When I first got diagnosed with lupus, one of the doctors strongly suggested I get a dog if I didn’t already have one. At the time I did not have a dog and I didn’t think it was such a great idea. Not after being told I had a serious illness that could kill me if I didn’t get help to manage it properly.
When I saw the same Doctor a few months later, he asked me if I had a gotten the dog yet. He explained that dogs are wonderful for helping to relax people, reduce stress and make sure that people stay in a routine of getting out and such. What he couldn’t possibly know is that I tend to like my dogs a little on the unusual side. Rarely are these dogs relaxed and sedate. By the same token, these dogs insist on attention and quality time.
What this doctor and several others failed to recognize is that there is something healing about the unconditional love you get from a four-footed friend. If you have an off day, feel like rubbish or what have you, well they still love you and accommodate as best they can. If that means that you can only curl up and rest, you get a short demand for a walk and then they get in resting right near you. Sometimes that’s the best kind of medicine you can get because it does so much for your soul that it helps heal you a little.
I share a bit about my life with lupus, how it impacts me and a bit about the other folks in my life. The thing is, with May being Lupus Awareness month, what I want to do is shed some awareness on how my lupus isn’t just mine to cope with.
When I was diagnosed with lupus I made some rash assumptions about life based on some out-of-date opinions I had been given. What I had heard made me decide I would probably have a short life, no long-term relationships or such. Of course that was a number of years ago.
When Beloved and I met, I inelegantly announced I had lupus as though it was the elephant in the room. Beloved simply raised an eyebrow and carried on as though I had said I had a hangnail. What I didn’t know was that after we met he went home and did what he does best, lots of research.
He didn’t come into this relationship with his eyes closed. But he also didn’t count on becoming acquainted with so many specialists and hospitals. He certainly didn’t count on a crash course in biology, medical terminology and injections. Yet these are all things he has mastered, as well as reading my moods and movements to predict flares.
Beloved has mastered the art of making my apologies for absenteeism. He has become a professional at making small talk about my health without giving away a lot of information.
Regardless of all the research and such Beloved has completed, he has to learn to adapt every day to zigs and zags of lupus. When my body is in a flare, Beloved must take care of everything he does plus what I normally do and manage the four-footed one. Sometimes, when he drops his guard, I see the worry and the pain in his eyes. I notice the way he has aged and wonder about the weight he must carry because he loves me, despite lupus. How many people would be willing to love not just a person, but also an unpredictable illness that seems to take and take without ever letting up?
The thing with loving someone who has a chronic illness is that you must take it n both regardless of how draining it can be, how it can take over your healthy life entirely. It takes a special person, in my eyes, to look beyond and accept the flaws and damage of the illness as well.
He loved her so much that he couldn’t stand the thought of being away from her. His love meant that he had to know what her schedule for every moment of the day although he didn’t feel that he needed to share his schedule with her. His love made him entitled to know who she was spending her time with, this included knowing her co-workers. Because he loved her so much he wanted to make sure she wasn’t being influenced by negative or “bad” people. This love of his let him pick who she should spend time with just as it let him show her that her own friends weren’t good for her.
He loved her so much that he would do anything to prevent her from making a mistake. This included him using his fists upon her body as a means of a deterrent. He always, but always, said he was sorry afterwards. He was sorry that she didn’t or couldn’t listen to him when he knew what was best for her. He was so sorry that she forced him to go to extreme lengths to keep her safe. His love caused him to hurt himself at times by hurting her. The physical beating she took was surely not nearly as painful as the internal pain he went through when he was forced, by love, to beat her into submission.
He loved her so much that he couldn’t stand the thought of her having a life without him. And it was the act of ultimate love when he shot her or stabbed her to death. And this love surely is what drove him to then take his own life too, for what would his life be like without the love of his life in it? Or so that’s how the story goes.
The reality is no matter how you try to pretty it up, not even the best make-up artist or stylist can hide the horror of domestic violence. And if you think it the same scenario as above couldn’t be altered that the abuser was a female you’d be sadly mistaken. Domestic abuse comes in many different forms and it isn’t always obvious to see what happens behind closed doors or drawn shades.
It’s hard to explain why people stay with their abusers. Love is part of it for some. Just as fear is a factor for others. Sometimes your abuser does an excellent job of telling you things in such a way that you cannot help but believe what s/he says to be true. Some may believe they deserve exactly what they are receiving. For some, at the drawn out end, the death is just a matter of when or by what means it will be carried out.
It’s a sad day my friends when the newscasters can tell us of these murder-suicides before handing it over to the weather person or breaking for a commercial and none of us are fazed by this; nothing more than an unfortunate yet somewhat routine story. But at least he loved her enough to love her to death right?
Some people have normal dogs; you know the kind that greets you with huge tail wags and a happy bark when you come in the house. Other people have normal dogs that greet you with a more authoritative bark and a very protective stance of the property. And then, well then there is my dog. It isn’t that she’s abnormal as per say, she’s just rather unusual in her displays of, well, everything.
To be honest, when you live with it all the time you don’t even notice it, and it probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind except a visitor made a comment that stuck with me when she was departing my house last night. You see my little darling greeted our visitor with a happy dance, carried out by standing only on her hind legs while bouncing around. This happy dance is combined with a whole body wag which is really why she bounces around so much when she’s standing on her hind legs. There was, as always some barking and what we call singing. Her singing is basically where she makes a noise like awip in a soft, almost whispery pitch. (Of course she can also carry out this singing for long periods of time at different pitches, such as the middle of the night when all you really want to do is sleep.)
