"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Friday, March 27, 2015

Six Years with Bear

I am terribly behind in writing this post. Months behind. I made excuses, and some were valid. We lost our cat Lucy near Christmastime, and the weeks after that were difficult. There were added stressors, and other things that seemed to get in the way. 

But, every year, I have looked so forward to writing this post and sharing my memories of sweet Bear. I realized finally that my hesitation is rooted a little bit in fear. Time is passing so fast. Bear is six. How can that be? For some reason, this year is hard. Passing the five year mark, he is less of a baby, and at times, I can see it. His once cast iron stomach, which was affected by absolutely nothing he ate—from lipstick to light bulbs—now gets queasy and upset from overdoing it with treats. His boundless energy, which I used to beg for a break from—is now a thing of the past. He has spurts of it—definitely—but prefers napping and sleeping in on lazy Sunday mornings. He’s had a few aches and pains, too, back strains that left him unable to jump on the bed for a few days (which had me sleeping with him on the floor) and a few hurt paws and leg strains that made him limp for a few days.

He is actually healthy and in great shape, the vet assures me, as I worriedly take him in for every little concern. He is just getting older. He is not even “old” at this point. It is just hard to watch the transition.

Bear is more than a dog, more than a companion. He is one of the loves of my life, and I say this without doubt or hesitation. A part of my heart will always be his. He found me (and I believe that in some cosmic way he did find me) at the very lowest point of my life. Even then, I didn’t realize that’s where I was. But he came to me then, and was the only heartbeat strong enough to pull me completely out of that pit I was in. There is a magical connection between us, I can’t fully explain it, and I don’t expect others to accept or comprehend it. I am so grateful to him, for loving me, and teaching me to love and laugh again.

This bond with us was unfortunately formed at a time when I was deeply depressed, and now Bear has a sixth sense with me of when I am drifting towards that abyss. There is a knowing look in his eyes that both comforts and scares me a bit. How can he know? How can he know when no one else does? He pulls a little closer to me in those moments and stares and at me long and lovingly. I am here—he seems to say. I feel it.

The best example of this is a recent moment in my life that I will never, as long as I live, ever forget. My husband was there to see it, and I am so thankful that someone else saw how special it was.

It was Saturday, December 13, 2014. My husband and I had just come home from letting our cat Lucy go, having her put to sleep, after a traumatic ordeal. Just minutes before we walked in the house, I had cradled my cat of 14 years in my arms for the last time and felt all the guilt of the world rush over me. The moment was bigger than that; I felt I had failed in one of the few things I could rely on knowing how to do—taking care of these fur babies. I came into the house and although Bear and Boone were doing their usual wiggly, happy, welcome dance, I couldn’t engage. 

I tried to make it to my bedroom in the back of the house, and couldn’t. I made it as far as the guest bedroom and collapsed on the bed, lying on my side facing the wall, sobbing in a way that I haven’t in years. Boone came in the room, utterly confused, jumped on the bed and back off. At first, Shea didn’t realize where I went and was looking for me. In the meantime, Bear came slowly into the room. He carefully got on the bed just as Shea entered the room and sat behind me on the bed. Bear crept slowly to me, and began licking the tears from my face. He then carefully laid down next to me and slid his two front paws under my head and neck, something he has never done before. Then, he put his head between my head and shoulders and pulled me close. Shea actually gasped. He said Bear had the most human expression, that he shut his eyes tight as he pulled me close. I sobbed into Bear’s chest for a good bit and held him, amazed at this act of comfort. I won’t ever forget that. I can’t do it justice with my words. But in moments of sadness, loss, and despair, Bear has found me, always.

Bear has a really good life. He is spoiled by anyone’s measure. He wants for nothing. We tell him every day, over and over again, how much we love him. He has a big back yard to romp with his little brother. Boone idolizes him, and the two of them love to play and bark at all the threats that dare come too close to our house, real or imagined. The two of them are regular visitors to the local dog park and one of my great joys is looking across the park and seeing Bear’s huge smile as he takes it all in. He still does laps around the huge park in bouts of what we call “crazy dog”, which actually comforts me, letting me know that he still has some puppy energy in there somewhere. 

Bear and Shea have an incredibly close, special bond that was instantaneous when they met, and part of the reason I was able to open my heart to Shea, when I had thought true love was something for the rest of the world, not me.

Bear is an unapologetic bed hog, taking up most of the space in our king-size bed every night. He will playfully growl if I try to move him, and often kicks both of us in annoyance when we interrupt his comfortable sleeping positions. There are times when it would be easier to make him move to the floor, but Shea and I will share a glance, and although we don’t say anything, I know we are both thinking that he won’t always be here and he gets to sleep however he wants.

At his last vet visit, Bear, as usual, charmed everyone and the vet laughed as he himself was tricked into giving Bear another treat in exchange for cooperation during his exam. The vet let me know that Bear really could lose a few pounds, and that we needed to cut back on the treats. We try, but this face is hard to resist.

