Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Think We Need To Have A Talk

As a society, we need to talk more. With our mouths, not our text messages, our computers, our Facebook pages, our twitter accounts. We need face to face, or at least phone to ear conversations. We need to hear each others' voices, see each others reactions, understand each others' happiness or sadness conveyed by their eyes, their body language. Quite simply, emojis and LOLs don't always cut it. It's easy to miss humor and emotion, and just as easy to hide passive-agressiveness and anger, when you're communicating behind a device. I've been in all too many disagreements in which I text or message something smiling, knowing it's a joke, only to get an angry response from the person on the other end who understandable has no way to tell if I'm teasing good naturedly or making a smart remark. And don't get me started on the trouble caused by good old autocorrect....

Most people know that, in my adult life at least, I've never been a fan of talking on the phone. Partly, it's because I'm afraid to call people and interrupt their dinner/quiet time/whatever they're doing that's not talking to me.  Partly it's because I'm an awkward phone talker and I hate sitting around having to verbally um and uh when there's a pause in the conversation because I'm afraid they don't want to talk to me for some reason, nor do I really enjoy obvious small talk when one or the other of you feels the need to fill the dead space on the line.  In addition, my social anxiety makes even texting people who aren't my best friends nerve wracking - do they really want to hear from me; am I texting too much and annoying them; do I look lonely and desperate just because I like to communicate frequently? You can only imagine how it goes as I hear the phone ringing, wondering what's going through the head of the person on the other end who may or may not actually answer. The funny thing is, I don't remember having this as a kid or teenager or even young adult. It makes me wonder, if we talked with each other on the phone more often, if it was still the norm, would I still have such phone anxiety?

The thing is, I do enjoy chatting with friends, catching up on their lives, catching them up on mine. I also enjoy when both parties involved in the conversation are actually giving their full attention to... the conversation.  And considering I've seen people driving, putting on makeup, drinking a coffee, and texting, simultaneously, I'm pretty sure that if I'm texting you there's at least an 80 percent chance that I'm not always receiving your full attention every time. Nor, in fairness, does it require me to give mine.

A while ago, I wrote a post called "Everything's OK", in which I explained my extreme dislike of the work "OK" as a response to texts. I'd like to reiterate a piece of that post that I think nicely applies to this one.  As I asked my readers to do in that post, I'd like you to imagine this conversation taking place either on the phone, or particularly, in person:

You: How's your day?
Them: OK
You: So I was thinking this weekend maybe we could go to the beach (go to dinner, a movie, take belly dancing lessons, whatever you want)?
Them: K
You: Saturday would probably be better than Sunday for me because Sunday morning I'm learning how to tango dance with an elephant and then Sunday afternoon, I'm getting my appendix removed. In fact I'm doing it myself because my doctor isn't covered by my insurance anymore.
Them: KK

I realize this is an extreme example, but I've had some conversations via text that aren't all that far off. I actually sometimes reply with things like, "so I'm going to run away and join the circus", just to see if they're actually paying attention. If they reply OK, they clearly aren't.  It happens all too often. Yet if this conversation were in person, or even on the phone, I have to imagine that at some point, it might occur to them that they're not actually paying attention, or that I've fully lost my marbles. In either case, they may want to listen up and provide some type of appropriate response. 

More and more these days, I miss the excitement of getting a phone call from someone other than a telemarketer.  You know, someone who can actually pronounce my name on the first try.  It's amazing how, in the last 15 years or so, we've gone from "oh that must be a friend!" when the phone rings, to "Must be a telemarketer, my friends don't call me, better not answer."   I miss hearing friends' voices.  After hours of staring at a screen of one form or another, we now have to do it all evening if we want to communicate with anyone that's not in the same room.  I miss the idea that, if we weren't home, we weren't home. People didn't expect a turn around time of 30 seconds.  If they couldn't get ahold of you, they figured you were out, hopefully having fun, they left a message, and you called when you got home. Nor were you getting five people reaching out at the same time, trying to juggle them all, hoping you didn't type the response that was suppose to go to your mom to your client or your doctor instead.  Sure, three way calling was exciting as a teenager, but unless we intentionally choreographed that, we talked to one person at a time, when we actually had the time. That allowed us to give our full attention to both the things we were doing when not on the phone, and the conversations when we were. And because we weren't inundated with texts and emails and push notifications, we actually seemed more willing, and interested in, receiving and returning those communications. 

