Much Obliged

I saw a few minutes of some “reality show” program on TV last night involving a young woman, a child born into wealth, who proudly admitted she feels no sense of responsibility or obligation to provide for herself, work or do anything to better herself or the world. She has all the money she wants and needs, and sees no reason to change her carefree, responsibility free lifestyle. I was discussing this with hubby this morning and stated that I could not imagine a life without responsibility for or obligation towards anything or anyone. I believe responsibility and obligations are good things and help us develop more meaningful relationships and lives.

Obligation has always been a driving force in my life, and often the source of consternation and guilt, as I struggle with what, how and with whom I should spend my limited time and resources .

Although there are some obligations I’d be hard pressed to ignore, such as in employment and law, most of my obligations are by choice and I take them very seriously. If I commit to being somewhere or doing something, I feel strongly I need to follow through and honor my commitments. When I join a bowling league, I feel an obligation to the league and my team to show up as often as possible. When I sign my puppy up for training classes, I feel an obligation to show up every week and be prepared. When I accept a job, I feel an obligation to do my best work and, if I am unhappy, to do the best job I can until I find another job. These are all obvious obligations.

I also feel a personal obligation to the people in my life. I feel an obligation to my husband to participate in our marriage, home and life. I feel an obligation to my dog to be a loving and protective owner and provider of his needs. I feel an obligation to my friends to be there when they want and need me to be and to acknowledge their moments, good and bad, which are important to them and, by extension of our friendship, to me. I am lucky to have many people in my life, but it can make fulfilling all of my (self-imposed?) obligations to them hard to honor at all times. I cannot be everywhere at once, I cannot always be there for all the major events or remember when big things are happening, and I cannot always make adequate time to spend with them, consistently. But, to me, there are obvious moments, times and situations when people deserve my best effort to fulfill my obligation to them. Milestone birthdays and anniversaries; important births and deaths and events in their circle of family and friends; new relationships, ending relationships; big moves and life impacting job changes.

Sometimes, I have to prioritize one friend over another, when situations arise that force me to choose where and with whom to be. A friend from out of town, whom I see rarely, may win out over a local friend I get to see more often. A once in a life time event (marriage – well, theoretically, anyway) may win out over a recurring event (birthday.) A friend in an emergency room may win out over a friends Tupperware party. I always try to impress upon the people in my life that when I can be there for them, I will and if I can’t, I really can’t, I’m not merely choosing not to be.

It has taken me a long time to reach a point where I do not feel guilty expecting the same in return from those in my life. If I give of myself, I have a right to expect others to give back in similar fashion. They may not be obligated to give back or feel the same sense of obligation towards me but, if they don’t, it has an impact on our relationship. If I am investing my time and energy into other people, and if I get no or little return, I am going to start investing that time and energy into more mutually fulfilling relationships. I want and need to be important to the people in my life, as much as they are to me. When their words or actions make me feel insignificant, unappreciated or unimportant, then I am learning to let them go and make room for those who value me and my time. This often results in people being angry at me: people who enjoyed my attention, commitment, resources and/or devotion but resented any expectation I had to have the same returned. When I’ve tried to explain that I felt I was getting less than I was giving, I have been accused of being needy, clingy, unfair and unrealistic. Be that as it may, I know who I am and I know what I want, need and expect out of my relationships. If I do not get it, I am no longer wasting my time and energy trying to get it over an expansive amount of time. I am accepting things and people as they are and moving on. In this way, I am fulfilling an obligation to myself: to fill my life with people who make me feel good and special and important; and avoiding people who make me feel bad, common and unimportant.

The bottom line: if you want me to invest in our friendship, then do the same.

Who’s teaching whom?

One week since I last posted? Oh, my, where did the time go? I know that answer. So do you. Harvey. He’s all we think about. He has all of our attention when we’re home, and much of it when we’re not. Although we give it to him gladly, he also demands it, as this photo proves:

He does not approve of my laptop and will not have me staring at it endlessly when I should be playing or cuddling with him. So I always cave and put it aside. How can I not? Look at him and try to say no to that face. I am only able to write this as he is cuddled up to his other Daddy, who is still in bed asleep.

