Tag Archives: Loss

Total Eclipse of the Heart

image by Eric

image by Eric

There was a lunar eclipse this morning. I didn’t even know about it until I woke up and saw there was a message from my brother. He’d texted just to say “hi,” said he was going to try and get up at 4 a.m. to see the eclipse. We couldn’t see much of it here because the sky was hazy, but Eric got a fuzzy picture of it on his run with the dogs.

Today would have been Kelly‘s 42nd birthday. It’s also the anniversary of the day a dear friend lost her son. It’s a tender day of remembering, both the love and the loss. It seems appropriate that for just a little bit this morning, the light went out and everything went dark. It also seems right that after the dark, the sun rose again, just like it always does.

#reverb13: Day Four

reverb13Today, one of my prompts for Reverb13 is up. No big surprise, it’s about grief and loss. I wrote,

This past year, we have all experienced so much loss and felt so much grief — in relationships, through sickness and death, from mental illness or abuse, because of finances, even due to the need for healthy change.

It is good to honor those shifts, to fully feel them, so that we can let go of what needs surrendered, and remember what is worthy of our love and gratitude.

What have you lost, what are you grieving?

olderdexterI can’t talk about what I’ve lost in the past year, what I’m grieving without mentioning Dexter. His cancer and eventual death was the most significant event of 2013. I emailed Kat yesterday, (she’s hosting the Reverb13 I wrote this and one other prompt for) and told her, “Almost every day, I’ve been writing about Dexter, as I reflect back on this year, and it’s helping me to honor that experience but also to let go in a way I still haven’t. I’m so grateful for this practice.”

Another big loss this year is my husband’s parents and his aunt moved. For the past five years, they were here, close to us. We’d lived here for almost seven years on our own before that and were fine, but then they came and we had someone else to call when we needed help, a built in dog sitter (one who washed dishes and did laundry when she came over), people to gather with for holidays or just a regular meal any time. We’d come home from work to a container of homemade cinnamon rolls or oatmeal cookies, and there was always someone to help Eric take a load of stuff to the dump or borrow a ladder from. We got used to it, so now being here by ourselves again feels a little lonely.

Another loss is not going to Susan Piver’s Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) at the end of the month. The timing is just off for me this session, and even though I can do a writing and meditation retreat any time for myself at home, and I can drive up to SMC whenever I want, I am really going to miss seeing Susan again. The other grief related to her is the Open Heart Project Practitioner level didn’t end up working out. We aren’t completely disbanded or adrift, things are simply shifting, but we had just completed our 2nd virtual retreat when we got the news and it was sad.

There’s grief about other family stuff, things I don’t write about here, other people’s struggles and secrets that aren’t mine to share, but can’t be ignored, are hard to witness, generate so much suffering. I practice remembering, as Anaïs Nin suggested, “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”

When it was happening, and immediately after, there was a lot of grief around the session I had with a new doctor where she told me I was obese and tried to put me on a diet, told me to do more cardio — all this after I explained I was a dis-ordered eater and was hoping to heal that behavior.

handpocketsbyandrea

this is what obese looks like — when I look at her, all I can see is how hard she tries, all the ways she’s denied herself, how worthy she is of nothing but love (photo by Andrea Scher)

Which leads directly into my answer to the next prompt: 20/20: Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present.  Is there one moment you wish you could do over? I’m not usually one to wish for do-overs because it seems to imply regret, wanting things to be different, and if that were the case, I wouldn’t be where I am now. For example, from the visit to that doctor came the Self-Compassion Saturday project and the real healing that is happening now, something I had to do for myself. Yes, what she did was awful, but it was the catalyst for something good. Or, I could wish that I’d let Dexter go hiking that day, the one where he stayed home with me and hurt his knee chasing a squirrel in the back yard — and yet, without a hurt knee, he wouldn’t have required physical therapy, and we never would have met Dr. Lindsey Fry and the support staff at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Hospital. They gave both Dexter and I such good care in those final months. So, rather than wish for a do-over, I choose to accept what’s happened, to be grateful for what I can, learn what I can.

The Besottment Reverb 2013 prompt is “Did you discover a favourite song or musical artist in 2013?” I love music as much as I love books and dogs, so I can’t give just one. These are my three favorite new to me artists I discovered, my three favorite of their songs.

One eskimO, Amazing

Mary Lambert, She Keeps Me Warm

Furns, Power

#reverb13: Day Three

reverb13
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.

Something Good

1. READ THIS when you can’t remember who you are, what you do, why you do it — or how to talk about it from Alexandra Franzen.

2. Intimate Portraits of Cosplayers at Home from Twisted Sifter.

3. Simplify Your Life by Writing It Down and The Greatest Secret to Productivity That No One is Talking About from Be More With Less.