And when we really wanted to talk to people, at least those that lived nearby, we made plans.
People lived out there in the world, not in our phones. And, when we were out making those plans, we didn't constantly stop participating in that to answer three texts, four tweets, two Facebook comments and several emails. Getting together for coffee wasn't an opportunity to check in and post pictures of your latte on instagram. It was an opportunity to actually get away from day to day business and spend time with someone you wanted to visit with. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love social media for connecting. I truly do. Hell, I'm blogging this online right now! And for those friends and family who live far away, across the country or the world, it's made connecting a thousand times easier and cheaper.  I'm not suggesting we eliminate it.  But I think we need more balance. If someone is local, instead of exchanging 50 texts, find a time to meet up. It doesn't have to be a big deal, but do something. Meet for coffee for 20 minutes. Something. Before technology we didn't lose touch for weeks or months. We made time for calls and getting together. Because it was the only way to keep up with friends and loved ones.  As it's gotten easier to connect online, we've made less time to connect in person.  And it makes me sad. And I miss my friends.  

So with the month of Thanksgiving coming up, I've decided that I'm going to focus on people in 3D as much as I can. After all, the people in my life are what I'm most thankful for. I promise I won't start calling you at all random hours like Jake from State Farm. But let's start making plans. And if we can't, let's chat. I don't care if it's a phone chat or a Facetime or Google Hangout or whatever, but let's litreally listen to each other.  Let's get back to truly getting to know each other, to seeing each other, to actively participating in our conversations. Let's stop missing each other, and start connecting again. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Until We Meet Again, Dear Friend

Just over a week ago, I lost one of my closest friends, and the world lost a wonderful woman all too early in life. At first, I wasn't going to write a post about this. After all, her passing is about her, and her family, especially her husband and children. Not about me. But earlier today, I remember something she told me the last time I saw her two weeks ago. She told me that she loves reading my blog, that she was my "silent follower". Then we laughed together at how potentially creepy that sounded. Still, I knew what she meant. She didn't always comment on my posts, or even mention them when she saw me, but she'd often "coincidentally" send me a thinking of you text right after I'd published a blog about a difficult time or tough bout with my depression.  She mentioned at this last visit that she particularly loved the tribute I'd written to my dog Cinn when she'd passed away two months ago, how she'd read it over and over. She said to me, "you could be a famous writer," and, while I'm not sure I feel quite as confident about my writing ability, I know she meant it wholeheartedly. That's just the type of person she was. So it occurred to me that she wouldn't see my writing about her, what she meant to me, and what her loss has meant to so many people, as a selfish act at all. She'd see it as a way to honor her, all that she was during her life, and all that she'll continue to be to us here. And so Lizzard, this post is for you.

I met Lizz when we were 19 on an impromptu and, at the time, uncharacteristic visit to a spa to get my hair cut. Lizz was a relatively new stylist, and I think I petrified her by confidently asking her to chop off virtually all of my elbow length hair. I remember her cutting it inch by inch, asking after each cut if I was sure I wanted to continue. (For the record, she did indeed end up cutting about 10 inches off my hair and, thanks to her styling prowess, it looked amazing).

Over the years we became close, and I trusted her not only as my hair stylist, but as a valued friend. We "double dated" with our boyfriends, and then our husbands when they became such.  We went to each others' weddings, and I attended her baby showers. We had lunch dates and girls nights out. When things got rough in my marriage, she was one of our only "couple" friends to stay tried and true during my divorce. We shared jokes, stories, triumphs, fears, worries. We were each others' confidants, understanding what each other went through when others couldn't.

