Thursday, July 5, 2012

How we Cope

Most of the time I prefer paper when I read.  There is something very grounding about the feel of a page, the scent of newsprint as the page turns, the sound of a book softly landing upon a hard surface when I am ready to head back out into the world after a few delicious hours away of being lost in someone else's words.  Someone else's world.  And yet, I gave in and purchased a Kindle...and then a Nook.  I blame this on the fact that I am addicted to the written word and that I had to give up reading for most of the years that I was raising my four Angel Daughters.  Sure I read books that were relevant to parenting and the developmental stages of childhood, but reading for the sheer pleasure of it was something that I just no longer had the time to do.(That, and keeping my eyes open to get to the end of a page was virtually impossible.)  Once I realized that I was free to read at my own leisure again, I could not stop myself from filling my mind with all of the knowledge that I had been starved of for so many years.  It began with reading blogs online which were easy to digest in small snippets of time(You are all such wonderful writers) and then it became books.  And more books, mostly in hardcover.   Heavy and impractical for someone whose purse is filled to the brim with other accoutrements, I needed to find another way to bring my friends with me.   I travel heavy.  You never know what you might need.  So when the Kindle first appeared on the market,  I gave in to the medium of the electronic page.  It has taken me awhile to become used to reading books on something electronic but there are some things that I love about it.  First off, having the backlight means that I can read at any time of the day or night without disturbing Mark with a book light.  Second, and almost more importantly in the scheme of my life, electronic readers mean that I can easily read a book with a cat nestled contently upon my lap.  With one finger, I can turn a page without disturbing my furry feline and anyone who owns a cat understands how important this really is.  This morning as I was reading, Angel Daughter Number Two's cat Louis, who has taken up temporary residency(I have heard this one before from this particular child) in our house crawled up on to my chest as I was lying in bed reading.  Louis is staying with us while AD2 finds a new place to live and since she is unsure about location, job, country, etc., we all think that it is best for him to remain in a stable* environment.(*Stable meaning unchanging or possibly that we already have four cats, two dogs and two birds.  Either one works in this instance.)  Louis spent the first two years of his life in an animal shelter which could not have been easy on him.  He has developed some nervous habits over the past couple of months which I believe might have been caused by AD2's breakup with her longtime boyfriend.  Louis began systematically pulling his own fur out while cleaning himself five or six times a day.  My heart truly broke when I realized what he was doing to himself.  Animals are quite sensitive and many are also empathic meaning that if their owners are in distress, so are they.  I do not think that I have ever witnessed such a strong example of how empathetic animals can be until I saw all of the bare spots on Louis' body.  He looked a bit like a cat with a mohawk down the center of his back.  It hurt my heart to consider the confusion that he must have been experiencing while AD2 and her boyfriend hashed and rehashed the same issues that they have been dealing with for the past eight-plus years culminating in complete instability for a cat who has only known such.  I mean, it is one thing for the stupid humans to be exposing themselves to the same nastiness for year, after year, after year, but to do so to someone who has no choice as to environment is not only insensitive but also, unfair.  And yes, I love and adore my daughter more than anything in this world but I am growing quite weary of the stupid human tricks.
Last week I went to the dentist for my twice-yearly cleaning.  Nothing life-altering or particularly significant in the typical life.  We have been going to the same dentist for well over twenty years and in some ways, he and his wife feel like family now.  We have been through babies and children and graduations together.  He takes care of my entire family and has done so since before some of my girls were even born.  That being said, when he looked at my teeth, he sighed and looked at me with so much empathy in his eyes that it almost made me cry.  "So, Debra, what has been causing you so much stress in your life lately?"  I may or may not have looked at him, at this point, as if he had just glanced deep down into the seat of my soul, into a very private place that I am pretty good at keeping from the light of day.  A very vulnerably naked feeling.  I hemmed and hawed a bit until I realized that he was not buying what I had to say and admitted that the past six or so months since I had last been in to see him, had not been particularly easy for me.  And he showed me what I have been doing to my teeth.  My own teeth.  I have always been a "grinder" meaning that I grind my teeth throughout most of the day, but I always swore that I have never ground my teeth at night.(Denial?)  He called me on that.  What I managed to do over the course of the past six months since I was last in to his office is grind my teeth so viscously and so aggressively that I now have two lose teeth in my mouth.  Strong, rooted, healthy teeth that will eventually fall out if I do not put a stop to this.  He explained to me that during the day if we grind, we can only put about sixty pounds of pressure on our teeth because we would stop ourselves from biting any harder at that point.  At night, when we are in and out of very deep sleep cycles, studies have shown that we can actually put nine hundred pounds of pressure on our teeth without even knowing that we are doing it.  And the more times that someone wakes up and falls back to sleep again, the more times that that person will go in to the very deepest cycle of sleep which is when the hardest grinding will take place.  I am a terrible sleeper.  There are times when I just cannot get my mind to stop chattering at me.  My dentist told me that I would need to get a hard night guard(most people have soft ones) because he believes that I would continue to bite through a night guard until I bit through it anyway.  If the night guard does not work(I used to hide my retainer from myself in the middle of the night as a teenager), there are other much more drastic measures that we could take in order to preserve my teeth, none of them fun or particularly appealing.  And here is the thing, I want very badly to stop grinding my teeth, but I can't.  It is a physical compulsion that I have used to somehow relieve stress for as long as I can remember, but never to the point that I was doing any real damage to myself.  Even though it hurts and it is harmful to my teeth, I am still compelled to
grind.  I think that this is something that you might only understand if you, too, are a teeth-grinder but there is something about causing myself temporary pain that helps to relieve the psychic pain that is sometimes driving me batty mentally.  It is not that I want to hurt myself, it's just that the stress that can sometimes be overwhelming, needs a place to go.  I cannot ship my mother off to some far-away desert island.  I cannot control how other people perceive situations and how they should best be handled.  I cannot change anyone and so, like Louis, I have devised a way to keep myself from combusting from stress.  Obviously I have some very healthy outlets for excess stress too, like reading and enjoying my family and gazing out at the ocean, etc., but apparently not enough.
Louis is doing much better now.  His fur is growing back in quite nicely and he rolls around on his back and lets me pet his chubby belly with a smile on his face.  In some ways, his bald patches serve as a visual reminder that I too might need to allow people to scratch my proverbial belly.  That maybe, just maybe, it is time for me to open myself up to new relationships that not only serve someone else, but also fulfill a need in my own soul.  I've never been very good at that which is why I probably grind the hell out of my own teeth but as Louis's fur grows back in, it might just be time for me to explore some
healthy outlets and relationships of my own.  There is nothing like having your dentist look through you like an x-ray while telling you that you are physically damaging your own body to serve as a wake-up call for what will hopefully be only the second half of your life.  On Monday, I will be turning 50 years old.  50.  It is definitely time for me to enter the next half of my life with more self-care and less stress.  I would say that it is quite possibly time for me to begin traveling lighter in oh so many more ways than one.

