You’re Not Having a Good Day

That is what my husband said to me after I experienced my 3rd major calamity of the day. I agreed. While I was having a rough time my clumsy alter ego, Calamity Jill, was really living it up!

It all started this afternoon.

I drove across town, roughly 35 minutes, to meet with a new family I will be working with and unfortunately the appointment did not take place. I got stood up. No big deal, sometimes wires get crossed. I left a voicemail after waiting outside their home for a bit and once they get back to me I will reschedule. Since my schedule was suddenly open I decided to pay some family a visit who happened to live nearby.

When getting out of my car at my family’s home I turned funny and managed to spill my entire La Croix into my play therapy bag of toys and books. Good Grief!

I went inside with my play therapy bag and spent time catching up with family while I cleaned out and Lysol wiped the contents.

No big deal, these things happen (especially to me).

The real mess took place once I got home.

I let Lu out, brought her back in and started working on some documentation for work. About an hour later I was done and started picking up around the house. I went into the office briefly to grab a canvas and to put away some work documents and went on about my business for the next hour until my husband arrived home.

Upon his arrival he called out for the dog which struck me as weird because she ALWAYS meets him at the door. Maybe she is sleeping in the bedroom and didn’t hear him? We both started calling for her: nothing. My husband asked me if I accidentally left her outback. I panicked! Oh God I hope not! It had rained- hard- in the last hour since I saw Lu, there is no way I could have left her out in the rain.  I opened the backdoor, desperately trying to temper my rising anxiety and terror, and starting whistling and calling for her: nothing. In the background I heard  my husband still calling for her in the house. The terror was really starting to grow. Did she get outside? Is she running the street with no collar and no microchip? Is she dead in a gutter? Where is my baby?

Just as I was reaching the point of hysteria she came bounding around the corner and jumped up to kiss me hello. Oh dear God Lucy where were you???

My husband came around the corner and said I needed to get a take a look in the office. This is what I found:

office

I didn’t even see her follow me in when I had been in the office an hour earlier. Luckily some ripped up paper and a destroyed pine cone was of little significance compared to what she could have gotten into while accidentally locked in the office during a thunder storm for an hour. My poor baby. This is what anxiety looks like. I felt like the worst mother on earth. I can only imagine the panic and abandonment she was feeling. I got on her level and we cuddled for a few minutes. Then I declared the rest of the night The Night of Lucy! to make it up to her (or at least try).

The night of Lucy started with a nice big puppy dinner. Then she and I went for a walk at the park just the two of us where we chased frogs and played in mud puddles. When we got home I carried her into the bathroom and placed her in the tub to wash her muddy feet. After her foot bath she got a treat AND a new toy. My husband and I have a bag of toys that we bought on sale a while back and there are tucked away for Christmas. A screw up like today definitely warranted a early Christmas present.

Lu was thrilled. She and I played chase and fetch and then.. catastrophe. I was ramping up to throw her new toy down the hall for her to chase after and she got a bit to excited. This resulted in Lu jumping on my husband who was minding his own business eating shrimp ceviche on the couch. Lu’s foot landed right in his bowl of fish and vegetables dumping the whole thing into his lap before she ran off down the hall to get her toy.

My husband just sat there in his fish staring at me. He said nothing. He didn’t need to, his face said it all. I quickly saved him from the soggy fish blanket (that thankfully saved him from fish REALLY landing in his lap), got him a new throw, and cleaned up the rest of the mess. He just looked at me, laughed, and said You are not having a good day.

No kidding. I can’t get anything right today.

Suddenly Fuel lyrics flashed across my brain:

Spilled her coffee, broke a shoe lace. She smeared the lipstick on her face. Slammed the door and said I’m sorry I had a bad day again.

Some days that song is my anthem.

Later I sat in my husband’s lap, tears rolling down my cheeks; do you think she loves me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

Do you love me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

I am going to get it wrong. I am going to fail. I am still loveable.

While writing this post and sitting in my shame and embarrassment even while trying to minimize these feelings by finding the humor in the situation (a favorite defense mechanism of mine), I thought of Virginia Woolf. More specifically I thought of what Virginia Woolf said about women who tell the truth:

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.

I am a clumsy, forgetful, sometimes all together absent minded woman. I am woman who gets it wrong and sometimes hurts the ones she loves most in the world. I fail and I get it wrong and experience excruciating shame as a result from time to time. AND I stand in these truths and love myself, even when I feel so incredibly unlovable. This is my power. This is my strength. Love. My ability to stand in my truth and love myself there.

