Two of today’s prompts are really about the same thing for me, have the same answer. They are “Brave: What was the bravest thing you did in 2013?” and “What storm did you weather in 2013?” The storm I weathered and the bravest thing I did are the same: Dexter’s cancer and eventual death. I stayed with him when he was sick, was as present for every moment we had left together as I could manage, cared for him the best I could and eventually let him go, was there with him when he died. Even going on a walk sometimes I had to be brave — he might have a fit of reverse sneezing, give himself a nosebleed, one that I couldn’t stop, even a stroke was possible with his particular kind of cancer. At any moment, something could happen that would lead to the end of things, to a level of suffering that was too much.
I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: Loving any dog takes courage. In all likelihood, you will outlive them. It might even be your responsibility to make an end of life decision for them. No matter how it happens or when, you won’t be ready, it won’t be okay — and knowing that, you open your heart, invite them into your life anyway, give each beast the power to break your heart wide open. To love a dog, to love anything mortal, knowing you will eventually be separated, that you will ultimately lose them, is the purest form of courage I know. The magic, the medicine is that every time my heart breaks, it expands, gets stronger, and my capacity to love grows with it. Because of my grief, my loss, I have the heart of a warrior, open to both the tenderness and the terror of life.
The third prompt was a beautiful practice shared by Kat, “a life-changing practice I discovered with the help of Rachael Maddox during her gorgeous Do It Meaningfully challenge,” which looks like this,
Each day for 31 days, I sat quietly for a few moments with my eyes closed and my hand on my heart and asked, “Heart: what do you need?” And then I listened. Sometimes the answer cam in the form of a word. Sometimes an image. Sometimes a sensation. Try this today. What does your heart have to tell you?
So I asked my heart, “what do you need?” The response was a rush, a surge of energy. Then I thought of what it feels like to run, dance, stretch and flow through a series of yoga poses, how alive those things make me feel, how present, and then I flashed on what love, happiness, joy feels like, like when I come home from work and Eric and Sam are waiting for me and as I get close enough to the door Eric tells Sam “go see Mom” and he runs out to me, his whole body wiggling, and how good it feels to be all together again. My heart wants that feeling, being fully alive and awake, energized.