Lizz, you were so many things to so many people, and we will miss you more than we can say. We will miss your laugh, your smile, your care and concern. We'll miss the way you made us feel beautiful inside and out. We'll miss the way you would text just to say that you were thinking of us and that you valued our friendship. I think you may be my only friend that routine did that. I'll miss laughing with you about Theodore Pickles. Or the time you blanked on my ex-husband's name and called him, "what's his name,". Years later, we still laughed about that Or you singing "Ain't Nothin' Gonna Break My Stride" and dancing along as we walked the 3 Day for the Cure; us sprinting the last hundred meters on Day 1 as a storm suddenly hit, getting absolutely soaked in the process. Or that picture from after we crossed the finish line on Day 3, where upon further scrutinzation, we realized you were accidentally giving everyone the finger. We laughed forever at that.  I'll miss how you'd see that I was happy about something and say that it made your day. I remember the last time I saw you, you told me how it had made your week that I had adopted a new dog and looked happy with her.  I'll remember that when I needed to tell someone something - good, sad, exciting, worrisome, funny - that you were always there. There are so many things this past week that I've thought: You know who I should talk to about this about this... and then realized that I can't.

I know that you are not really gone. Not for good. You will be here guiding your children every step of the way as they grow, even though they cannot see you. You will be a support to friends, who always turned to you, and will still ask your advice. You will be right next to each of us as we move through life, flashing into our minds when we least expect it, with your brilliant smile and laugh and the joy you brought to everyone. And I know that's a lot to do. But I also know you like to keep busy and that it's in your nature to care for everyone, and so I'll ask you one favor from down here. Watch over my Cinny for me, will you? She takes very little work and she's a great companion, but despite all the fun I'm sure she's having with her doggy friends over there, she probably misses her mama. So if you could just keep an eye on her that would mean so much. Until we are all together again and I can hug you both once more.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When You Say 'Be Yourself', I Take You Literally

If it's not abundantly evident by the contents of this blog. I'm a pretty open book. Despite my numerous insecurities over the years, some of which I still struggle with, I'm relatively comfortable discussing who I truly am, faults and insecurities and "issues" and all. In fact, it's when I am able to have these conversations, to broach these deeper internal subjects with others, that I feel most comfortable. I'm pretty awful at small talk. I don't have anything against it in theory, I just am really awkward at it.  And while I'm relatively used to feeling awkward by now and joke about it plenty, it's not my favorite feeling, as you might imagine. I've simply come to grips with reality.

The point of all of this is to say, I'm OK with being myself. My awkward, depressed, anxious, introverted, mood cycling, geeky, dorky, tomboy-ish, uncoordinated, deep thinking, vastly lost in the imaginative world, self. I often quote Charles M. Schultz in saying, "Be Yourself. No one can say you're doing it wrong." And I live it every day, at times to my detriment.  So when someone says something to me like, "You'll be fine, just be yourself", I take them literally. In doing so, I know one of two things is likely to happen:  either this person genuinely likes me for my real self and means it, or it's going to be a disaster.

The problem with "be yourself", as it's ubiquitously used these days, is that it's become cliche. People say it without thinking about all of your "you" characteristics and how they may fit into the specific situaiton. Additionally, they think that when they say "be yourself", that you automatically understand that there are certain parts of "yourself" that are acceptable in this situation and others that are not, and that you can and will easily hide those parts that are not. Basically, they expect you to telepathically intuit the version of yourself that they expect you to be in the given situation. Now, in some cases, this is probably rather common sense. For instance, just because you enjoy stand up comedy does not mean you stand up and tell jokes in the middle of grandma's funeral. But in other cases, what they assume and expect may not be as easily discerned, or as simple for you to do.