*Lots and lots happening in the Four Angel's world which I hope to write about soon.  I fried the hard-drive on my laptop and I am waiting for all of my photos to restore so until then, most of the photos on my blog will be from my cellphone.(like the ones above)  AD4 graduated from High School and AD1 celebrated her 25th birthday!  Happy Birthday, baby girl!!!  Life is good and quite busy.


Miss A said...

I read yesterday, and then again today and this post obviously strikes a close note for me. All this stress :(
This poor cat, but he'll be okay with you. And you. I have so much tension in my body from the past two years that my shoulders are permanently hunched upwards, as if I was braving the wind. And lately I've made a conscious effort to smile more, to laugh more, to let go of residual bitterness, but it's not easy to do.
I'll get in touch on monday ;)

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

I know this stress thing you write about. My teeth are killing me. We are going to Long Beach at the end of the month and when we get back I am devoting time to my dentist. I have been lost for a while and out of touch. Think of you often and I am sending you healing thoughts. Beaux

Ness said...

My dear sweet Deb. From your bloggings these past 6 months, like your dentist, I, too, knew your heart was heavy but "the show must go on" for the Angel Family. I'm glad the dentist "busted" you and who better than a professional who you respect and has been an integral part of your family over the years. I'm like the pot calling the kettle least until my escape to Georgia a week ago. We had a cottage to ourselves and spent HOURS looking through back issues of Real Simple and Martha (you know Roger is the recipe/cooking freak). Colin was with us and except for the few hundred phone calls from Kiereney with new adventures (our truck blew up~it really popped a water hose and was very fixable~ she tore several ligaments in her knee and surgery is pending and she is making me a grandmother) I recaptured some of my "I ain't gonna put up with it. Go be you. Out of my airspace unless you are invited, etc." And I have made it a week tomorrow sticking to it. Life IS short and I am going to visit more of my FB/blog friends (California here we come in 2012 whenever it's a good time) and skywrite the word NO. NO~NO~NO! I pray for you nightly as you are my sister from another set of parents and I love you dearly. Do what you need to do in order to stop the nightly wheel grinding. I have found out that at night I give all my problems to God as He is going to be up all night anyway and that I will not get a reward when I die for worrying the most or trying to solve everyone's problems. I need to work on ME and there's a lot to work on.

But it's a beginning and I've taken the first step.

Save some ocean and sea glass for me. Love you.

Angella Lister said...

ah, debra. i think i know what you are going though. sometimes it is harder to let ourselves admit the pain when all the external details of our lives seem/are so good and blessed. be easy with yourself, my love. breathe. read good books and look at the ocean. life is good, but also hard. hugs, dear one.

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