Anatomy Of A Downsizing ~ The Countdown…

Yesterday, the pictures began coming off the walls. It's hit me. We're really moving.

Until then, my world was simply chaotic. Closets, drawers and cabinets look the same when they're closed whether they're stuffed with stuff or empty. When you strip the walls, when the family photos come down, then you really know you're moving.

That's what Marty and I started doing last night.

There were a few casualties...

That lamp you see above took a tumble. The lampshade was damaged. I never cared for it anyway. It can be replaced.

Now, my real fear is finding what I want when we begin the process of unpacking everything one week from tomorrow.

On Friday, we visited our lawyer and signed all the papers. Now, we wait for "the closing" tomorrow on our new home, a condominium townhouse built in 1971.


"Here I Go, Singing Low…"* Part 2

If you haven't looked at something in six months, out it goes...

That's the rule. But rules don't always apply ~ especially when it comes to people and emotions.

I'm not about to spend hundreds of dollars to have someone tell me what I need and what I don't need. If I could afford that, I wouldn't be downsizing.

And, I ask you.

In all honesty...

How can an expert ~ albeit a Boomer, like me ~ who doesn't know a whit about me, predict if I'll ever need my old Roll-O-Dexes stuffed with business cards: names, addresses and phone numbers, mailing addresses and notations? People.

She keeps asking this question: "The sentimental value in that is...?"

People aren't things and it's the people I'm afraid I'll lose if I toss something out.


"Pack Up All My Care and Woe…"*

Sunday, July 11: 9:10 a.m.

I am swimming in my memories. What a mess!

It's not easy packing up dishes, platters, pots and crystal. No fun, but I have no huge emotional investment in stuff.

Not so, with people. Ghosts of my past swirling about me. Mental snippets of thousands of stories I've written. A lifetime of people with whom I've engaged in researching and writing them.

Ghosts of all the different people I was over the years...

More than three decades of professional journalism. Radio. Television. Magazines. And more than my work. My education. My times. A lifetime. And I feel like a failure because deep down, I blame myself for losing this house. But I press on.

Where is all this stuff ~ not only the books ~ going to go? How many boxes will it take to pack it all up? Which ones will be unpacked. Which ones will stay in boxes. Where will I put them in this new house? Will they fit? A big Blue Box is slowly filling up with all the stuff I'm discarding. But what if I want to find something I need? What will I need? How can I know, now?


"Not Dead Yet"…*

Please forgive me.

I should have written earlier. Updated you ~ but I've been utterly overwhelmed with this downsizing. Dry. Distressed.

It's no fun. Fun and I aren't friends, right now.

Between teaching, packing, signing and initialing an unending stream of financial and legal documents plus all the countless details involved in moving, I've neglected you.

Keeping up with your comments simply isn't enough. So here I am to assure you that I'm still here, sort of...

The Stress Scale...

A few weeks ago, Dr. Bob and I were talking about the "stress of moving" and how it's right up there on the scale of life's most savage stresses. The scale in question is the infamous Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Everyone talks about it. It's apocryphal. So I decided to look it up and see exactly where "moving house" ranks on it, in relation to losing a spouse or a child or a parent or a limb or pregnancy or Christmas.

And guess what...


"I Need You" ~ Part Two…

As a writer, I know there's nothing "scientific" about language. It's all subtle shadings and interpretations. Meaning making. Not exactly the neuroscience that dominates modern psychiatry.

Both Dr. Bob and Dr. Ronald Pies are eclectic in their approach to their patients. Both agree that the causes of mental illnesses are still largely unknown, mysterious and could have any number of causes from trauma, genetics, biology, psychology, environment, in-utero...the list is endless. Both physicians are grounded in a more analytic approach to psychotherapy though they draw on all the latest therapeutic developments ~ long term and short term.

Both prescribe medication, but cautiously and only with meticulous monitoring in combination with psychotherapy. Both believe that medication alone is a very limited way to approach psychiatry.


"I Need You" ~ Part One…

A number of years ago, my psychiatrist Dr. Bob bought a large painting at a local art college show and hung it on a prominent wall in his office. It's quite startling. All rich and lustrous purples and blacks and greys ~ many shades of grey ~ it features huge silver lettering that says in script ~ "I need you."