4. From Chookooloonks: what are we looking for? which led to what we hope to find.

5. Wisdom from Danielle LaPorte, “With envy out of the way, you’ll have more room for your own greatness.”

6. Wisdom from the Dalai Lama,

When the teachings say we need to reduce our fascination with the things of this life, it does not mean that we should abandon them completely. It means avoiding the natural tendency to go from elation to depression in reaction to life’s ups and downs, jumping for joy when you have some success, or wanting to jump out the window if you do not get what you want. Being less concerned about the affairs of this life means assuming its ups and downs with a broad and stable mind.

7. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: 10 Ways To Stop Stressing & Start Living Peacefully, and Is It Time To Stop Worrying About Sugar? (You Don’t Have To Quit It), and The Ultimate Bliss Salad With Ginger Miso Dressing.

8. My 10 favorite “Before I die” responses: Candy Chang celebrates the release of her book on the TED Blog.

9. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

We use our emotions. We use them. In their essence, they are simply part of the goodness of being alive, but instead of letting them be, we take them and use them to regain our ground. We use them to try to deny that in fact no one has ever known or will ever know what’s happening. We use them to try to make everything secure and predictable and real again, to fool ourselves about what’s really true. We could just sit with the emotional energy and let it pass. There’s no particular need to spread blame and self-justification. Instead, we throw kerosene on the emotion so it will feel more real.

10. No One is Coming from the Positivity Blog. Oh how I wish the right person would read this, really hear it. *sigh*

11. Hello 35!, a list of lessons Tammy from Rowdy Kittens has learned over the last thirty-five years. She’s one smart cookie.

12. Wisdom from Ronna Detrick, “It is one thing to admit, maybe only to ourselves, what we most want, need, and deeply desire. It is another thing entirely to trust that we might be worthy of such, to give that internal voice any semblance of credibility.”

13. Danielle LaPorte Truthbomb, “So much is a cry for love.”

14. Distraction or desiring? What you are choosing? from Jennifer Louden.

15. Good stuff from Elephant Journal: Can Yoga Save Us? and How I came to love my body–just the way it is.

16. 15 Reasons why Fort Collins is the Greatest City in America. I love where I live, but do not understand why Lee Martinez Park is not on this list. Wait, scratch that — let’s continue to keep it our little secret.

17. The Simple Guide to a Clutter-Free Home from Becoming Minimalist.

18. DIY: Hem Jeans Fast & Easy.

19. your daily rock : amazing grace and your daily rock : let someone help you

20. You don’t need to dance before your double mastectomy to be awesome from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

21. From Susannah Conways’s Something for the Weekend list, The Plant Whisperer.

22. Shared (first stanza) by Kelly Rae Roberts in her newsletter:

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself
in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats
hides a summons.
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,
but why pretend it is not there?
~Terma Collective

23. A 4-Year-Old Girl Asked A Lesbian If She’s A Boy. She Responded The Awesomest Way Possible, a really great talk Ash Beckham gave at the TEDx Boulder, shared here by Upworthy. I especially loved, “Hard is not relative, hard is hard,” and “When you do not have hard conversations, when you do not tell the truth about who you really are, you essentially are holding a hand grenade.”

24. Shared by Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens on her Happy Links: Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Microbusiness and There are no rules.

25. Lessons in love – a tribute to Charlie on Life is Limitless. *sob*

26. This is an actual essay written by a college applicant to NYU.

27. Golden Retriever Puppy Cam. This is only going to get better.

28. Dogs vs. broccoli from Dog Heirs. I had no idea this was so popular.

29. 11 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business from .

30. Comfort Food: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict on Slate.

31. There is no gone, on Painted Path. Amen.

32. Wisdom from Tama J. Kieves,

You want to know “how” you will do your dreams. You want a guarantee. I’ll give you one. Commit to tasting the nectar of anything that brings you joy or peace. Get hooked on your own idiosyncratic ecstasy. You will have found your reason. You will have experienced an undeniable power. Then you will listen to yourself. And that is how you find your how.

33. Wisdom from Parker Palmer, shared by Curvy Yoga, “The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human.”

34. Creating the Life We Want from Annie Neugebauer, in which she says really good stuff, like,

It can be indescribably difficult sometimes, to follow through with our desires. For me, the main push-back comes from intangible socieital pressures. I don’t want to care what others think about me, but holy crap do I ever. I really care. I want people to like me. (Why is that made into such a despicable sentiment? Doesn’t everyone want to be liked?) More importantly, I want people to respect me – or at least accept my choices. The problem, then, arises when what I want isn’t what society wants me to want, and I must overcome that natural instinct and step beyond its draw.

35. 2013 Holiday Gift Guide – Part Two from Rachel Cole. Registration for Rachel’s Wisdom Notes for a Well-Fed Holiday is now open. Most people have holiday traditions, and I think this is becoming one of mine.

36. Stunning Portraits Of The World’s Remotest Tribes Before They Pass Away on Bored Panda. Makes me think two things are natural about, fundamental to humans, that honoring these things is essential to our survival: we are creative and we have a relationship with the earth and its creatures.

