Friday, March 29, 2013


People sometimes pour their hearts out to me in this job, it is so very humbling.   I spent some time with a man this week who was sitting vigil with his wife. She was unconscious and appeared at peace, but he couldn't keep his hands off her as we talked, stroking, soothing, holding her hand; unbearably sweet.   

He talked about what it felt like to have spent years loving and protecting her, to find himself helpless in face of her illness.  Aside from regretting that he couldn't "fix" her health, his only regret was that they hadn't had more time together and he was blaming himself for that.   He said, without explanation, that he is a man who doesn't rush into things, and he was angry at himself "for taking too much time to decide".  I didn't ask him to elaborate, I just told him that she forgives him and knows that he loves her.   And then he told me a story that made me sure that what I'd told him was true.

A couple of days earlier, he told me, his wife was in the hospital, on a heart monitor.  Late at night, he climbed into the bed with her so he could hold her.  All of a sudden, nurses busted into the room, all aflutter.  Turns out that both of their heartbeats had appeared on the monitor, in near unison. It freaked the nurses out, he said, but made perfect sense to him because "our hearts have always been connected."

On days like this, I'm left with a turmoil of feelings, and it is hard for me to tell at the end of the day whether sadness or gratitude or envy comes out on top.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holding Steady

What a week, what a lot of feelings that I barely recognize.    It's funny, I recall a passage in a CS Lewis novel where he talks about entry into the next world, a heaven metaphor,  being like going through the circles of an onion, except that the world gets bigger and clearer the deeper we go.    My mind, my 'self' feels like that lately.    The more things I learn, the more I try to become open, the more my mind and feelings stretch, and the smaller I feel, but in a good way.    This is not what I expected: as I become more vulnerable, there seems less to fear, the Universe seems less dangerous, and - although I still expect to fail, to be hurt - I am more willing to put that off until it happens.

Last weekend I took and passed the next level of the ham radio exams, earning me a "general" class license.   I got my call sign -- KB8UJK -- and my friend gave me my first radio.    My son laughed at the idea that, now that I've passed two of the ham tests, I am ready to start thinking about turning on a radio, but I am learning that I like this slow approach to new ideas.    The radio gift itself was a little overwhelming for me, wrapped with such care, in blue paper, with twisted wires forming a sort of bow to bind it all together, the radio itself a symbol of faith and support that I am capable of this new thing.   I wish like crazy that I'd had the sense to take a photo of it before I opened it, but the thoughtfulness, the whole idea so overwhelmed me that there was no room for thought, only for strange feelings of a sort of awe.    I do not remember anyone, aside from my kids and sister, ever taking the time to do such a thing for me.    There was something humbling, maybe even scary about it, but I liked it.   

At the same time, my work with Morse code is becoming easier.   I am by no means fast.   There is still nothing to brag about.    But this week I found myself relaxing as I copied code, as if the internal strangle-hold that was holding me back has lifted.   My friend sent me a bunch of limericks this week, and I am laughing out loud as I copy, eager to discover whatever comes next.    I don't care so much about getting good at it now, and grab every chance to do it just because it is fun.   Ridiculous fun.   

It sounds crazy even to me, but these new entry-level skills, that make no sense to most of the people in my world, and little sense even to me, are transforming my feelings about everything.    I wondered to someone whether this is how little boys feel growing up, while little girls are busy worrying about how they look and whether they are liked or how they are judged.    For sure it's something I have never felt before -- the things I am learning don't matter a hill of beans to anyone around me, but they are making me feel as if I am capable of doing anything, of learning anything I choose.     So life is good right now.   Very good.    And I am looking forward to what will happen next.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Radio Waves

It struck a chord with me when my Friend expressed surprised, maybe even concern, that I wasn't “excited” at having passed the Tech radio exam. He explained that he knows many people who have tried several times and failed. While my response, after passing it with just a week's worth of study, was disappointment that I hadn't passed the next level, which I hadn't studied for. And my continued refusal to actually learn anything about how to use the skill, because I feel like I'm not “ready” for that.