He and I often discuss the meaning of that painting, although not until recently did I begin to really understand it. Here's what Dr. Bob and I have concluded, thus far.

When you begin psychotherapy, most often it's because you feel you need it. Or someone suggests you need it. But, as time goes on, as you evolve, gain insights and the layers of your onion begin to peel away, eventually, often, you begin to want your psychotherapy. Thrive on it.

I know I do. I look forward to my sessions with Dr. Bob and I'm not the only of his very long term patients.


Living the Dandie life ~ Part Two…

Two weeks later, Murphy stopped eating. The next day, his gums started to bleed. I rushed him to the vet. She said he was suffering and it was time. That was Murphy's last day.

The following morning, I woke up aching for another dog. I called Mike Macbeth. Again she listened as I cried more than I talked. "You're not ready for another dog. You have to grieve for Murphy." She explained how vital the grieving process is to the future of any dog who may come into my life. If you don't grieve your recently departed dog, your next dog will sense it. Bonding will be more difficult. "You need time," she stressed.

Four months later, we met our Dandie Dinmont puppy...

Riley was 13-weeks old when we brought him home. It was mid-February. He loved running around in the snow and proved to be playful and mischievous. A true terrier. He's also the sweetest, most attentive little dog I've ever known.

Pictures of Murphy are all over our house. I always feel a tinge of tenderness looking at them. He was my first dog and he will always be special to me, always with me.


Meet our Dandies ~ Part One…

Curiously, I find writing about my dogs as calming as holding them and caring for them.

So, this morning, I'm going to continue from where I left you last week when I introduced you to my dogs and told you about Murphy, My First Therapy Dog.

When he died, I left you hanging, promising to tell you how I learned about the grave importance of grieving for your pet.

Leigh Pretnar Cousins in her endlessly captivating blog here at Psych Central, Always Learning, recently explored this theme when writing about  grieving for her cat Luna. Losing a pet, a member of the family, is emotionally shattering. No matter how many pets you have had or what type of animal your pet is.



Living in Never Neverland…

Just call me Peter Pan. I've been sleepless and so maniacally busy this week, I haven't had a second to sit down and seriously reflect and post to you about anything. I'm in a bit of a tizzy.

You've been on my mind. Constantly. I've written three drafts of various posts, none of which, when I look back at them, feel right for you or for me. So, I'm trashing them.

I've been hijacked to Never Neverland... Between "Tales of my terriers" and Other Dog Stories... and my story about Murphy, My First Therapy Dog... and his death in 2003, I left you hanging.

There's more to tell about how I acquired my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Riley and Lucy, a rare breed I'm positively passionate about.

Between all this and so much more, I feel I've been hijacked to Never Neverland. I lose track of time, of which day it is. Please forgive me. Starting today, I'm going to catch you up.

It's all this moving house that's throwing me off my game. I'm a bit discombobulated. It's 1:45 a.m. and I've not even taken my pills. Not good, for a kidney transplant patient. Or my Tegretol. No wonder I can't concentrate.


Murphy, My First Therapy Dog…

With Murphy, I started walking a dog every day. Two or three times a day. Year-round. I had no choice.

He had his own trainer. A young fellow who made weekly visits and trained "us" according to the Barbara Woodhouse dog training method.

There's a peculiarly entrancing chemistry in walking your dog...

Walking for us became "Walkies" and I fell in love with the peculiar chemistry of walking a dog while engaging with the great outdoors. (Our nearby park and the quiet dead-end streets of suburban Toronto's north end.)

I discovered that walking your dog is nothing like walking by yourself or with friends. It's an adventure to see the world with a dog's eye view. Emotionally, spiritually and mentally affecting ~ uniquely fulfilling ~ when it's just you and your dog.

Murphy became my entrée into the neighbourhood. I never knew I had such lovely neighbours, until I started walking him. We met dozens of people and befriended their dogs.

I always remembered the dogs' names and shamefully forgot the names of the owners. We were all alike in this. It became a joke. We'd engage in "dog-talk" at parties. Sharing stories. It was never-ending. I found a new identity. I became the "dog" specialist at The Toronto Sun, writing intriguing dog-focused features.