He makes us laugh, with his stubborn, funny attitude—his sneaky way of tricking his brother out of his bones and toys, and his human-sounding burps and farts, that still, after 6 years, make us belly laugh every time. He is unapologetic about those, too.

As I write this, Bear is lying next to me, snoring a little, snuggled up as close as he can get, with a paw on my knee. I have been having a rough couple of days, and today for some reason, has been tougher. He knows that. Somehow, he knows.

Thank you for a beautiful, love-filled, happy, hilarious, special, flying-by-too-fast six years my sweet boy. We love you. I love you. You are my sunshine.

All of my Bear posts, year by year:

Five Years with Bear


Saturday, March 14, 2015



If I had to describe one word for how I feel right now, that would be it.

Overall, in general—career, personal, just life.

In reality, I am not. Well, in some ways, I guess it is true.

I hate this feeling.

This past November, I started a new job that I am so well suited for. I have felt needed, respected, and know that I am in a place where I can make a difference and do good work. I am old enough now to know that this doesn’t come along every day. I have worked in some places over the past decade that made me so miserable, where I felt so horrible—where almost everyone felt horrible. Toxicity was almost applauded. Those workplaces are more common than you think. It’s scary how accepted that kind of atmosphere is in a lot of offices. Nowhere is perfect, but I finally landed somewhere that feels…right.

So, there’s one check mark for the areas of my life that I worry about. Career/Job—check.

My marriage just passed the four year mark, and we still love and support each other. I honestly worried for so long that I would never have that kind of love in my life. So, there’s another big area I can add to the list—personal/love life—check.

There’s this stupid thing I do all the time—it’s a habit I started so long ago that I can’t remember when it began. I know it was borne out of me making promises to my depressed, worried younger self. I was really struggling with my self-esteem when I was younger, with everything that was going on with my parents, my father in particular, and just the overall cloud of worry that hung over me a good bit of the time. So, I have this bit of an imaginary check-in with my younger self. I ask myself, what would 10-year-old Kim think of where I am now? Have I lived up to the dreams she wanted? Have I lived up to the things I promised myself?

When I was battling really serious depression as an adult, this little game was horrific. I knew I was letting my younger self down. I was barely surviving every day, and knowing I had blown every promise I had made to myself—in such spectacular fashion—was feeding the depression’s flame.

Then, I got the right help, the right therapist, and took on everything, and after a few years, my life turned around. Things started falling into place, and when I did my check-in, I realized the 10-year-old me would be proud—not only for where I landed—but for how much I had endured to get there.

I haven’t had any weak moments again in this check-in scenario, until now. In comparison to where I have been before, it doesn’t make sense. Things have been worse. Things have been catastrophically worse. Am I just peering over some ridiculous fence dreaming of perfect green pastures that don’t exist for anyone? Or do I know that if I don’t push myself, I won’t have a chance at making my dreams come true? 

Or, am I losing my freaking mind?

All I know is, when I had a frustrating moment at work this past week—nothing too crazy—just something that made me sit and take a few beats alone at my desk. I asked myself the check-in question—and I had to head to the restroom in the office for a few minutes. I paced and stared at myself in the mirror and paced a little more.

An important note here, that I am all too aware of: I think too much.

But, anyway, I got outside and walked around the block.

This city, on a clear day, is nothing short of breathtaking. I have to pinch myself—even after riding the cramped, sometimes unpleasant BART train to work each morning—I get off the train and see the tops of the buildings cutting into the clouds and fog and wonder how in the hell I got so lucky to be here, walking  to work in this amazing place.

When I walked outside on this particular day, it was later in the afternoon, the fog long gone, the clouds cleared, the sky was crystal blue. I just walked and wondered what in my head was making me feel this way.

I tried to force myself to think clearly. I remembered one of the tactics I loved that my therapist used to get me to cut to the core of how I was really feeling. She would ask me to be raw and real. I would say something about how I felt, and she would tell me to tell her the truth—what I was really feeling—be raw, be real. To not think about what was appropriate or what sounded good. It wasn’t always pretty. But it kept me from fooling myself. It also helped me heal faster. For instance, in one of my sessions, I was talking about someone in my life that was honestly being toxic. I started off my saying, “she makes me uneasy sometimes”, but when I got to the raw and real moment, I finally said, “She isn’t kind to me--I really don’t want her in my life anymore”. It was hard for me to get to that point, but I needed to learn to put myself first—something I don’t always do.

So, when I was walking around the block, I reminded myself to be raw and real. The first thing that popped into my head was –“I am so tired”. I know this. Anyone looking at me probably knows this. The fact that I have had a migraine for over two weeks means my body probably knows this. As I am writing this now, I am tearing up. I need a break. It’s no one’s fault, but I have had a lot of financial responsibility for myself and then for our family for awhile now, and the weight sometimes seems so huge. Even though we are in a good place now, I haven’t had a real break in between jobs, without stress, to just relax, disconnect, and breathe for literally years. In truth, I don’t know how long that break would need to be though, for me to recharge.