Training and puppy class continue to go well. He has learned three basic commands (Look when his name is called, sit and “watch me”). This week will be a real challenge. We must teach him to lie down on command. Apparently, this is a very difficult thing to teach a dog with chihuahua (possibly dachshund as well) lineage. They do not lie down as a matter of survival (“we’re small and must keep moving”) so the last thing they want to do when they’re up and around is lie down. Every other thing he’s done he’s done well and quickly, but this one is giving us a hard time and we have not managed to get him to do it even once. We have 7 more days to master the skill before we are humiliated in front of our puppy trainer and his classmate, Buster, who has already learned and mastered both lie down and puppy push-ups (getting your dog to lie down and sit up and lie back down, all in progression, without running away.) We will continue to work on it.

Today he will do his first extended visit with new dogs, as we will be taking him with us to have dinner at our friends’ home this evening. They have two miniature schnauzers. We are nervous, but excited as well. Socializing him with other dogs is very important so we will see how it goes.

I posted on Facebook this morning that Harvey receives twice the love: the new Love we have for him and the misplaced Love we still have for, but can no longer give,  Clyde. I meant it. I also realized that, perhaps, that’s the secret to getting through the loss of people who were once in our life but no longer are. Perhaps we merely need to take that misplaced love and affection and, rather than let it sour to anger, depression or misery, refocus it on the people who remain in our lives. Much like the way we combine the ingredients from one cup to the next when one cup cracks, because we want to save the contents rather than let it leak out and away and go to waste.  Pour that love into the love we feel for the people still here. Let them know through our deeds and words that not only do we love them, but love them for sticking by us, staying put and continuing to enrich our lives.  For being here. Now. With us.

Once again, through teaching Harvey to obey and behave and trust us, he has taught me something, as well: no love need be wasted. It is a gift and not everyone wants it, appreciates it or returns it, whether by choice or by circumstance. And that’s OK. Gifts should not be forced or mandatory. Besides, if you have something great to share, it is better shared with someone who will appreciate it. There is always someone waiting to accept what you have to give. We learn this through our friendships, our significant others, our pets, our neighbors, our pupils, our communities. And as painful as it can be to have our offers rejected, it is far more rewarding to have them accepted, embraced, appreciated and returned. If we stop offering after our first (or second, or third) rejection, the person who might accept it never gets the chance.

For all the love I feel we give Harvey, he returns it ten fold and through him, I have found a way to turn the pain of missing Clyde into the joy of getting all that love and affection returned once again. I cannot turn back time and get Clyde back. I cannot erase the loss of people in my life. But I can give my love to Harvey and the people who remain incredible presences in my life. That is far more rewarding than letting those emotions sit and rot, wasted on longing for things that are no longer there.

SO, I’m going to accept this little tidbit being offered me, may-hap unintentionally,  by this innocent, adorable  little pup, and learn to focus what I have to give on the people who want to receive it and will appreciate it.

And I’m going to continue working with Harvey to get him to lie down. He’s worth the time and energy and effort.  Not to mention the puppy kisses I get in return when I pet and reward him for a doing a good job and being a good puppy. Oh, those heart warming puppy kisses.

Maybe I’m the one who’s actually getting rewarded for doing a good job, after all.


Raising a puppy teaches you a lot about yourself.

I am learning (or being reminded of the fact) that I am a creature of instinct: I have strong ones and I want to rely on them, even when logic would dictate I ignore them; and I get quite emotional when I behave in contradiction to my desire. Seeing any living creature suffer bothers me immensely.

Crating my dog in a small cage while I’m at work for his comfort and protection and training purposes conflicts with my desire to let him run free and be comfy, even though I know he may mess up the house, defecate and urinate all over and maybe even chew things he shouldn’t, not to mention the possibility that he may get stuck somewhere, given his diminutive size and curiosity.

Forcing my dog to stay outside in the cold and dark, just beyond the threshold of the door into the light and warmth, until he acquiesces to my commands to sit and stay, gnaws at my gut as I struggle not to scoop him up and hold him and warm him and beg his forgiveness; even though I know he must learn to obey for his own safety and our eventual ability to take him places and let him off the leash in the yard.

Placing him back in his crate at night while we sleep, pains me, as I want to let him lie between us and snuggle with us as part of the family, even though I know he won’t be able to until we can be sure he will not wander off and make indoor messes and accidents in or out of the bed.

I knew, going into adopting a puppy, it would take time to train him and it would require me to be more of a disciplinarian. I understand that as a dog, he speaks a different language and understands behavior and body language in a different way than humans do, so I have to assert myself in a way he will understand and learn to obey.

Readjusting how I think and react to Harvey makes me realize that I have been learning to change my behavior in my human relationships, too. For the majority of my life I was a diehard people pleaser, avoiding conflict at all costs and doing anything I could do to foster, nurture and maintain relationships with everyone and anyone. Even when my brain would recognize I was being mistreated, ignored, taken for granted, harmed or abused, my heart and instincts would impel me to try harder to be liked and wanted, to overlook the negative and try to hold onto as many people in my life as I could, at all costs, no matter what they said or did. Learning to accept the discomfort and pain of letting go and severing ties with people who harm me, emotionally, and poison my life and happiness, has been a slow and difficult process, and the negative emotions that come with it – hurt, anger, sorrow, confusion and fear – are all components of learning, growing and maturing. Being able to ask and expect something in return from the people I have invested time and energy into, as I have learned, is not a sign of weakness but strength. I understand and accept that not all relationships are meant to be or are healthy for me. It is evidence that I am learning to value myself, my own wants and needs, as strongly as I value and respect others’, as well as devote my time and energy into nurturing the relationships with people who have shown the same efforts and interest in me and my well-being.

SO, I will continue to forego my compassionate human being impulses and strive to be a good dog owner. I will fight my instincts to smother my puppy with love and pander to him, knowing if I do I will be unable to avoid the harmful effects that approach will have, in the future. I will remind myself to do the right things in the right way so that I will ultimately strengthen our bond and relationship when all is said and done…no matter how much it conflicts with my natural instincts to do so. And maybe in the process of trying to teach my puppy to be a stronger and better behaved pet, I will learn how to be a stronger and better behaved human as well.

Calm after the storm

I finally have the time to sit down and write a decent catch up post here at Idle Eyes.

It has been a long and stressful week. We had central air installed, which turned into getting central air and a new furnace installed. It tapped us out, financially, and really upset me, but what’s done is done and I need to let it go.

Today is my “pass day” and first day at home alone.  (Which, of course, means naked day for me.) Other than doing laundry, I have just relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I’ve spent the day reflecting on how much my/our life has changed over the last year or two. Shifts in our social circle, changes in our bowling league, loss of our dog, two moves and a new house. We are about to change locations at my employment which means a new, longer commute for me and an increase in expenses. Where we are now, we’ve been able to carpool together (me and hubby) so that was saving on gas and car wear and tear. We are paying mortgage and rent in our new house and our old apartment for April and May, so between that and the unexpected expense of a new furnace, we have had to cancel a few more planned activities and trips and tighten our belt. June 1st should see our first month of relief and we hope to recover as quickly as possible, financially, physically and emotionally.

On the plus side, we have a beautiful new home, a fabulous new dining room set, central air and a new, more efficient furnace. I have done a few home repairs which have bolstered my confidence that I am not completely helpless in the handyman department, and we’ve already had a handful of fun gatherings at Breen Acres.

Everyone has been extremely complimentive in our new house. I know, for us, purchasing and settling into a new home is a labor of love and I hope it shows in how much we have thought out how we’ve decorated and furnished it. It is not fancy and it was never our intent or desire to have a “show home.” We want a place we can enjoy living in and a place our friends and guests feel comfortable being in and staying at.

With the new outdoor space, we have a great entertaining venue and I am looking forward to the cookouts and parties we hope to have all summer. I’m bummed about having to wait on the hot tub but,  given the choice, we chose to focus on making the house better for our guests and the hot tub was really more for our own personal use and enjoyment…although we hope to afford at least a 4 seater so we can have smaller, intimate hot tub parties with various friends and guests.  All in due time, I suppose.

We have a friend who is a landscape artist. He came by for a consult and will help us make our yard more private, attractive and enjoyable to be in. We hoped to get started right away, but the unexpected expenses have forced us to hold off on hiring him as soon as we liked. He was very understanding.  In the meantime, we have a couple of friends who are experienced in many handyman and maintenance skills, who have offered to help us with a few projects: giving our screened in back porch a face lift, removing a dying tree from our back yard and removing some work benches and an unnecessary ramp from our garage so there is enough room to park both of our cars in, by next winter.  This is a huge thing (a garage) for those of us who live in snowy areas – if we can park both cars in our garage, we don’t have to clean off our cars in the winter when it snows or scrape ice off them and it is easier to hire a plow service without having to get our cars out of the way.

