

Today the phone rang.

Suebob: Hi, this is Sue Davis.
Unknown dude: Nuh uh
Suebob: Pardon? THIS IS SUE DAVIS.
Dude: Silence.
Suebob: Silence.
Dude: HELLO?
Suebob: Yes?
Dude: Davis???? Where’s Michelle?
Suebob: You have the wrong number.
This is the part I love.
Dude: No, I doubt it.
Suebob: Yes, goodbye.

Reader, he waited about 15 minutes and called BACK.

To give the callers for Jim Schwartz credit, once I explained that I was not Jim Schwartz, none of them ever said “No, I doubt it.”

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