Sometimes, especially when I’ve missed the signs that tell me I’m not doing enough self-care and it comes down to a friend or loved one insisting that I stop and rest, it’s easy to get lost in the resentment or anger of having to pause. I know these people mean well and are telling me to slow down because they care about me, but it still reminds me that there is something that makes me different.
The other day was one of those moments where Beloved, after taking a looking st me insisted I go and rest. At the time I felt a bit off, nothing too bad just tired and achy with a wee fever. A smart woman would respond to these symptoms and deal with them, but I am not that woman. After a wee disagreement, I gave in to go and rest with the four-footed one.
Beloved came into the room to take my four-footed one outside and accidentally woke me up, although I wasn’t fully asleep. I was in that light state of sleep where you could go deeper into sleep or wake up. I woke up and checked what time it was as I was a wee bit confused. We had only been resting for an hour when Beloved came in.
By this point my face was proudly displaying the full butterfly rash of very active lupus. My hands and feet had become very swollen and I was not at my best. So I went back to sleep leaving the four-footed one in Beloved’s hands.
I was and am grateful to have people in my life who can insist I get proper rest before I realize I need it. I am appreciative of the fact that I have people in my life who take care of the things I can’t manage all the time. I’m blessed to have a good medical team and access to medication to help manage my lupus.
I’m grateful to wake up each morning and have some type of adventure, even if it remains only within in the house. Some days my gratitude is for simpler things, such as the couch, a stocked kitchen and not being in the hospital.
It would be easy to get lost in the negative and throw a huge week-long pity party. It would be easy to complain and keep a list of what I cannot do. But why bother with any of that when I have so much to be thankful for, so many people to appreciate and so much gratitude in my life. Yes I have a chronic illness and yes it has altered my life, but there is still much to appreciate. Lupus does not run everything in my life and I can choose how to deal with it. I choose gratitude.
Over the course of my life I have heard that my attitude makes all the difference. When I used to hear this kind of stuff I’d chalk it up to my parents or some other authority figure trying to control me in a way I didn’t want to be controlled.
When I got a little older I took some courses in psychology where I was taught that you can trick yourself into believing things that aren’t actual facts yet, at least when it comes to yourself. For example if you dont feel confident but you keep telling yourself you are a confident person and pointing out the things you did accomplish with confidence, well you’d wind up believing in yourself when it comes to confidence.
So I would try these little tricks of the kind when I was feeling the effects of a flare. I’d tell myself I did have the energy for a shower and getting dressed and my follow thigh would happen even if it was a huge struggle. And I’d basically carry on with whole day by breaking it up into little bits. Sure there were some things that became too much to do, but I would wind up the day by feeling really pleased with myself and all I had accomplished. I’d even feel proud when other people marvelled at how I pushed myself on despite being in a flare because I was in charge not my illness.
Here’s the rub though, I never enjoyed any of the time I spent pushing myself so hard. In fact I barely remember most of what I did and why I had to do it at that time. I just remember it felt like I was pulling myself through thick mud and there wasn’t a helping hand in sight. The reality is there were tons of helping hands, most of them trying to pull me out of the mud to rest when I had expected them to get into the mud and push me through. Truth be told, there was no real need to push myself so hard because the only person I had to prove anything to was myself. What I should have been doing was being more compassionate towards myself, caring a bit more about my health and less about how I could push through and beyond what some of my health coworker’s were doing.
As a result, my disease would flare horribly out of control and end up doing permanent harm to myself. Which I would then shrug off as I pushed through something else. It was a pretty regular routine in my part, until recently. You see I acquired a new member of my medical team and he put it to me like this: “why should I bother to put in time and effort to keep you alive and healthy if you won’t put in the same for yourself ?” He also told me that all my accomplishments in my personal life and my work life wouldn’t mean much if I ended up stuck in a hospital.
