Monthly Archives: June 2013

Day of Rest

*sigh*

This picture is the last one I took at Lee Martinez Park, the place we walk almost every day, sometimes twice. On that morning, that walk, I had no idea that the next day would be the day Dexter died. I knew it was coming, we’d known for a year it was on its way, but on that particular morning it still felt unknown, uncertain, undetermined.

We haven’t been back to Lee Martinez since Thursday morning, the last time we walked there with Dexter, the walk we took knowing it would be our last. We’ve been to City Park, Big South Trail, and this morning we walked at Colorado State University, but we haven’t been back to “our park.” It still feels too hard, too sad.

We’ve managed other grief hurdles. Eric cleaned the living room floor yesterday. The raw wood in that room was covered with tiny spots where Dexter’s nose had dripped, (because of his cancer, he basically had a constant runny nose). I washed some of the blankets from his bed, along with his Little D baby, (I’d originally planned to have him cremated with Big D but in the end I couldn’t stand to lose them both). Eric brought home his ashes, and I put those on top of his mostly empty crate, along with his collar and a clay paw print.

memorialWhen I’m able to, I’ll open the ashes and put some in the urns I have that contain Obi’s ashes (one is on my writing desk and another on my meditation shrine) — I left room for Dexter so they’d be together again, they loved each other so much.

pawprints

I still haven’t been able to put clean sheets on our bed (the ones that are there were slept on by Dexter) and his toothbrush is still on the counter, and I’m still putting a tiny offering of food in his bowl every time I feed Sam. I know it’s silly, but I was devastated yesterday when I went out to do poop patrol in the backyard and couldn’t find any of Dexter’s. I was so sad that I’d never get to pick up anymore of his poop — that’s a crazy kind of love.

Eric has been dealing with his grief, in part, by cooking. Yesterday, he made three pies. We did a pie drive by to our friends’ house last night because even as much as I love pie, we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.

griefpie

Jamie Ridler’s mom, who also had cancer, passed the day after Dexter. Jamie invited me a few weeks ago to do a guest post in honor of her mom, the prompt being something her mom had recently said, “It’s not about being tough, it’s about being tender.” I have so much to say about that, will be finishing up my post and sending it to sweet Jamie later today. These losses (something we all face as we live and love), this prompt, has me thinking about how important it is that we have confidence in our basic goodness, the essential wisdom and compassion and power that rests in each of us, that we practice self-compassion and keep our hearts open, knowing that life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

In this audio recording, Pema Chödrön talks about basic goodness. She tells a story about burnt cookies and a fox that is such a great metaphor for how we can approach difficulty — we can allow ourselves to become hard, closed off, or we can stay open to reality, to be present for whatever might arise. Yes this means we will be vulnerable, we’ll get hurt, but we will also be amazed, healed.

My heart is broken right now. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But there is so much worth showing up for. Such as:

A chance to get away. We hadn’t wanted to do this when Dexter was still here, were worried about being too far away from a vet if something happened. But now, sometime soon, the three of us are going to rent a cabin in the mountains and spend some time together in the green and the quiet.

Pie. Especially the ones made by my person, who is as sad as me, who knows just how I feel, just what I’m missing, who will talk all day about what we’ve lost and never get tired of it, who wants to do whatever he can to make me feel better.

peachpie

Friends, near and far, sending us love and light. So many have reached out to me, offering such kindness, making this heavy thing so much easier to hold.

The sweet animal bodies that are still here, that long for love and need care. It’s Sam’s turn to become my favorite, and when we are all ready, there will be another dog.

sam

Laughter. Last night, on the way to our friends’ house to deliver the pie, Eric suggested that they expected this happy gift of pie, so it would be funny if when they opened the door, we gave them a pie in the face instead. It was such a ridiculous and awful idea we laughed the rest of the way to their house. It felt good.

Brilliant nature — blooms and fruit and animals and trees and landscapes and sky and deep water and weather.

Practice. Yoga, meditation, writing, and dog — this regular attention, showing up and being open to whatever arises, moving in ways old and new, creativity and discovery, is medicine.

Music. I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and am totally in love.

because nothing lasts forever
some things aren’t meant to be
but you’ll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free

I’m so sad, kind and gentle reader, but at the same time I am so in love with my little life, my heart so full of every last wonderful thing that sometimes it feels like it will explode.

Self-Compassion Saturday: Judy Clement Wall

I will be tender with other people’s hearts.
I will be fearless with my own.
~Judy Clement Wall

I have been deep in practicing self-compassion these past few days. The loss of our sweet Dexter offered an invitation to be fully present, experience the full measure of life, keep my heart open to the bitter and the sweet, receive big love from so many, honor all that is precious and impermanent, sink into the comfort of being connected, and be gentle with myself.

It seems so right that it would be Judy Clement Wall’s responses I’m sharing with you today. She is one of my dear doggy loving friends (in fact, in her Ten Things About Me list on her website’s about page, she says “I feel sorry for people who don’t have dogs”), a woman who “gets it,” a member of this awful club of those who’ve loved and let go. As I’ve said about her before, “In both moments of celebration and grief, Judy has offered her encouragement, inspiration, and support. I am so lucky, so grateful.”