Let me give you an example: I'm invited to a party where there are going to be a ton of people, none whom I know apart from the party thrower.  There will be loud music and lots of alcohol, which comes with the expectation that everyone will be getting drunk. Meanwhile, I'm an introvert with social anxiety and say, for example's sake, I'm in the middle of a rough depressive cycle. I get overwhelmed with large crowds and excessive noise, and drink much these days for health reasons. Let's add in that I have to drive home, so even if I wanted to "let my hair down", I really couldn't, at least not when it comes to joining in the drunkenness. But my guess is, that when the party thrower says "be yourself", they assume I'm going to be at ease and participate in the party as they would - because naturally, having fun and drinking and talking to lots of people in a large crowd with loud music is what everyone does at a party, right? And if not, it's what they should be doing. It's the social norm, after all. But in actuality, if I'm myself, I'll stand quietly in the corner, sipping a soda, nervous to talk to anyone and desperately hoping there's a dog I can play with so that I can avoid interaction by pretending I feel sorry for the dog who's not getting enough attention.

What's worse is that the party host, who knows me well and who extended the invitation telling me to  be myself, is both surprised and upset by my level of participation (or lack thereof) in the traditional party festivities. They somehow expected me to turn into an extrovert who loves crowds, gets crazy at parties, and fits right in, despite the fact that my natural self, which they told me to be, indicates everything to the contrary. They then say things like "why can't you just relax and have fun?" And I have to explain to them that big parties with lots of noise and strangers and alcohol that I'm expected to, yet for numerous reasons can't. consume, are neither relaxing or fun to me. They don't understand, because these things are fun to them and others and therefore I should be able to have fun doing these also.  I get more frustrated with them for imposing their standards on me. And the cycle goes round and round.

Introverts and extroverts can get along. Socially anxious and socially comfortable people can get along. Those with depression and cycling and those without can get along. But  to do so we must understand that what's fun and relaxing to one group may well not be to another. We can't make book club any more exciting for you, so why is it fair to expect us to have a great time at a party that makes us anxious? Instead, perhaps see if you can appreciate that we've tried. That you were important enough to us that we put ourselves in an uncomfortable and anxiety producing situation because you said you really wanted us there. In fact, you said you wanted us there and to be ourselves. So we went. And we were ourselves. We did exactly what you asked. We just didn't enjoy it. Nor was that ever part of the deal, at least not to us. To you, it was implicitly understood.

The bottom line is, if you want us to be ourselves, then by all means tell us. But if you want us to be something else, let us know what exactly that is. This doesn't mean we will, or we can, but perhaps we can come to a compromise. Perhaps we can say, "I'll come to the party. I'll try my best to meet strangers. I can't promise I won't be awkward, but I'll not hide in the corner petting the dog all night (ok I'll probably pet the dog but not in the corner and not all night)." And you can say, "I'd really appreciate that. It means a lot to me that you're even there and trying because I know how difficult it is for you. I don't expect you to be the life of the party, I understand if you can't drink, and if you only stay for a little while. I'm just glad to have you there at all." And maybe we're not all 100 percent happy. But at least we're not both 100 percent miserable. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Please Don't Stop Inviting Me Even Though I Turn You Down

When you battle anxiety - social or generalized, depression, mood cycling, or any other number of mental health conditions, socializing can be a challenge. In fact, being out in public can be downright scary at times.  That's because both of these are double edged swords and with time, become a viscous cycle. 

We go out. We have an anxiety attack or our depression worsens or we slip into a hypomanic episode. We either get really quiet, or we freak out in some way. We're embarrassed, frustrated, upset. So is anyone that noticed (and sometimes it's impossible not for everyone to notice). We hybernate, either by choice or because people stop inviting us for a while. Eventually, we decide to come out of our cocoon. But we're so afraid that it's going to happen again, that we're anxious and worried the whole time. People tell us to just relax and be ourselves. But this is impossible - ourselves aren't relaxed. The more pressure we feel to relax, to not have an episode of sorts, the more anxious we get, and guess what - the more likely we are for it to actually happen. It's virtually a self fulfilling prophecy. We hybernate more. You see where this is going. 

So I understand the tendency for people to not invite me. They think I'm not interested because I've turned them down or left early or cancelled at the last minute or quite simply have been what they consider no fun at times. 