 

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We’re Teaching Her, She’s Teaching Us

lulu

A few weeks ago I felt the first inclining of being shamed for the way I parent. The way I parent my fur baby specifically. It was awful. I soooo do not look forward to all the shamey feelings that will undoubtedly come when we are raising children You always hear the horror stories from first time parents who have been shamed because EVERYONE thinks they know better than you on how to raise your kids.

My first little taste was bitter and no surprise, it came from my mother; because mothers always know best.

Now I can admit that Lu does not have the best manners. I can also admit that up to this point neither myself or my husband gave a single shit about that fact. When we adopted Lu she was under weight and it was quite clear that she had a story, a story we would never know. She was timid, did not use her voice, and was very wary of men. To this day if my husband and I start talking too loud because we are excited she gets anxious like she is afraid something is going to happen. So from the beginning we have tried our best to make her feel safe and secure and we have allowed her to be the dog that she is.

For the most part this has been a nonissue. One of her nicknames is Katie Nana because of she nanas all the babies in the family. If a baby starts to cry she immediately goes over and wants to help soothe. She is a happy girl with the sweet disposition boxers are known for, we regularly discuss our gratitude for our baby.

Like I admitted before though, Lu does not have great manners. She jumps, she slobbers, she begs for food (my dad taught her that one), she pulls on the leash, now that she has found her voice she loves to run and bark at anyone and everyone when she is in the back yard. We have been okay with all of this because she has gone from completely timid and afraid to all personality and happy as can be. Maybe we have been a little overindulgent though? At least that is how I ended up feeling after my Mom had to set a boundary with me about her behaviors a few weeks ago.

When Lu greets people she gets super excited and jumps. No one in my family (because that is who we are talking about for the most part) has ever complained about it and we are all dog people so my husband and I didn’t consider it an issue. The thing is, Lu has ripped three of my mother’s nice blouses from jumping and recently busted the lid of another family member’s Tervis cup due to her excitement and jumping at the front door.

I am mortified to admit that it took my mother saying something for me to get that it was a problem. Total shame response here. I mean I just love her so much and she is such a sweet girl and everyone else loves her too. I just wasn’t seeing it.

I think a piece of my blindness was because until she damaged something that belonged to an extended family member it had only been my mother who was having an issue in terms of possessions getting ruined. My mom is grandma and I guess in my head grandma didn’t count? Ugh. So much shame admitting that.

A few weeks ago my mother delicately started setting boundaries which led me to have a conversation with my husband about it.

My parents don’t set boundaries. My family in general has a hard time with boundaries, in that they do not exist. My entire family felt it when my husband and I got married and started setting clear boundaries, then I started therapy and there were even more boundaries. They have all gotten used to my husband and I have not seen or heard anyone else in the family assert any with us or each other. To each their own, as long as our boundaries are being respected I am not going to concern myself with how the rest of the family handles boundaries.

So my Mom setting a boundary, even in the way she did which was incredibly passive, is a big deal and I absolutely want to respect it. It was time for my husband and I to have a talk and make a plan.

The first part of our talk was all about us looking at the situation objectively, stepping outside of our role as her puppy parents and the overwhelming adoration we feel for her. Next step was determining what our truth was about the situation. Then finally we made a plan.

Our talk led us to realize, yes this is not ideal, there is absolutely room for improvement; we have not failed as puppy parents (even though I was sitting in some major shame), AND we will teach our old dog a new trick – how to greet people gently.

She is a quick learner and is totally disproving what they say about older dogs not being able to learn new tricks, although five is not that old I guess.

Working with her on something is not a big deal. The issue for me was the shame I felt. I felt immense shame that I had not registered that as a result of her behavior my family’s possessions were being damaged, I mean my mom has three ruined blouses she cannot wear now. How many broken cups and ripped blouses was it going to take for me to wake up.
I felt shame that I was feeling like she was bad, even though no one directly said that to me and I don’t actually believe that. I wanted her to be able to be who she is and now I am having to go back and say, but wait don’t do that. I am someone who believes that all parts are welcome but now I am going to tell my dog all parts EXCEPT for the part of you that jumps is welcome. That doesn’t feel good.
I felt shame that I was a bad puppy parent. I let all of this happen, I didn’t teach her better. I failed her.

I am grateful for Lucy. I am grateful for the lessons she brings me. I know the shame I felt through this situation will pale in comparison to the shame I will experience when my husband and I are navigating our roles as someday parents. She have given me a taste to prepare me for what comes next. I got to start my work with self-compassion and gentleness in my role as mother early thanks to Lu.

I am reminded of this post I wrote around Mother’s Day and I am able to take a deep breath. I am going to fail. Failing is inevitable and necessary. I can fail AND love my babies with all my heart. I can fail AND be a good mother. I can fail. It is okay to fail. I am okay.