The fatigue goes back further than that, though. I have been working since I was 16, and in college, I worked up to 3 jobs at a time to barely survive. Once out, I have only rarely and in spurts felt financially strong. It wasn’t for lack of working hard or long hours—or having great jobs. It was just timing, being single, life, living in the Bay Area during the last dot com bust, layoffs, etc, etc. It feels like a long, long marathon that is never going to end. I know that my journey is no different than anyone else’s, and in many ways, I am incredibly fortunate. I am making a good salary, and now have a love with a growing company in a strong market. I just ache for a time, a decent span of time, when I feel like things are more solid financially, that I don't feel so pressured, and that I can breathe. I feel like I have been holding my breath now for about 20 some odd years waiting for that to happen, and I need to be able to let go, to get some relief. When I think about worse struggles others have, I feel ridiculous in even thinking these things. But, I can’t help feeling tired. I just can’t.

The other part of this, is, of course, my dream of writing and making that the focus of who I am and what I do. Every day, the writers I follow on Twitter share similar struggles, even though many of them have known success—at least success in my eyes—having published a book or books, and working on the next one. Many of these writers work another day job, as I do. Somehow, they find a way to do both. I haven’t been able to do that. Especially lately, I have felt this huge setback. It has felt more like a loss, a death. I haven’t been able to feel the true inspiration and hope in months now. For a long time, I had this glimmer that might fade now and again, but it was always there. Then, it went dark. It just feels like I am never going to get this dream accomplished, and more than anything, I don’t know if I have the energy anymore to keep trying.

I hate the part of me that is so envious of people, in particular people I don’t know, that have the luxury of a life where they can concentrate on nothing but their writing. I follow these writers on Twitter and catch myself scowling when they complain about anything. How dare you! I think.You are living a dream.

So, back to my walk. I asked myself what I really want. What would make it better? Real and raw.

Winning lottery ticket.

Very funny.

I can't control the financial part any more than I am now. I am doing my best, working sometimes insane hours, always working hard. So, that's all I can do.

The other part, the writing...I have to somehow find a balance in my life, where my writing is the focus, where I am on a set course to making this happen. Otherwise I am not going to feel fulfilled or even at peace. It may be crazy, but that is my truth--real and raw.

It may just mean that I start making myself go to the library one day every weekend and devote that time to writing. I don’t know yet.

I could also be having a stupid mid-life crisis and this could all mean nothing. But, for whatever reason, this keeps gnawing at me. I honestly don’t think you necessarily choose to be a writer. It is tortuous—and not hugely profitable, especially now in the digital age, when a lot of writers are expected to simply be thankful to be published in a popular online forum—even without payment—or for nearly nothing. Only a few writers really make it big, really make a huge splash and can live comfortably. So, to want to write, there has to be this drive, this other thing in you that won’t let go. I certainly don’t have to write a book. It won’t help our bank account. There is just a story in me that needs to told. There is just  a yearning to do that, to feel I am a writer in that sense.

I wish more than anything I had gone after this dream earlier, set out to be an editor and work in the publishing world long ago. Right now, my life feels so much like a zig-zag maze that is being built as I go, and has no clear path and no clear destination. It is well-built, the structure is fine, there just wasn’t any pre-planning or design. Some would say, “that is life”. Right now, it just feels like lost time, confusion, and poor planning.

Who knows? If I had started down that path, maybe I would be unhappy now. I know that 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to write the way I am now, I didn’t have the experiences behind me, I hadn’t gone through the right therapy to resolve things I needed to. It’s pointless to ask all of these questions—it’s probably just as pointless to play the little game I play—asking if my 10-year old self would be happy with where I am now.

I can’t stop though. It’s become part of my life’s pattern. I think it is also what has helped drive me, and even when it’s made things painful, helped me to survive. Even when I believed I was disappointing my former self so deeply, and a part of me felt it might be better to give up—there were times when there was just enough fire to say—I owe it to her, to that little girl in me, to make this right.

When I finally got into therapy and really started digging into things and being honest, one of the very first things my therapist had me do was write a letter to my younger self. I remember bursting into tears as she described the process. At the time, I had truly hit rock bottom, and I was slowly realizing that I had found the right therapist to help pull me out. When she talked about the specific things she wanted me to address in the letter, I realized I had been writing these letters for years, in my head, over and over.

I am waiting to write that one last one. The one where I say, finally, it’s done. I finished. I did this thing I have wanted to do for so long, that I felt I was meant to do. You can be proud of me.

I can be proud of me.

Fulfilled life's dream--check.

The beautiful artwork featured in the post is entitled "October Wind at the Beach" by the artist Fanny Nushka Moreaux. To see more of her work, visit this site.



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