Who Are You On Vacation?

I've been reading a lot of posts lately about vacation and how people are finding an inner peace that seems almost impossible when at home, immersed in daily life and adult responsibilities.

V and I actually had this discussion a few weeks ago when I got back from DC. I don't remember how we got on the topic, but I mentioned that traveling brings out a side of me that isn't seen a lot at home. I feel in my element, confident and worthy. I speak up about things that normally would warrant a non-response or some sort of internal dialogue and shame. I walk in the front of the line, instead of always wanting to be at the back. I am spontaneous. I sleep soundly. I laugh. I play. I feel whole.

For whatever time frame that I am on vacation, I find that I immediately pick up these characteristics and feel so at peace within my own mind and body... something that feels at times impossible in my normal day to day surroundings.

What is it about traveling/vacation that flips that switch so easily for me?

It literally is an almost instant transformation. Sometimes it happens as soon as I arrive at the airport, other times it's as I step off the plane. I know that amazing experiences are ahead of me. I've planned for them. I've paid for them. It's like I get to have control over my life in a way that is not possible at home. I get to pick and choose what I want to do that I know will bring me joy, do it on my own time frame, with the people I want and it all falls into place (assuming I've planned ahead properly!). Vacation is like a glimpse of what life would be like if you could control everything. Maybe that's why we all like vacation so much! What's not to like about that?!

By the end of a good vacation, I'm ready to be home if for nothing more than to sleep in my own bed, but part of me wonders now if my eagerness to be back home is to try and put into practice these traits and characteristics that I possess on vacation. To try and blend this seemingly completely separate me into my "real" life.

Are you different on vacation?

A Hole In My Heart

So in my most recent updates, I haven't talked about what happened on June 8th.

I'll rewind a little.

It's the last week of school and I am already a little stressed because I'm scheduled to go out and see my dad that weekend. I hadn't seen him since he right after he was in the ICU, and I was nervous about having to come to terms with the new way life was going to be for a while. I noticed Monday that my cat, Spazzie, looked a little fatter around the midsection than normal. Made a little mental note to keep an eye on it and went on with the week. By Wednesday she had gotten bigger and it was apparent that she had quite a bit of fluid in her abdomen.

One x-ray and some bloodwork later and it was determined that she had a mass near, possibly in her liver. They couldn't tell without doing more extensive tests, none of which were going to give me anything that was treatable at her age... which was almost 20. They also couldn't tell me how long it would be. She was still eating, drinking and pottying at that point, which were all good signs, but liver cancer is notorious for being very quick to take down animals so I wasn't feeling very confident.

I was supposed to leave in 2 days to see my dad (was planned to be gone for over a week) and now I was thrown into the position of trying to decide to put my baby to sleep before I left so I could say goodbye on my own terms, or playing with chance and hoping she made it until I got back.

Not liking either of those options, I tried calling the airlines to see if I could change my flight, give me more time to make this horrible decision instead of feeling rushed into it. For $600 I could change my departure date. That was more than I paid for the entire roundtrip ticket. Next plan. Buy a one way ticket leaving later in the week, so I could stay here and have more than 48 hrs to decide what to do. Airline again is no help. If I miss my original departing flight, they cancel my whole reservation so I won't have the return flight back. Last plan. Leave on the original date and buy a one way ticket back early. I wasn't thrilled with this plan because by Friday, she wasn't moving as fast or nearly as interested in food as she normally was, but my stepmom had been giving me a hard time about not being there to help and I didn't feel like I could just cancel because my cat might die in the next few days.

I went ahead and took her to my mom's on Saturday, and left for California. I decided that Wednesday (June 8th) was when I needed to come back. It wasn't too long out there that I felt like I was pushing my luck, but long enough where I felt like my stepmom wouldn't give me a hard time.

I was miserable the whole time. Aside from the fact that my dad has gone from the smartest man I know to what I can only describe to you as someone with Alzheimer's was already hard to come to terms with, but it was torture being away, knowing deep in my soul I was going to have to prepare myself to say goodbye to my baby, either on her own time, or mine.

By Monday she wasn't really moving around a lot and barely eating, so I had my mom take her to the vet so they could take care of her until I got back. My flight back Wednesday was set to get in right around rush hour, and the vet was a good 90 minutes from the airport, not to mention my car was still at my mom's house.

I barely made it to the vet in time to pick her up. They brought her in and she looked so pitiful. Her fur was all dry, her tummy all swollen and she didn't have that sparkle in her eyes. The vet (who wasn't the normal guy, he's off on Wednesday's which of course is what day this was) updated me on what they had done for her, the medicines they put her on and the choices I had for making her comfortable while I decided what I wanted to do.

I left the vet in tears, just wanting to get home and sit with her. Hoping she just looked as pitiful as she did because she wasn't at home. When I walked in the door and set down the carrier, she took enough steps to get out then laid down right on the floor. I just sat down next to her and sobbed. She was telling me what I needed to do. I cried and I cried, the way I never have before. I literally could not breathe. I had her for 18 of her almost 20 years of life and I wasn't ready. I still wanted more time... but I knew. I knew keeping her alive would only be for me. That she was ready, that she held on for me to be there with her, the way she had been there for me so many other times in my life.

