A Dark Day in Bed

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 14th, 2016 • Travel Dance HealPrint Print

Today is t’sha b’ab, where Jews throughout the world mourn the destruction of the holy temple. Apropos to the misery of the day, I have been in a very dark place, for a jumble of reasons. What set it off was the physical pain throughout my body, in pretty much every place where I’ve been injured before – and that’s a whole lot of places – as the result of an unleashed dog running up to me on the beach.

My brain ties in a knot trying to address this issue, for a few reasons: First, I look not only “normal,” but as one person called it, “robust.” I am filled with and emanate life, vitality, and strength. It’s damn near impossible for an outside observer to anticipate that I have any health issues, never mind sensitivity so acute that a dog running up to me, without even touching me, could land me in bed, as it did last night and this morning.

Second, dog owners seem myopically fixated on the matter of whether a dog is “dangerous” or not. That matter, in and of itself, is both subjective and relative. A dog easily will behave one way toward a stranger and another way toward the person who feeds it, houses it, and gives it love. In addition, while a dog may not be violent, its abrupt movements or mere unleashed presence can set off a cascade of reactions in other people and even other dogs (especially smaller ones).

But dog owners seem completely oblivious to or callous about the reality of allergies, physical sensitivities, previous traumas, and general dislike of or intimidation by dogs. So if I say anything, I am coming from out of left field – meaning that I cannot simply ask an owner to keep a dog away from me or put the dog on the leash, but I’ll need to get into a full-on conversation breaking matters down for said owner. Doing so is exhausting, especially every single time I am out and about, and that’s pretty much how often dogs are running around loose in parks and on beaches.

Third, in the places where I have lived and visited, dog owners are breaking the law by either having dogs present in parks or beach areas, or by having them unleashed. But if I try that tack, in the interest of its simplicity, I am perceived as a stick-up-the-ass killjoy and dog-hater, not as someone advocating for courtesy toward other human beings. “We love dogs!” a man defiantly shouted at me, when I asked his female companion to put a leash on her dog.

In addition, law enforcement with regards to dogs seems to be low on the list of priorities. Animal control and police have done nothing except advise me to report the license plate or address of someone with a dog off-leash. While that task may sound simple enough, it involves stopping whatever I am doing while on a nature hike or prance about a park, to follow the dog owners to their car or house – which it itself complicated, because among other things, I am specifically attempting to avoid being around dogs off leash. Following them does not exactly serve my purposes.

I nonetheless tried it once, following from a distance, just to see what would happen. Not only was the endeavor inordinately time-consuming, but at one point, the dog owner came charging at me, which was frightening. At the end of the day, he and his wife got a slap on the wrist, if that. So unless a city is going to put me on their payroll, acting as their field worker is just not worth my time, never mind not my job.

The upshot is that I have had a dog run up to me right in front of a large sign indicating there is a $500 fine for dogs off-leash. “Sorry,” the owner said, witnessing my distress when I jumped away, startled. But she neither leashed her dog nor paid the $20 I had to shell out, to dry clean the coat I was wearing, in the interest of removing any dog hairs from it. Instead, she cooed in a baby voice, while patting her dog, “But he’s a good boy.” Be that as it may, it does not take away the fact that I effectively ended up paying a dog fine, not she.

And so I said nothing when the dog came running up to me last night on the beach. Complicating matters was that I was drumming, and the dog owner and two other women were dancing, in an open-hearted celebration, prior to this moment. As I wrote about in the post on topic, I am doing my best to celebrate and heal, and to release micromanaging and being hypervigilant all the time. But the reason I micromanage and practice hypervigilance is this: If I don’t, I am the one who pays the price.

As I reflected on the experience last night, what stood out for me was that when the dog ran up to me, and I got upset, nobody supported me. The woman didn’t call her dog off until I had yelled, “Get away from me!” three times. Not one of the people who had been enjoying my drumming, singing, and sharing of Spirit asked if I was OK. Nobody seemed to care what had happened to me and why I was so distressed. I got the sense, in fact, that people saw me as the problem and that if I were to make any more of an issue out of it, I would further be seen as a nut job, control freak, and/or raging bitch. So I said nothing. I ate the experience. And it ate me all night long and this morning.

Among other things, I got mad at myself for not saying anything, for not standing up for myself and calling the woman on her actions. I also got mad at myself for effectively “allowing” the situation to happen. I didn’t stop the drum circle ahead of time and ask the woman to keep her dog away from me, and I didn’t move to another place away from the dog, to proactively stave off the possibility of the dog running up to me. Given all the reasons outlined above, of course, I consciously chose to take care of myself by not saying anything ahead of time or after the fact. But it’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t reality, where I end up paying the price either way. And so it goes, when others are not mindful of and behaving responsibly about keeping their side of the street clean. Which leads to the core frustration of my life.

And that brought up a whole lot of other dark shit, most significantly, related to the way that I just put it out there and asked my sister to help by taking over all or part of my mom’s expenses, and my dad to help me wipe out my debt (accumulated from out-of-pocket health expenses over the years) – with my sister ignoring my email and my dad giving his “I don’t have the money” excuse, when I know for a fact he does. My sister and I, and my dad and I, respectively, have been in the best place of our relationships over the past two decades, with seeming transformations having taken place in the past year. But how can I be in relationship with family members who have the ability to help, in particular when my life is on the line, but who choose not to help?