I have a nephew that lives a few miles away who has asked if he could earn extra money by helping us with various projects and mowing our yard. That will be a help to both of us and I am always happy to pay friends and family as opposed to strangers, if the jobs aren’t too involved.

All in all, it has been worth it to do the work and spend the money we have. I am really looking forward to our first house guests (any takers out there in blogger land?) and just enjoying our home more. It really feels like we’ve started a new journey together and I look forward to filling this home with the laughter, memories and celebrations that enrich our lives.

I have got to get back on track with my eating and exercise. I have had a relatively good run of stable health recently, but our eating choices have been dismal and, although I have been on the go with house projects and errands for a couple of months, I need to devote some time to actual exercise, either back at our gym or on a  home gym we hope to assemble this summer. The gym we currently belong to is opening a branch just minutes from our new home, so if that happens soon enough, we hope to use it.

On a final note, we have realized that we are ready and eager to adopt a new four legged friend to share our home with and have begun the process of seeking out adoption clinics and rescue organizations for the right dog(s) for us. It is our hope to adopt one dog and then, after about a year, get a second one, although if we were discover 2 dogs that are from the same home or family, we would consider a double adoption at the same time. It will be great to have a furry, four legged friend or two to greet us when we get home, snuggle with us in bed and shower us with that unlimited, unconditional love that only a dog can. I still miss Clyde terribly and think of him every day, but we are emotionally ready to replace our feelings of loss with love and affection for a new friend.

As always, your constant words of support and encouragement have been a great help to me through this transition and I appreciate you all coming back despite my limited posts and on again/off again blogging. I have come to think of many of you as friends and I have enjoyed branching out into texts, e-mails and Facebook connections with many of you. I hope to meet more of you this year if time and money allow, but if I can’t get to you, I hope some of you will make it here, including both those bloggers I have had the pleasure of hosting and meeting before, and new bloggers and faithful readers I have not had the fortune to meet yet. I have followed you all continuously, despite my lack of commenting and have enjoyed the departure from the roller coaster that has been my life by living vicariously through yours. And, just maybe, we can make that blogger get together happen at Breen Acres that I once tried to make happen at Chez  Breen.

I am going to go and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day in my new home now. I’m wishing you all peace, love, health, laughter, fun, healthy self images, happy adventures in and out of bed and the realization that, no matter how bad or difficult life can get or seem at times, it’s still an awesome adventure and we should all enjoy the ride for as long as we can, as much as we can.

Big Cyber Hugs.

Until next time….

Yours in friendship and blogger buddyness,

Sean , aka Idle Eyes.

When darkness falls

Sometimes it is really hard to hold onto the belief that there are any good, ethical or decent people left on this planet. The stench of betrayal, deception, manipulation, hatred and greed is poisoning the air I breathe and everywhere I turn, I see more and more examples of everything that taints this world and life with misery and pain.

It scares me that the little voice in my head that whispers “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” has gotten louder.

If I ever become anything like the people, and/or exhibit the behaviors, I have grown to loathe, I hope I spontaneously combust.

Here’s the thing

I do my best to establish a reputation of being reliable, honest, fair and compassionate. I want to be thought of as a good friend, husband, co-worker, etc. Sometimes, despite my efforts, I fall short of that and I have no qualms about being told when I have, by the people I’ve slighted.

BUT, I believe I deserve the benefit of the doubt that any slight was unintentional. I am not a man given to malice or unconcern, and I try my best to treat other people as I wish to be treated. If I disappoint, it is not done with intention and I’d like to believe the people in my life know that.

Anyone I would harm or disappoint intentionally wouldn’t be someone I care enough about to avoid doing so, to.

If you’re my friend, you would not be one of these people, and I would hope any and every friend of mine would know that.

I’m just saying.

Something old, something new

Life never ceases to surprise me:

I could not have even fathomed prior to our trip to Provincetown in December of last year that we would be ready, willing and able to purchase a house this year, let alone actually do it and so quickly. Everything about this experience has been a surprise and a stark reminder that you just never know where your path may lead you. It also proves that there isn’t always a shoe waiting to drop. As we count down to the big day (16 days until closing) we find ourselves brimming with excitement and anticipation of the new home we will put together and the life we will have there. Our home is as much a part of our life as our marriage and our friends, and to find one that seems to fit like a glove and match all of our needs and expectations seems surreal. But we accept the serendipity of it all and are grateful that we are in a position to do this, although we credit ourselves for the hard work and sacrifices we made to get here, to.