Please understand:
  • My condition is unpredictable. I may agree to plans that sound good when I'm feeling better, and wake up that morning so depressed it physically hurts to move. I don't want to put either of us through that, so I cancel. 
  • I may feel like I'm about to cycle and need to make a game time decision, because I know that being in a certain state of mind while participating in whatever is planned would turn out poorly for everyone involved. 
  • Alcohol can make me severely depressed. If the focus of your evening is alcohol and I know my options are to 1.) drink and wake up severely depressed or 2.) be the only sober person who stands there feeling like a boret while you're all getting wildly drunk and saying things like "come on, just have a drink",  I may not want to go at times.  It's not personal.
  • Lack of sleep makes me cycle. It might seem to you like I can do a late night out here or there, but I know my body and my brain, and I know it's generally not a great idea. Hypomania makes it impossible to sleep in. So staying out late doesn't mean I'll just adjust my sleep schedule, it means I'll not sleep. And I'll cycle. So again, I may decline. It's not you, it's me. 
  • Lots of noise and commotion and crowded spaces often overwhelms my brain. Imagine a train coming at you full speed ahead blaring it's whistle furiously but being told you must calmly stand there on the tracks and solve a complicated math problem. And enjoy it. This is what it's like for me when my anxiety or hypomania are bad. So if that's my mood cycle, I may avoid it. 
  • Having to interact and have small talk with people I don't know, especially when they all know each other, is akin to that dream you have where you show up on the first day of school naked and everyone's staring at you and you have to pretend nothing's amiss. Social anxiety makes it feel like the walls are closing in, slowly crushing you, and you can't breathe. But in small groups with real conversation, I can be really social. It's not all or nothing. 
  • I may be so afraid that I will somehow ruin your time that I decline the invitation. Especially if I've had an episode in a similar situation before, or you've told me that you're worried about me doing so (this is one of the most hurtful thing someone can say, for the record). 
  • I may feel so pressured to "just relax and have fun", when for me trying to relax like everyone else thinks I should is sometimes more of a struggle than my actual anxiety. My brain doesn't "relax". My body tries to, and my brain has this constant whisper, "am I relaxed enough? Do they think I'm relaxed? Am I doing this right?". 
The bottom line is, I do not want to feel like I have to be someone else, or some other version of myself that doesn't come naturally, in order for you to want to be around me and/or invite me out. When you say "just relax be yourself," I need you to understand that those two things don't happen concurrently. And that myself in that current state of mind may not be what you actually want. What you want is a "myself" that you have in your head, that maybe you've seen here or there, when I was really able to pull off trying to be like everyone else. Or when I was having a really "normal" day. 

But none of this means I don't want to be invited. Do you know what makes me want to go into my cocoon and never ever ever come out, more than anything?  When people stop inviting me. It's not because I'm being a baby (I've been accused of this and told to "grow up" on numerous occasions). It's because it feels like when I need you most, when I'm ready to give up on me and fighting not to, that you've already done so. It feels like you're embarrassed or ashamed by me. That you're not willing to take the chance on all of my good qualities in case it's a bad illness day. That those good qualities aren't worth it. It feels like I have to always be ready to go and do whatever you want however you want it, or I'll never be invited. Because of that time or two I turned down plans because I was ill, you've stopped including me all together. It feels like you're saying to me: you'll never get better. I have no faith in you. And you saying "oh I figured you'd not enjoy it" is, quite honestly, a cop out. Who are you to decide if I'd enjoy it on any given day or not? I'm mood cycling. What I enjoy (for the most part, assuming it's not a moral dilemma) depends on my mood. It would be like saying "if you don't to eat french fries every day of your life, I'm going to assume you don't like them and never offer you one again." If you'd truly like me there, what's the harm in saying, "I know it's not really your thing (or you've not been feeling great) but if you're up to it, I'd love to have you there. No pressure though"? Because I, and only I, should be allowed to decide if my body and brain are up to it on that particular day. And because it tells me you still believe in me, still trust me, haven't given up on me. And that I'm worth it. 