What I had realized was this man had listened to me talk with other lupus patients about the importance of rest and self-care while I refused to do the same for me. He wondered why I disliked myself so much that I saw no value in me as a person. And he voiced all of this and much more during one of my appointments. It’s not that I dislike myself or devalue myself (although I am my own worst critic), it’s that I felt that if I could push back at lupus id win the battle. I have since tried to shoe myself the same compassion and understanding I share with others who have a chronic illness and I must say it is a huge relief to not have to do more than I feel I can do. It’s nice to accept that some days having a shower and getting dressed is a huge accomplishment and that is perfectly fine. The only thing that has changed, and it’s such a small change with such a huge impact is that I’m allowing myself to be a woman who sometimes must stay within certain limitations, but those limitations do not reflect on my impact.
I grabbed my four-footed companion and took her with me for rounds to my various healthcare providers. We had gifts and much thanks to offer these wonderful people who do their best to keep me healthy despite me not always following orders.
My companion was of course a huge hit and she revelled in the attention she received. When one of the nurses opted to take my blood work to check if I’d be able to do my treatment tomorrow another one informed me that my companion required being snuggled. By the nurse rather than myself so that my companion wouldn’t see the blood being drawn from my arm.
I understand the logic that you don’t want a squirming puppy getting in the midst of a blood draw, and I can see the need to not have the patient hold the dog during this procedure. I don’t really understand the dog being upset seeing the blood being drawn from my arm. To be honest I don’t think the dog cares one way or another. Although she might be fascinated in watching the blood fill up the various tubes.
My companion was having none of this cuddling by a stranger. She kicked and she pushed, she squirmed and she wriggled all in an effort to get away from the stranger. She growled and whimpered until she was placed on my lap. Where she sat while we waited for the results.
When the rheumatologist came out to discuss the results she carefully assessed him. She seemed to understand when he told me I wouldn’t be able to have more treatment for this year. That’s what I took her sudden growling as. So did the rheumatologist. He apologized and tried to make nice to her, but she was having none of it.
The doctor wrote out prescriptions to get me through as best it can be and told me to snuggle the dog and hang on tight when things seem bad. Because the bad moments are not nay a speed bump, until you are the one dealing with them. Not exactly the gift I was hoping for, but within each moment we are provided lessons to learn. This one is to allow others to help, admit things aren’t all rainbows and the appreciation and gratitude I have for those in my life, especially the four-footed kind who don’t care about lupus or that I’m not able to do everything they want.
A friend suggested we head for some tea and scones to a place that welcomed pets. So free I finished submitting some reports, I headed off home to gather up my four-footed companion and then off to wet my friend.
The eatery is a quaint, wee place, seating no more than twenty people as plenty of space is between tables allowing for four-footed companions. I confess I was apprehensive about taking my own four-footed wonder in simply because she is a high energy type of puppy. She likes to get up close and personal as she checks out every thing, whether it’s the first time she’s encounters it or the one hundredth time. But she was on her best behavior. And thankfully the place wasn’t overly busy so she was the only dog who came in.
Most of the patrons were seniors enjoying a late afternoon tea with some nibbles. Once we found a place to sit, the owner immediately brought out meds and a bowl of water for the four-footed one. My little dog who can act like a devil behaved like angel enjoying all the attention and strokes she was getting while my friend and I sorted out our tea and scone selection.
While we waited for our order to arrive my four-footed friend insisted upon visiting with every person in place. Fortunately she was welcomed at each table, lapping up the attention as if she deserved it. An elderly couple took to her spirited nature and applauded her many tricks. And she too took to them. So much so that when my order arrived she happily wandered back to the couple and visited with them for a bit before coming back.
The owner of the shop even brought my four-footed companion a wee treat for being such a good girl. She also assured me we were welcome any time we wanted to drop by. Most of her customers, she told my friend and I, are elderly and having dogs come in help bring smiles to those faces.
I must confess it is nice to be able to take my four-footed companion with me rather than having to leave her behind. It’s nice she is welcome and I’m happy she is able to bring joy to others. We are working on getting her better behaved so she can do more visits with the elderly because everyone needs some pet time.