DoodleLove

I’ve written about Judy before, “writer. doodler. love warrior.” In that post, I said,

I can’t remember how I first encountered Judy’s work, but I do know the first community project I took part in was her collaborative project with Julia Fehrenbacher, 41 6-word Days … I immediately adored her gentle, kind, brave and funny spirit, and her ability to connect people.

Everything she writes … invites readers into a conversation, into connection, to community. It might be her superpower, that and love, which is also her religion.

Judy always challenges me to open up a little more, to contemplate, to feel and to think. We have a lot in common: writing, dogs, hiking, and yoga. We also both apparently tend to be a little Lucille Ball-ish, slightly clumsy and adorably goofy from time to time. We both are in love with love. I think it’s the answer to every question, and she wrote a manifesto about it.

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I admire Judy for many reasons. She’s a mom, (dogs and kids), a wife, a yogini, a warrior of love. She’s a shared project instigator, a master doodler, a practitioner of hiking, a seer of beauty. But most of all, I admire and aspire to her writing success. She’s both self and other published, (I’ve heard a rumor she’s working on a novel, among other things), committed to her work, to engaging with the world and her experience, and sharing that with her readers, inviting them to do the same.

Since I wrote that post, Judy has also begun to pursue her art in earnest. She is simply one of the most loving and real, creative and playful, gloriously messy and brilliant women I know. When I think of her, I can’t help but think of what Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” I’m so happy to be sharing her perspective on self-compassion with you today.

judy

1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

Once, when my son was little, he drew me a picture. I said I loved it, though I couldn’t tell what it was. I started pointing out specific parts of the picture that I liked, and then he’d say things like, “See how I made the tail long?” and “I know she has spots, but I wanted stripes.” Eventually, I figured out he’d drawn our Dalmatian and I declared it the best Dalmatian drawing ever.

Of course, there’s no other way that story could have gone. I would never have risked crushing his budding creative impulses by offering anything other than praise and encouragement. We do that with the people we love. We see their imperfections and we encourage them to spread their wings anyway because we were never expecting them to be perfect, and we absolutely know, with every fiber of our being, that they are capable of flight.

Self-compassion to me is when we turn that same sort of deepest truth and nurturing attention on ourselves. It’s when we stop expecting ourselves to be perfect and then beating ourselves up (mercilessly!) for falling short. It’s when we’re patient with ourselves the way we’d be with a child or our best friend, knowing that they are worth all the tenderness we are giving them and so much more.

weneedtobelieve

2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?

I guess I had a moment that set me on the path. At a very difficult time, I’d made some truly disastrous decisions, one after another, putting at risk the things in my life that are most important. The problem was that even after I’d realized the magnitude of my mistakes and was well into the work of repairing my life, I was still lost in my guilt and shame. I believed I deserved every bad thing that happened to me, and, maybe even more damaging, I couldn’t accept anything good.

In my moment of clarity I understood that if I didn’t forgive myself – truly forgive myself – I would never be able to move on. Of course, the realization and the making it so didn’t happen simultaneously. I still felt lost, not knowing how to get where I needed to be. I looked for teachers, guides, a path, resources. I read Eckhart Tolle, Martha Beck, Jack Kornfield, Sugar (Cheryl Strayed), and so many others. I devoured anything written by smart, soulful people talking about being human.

I took up yoga and meditation, and I wrote about my experiences. Over time, step by painful step, I accepted myself, realizing that (just like everyone in my life that I cherish) I’m exquisitely human, capable of fucking things up royally… but also of stepping into grace, gratitude and forgiveness.

myreligion

3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

I’m still learning this, but I think it’s about consciously being a friend to myself. My tendency, and I think this is true for so many people, is to be incredibly hard on myself. Mean, actually. The voice in my head can be very vicious. And the problem with having a constant inner dialogue that is undermining and judgmental is that I start to look for love and validation externally, and that’s like running on a hamster wheel, or trying to stand tall on shifting sands.

So I’m learning to be gentle with myself. Patient. Forgiving. I’m using the “What can I learn from this question” instead of berating myself for mistakes. And I try to think what I’d say to someone I love if they’d screwed up or been rejected or produced something that was less than perfect. I would never tell them (as I do with myself), “Of course it didn’t work out. What made you think you could do that?” I’d love the crap out of them as they work their way through their disappointment and pain, and I’d tell them this is how life works. For everyone.

More and more, I try to love the crap out of myself.

lovecard

4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?

I get better all the time, but I still struggle with not being enough validation for myself. I’ll write a piece and feel good enough to submit it, but if an editor doesn’t get back to me or rejects it (a fact of life for writers), I doubt the quality of my work, rather than assuming it wasn’t a fit for that publication and trying again somewhere else, which is what I would tell any other writer to do. I’m using writing as an example, but the pattern of assuming I’m not (good, smart, savvy, talented, etc) enough exists in all parts of my life.

I think being self-compassionate requires me to value my own opinion, my own voice, as much if not more than I value the opinions of others. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, but I’m learning. It’s a practice. It involves doing things I love – writing, doodling, yoga, hiking, connecting with nature, building community  – because I love them, and doing them consciously, grounding myself in a life that makes me strong.

Journal-Burning-2-e1372295760245

I am filled with love and gratitude for Judy. Ever since I received her responses, I’ve been trying to “love the crap out of myself,” and continuing to love the crap out of her. To find out more about Judy, to connect with her:

Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Anne-Sophie Reinhardt.

P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning.