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.
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.
For those of you who are new to my blog, here’s the story behind my Something Good posts: When I am feeling bad, I will often ask my husband Eric to “tell me something good.” When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad. When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me –”tell me something good.”
He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works. I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” almost 20 years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you? He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”
So on A Thousand Shades of Gray, Monday’s feature is: Something Good. I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things, so every Monday, I give you a list.
You don’t have to have special permission to take a break, you know. You have done enough. When you are tired, and weary and feeling worn out, you need to be kind to yourself and take good care of your body and your spirit.
Please be good to yourself, beautiful friend . . . the world is not the same without the best of you. The people that you love the most have better lives because of you and the people you have not even met yet will have enriched lives because of you.
Your life will be better, happier, more effective, more efficient and more meaningful if you stop and take care of yourself. No more putting guilt trips on yourself or letting anyone else do it. No more working yourself so hard that you can’t even feel anymore . . . it’s time to REALLY nurture and take care of yourself. You are a gift to the world, please take care of YOU. Today’s a great day to start.
Tigers Above, Tigers Below: There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.
29. This quote, People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch
30. Google Poetics, (shared by Positively Present). “This blog started collecting Google Poems on October 2012 and is run by its founder Sampsa Nuotio and curator Raisa Omaheimo. Google Poetics is born when Google autocomplete suggestions are viewed as poems.” I could get lost in this site for a very, very long time. For example,
pain is temporary
pain is weakness leaving the body
pain is inevitable suffering is optional
pain is love
I am a disco dancer
I am a dwarf and I’m digging a hole
I am a dynamic figure
I am a dreamer
Tibetans say we should do our meditation practice “as if our hair was on fire.” We should have the same urgency to get out of this pain filled place as someone who has just woken up in a burning, smoke filled house. But it’s hard- all the distractions of this life keep stealing away our time and our mind. We keep telling ourselves, “I’ll meditate later.” Then one day you look up and realize life has passed you by, the time is gone, and it’s too late.
39. This wisdom from Jen Lemen, “I don’t want to be famous or popular or known for anything other than that I was deep and wise and had a soul that was wildly beautiful, full of mercy and light.”
41. Quotes shared by Justine Musk, You cannot truly enjoy life through your mind…It’s through the heart + the body that we get to party,” (Kagiso Msimango), and “There’s nothing more powerful than a woman who has met the truth inside her. Nothing,” (Meggan Jane Watterson).
Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.