I couldn't bear having to wait until the next morning to do this. The thought of having her there another night, knowing what I had to do in the morning was just too much. I called my mom and (somehow) managed to stop crying long enough to explain what the vet said and that I couldn't wait until tomorrow. There was an after hours vet that I had taken her to before, that is the 2nd location of the place where I took her regularly. I called them and asked if they had the resources to do this after hours and how late they'd be open. My mom asked if I wanted her there. Normally, emotional situations I tend to fight on my own... but I knew this was too big, even for me.

Next I called my sister and updated her as well. I told her if she wanted to say her goodbyes, she needed to get to my place soon. Calls out of the way, I remained on the floor next to Spazzie just staring at her. I curled up next to her on the floor and just listened to her breathe. Listened to her purr. Like I would always do when I was stressed out because the sound made me feel so much better. I don't know what made me think of it, but I grabbed my phone and held it up to her, recording her purrs so I would have them forever. Time seemed to slow to a near stop as I just laid there with her, thinking of all the things that we had experienced together. She kept looking at me, as to say, I'm thinking of it too. Those last 30 minutes we shared alone I will never forget.

My mom and sister arrived not much later, and before long I found myself in the front seat of my mom's car, clutching Spazzie like a small child might. It seemed like everything from there on out was an auto-pilot response. We arrived at the other location, and the vet wanted to look her over to make sure that putting her to sleep was warranted. It didn't take long for her to see what was there, and she explained what would happen and asked if I wanted to stay in the room with her.

I wasn't about to walk out and leave her there alone. I positioned myself to have one hand on her head and my eyes looking directly to hers. I watched her sweet, sweet soul leave her body and the life go from her eyes. The doc stepped out to give me (and my mom) some time alone with her. I laid my head next to hers on the table, hugging her and crying into her fur, thanking her for being there for me, teaching me how to love and for loving me for who I was.

I never knew my heart could break the way it did at that very moment... and feel so broken and empty after.

June 8th. The day that will never be just another day for me.

I miss her so much. There will always be a hole in my heart where her presence once filled.

11/16/91 - 6/8/11

Venturing Out

I've been in DC for the last week with 3 of my friends. I had a BLAST!!

We got to do so much stuff, a lot of which most people don't get to do. My friend has a congressman in her family so we got to have a guided tour through the tunnels and other hidden places in the Capitol that you wouldn't see otherwise. We hung out in his office for a while and just chatted. He was also able to get us an internal tour of the White House and Pentagon, which were both amazing!! We did all the other "normal" stuff; monuments, statues, memorials, the National Cathedral, Arlington cemetery, etc. I don't think I've ever done so much walking in my entire life. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but my feet hurt so bad on the second day I was almost in tears once we got back to the hotel.

It's probably a good thing we walked like 100 miles because I ate nothing but junk food while we were there! I had more pizza and hamburgers in the past 6 days than I have in the past 6 months probably! Hopefully I didn't do too much damage. I've been doing Jenny Craig this summer and I don't want to have to re-lose the same weight.

I'm glad to be back home! I'm glad to have my own bed and bathroom, rather than having to share with 3 others. It was quite an experience. There were times that we laughed so hard we were crying, and rode back in silence because we were all a little crabby.

My goal while I was there was to be "in the moment". I didn't want to spend my vacation caught up in my head, worrying about things I can't control or things that aren't even occurring anytime soon. I wanted to be happy with what I was doing and try to stay positive, even when I was sleep deprived, hungry or both. I also wanted to be a more genuine me. A lot of times when I'm in a group, I tend to become a wallflower and let others guide the decisions, conversations, etc. Instead of always doing that, if I had something I wanted to say or suggest, I did. There were times that I still fell into old habits (confrontation avoiding, playing peacekeeper, etc) but since those weren't my specific goals I wasn't hard on myself for not challenging them.

All in all, it was an amazing trip! DC is now my absolute favorite American vacation! If you haven't been, go!!! :)

Learning To Be A New Me

It has been a long time since I have felt drawn to my blog. In fact, it wasn't long ago that I thought I'd never blog again.

Funny how life turns out the exact opposite as you expect it at times. Like all of 2011...

These past three months have been quite weird for me. I was in a vacuum. I was literally incapable of connecting with the "former me", the me I'd become so accustomed to over the past 14 years. The abused, broken, hopeless, forever-destined-to-live-life-in-pain me. But these past few months have offered me a quite different perspective of myself. By default I've learned how to live in the moment, react immediately to emotional situations, and enjoy the happy moments in life.

It's like I was reborn into this new person who had to learn what to do, because most of my former coping skills and mechanisms for life suddenly became unusable... and to tell you the truth, I hated it. I hated not feeling like myself. I hated feeling so out of place and uncomfortable. I hated not knowing how I was going to react to things since my normal "put on a happy face and stuff it, maybe deal with it later" routine was not accessible. When I hate things or disagree with things, I dig in my heels and fight against it with everything I have.

But over the past month or so, my heels let up a bit and I've started to feel more comfortable with this "new" me. This me that is really starting to believe that I deserve all the things I've been working towards, rather than just going through the motions. This me that for the first time since I was 13 years old, has hope for my life.