Joy and Pain

December 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

There is a story that talks of a young Buddhist who, on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side”.

Simply put, life is perception.

Reality is or isn’t based on what your expectations are, what you perceive to be a good or bad situation.  If you ask me, my first perception of 2011 is that it’s been a horrific year.  Quite possibly the hardest of my life thus far.  Filled with letting go, death of those I love; three times over, death of what I hoped would be my future, and a great deal of pain.  This year, I said goodbye to my beloved dog Jack, who was part of my life for 13 years.  I said goodbye to my Grandfather, who left this earth as I was holding his hand and telling him how much I loved him, and I said goodbye to my Father, forcing me to accept my relationship with him, with no choice but to embrace the permanency with no chance to ever improve or better it.

2011 brought about opportunities for me to stretch myself, to learn to love someone even when drowning in fear.  To embrace the idea that I have never been in control of my life, or anyone else’s.  2011 has taught me that there is comfort in finding faith in the things you cannot see, and the things you can.  Like an unexplained white hummingbird crossing my sight line on the days I asked for a sign that things would be okay.  2011 has taught me humility, as I learned that my way is not always right, and there is more dignity in allowing others to find their own path.

Through all the pain this year, there have been countless blessings in return.  As a practicing “worse case scenario” person, I learned the freedom of letting go.  Where once, when life went smoothly, I waited in anticipation for the inevitable tragedy that waited in the midst.  I have begin relearning how to live in the moment.  How tragic to live a life where when something great happened, I braced myself for the moment I would be robbed of it.  Like when I told my in-laws the amazing news of my pregnancy, I fought the urge to ask them not to get too excited because I was only 6 weeks along-sure that something would go wrong with the pregnancy.  My inability to live in the moment may have been a safe place for me to feel in control, but it was robbing me of so many moments that I deserved to find joy in.

In 2012, I don’t have any resolutions, ask any person in a crowded gym on January 2nd waiting in line for a treadmill how they feel about resolutions.  Instead, I resolve to live my life differently, to set on a path of lifelong change, no matter if it takes me until the end of 2012 or 2027 to complete.  I resolve to live my life without feeling the need to control it.  To have faith that I am strong enough to deal with any situation that may come my way, without the need to be in constant preparedness for it.  I resolve to give up control, realizing life isn’t mine to control.  I will forgive myself when things don’t work out as I  planned, I will allow myself to say no to things without it being a direct reflection of me being a bad person or not caring.  I will take care of myself, as well as I care for others, I will be kind to myself and forgive myself quickly, I will enjoy life in the moment and will stop anticipating despair.  I will live life on life’s terms and embrace the never-ending changing landscape of life, trusting that it is all part of the plan.  I will find hope in the unknown.

In 2012, I will focus on all the things I am grateful for, and will soak up every moment of joy that comes my way, which I know will be in abundance.

Happy New Year everyone, may your 2012 and beyond be filled with joy in abundance and the wisdom to see it for all it is.

xo

My Boy Jack

May 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

To say that it seems like yesterday when Jack trotted into my life, wouldn’t be giving our relationship justice, because it would mean discounting the many trying moments we had together that sometimes made a day seem like an eternity.  It would mean overlooking his puppy years, when he had abandonment anxiety so strong that I could hear him howling for blocks as I drove away to work.  It would mean ignoring the time that I fell through my queen sized mattress because, in order to quell his anxiety, Jack would eat the underneath part of the mattress until one day, he had eaten so much of it, I discovered his secret when it promptly caved beneath me.  It would mean forgetting about how Jack ate the crown moulding off the door frames in my mom’s condo, or forgetting about the $300 prescription glasses of mine that he devoured, or the time I had a guy over, and while we sat on the couch “talking”  Jack busied himself in the backyard shredding his shoes, which made for a very awkward (and final) second date.

Those were the trying years with Jack, my shelter puppy, who bounced enthusiastically into my life and filled my home with a tremendous amount of love tempered with an equal amount of disaster.  From the moment I met Jack, I knew he was special. I knew owning a dog meant sacrifice. Even before I got Jack I sacrificed for him, moving out of my small one bedroom apartment when, despite a tremendous amount of begging, my landlord wouldn’t allow pets.  I reasoned that I needed a dog. Being a single girl living alone, I needed the protection, and the company.  I knew the silence in my home could be filled by a dog, but I never knew how loudly they could speak, until I met Jack.

Jack was my constant companion.  When I went on road trips, Jack took his post, standing with his hind legs on the back seat and his front two paws on the console.  When I went for a run, Jack was there beside me setting my pace, and afterwards, when I did my crunches, Jack would sit on my stomach looking down at me, his floppy ears drooping and his eyes intently set on trying to figure out why I was lying on the floor .  When I went to Target, I made sure not to return home without something for Jack, I was powerless against his soft brown eyes that would be filled with hope each time I returned, asking “Did you bring me anything?”

Despite his tumultuous puppy years, Jack grew into a respectable dog.  He was smart and knew how to sit, speak, shake, high-five, lay down and stay.  He knew complicated terms, like “Get off the bed”, “Move over”, “Go get your ball”, “Whose at the door” and, of course, “Want a cookie?”  When I took Jack to camp with me, he would relish in being unleashed.  With no limits on where he could roam, he was responsible with such tremendous freedom.  He spent the afternoons roaming from cabin to cabin visiting the kids and when I would yell his name into the woods within minutes he would burst back into view as if to say, “Present!”