It made me remember when I graduated from law school, and I kept it a secret until I had passed the bar exam, because I was so sure that I would fail. Even then, I rarely admitted to being a lawyer, to such an extent that my (then) little boy once earnestly explained to me that it wasn't anything to be ashamed of.

I am pretty good at dealing with failure and loss. In fact, now that my daily work involves hospice and grief, you could say I've made a career of it.

But success seems to be a hard pill for me to swallow.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Marching On

This has not been the best week in the Best Year Ever, but there has been plenty to learn.

I broke a tooth, and had the anxiety of waiting for my local dentist to fit me in.   It took him a LOT longer than I thought it should, and I wonder if I should think about looking for another provider.    My former dentist would have considered a broken tooth something of an emergency, and the new guy made me wait over a week to see him.    Still, once he saw me and made an appointment to put in a crown, I was the one who had to cancel, lol.

I (unfairly) feel like my Friend has given up on my learning Code because he no longer offers to quiz or practice with me.    That's a loss, but not a disaster, because I haven't given up on myself and continue to practice every day, several times a day.    My progress is a lot slower than I wish, but I am definitely making progress.    I know too that that I am characterizing him unfairly, and that the sheer terror I brought to every practice session has a lot to do with his hesitation.    It is entirely likely that he has chosen not to inflict what looks like pain on me and will be happy to quiz me if I ask.     I also know that I'll need to work with another person to get good at this -- kind of hard to do radio if you won't let anyone hear you --  but want to get Good Enough before I try.    It has been an interesting lesson to me, how frightened I am to fail.    As I've said, I practice every day and, although I am not even close to getting good, I do made progress; and yet, when he sends me a message, my mind takes flight and I absolutely panic.   It takes me many times longer to decode a real message than to do the practice work.    I can't help but laugh at myself.

I also studied on my own for the radio exam since the sheer width and breadth of my ignorance made me hesitate to ask anyone to "walk me through it," as my Friend suggested.    Again, despite my complete and total lack of understanding or training in capacitors and inductors and amperes and a variety of algebraic formulas, I made good (if slow) progress and took the Technician exam today.    After I passed it, they let me take the next level test, which I had not studied for at all.   I missed passing the General exam by only one question -- if I'd known how close I'd get, I would have fit in some extra study time, for sure!    I love the feeling of having conquered something absolutely new to me.   I am still not sure where any of this will lead, but for once the destination is NOT the point for me.    I'm having fun learning things that might be useless.   And bonus, by next week I'll have my own call sign.    Who doesn't love an alias?!

I plan to start sewing a baby gift this week -- I hope I hope I hope I will, anyway.   The baby was born last weekend.     I had my project all ready to go when I learned that the mama changed the colors in her nursery, so I had to start over again with new fabric.  I'm bad enough at starting things, having to restart them is a real challenge!

One of my patients this week is a baby, too, thankfully a relatively rare event in my line of work, and unbearably sad.    Maybe that is why I like lately to fill my mind with things that make no sense but are fun, to balance the many things I see that make no sense, and are not.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

If I'd Only Known

Again this week, I held a sobbing woman as she told me all the things she would have said "if I'd only known that things would happen this quickly."    I am here to tell you that death is tricky like that.     Our brain has a million protective screens that make it impossible for us to be objective when it slips into our lives, our families, and no matter how long the diagnosis, no matter how grimly obvious the symptoms.    I work only with people who have been sent to a hospice, for crying out loud, and yet almost no one is prepared when death occurs.

So for the benefit of those of you who have people in your life who are alive, take my advice.   Say it now.    Tell them you like/love/value/treasure them.    Tell them that you forgive them.   Tell them that they are worth it, that they are enough.     Tell them that you are willing to try to work things out.     I don't care if they're embarrassed, or even if they push you away.   Say it.  Say it.   Say it.     Someday, when you are surprised that things happened this quickly, I think you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shedding the Wolf

A few people have written to ask me why I call my Blog "Shedding the Wolf."    It's like this:   when my grandson was just a little guy in 2008, I was madly in love with him (still am) and went through the same  combination of bliss and responsibility that affects lots of new Grandparents.   And not only Grandparents -- I think it's a side effect of being in love.    I suddenly wanted to be a better Me, and I wanted to be ready to be fully here for him.    

Somewhere along the way, I remembered the old fairy stories from my childhood, before they had been sanitized for the kids of this generation.    In the "Little Red Riding Hood" of my childhood,  Grandma was eaten by the Wolf before Red arrived at her house, and he played the part of Grandma in an effort to eat Red, too.  When the Huntsman (Our Hero) came in response to Red's screams, he killed the Wolf, slit open his belly, and pulled Grandma out so that she and Red could be reunited.     

I started to wonder how much Wolfishness had taken over MY self, and wanted to be sure that there was a genuine Grandma on hand to love my little grands.    I started to think even more than before of things I needed to 'shed' that were like the wolf skin in the story, things like selfishness, and unkindness, and small-mindedness, and other fairy-tale wolf-ish behaviors.   To whatever extent possible, I want to be more like the Huntsman than like the Wolf, destroying those hurtful characteristics in an effort to truly be the Grandma.

So that's how the name came about, and that might be why my Blog is often more a personal journal than anything else.    I know it's a little corny, but for me it's the point of being alive.     I craft, I shoot, I sew, I fish, I play, but my main goal, always, is to try to work at being a better me.   

And that's what I love about your comments, as they point out flaws in my thinking, or let me know when I'm on -- or off -- track.    Because THIS Grandma can use all the help she can get!  :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's All Good

Dit Dit Dit Dah - V is for Victory!      I had my long awaited shooting 'competition' with my friend's husband, and I cleaned his clock.    I had the advantage of borrowing my Friend's ruger, a target pistol with a red-dot laser that has pretty much rocked my shooting world.    I beat him on all 3 out of 3 targets.    So  I am trying to feel cocky about it but it isn't easy.   The truth is,  he out-shot me the whole time we were warming up, and then choked when it was time to compete.   I asked his wife and she says that no, he did not let me win and wasn't thrilled with the result.     So yeah, I beat him, and yeah, I kept the targets, and yeah, I've bragged about it all week --- but I have no confidence that it will ever happen again. 
What I do know for sure is that it was a lot of fun.

Today I made another visit to the sweetest, perkiest lady.   She is 87, still beautiful, and a hoot and a half.    She told me a joke about the Pearly Gates that has me chuckling still, and told me that she loves seeing a man in a kilt because "it makes you just speculate about what's underneath there."   We also talked about the fact that she is dying,  and about the mountains of loss she has experienced in her life, but mostly we laughed until the tears were running down our cheeks.       She is a model of how I want to live my life, fearlessly filled with love.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Learning Curve Of Trust

It would be an understatement, I suppose, to say I have what people refer to as "trust issues," and although I'm never sure what they mean by that, I know that I have been both too trusting and not nearly trusting enough in my life.   Or maybe just trusting the wrong things to the wrong people.    There are plenty of reasons for this, and I could just accept that fact that I've "earned" my feelings about trust, but those feelings can lead to imagined hurts, so I'd rather try to strengthen this part of me going forward.

I recently realized, through a number of people and comments, that my idea of "trusting" has always been to allow just enough connection with a person to feel close, but not enough that they would have any serious ammunition to use against me.    I've been hurt enough in the past with what little they knew, but few have known enough about the 'Core Me" to do any lasting harm.      What I realize now is that it isn't really trust if I have nothing to lose.   Besides, those experiences strengthened me so that, instead of choosing to trust less, I could have used that new strength to learn to trust more.    It's a matter now of trusting myself.   I might still guess wrong about other people, but I know that I can recover when I have to.   And, although I do not want to be hurt again, neither do I want to be alone.

Going forward, my goal is to make trust less of a calculation and more of a choice.    When I feel that someone in my life is trustworthy (and I suspect that still won't be happening too often), I hope to be better able to share my authentic self.     I am already finding that it feels really good to be able to trust more in friendships, without considering the phantom of Ultimate Betrayal.    But the real (perceived) Danger for me has always been in intimate relationships.    Good to practice now, when that isn't a part of my life.     Statistically speaking, it's unlikely that I will have that kind of involvement again.    But just in case, I'd like to make myself strong enough to have a whole self to offer.