A wise man once told me that you must have another life, a different kind of life, to look after in your own life. It was his way of saying everyone should have a pet of some sort. He believed that a pet would only enhance your life, help you not take things so seriously and allow you to manage your stress.
He told me that this other kind of life would never take me as seriously as I would take myself. And it was for this very reason that my life would become more enriched and more full.
While I may never have actively considered his statements when I was getting my four-footed companions, he was right about everything. None of my dear four-footed companions have taken me too seriously. They are too busy living in the moment and making the most out of each of those moments to worry about using the right word, or not looking foolish.
Each of my companions have let me vent to them, share my fears and my joys with them. I was safe in knowing they’d never be able to tell that to another person. They have provided me with comfort when I thought there was none to be found. They have reminded me of the importance of play in life. They show you that life can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Life is what you choose it to be.
And I choose to have my life shared with four-footed companions who will sometimes drive me to the point of insanity and at other times make me wonder how some people manage life without them. Because frankly I cannot resist a puppy who does summersaults because it’s her nature. I can’t resist the wag of a tail that shakes the whole body with excitement and happiness. I can’t resist the way that small, warm body curls up against mine when I feel like death twice warmed over or wonder how we move forward in a world so full of negative emotions and behaviors. And yes that means I choose a life with a four-footed companion who will never exceed the toddler stage of human cycles. Which means sometimes we have odd hours, temper tantrums, naughty behavior and stubbornness. I choose it all, because I can’t imagine a life without the companion and therefore I accept that which is a part of my four-footed companions.
I was certain we brought home a puppy. You know, an infant dog? I was certain that’s what we had. But I’ve come to learn she is many other animals all disguised as a dog, err puppy I mean.
Not that I mind that she eats grass like a goat. I just wish she ate it evenly. Nor do I mind that she digs mushrooms out of the dirt. I just wish she didn’t eat them as some of them are poisonous to her little being. And I certainly don’t mind when she grunts and squeals with delight. She also chirps when she is very excited. She only barks out of necessity, such as let me out of the house.
No I mind not any of these things as they are simply a part of her and I am not ashamed to say I love her. The good parts as well as the parts that fail to listen or follow the rules.
She has been a blessing to our lives. She has brought joy, curiosity and Humor to lives that sometimes are a bit too serious. Plus she forces us beyond ourselves. She can’t help it, she is far too outgoing and doesn’t understand how we aren’t the same.
Of course she also doesn’t understand why we tell her not to eat bugs because that’s gross. Nor is she impressed with Beloved’s leaping abilities. Let’s just say she gets far more clearance than he does.
A close friend of mine mentioned her concern about winter quickly coming for a visit. Like myself she isn’t a fan of winter. Unlike me it throws her into a dark place, known as dispair and depression. To combat this she has special lights to deal with the lack of sunlight during winter where she lives. She is also provided medication if it is required.
Sh told me today that when winter comes she finds herself just going through the motions of living. She finds her interest fades, her joy and sense of celebration evaporate and she becomes robotic, carrying out what she must in order to survive and not create issues with her husband.
Addng injury to insult, so to speak, her husband adores winter. He loves snow piled up to his knees and a cold, bracing end. He skates, skis, snowshoes and rides snow machines. He loves the snow flying in his face and run coming home and having a warm drink. He has been known to camp in winter. In a tent of sorts. With a sleeping bag.
He doesn’t understand how much my friend dislikes winter. He “humours” her need for the special lights. He tolerates her scheduling one short vacation each winter to someplace warm and tropical. He considers her fears of winter, or rather the way winter impacts her, as being a little silly. He has cajoled, and forced her to go out and try winter activities. He doesn’t understand her lack of enjoyment.
How much of her concern and fears are based on not being understood? How much are based on not being taken seriously? I know for me those would be things I’d dread as well as the coming cod and snow. But I also known finding things to be grateful for helps me through the season that I dislike the most. Granted dislike winter is mild compared to what she goes through.