When you go to leave our house, the four-footed one must accompany you to a certain point where upon she does two somersaults, a quick jump up (she gets good air by the way) before settling into a modified downward dog (the only difference in her downward dog is that she is able to tuck her front legs up against her chest and then put her chest/legs flat on the floor with her head turned to one side also flat on the floor).
While you are visiting you are bound to find carrying out somersaults and turning her bed upside down so she can hide under it. Of course if she likes you she will claim your feet as her new favorite place to curl up and have a rest. That’s right, she will curl up into a little ball and fall asleep right on your feet, until you make the slightest movement, then she’s up like a rocket that must dash around the room several times before she finds another set of feet to settle upon. (We were afraid she would become a lap dog, so we were relieved when that did not happen, but a foot dog?)
So as the my four-footed wonder was in her “goodbye” position, our visitor asked me how long it took to train the dog to do those tricks and why had we taught her the tricks in the first place. The truth is, we never taught her any of this. It is her normal self, out for the entire world to see and not a shred of embarrassment or fear of being judged. And frankly I love that she is able to do this. So no, your typical dog displaying typical dog behavior she is definitely not, but she keeps us entertained and we love her dearly.
The most wondrous prize I ever wanted to have when I was young was a small frog in plastic bag. Each year when the fair would come to town I would set my heart upon getting one of these frogs. It didn’t matter that my mother was dead set against the frog coming in-house or that the amount of money that would have to be spent for me to acquire said animal was ridiculous. I just I wanted that frog. I mean I dreamt about getting a frog. I picked out a name and decided how to I would fix up an old fishbowl as a frog home and all the rest.
Alas I never got the frog and not just because my mother was dead set against it either. Nor was it entirely because my father was too fiscally responsible (read that as frugal) to spend money on a frog that probably wouldn’t last long. I outgrew the frog or rather I shifted my obsession to other things. Some of those things I got such as books and toys and some I did not, such as the snow cone maker I was wanted for a couple of years.
While at the clinic today, I overheard a mother promise her son anything he wanted if he would just go and do whatever the doctor was asking him to do and I was left to wonder what his anything dream would be. Judging from his size he was roughly the age I was when the frog was the most wonderful thing to win and have. I wondered if he would choose a frog, a pet, an ice cream or something more like a tablet (probably already has one) or such.
But this little boy surprised me because I bumped into him and his mom while I was on my way out. It seems he had been a good boy and so now it was time for him to get that anything that he wanted. It turns out the most wondrous prize for this child was a hug from his mom and a promise of a story when they got home. And you know what? If someone offered me those things when I was his age I’d take it every time too because it is really the most wondrous thing. The love and comfort never goes away and the adventure of the story, shared with someone special stays with you too, long after the frog has hopped away to find his own princess.
Shirts tossed on a chair, shoes kicked off in the corner over there. Signs that Beloved is home, somewhere and everywhere. Signs that when I walk further into the house he will be there, and not just when I close my eyes, but when the sunrise comes back to coax me into another morning, signs that are the reality that Beloved is home again.
I can feel it before I see those signs in the house. The house seems different even from the outside, as though it has shaken some dust off of itself in a way to prepare for his arrival. I can hear it as I come up the sidewalk, open windows letting soft music join in dancing with the breeze.
And I give pause before I search him out. He is back home yes. In my house, my world and my routine; he is the one intruding this time, not I. I give pause knowing that his being here means changes again. Yes food lovingly prepared and ready for when I get home. And a clean house during the week, not waiting for me to get to it on the weekend as is the usual case. It also means a different set of noises and routines must be given space to take place. For he sings a different song, dances to a different beat and takes up his own space regardless of who owns the place.
Not that I am complaining, not in the least for if I wasn’t happy he wouldn’t be here. The door would not yield to his hand, to his turn of the key. But I must pause and take in what is about to happen so that I can move things around in my life to accommodate his sudden descent into my every day routine. And I must pause as well to see what changes have come with him as he opened the door to the house this time. Will there be something haunting in his eyes, deeper lines cutting across his face or will there be only laughter and smiles to carry us through?
The music tells me the room he has at least been in. The smell of food holds a promise of a wonderful meal. And the soft, gentle way he sets aside the book tells me that there is no surprise, nothing to worry about this time. He is whole and well and has come because he can, not because he must. He promises to put away his unpacking and tidy up his shoes later on, once he has managed to make it his home again as well. His home and our routine again.
In the movies things omits always work out. Fingernails don’t get broken, the most unruly of hair can be turned into something wonderful and amazing, and love conquers all. But that’s in the movies, and in Hollywood anything can turn out to be a happily ever after. Heck racial intolerance or religious differences can be overcome with the magical idea of love. For Hollywood, fairytale so and romance novels all tell us love conquers all. We just have to find our true love, and we will know when we find it for it shall feel perfect.
Now I’m the owner of a patch of unruly hair so I can attest to the fact that sometimes there ain’t nothing that can be done for unruly hair. Other times a gallon of hairspray and a pray may make it hold still enough to look decent. And a broken fingernail can be filed and will somehow grow itself out in time.
And true love in my life, is a man who sings slightly off-key as he struggles to create flavors from back home. True love, in my books, is a man who doesn’t get his feathers too ruffled when I change my mind and tell him it’s still not right. And love is a man who puts up with the uncertainty that is part of the package that comes with me. No questions asked.
Of course that man who done that cooking left me a mess about as wide as the Mississippi herself! And love is part of cleaning up that massive mess, perhaps not happily so, but cleaning it because love and good intentions is what made that mess in the first place. And by no means is my life a happily ever after, but it’s sure got a lot of happiness in it.