The thing you need to know about Jack is that he was an optimist, he was also smart, tenacious, happy, enthusiastic, mischievous and adorable-but the most important characteristic was definitely his optimism.  When Jack was 6 and had settled nicely into middle age he was diagnosed with liver failure.  But, being such an optimist, Jack showed no sign of illness, no sign of slowing down.  The failure was discovered after a routine blood test at the vet, which was standard for all dogs in “middle age”.  So, once the results came back I was shocked, and scared.  Jack was unshaken.  One could say he was ignorant to his situation, being a dog and all, but I choose to believe that Jack was just being “Jack”.  He wasn’t a worrier and he wasn’t into focusing on the negative.  As Jack went in for exploratory surgery, I cried while he sat in the back seat of the car on the way to the vet with so much enthusiasm, you would of thought he was going to the biggest most fantastic park on the planet.  The surgery was intense but most impressive was Jack’s resiliency.  Despite a grim prognosis, Jack defied the odds and remained happy and relatively healthy.  Over time, he shrunk from 70 pounds to 28.  His appetite went from voracious to unstoppable and he, and everyone around him, suffered through his intense bouts of gas and excessive flatulence.  The vet who cared for him since he was a puppy, marveled at how well he was doing despite being in acute live failure.  Her estimation of his life span was one year, Jack lived six more.  Jack’s resilience became legendary.

Over the past couple months Jack slowed down.  He could no longer make it to the end of the street on walks, preferring instead to sniff the grass in front of our house, empty his bladder on the sidewalk, gaze to his left, gaze to his right and then slowly make his way back to the front porch.  I knew my time with him was limited, so I am fortunate to of had this last month, it has been a gift.  While Jack couldn’t get through the end of his Bucket List, I take comfort in knowing that he lived a full life.  He’s been to faraway places like Northern California (for a dog, that is far).  He has been to camp with 200 kids there to pet him and coo over how cute he is.  He’s been on long runs, spent days in the park.  He’s been to the beach, eaten an entire pizza by himself.  He’s eaten a bone larger than his head and he’s slept in the big bed.  Over this past month, I spoiled Jack as much as I could.  He’s laid next to me all night in bed, taking up so much of space that Paul had to sleep on the couch, which he did without protest, because he too knew Jack and I were in the process of letting go of each other.  I gave Jack baths, something that broke my heart because it meant being painfully aware of how skeletal he had become, his ribs and hip bones jutted out from his skin.  And, I was happy to give Jack his litany of medications (6 to be exact), because I knew that they were the only hope Jack had to keep the encephalopathy at bay.  But, on Tuesday night my precious little boy, Jack was ready to let go and it was my burden to allow him that dignity.

Focusing on the process of letting Jack go is not what I want to do here.  Mostly because I’m not ready to talk in detail about Tuesday night, I will say it was the most adult decision I’ve had to make.  I’m glad I was able to hold Jack as he drifted out of this life even though it broke me open to watch him leave me.

Twelve years ago, I met a dog who would shape my life in a way I never knew possible.  Jack has been my constant for the past twelve years, my traveling partner, my pillow, my happiness when I needed a wet nose.  He has been my love.  I hardly know how to live in a house without Jack in it, but I know that in time, the hole in my heart filled with pain will in time be filled with the memories we shared together.

Jack, wherever you are, wherever you go, go knowing you hold a huge piece of my heart and know there will never, ever be another Jack.  Thank you for an amazing journey.

I love you.

Funny Bunny, I Remember You So Differently

April 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

scary-easter-bunny

My school career began at Grace Christian.  I remember very little from those days.  It is no surprise, as religion and I don’t play well together.  Some kids are allergic to peanuts,  I happen to be allergic to organized religion.  Both of which, I’m sure, are manifested by environment.

Easter, as you can imagine, was a huge deal at Grace Christian.  To Christan’s, this was a day of significance.  At public school, kindergartners glued cotton balls to construction paper making cute little  Easter bunnies for their refrigerators.  I on the other hand, was knee deep in Popsicle sticks, re-crafting the cross on which the Lord would find himself nailed to, and to add insult to injury, he would then be hung again, this time on my fridge.

One thing I’ve never understood about Easter, in addition to the complexities of the religious aspect of it, was how the heck does a bunny play into significance?  Even as a child I wondered, why a bunny?  After all, there is nothing scarier than a larger than life bow-tie wearing mall bunny, with huge screened eyes masking small beady human eyes, reaching for you with his fluffy man arms.  And why is this mutant bunny hiding his stash of sweets around my house?  And more importantly, why the hell does he only do it once a year!?!  If a freakish molester bunny wants to hide candy in my house, I welcome him with open albeit suspicous arms.  I was a child with many questions, none of which were, “why did the Lord die and rise again for our sins?”  My sweet tooth will forever trump my spiritual journey.

Being a child, driven by an insatiable appetite for sugar and processed deliciousness, the larger meaning of Easter had escaped me.  In my house, Easter morning meant waking to find bunny paw prints marking the windows, the kitchen table and the carpet.  Prints that would lead us to the holy grail of sweet candy treasure.   And, because the road to discovery required all senses, I quickly discovered the powdery paw prints tasted like sugar.  Fitting, I reasoned,  for a bunny that delivered sweets.  I was such a sugar obsessed child that, were the trail marked by rabbit turds, I would have tasted those too, hoping they were just as sweet.  My mom was the master at making holidays exciting and she would relish my brother and I’s captivation at the bunny prints that she crafted out of powdered sugar.

After our egg hunt had commenced, my grandmother gave us our Easter baskets.  These baskets weren’t the store bought kind, the type that were filled with more plastic grass than with candy.  Ours were custom baskets, that only the loving hands of a grandmother could create.   The bottom of our baskets buckled under the pressure of dozens of Cadbury Eggs, huge bags of M&M’s, a chocolate bunny standing pridefully tall and sugary easter eggs that were cored out in the middle revealing a scenic pond with a small candy duck on it.  Our Easter baskets were always magical and mine was always gone by noon.  In my house, Jesus didn’t die for our sins, he died from early onset diabetes.

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