Archive for September, 2012

It’s Meemaw-palooza Wednesday!

Some of you were asking how our almost blind/stone deaf/geriatric/possibly senile rescue weenie dog is doing, so I thought I’d give you a Meemaw-centric post today.

Suffice to say, she is SO much better than when we found her! She’s put on some weight, due in large part to the fact that our beloved friend and house sitter Gigi hand-fed her salmon from Whole Foods the entire time we were in Europe.  (Meemaw is fervently hoping we head out of the country again real soon.) She is still a little stagger-y when she walks outdoors on the grass, but she gets around on the hardwood floors like a champ, albeit a rather stiff, arthritic one. The other two dogs are still not sure what the heck she is, but they have been very polite, if somewhat reserved with her– a few discreet butt-sniffs here and there, but no aggression at all, even though I am sure they think it is a tremendous ripoff that the *drunk ferret* gets CANNED FOOD twice a day and all they get is dry. Life can be so unfair.

Meemaw’s activities fall into three distinct categories: eating, sleeping, and trotting in a large circle around the kitchen or deck with a determined look on her face but no apparent destination in mind. When she does that, we refer to her as Trotsky. She certainly does enjoy her food, and she actually amps it up into a canter when she sees someone carrying her dish into the laundry room, her ears flapping and a blissful doggy grin on her grizzled little face. She has completely claimed Pip’s old donut bed as her own, and likes to be wrapped up in her old lady afghan when she sleeps. Madi Rose is still her favorite, and Meemaw gets positively girlish when she comes home from college for the weekend– that’s the biggest reaction we EVER see out of her! I occasionally get a slight tail-wag and a tiny lick on the nose, but her heart definitely belongs to Madi.

Here are a few recent pictures and a short video to let you see for yourself how she is doing.  Thanks for asking about our Meemaw– in spite of my grumbling about the extra care she requires, I really do love the old gal!



So, Here’s the Rub:

It’s about 30 minutes into my massage and I am happy, greasy and relaxed. The Massage Therapy Guy is not overly chatty, which works for me, and he is applying exactly the right amount of pressure on my aching back. I can feel his forearm colliding with some speed bumps in my shoulders as he tries to smoooooooooth out the knots. In a voice muffled by the head rest, I sleepily ask, “What’s the deal, are there hamsters living under my shoulder blades or something?” (because I’m hilarious like that.) He laughs, and keeps working on me. Then a few minutes later, out of nowhere he says, “So, have you ever considered taking up kickboxing?”

Um, what?

“Maybe it would release some of that tension you’re carrying around,” he says. I’m not sure if he’s kidding, so I open one eye to see if I can read his face but my position only permits a passing glimpse of his Birkenstocks under the massage table. “I actually consider myself a pretty laid-back person,” I say, sounding just a wee bit defensive. “At least I did. Apparently my back is ratting me out.” Massage Therapy Guy doesn’t answer, and continues kneading my shoulders for several minutes. Then in a quiet voice he says simply, “The body doesn’t lie.”

I’m thinking, “Great– a salon full of trained professionals, and I get Massage Therapy Yoda.”  He calmly continues, “It’s not really even your tension, you know. You’re a very empathetic person, but you can’t keep on carrying other people’s pain for them.” He carefully places his palms on my shoulders, resting them gently like he’s bestowing a blessing on my poor bumpy, tension-ridden back. “Lay it down,” he says. “This doesn’t belong to you.”

Ok, that gets my attention, I admit it.

Now, I’ve never met this man before in my life, so I’m a little weirded out. But he doesn’t pursue the subject or try to engage me in any more conversation, he just keeps working on me for the rest of the hour while I lay there slightly bemused and wondering… Is it true? Do I really try to absorb/solve/carry everybody else’s problems around on my (slightly sloping, but admittedly still relatively attractive) shoulders– or does this guy just fancy himself the Dr. Phil of massage therapists?

Here’s the deal: While I do not live a life crippled by worry and foreboding, and while my natural disposition tends to be obnoxiously delightfully sunny, the truth is I do have a tendency to expend a great deal of time, mental and emotional energy thinking about the things going on in the lives of the people I care about. When I’m on top of my game, I can easily take those passing thoughts and turn them into quick prayers. (I’m a subscriber to  Anne Lamott’s theory  that the two best kinds of prayers are “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”) But when I am feeling tired or overwhelmed, it is sometimes harder for me to turn all of my concerns for my loved ones over to God. I’m not sure He’s going to really get into it like I do, what with all of those wars, famines and other people’s prayers He has to deal with. Attention must be paid, and I figure He’s got a lot on His plate, so perhaps I’d better do some of the ruminating and problem solving myself. Just to help out, you know. Because I am nothing if not helpful.

Except that apparently all of that ‘helping’ is now showing up in my body. And I can’t quite shake that one phrase that Massage Therapy Guy said that I KNOW in my heart (and body) is absolutely true– “This doesn’t belong to you.” My worries/concerns/fears for my family, however well-intentioned and prompted by love they may be, are not mine to carry. While it is perfectly natural to have those feelings, it’s not my place to take over, even if that only occurs in my head. And let’s be honest, it rarely just stays in my head, because I always feel the compelling need to offer advice and counsel, whether requested or not!  But the deal is, trying to solve other people’s problems is not only frustratingly ineffective, it also cheats them out of the opportunity to find their own solutions and grow from the experience. I’m not only attempting to circumvent the work of the Holy Spirit, I’m attempting to BE the spirit of God in their lives.


A well-placed, “I am so sorry you are going through this. What are you feeling like you want to do next?” is ever so much better than a blurted-out, “Here’s what you need to do.” Because one of the many little epiphanies I had whilst lying naked under that sheet on the massage table is this: My quick willingness to jump in and start ‘helping’ is often really less about their discomfort with their current situation and more about my own discomfort in bearing witness to their pain. I want a clear direction and path of action for them because it upsets *me* to watch them stumble around trying to find their way.

I believe the mathematical equation for this would read something like, ” Your problem + finding your own way through it = stress for me + the need to jump in with both feet – REALLY turning it over to God.

My goal for this week: to lovingly take notice of the pain of the people around me, affirm my belief in their strength and ability to find their way through, and then join them in firmly placing their cares in the hands of the only One who can actually do something about them.

So… what do you need to lay down this week that doesn’t belong to you?

*By Matt Groening

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