Please, don't stop inviting me, or anyone else that is dealing with these types of struggles. We feel bad enough about our conditions. We already feel so different, misunderstood, ostracized because of the stigma, because of the gremlin in our head that tells us we're no good, that nobody wants us around. Don't tell us it's true. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Help Someone Who Is Battling Depression

I've written a lot about what not to do when someone is depressed, dealing with a difficult mood cycling flareup, or, worse, feeling suicidal.  And these are incredibly important. I can't stress enough how doing the wrong thing could urge them from a bad place to a place of total despair. But it also helps to know what you can do, because people may act a certain way not out of malice, but out of feeling helpless - they perhaps know they've been told not to do or say something, but aren't sure what else to do.  If they feel it's a critical situation, they may start to panic, and we know all too well that people don't always make the best choices in the midst of panic. So here are some suggestions:
  • Ask them how they would like you to help. Just because, if the tables were turned, you might want to go for a drink or get boosted up by some positive cheer-leading or be told "it's all going to be ok", doesn't mean it's what is best for them. Don't treat others how you want to be treated. Treat them how they want to be treated. We're all unique individuals, and only we know what best serves each of us in any given situation. Expecting someone to accept the way you help or nothing at all is short sighted, self-centered, and quite simply, not helpful. 
  • When you do the above, ask 'How can I help?". That "how" is important. It's not an "if you need anything", which requires them to be the one to follow up and reach out (often we're afraid of feeling needy and/or bringing others down so don't do so), nor is it a question of if you will help or not. Again, that's saying "I could if you reach out/ask/make that effort that maybe you can't right now."  You want to tell them, "I will be helping. I will be here for you. You're too important to me not to. So, tell me what would best support you." 
  • Keep trying. Some days, we may need to be alone. Others, we may need company, or at least someone to talk to. Please know that if we want to be alone, it's not personal. Many conditions involve social anxiety, especially if we feel like we might stick out, or be a burden to others, and on days when that gets particularly troubling, we may not want to see anyone, let alone be out and about. It doesn't mean we don't care about you. Nor does it mean we want to be all alone, 24/7/365, for the rest of our lives. 
  • Per the above, if we do seem receptive to seeing people, suggest things that may be easy on our depression and anxiety. Just because we might be feeling slightly better than yesterday doesn't mean that 1.) we're 100 percent or 2.) we want to be out and about with tons of people. And even if we are up for venturing out, we probably don't want to be the life the party (read: we probably NEVER want to be the life of the party, even on our best days). So suggest one on one time that is more low key. For me, anything that involves being out in nature, a casual brunch or catching up over coffee works well, for instance.
  • Understand our limitations, and if we're willing to meet you half way, that that this is a huge step, and it would be very much appreciated if you did the same. In fact, it's really, really nice if you suggest this instead of us having to ask you to accommodate us. It makes us feel like less of a drain and less needy. (There's a pattern here: we don't want to feel like we're troubling you just by being ourselves). 
  • Understand that we do, and will, relapse, for lack of a better word. Depression, diagnosed anxiety, and mood cycling are chronic conditions. They flare up, they get better. Despite the fact that I feel like this is blatantly obvious in a condition that's mood cycling, it's amazing how people forget. We may be fine today and bed ridden tomorrow, or vice versa. Allow us to be day to day. If you expect anything else, you'll be disappointed and hurt, and when it comes out on us in the form of lack of support, so will we. 
  • Give us, point blank, the support we need. Things like "I'm here for you, whatever you need, always." "I want to help you." "I care about you/love you" are not things we want to guess at or assume. We need to hear verbatim.  And then we need to see it backed it up with action.  In our worst states, if there's a possible way for our brain to find a negative, it will. We're not being "glass half empty". To our brain, the glass looks completely empty, there's no potential water source, and we're painfully dehydrated. We don't want to have to squint at the glass and think "well, maybe, if I could turn it this way and that and stand on my head and wait 10 minutes one drop may come out." We want someone to tell us they'll bring us a pitcher of water, and if they can't, they'll at least sit with us until one comes so we aren't going through this all alone.
The bottom line is, our conditions are real, genetic, physical illnesses that we often feel little control over and certainly never asked for. They are not choices or attitude problems. We do not want to feel like we have to cover them up or change who we are as a person in order to be more accepted and loved. We also do not want to feel like a burden or drain to others. We already feel different and isolated. We simply want to be understood, supported, and to not constantly be waiting for the bottom to inevitably drop out. Our brain already does that to us enough. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Moving Forward, Not On