On a brighter note, I reconnected with someone (whom I never intended to lose touch with in the first place) and, despite being a short and sweet interaction in the midst of a fun but loud and chaotic bar night, he managed to remind me who I am or want to be and in a few words helped me make some decisions to return to blogging the way I once did: candid, honest and open, damn the consequences. (This entry, in fact, is the beginning of my return to my pre-rebooted blogging days.) I look forward to redeveloping my friendship with him, as there is much he and I need to discuss; and I look forward to returning to being the blogger I once was.

Some other things have happened in my life, recently, that have shed light on parts of me I always suspected existed but never explored, perhaps out of fear; perhaps out of confusion. However, the older I get and the more I explore who I am and what I want from life, the more I understand that my potential and capacity for experiencing all that life has to offer are almost limitless. I have also realized that, despite my desire to cast off the shackles of preconceived notions of who and what I should be, I find myself still trying to fit into certain concepts and roles that just don’t fit me and never will. This also reinforces the amazing relationship I have built with my husband, who’s ability to support me, understand me, encourage me and trust me is so far beyond anything I thought one person could be or do for another. By trusting and believing in who we are and what we have, I have freed myself to soar to new heights as a human being and discover things I never knew were there, let alone thought to look for. I am not intending to be so cryptic, but what I’m referring to is less important than the lesson it teaches: we will never fully know who we are and what we’re capable of until we stop letting others define and limit us and start trusting ourselves to explore who we are and want to be, without hesitation. Coming out as who I am apparently going to be a lifelong process.

Let the journey continue…

Words for loss: A loss for words

I have learned of 3 deaths and two pending deaths in the last 5 days.

I am always at a loss when it comes to dealing with the death of people. It is hard for me to share someone’s anguish, let alone share my own with others. I am very aware of the feelings, emotions, sense of loss and helplessness that accompany the loss of people we once knew, worked with, loved, cared for, lived with, etc. It is jarring to know that someone you’ve laughed with, hugged, argued with, spent time with or interacted with in any way is no longer alive and will no longer play a tangible role in your life.

I actually handle loss well, or as well as can be expected, I think. I cry and hurt and ache and long for things to be different for varying degrees of time, like most other people, but underneath my grief is a solid awareness and acceptance that this is part of the life cycle and we all must pass someday. Still, it is common to feel that the death was tragic, unfair, untimely…to ask why and how and to insist it’s not fair. This is normal human reaction. Some people cope better than others with loss and eventually are able to accept and let go; some people aren’t and never do.

It seems like there has been a lot of death and sickness around me lately; perhaps no more than usual, but with Facebook, e-mail, blogs and the such, I am much more aware of the myriad of struggles people are going through with illness and death on a regular basis. Suicides, Cancer, AIDS, Addiction, Abuse, Accidents…it feels like it’s happening more often and closer and closer to me and my circle lately. Perhaps it’s just that I am older and the social world I am part of is half way through their life-cycle and therefore more prone to such incidents in their lives and the lives of their family and friends. Perhaps I am more sensitive to suffering and/or try to be more actively aware of what is going on in the lives of the people I interact with than I once was or did. Or perhaps it’s just a cumulative feeling from living long enough to experience loss many times myself or through others.

Whatever it is, it is not something I ever get used to, no matter how hard I try to rationalize it or accept it. When it comes to death and suffering, it saddens and hurts me. Always has, always will and I hate the feelings of powerlessness and ache that accompanies it. For me, it is very true that “no man is an island” and when my world and the world of my friends is diminished by even one presence, it is diminished for all of us on some level. Just because it’s inevitable and common doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Loss just sucks.

No Regrets

I try really hard not to have regrets, but there are things in my life that have caused, and still do cause, me great angst and I often wish I had made different choices, said and done things differently. There are people I wish I had never met, things I wish I had never done, decisions I regret making. More importantly, I hate the lingering negative feelings, weeks, months and even years after things have happened. I can’t change the decisions I made in the past, so I try to work on eradicating or at least changing the negative emotions I have in relation to the memories and experiences. That is extremely hard to do. I hate that they can still effect me. Wishing things were different is waste of time. Anger and disappointment about the past is pointless. I just wish I knew how to let go.