My sister has done nothing to help our mother over the past eight years of life-threatening emergencies, save for finding our mother a bankruptcy lawyer in 2008. She otherwise completely abandoned our mother, and by extension, me, as I dove head-first into the role of caregiving for our mom. My sister also never thanked me once, but rather, repeatedly antagonized me by email, after I spent 16 hour days at the hospital, taking care of our mother, never mind managing and taking care of every aspect of our mother’s life.

In addition, my sister contributed not one penny to any of our mother’s expenses over the years – despite 1) her knowing that six years ago, I was on the verge of homelessness and newly-diagnosed with cancer, 2) her knowing that I am still actively healing from cancer, with astronomical out-of-pocket medical expenses, 3) her owning a million dollar house (half of which she stole from me – another story for another time), from which she receives thousands of dollars in monthly rental income, 4) her owning a second house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which our dad bought for her, fully-paid, 5) her being fully employed as a professor, and on top of all that, 5) her receiving a monthly allowance from our father.

And then there’s the fact that my father does all kinds of weird shit around money, and that he has owned four houses all these years, collectively worth at least a couple million, if not more, and has who knows how many assets worth how much money, but until recently, with one drop-in-the-bucket exception when I thought I was getting thyroid surgery, has done nothing to help me but has, unsolicited, dangled the promise of help in front of me, only to revoke it or otherwise attempt to use it to manipulate and control me. Meanwhile, I was running around working my ass off to heal our relationship. For what? Who is there for me?

My dad and I seemed to have a healing on Yom Kippur this past year, and he has helped me a few times recently, in significant ways. I am deeply grateful for that help, which basically saved my ass in the moment. I honestly do not know what I would have done if he had not been there for me at those times. That said, what he offered was like 2% of what he could have offered. He has the ability to do so much more. And if I had that kind of ability, I would use it.

When my mother was hospitalized, I proactively got her absolutely everything she needed for her comfort and healing, far beyond the basics. By way of example, I paid for my trusted bodyworkers to drive three or four hours round trip, to her nursing home, to facilitate her healing and otherwise just be there with her, when I was unable to be there. In 2008 alone, I poured $20,000 of my income into my mom’s healing. During this time, my father cautioned me to be careful, “or you might go bankrupt.” I couldn’t even wrap my brain around that comment. I would have willingly lived on the street, to save my mother’s life.

I cannot understand a daughter who does nothing for her mother or a father who does 2% of what he is able to do for his daughter. If my sister and I did not both look like the perfect blend of our mother and father, I would swear there was a mailman involved somewhere.

The issue with my family of origin is intertwined with the matter of how you speak about health conditions. I choose to focus on healing and wholeness, not to wallow in suffering and wave about the cancer flag or any other flag representing the litany of health challenges I face. And yet, given that I do not speak in the language of illness or use the currency of suffering – both of which my blood relations understand – they seem to dismiss or minimize what I am going through, and they do little or nothing to help me.

I am exhausted. Flat-out exhausted.

I tried talking to my mom about it all, as well as about the way she responded the last time I tried to talk with her about it all, but once again, she was not there for me. Instead, she gave me the trilogy – explanation, defense, and/or combat – after I had just shared with her that it was hard for me when she pulled that trilogy shit. She seems unable to hear my heart, at least when it comes to matters that involve her. I was left feeling profoundly alone in the world, and scared. I am here in Hawaii to heal, and I am feeling completely spun out from family drama.

As I lay in bed, in physical and emotional pain, I also thought about Facebook, and the people who know me in real life, and who have been close friends at one time or another, but who have said nothing in response to my Facebook posts about healing from cancer – including my simple request for prayers. I thought about the people who did respond but who just said, “Be well,” or “refuah shlema” (full healing), which is what you say to people when they have a cold or flu, not cancer.

I thought about how I have actively organized on behalf of other people needing help, even when I was dealing with a debilitating auditory injury and was newly-diagnosed with cancer – for example, within 24 hours garnering support for a homeless woman who was then given free housing and funds, by people across social media – and how I have otherwise put myself at risk to help others, including strangers, and what a disparity there has been between what I have given to and received from others.

I don’t know what the fuck to do. I have lived life putting myself out there, sharing whole-heartedly, being fully alive, speaking truth, never allowing myself to be defined or limited by the brokenness of the world, expecting more, doing more. I have risen to the occasion again and again and again, overcoming obstacles that even people who know me do not know about. I feel like I keep getting beaten down, broken, and putting myself back together again.

On the one hand, I want to live in a state of compassion and forgiveness, focusing on the positive, and enjoying what there is to enjoy about each person. On the other hand, I want to self-isolate, to take all my toys and go home. In particular, after a lifetime of putting everything I’ve got into healing my family, I’m feeling like maybe I need to cut them out of my life, once and for all, the way I need to energetically cut out this cancer.

And that leaves me feeling profoundly sad.



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