I've had a lot of changes in my life recently. A lot. One of the most profound being that my dog of 10.5 years, my constant companion best friend, Cinn, passed away close to two months ago. I was heartbroken. I still am. I talk to her every day. I have a picture of her and her paw print sitting on one dresser, and her ashes (in an engraved box) on another. I thought It would be ages before I would get another dog. It felt unfair to Cinn to have another.

But slowly, I started looking at adoptable dogs. There are so many dogs that have been displaced, been in awful situations, sitting in a shelter or foster care which, while much nicer than most shelters in general, isn't a permanent home. And I realized that, by helping another dog, I wouldn't be dishonoring Cinn, but doing the exact opposite. It would be a testament to how wonderful she was to want to help another dog in need.

This past week, I met a dog named Grace. Grace is a two year female shepherd mix, which is exactly what I was looking for. She lost her home when her family got evicted and could no longer feed their kids, let alone their dog, and decided the best thing to do for her was to bring her to a foster organization where she mind find a loving home. She's certainly seems a bit more playful than Cinn, though that's not too difficult, because Cinn wasn't a particularly active dog. Plus, it wouldn't be a bad thing for me to get a few more walks in each day (watch out, Fitbit Contest friends!), and perhaps her youthfulness will help keep me feeling young as well.

After giving it some thought, I decided to move to the next stage with Grace, which is a "trial week." Basically, they want to make sure you feel the dog is a good fit for you - and vice versa - before completing the adoption. Not every dog is for every person, and they like to make sure you're both happy. My trial week started this past Sunday, and Grace is doing remarkably well. She has already attached herself to me as her "mom", and follows me everywhere. Everywhere. She's playful and youthful, which actually helps me keep up my energy after long work days. It puts a smile on my fact to see her endlessly interested in her toys, racing around when I get home because she's so excited to see me. I'd had an "older" (or older acting) dog for so long, I'd forgotten about the puppy stage, especially as Cinn wasn't even particularly active as a puppy. I still have a few days left in the "trial" but I'm pretty sure that Grace is here to stay.

The night before Grace arrived, I told Cinn all about her. I cried when I did so. I still miss my Cinn, my sweet baby girl, every single day. She will always be my best friend and soul mate, my cutest dog ever in the whole world.  Cinn will never be replaced.  But when changes happen in life, eventually, we must move forward.  If not, we spend our life in unhappiness, living in the past and letting the present pass us by, never seeing the opportunities for happiness that surround us. I know Cinn would never want that. All she ever wanted was for me to be happy (and occassionally a walk or a treat). So I'm not moving on. Moving on, at least to me, sounds like what you had wasn't good and you've tossed it aside to find something better. I don't believe in moving by this definition, because it discredits all that you had. But I do believe in moving forward. I believe in saying, "I have gone through the stages of loss, of grief. I've been sad and heartbroken. I've dealt with the disbelief. Perhaps, in certain circumstances (though not this one), I may be angry. And after a while of this, our minds and our hearts and our souls tell us that we've had enough of that. That the sadness will always be there in the background, especially when we think of the situation. But that there will also come a time when we can think of it and remember the positives, instead of just what we no longer have. And when this happens, whether we realize it or not, we begin moving forward.

I look forward to welcoming Grace into the family. I hope that this trial week continues to work out, and that she becomes a permanent member. However it goes, I know that it won't be just me learning to accept and love Grace. Cinn will be right there by my side in spirit. She will let me know if Grace is the right one. And she will help me learn to love her, to guide me in all that I do with her. Because that is how Cinn and I work. It's how we always have, and it's how we always will.