37. The first lie… from Seth Godin.

38. Free High-Resolution Photos from Paul Jarvis.

39. Wisdom from Mark Nepo, “To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.”

40. Day 1: ‘Hey, What’s The Neighbor Doing To His Lawn?’ Day 60: ‘OMG!!’ This is exactly what we are doing to our front yard, little by little.

41. From Positively Present Picks, Two people decided to surprise New York’s jaded subway conductors, and the results will make your day.

42. Photographer Takes Beautiful Portraits of Shelter Dogs to Find Them Homes, shared with me by Justine, who like me wants to rescue all the dogs.

43. New music on SoundCloud. I am obsessed with Furns, and Sales is good too. Furns “Power” might be my favorite new song.

44. Are You Happy And In Love? Here’s Why That Makes You So Sad. from Upworthy. The only thing I disagree with here is that he says the Buddhist practice of non-attachment means you don’t care, and that is just wrong, a misunderstanding of the basic concept.

45. The Control Myth, a brilliant blog post by Michael Baugh that combines dog training with the wisdom of Pema Chödrön and Brene’ Brown, and says “What do we want, control or connection?” Thanks for sharing it, Sarah (and thanks for about 100 other things too), my favorite dog trainer.

46. Two brilliant pieces on being self-employed from the brilliant Susan Piver, Self-Employment: Three Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me and The pain of pricing.

Something Good

1. Can We Gain Strength From Shame? Brene’ Brown on NPR.

2. What if forgiveness isn’t about forgiving? Thoughts on consciously relating to people who have hurt you. from Danielle LaPorte.

3. Danielle LaPorte Daily Truthbomb: “Forget about being impressive and commit to being real.”

4. Part of a community… from Seth Godin.

5. Shifting Tides by Dani Shapiro on Positively Positive.

6. A Letter From Fred by Green Shoe Studio, “A short documentary telling a poignant story of life, love and music.”

7. Wisdom from Elizabeth Berg on Facebook,

I just heard from a woman who was in my Chicago workshop. She greatly improved an essay she wrote by taking the risk to go deeper, then deeper still. She got to a truth she’d been hiding from, and it made all the difference. It was painful for her to write and to read aloud, but we all were stuck with the beauty of what she did, and even though we had not been through what she described, we resonated to her words. I think that’s because we’re all struggling with one thing or another here on planet Earth, and when we read about someone telling the truth about what they’re struggling with, it makes us all feel better. The Beatles were right when they said all you need is love. And I believe that part of love is telling the deepest truths about yourself, at least to yourself. It’s not easy. It’s something that for most of us is always a work in progress. But it’s worth it to try.

I get the image, sometimes, of all of humanity on a spaceship, in deepest darkness. But in the spaceship, the light is on, because of what we mean to and do for each other. And in that vast darkness, the light travels far.

8. Official video for Mary Lambert’s She Keeps Me Warm.

9. The perfectionism cure from Everyday Bright, “In this short video, I reveal the surprisingly simple method my daughter came up with to help us both overcome our perfectionism. I talk about how we eventually became comfortable with risk and, more importantly, with ourselves.”

10. 10 Times Calvin And Hobbes Broke Your Heart on BuzzFeed.

11. Ideaphoria: How to Enjoy The Wild Ride of Your Creativity on Scoutie Girl.

12. Got a big dream? Start with one room. from Alexandra Franzen.

13. How To Tell People What You Do — And Be Remembered on Forbes.

14. 6 Powerful Truths to Start Telling Yourself and 8 Things Unhappy People Refuse to Admit from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

15. The Five Languages of Body Love from Rachel Cole.

16. Chat & Chew with Kate Northrup – Money: A Love Story on KrisCarr TV.

17. Interview with Andrea Scher, by Carolan Deacon.

18. Unravel Yourself: Rachel W Cole on Inner Wisdom and Authenticity, an interview with Rachel on Achieve the Impossible.

19. Awesome free event from Omega: FIND YOUR OWN STRENGTH, Live Stream Event with Elizabeth Lesser in Conversation with Brené Brown and Joan Halifax Roshi, September 20, 2013, 8:00pm – 9:30pm.

20. Tig Notaro On Going ‘Live’ About Her Life on NPR, an older interview with one of my favorite comediennes. She’s coming to Boulder in December.

21. random thoughts: the need for analog on Chookooloonks.

22. Moments on Mystic Vixen, (it was her dog Henry I was talking about yesterday).

23. A Tiny Poem to the World from Kid President.

24. Rescued pit bull works as a therapy dog.

25. Read this, next time you want to give up on making a difference, from Marianne Elliott.

26. From Elephant Journal: The Cutest Damn Wedding Video, Ever, and “This is a young girl who wanted her picture taken with her makeshift hula hoop, playing at a dark & depressing charcoal factory in Manila. Hope is everywhere,” and Instructions for a Bad Day, and Eulogy for an Abandoned Black Dog.

27. The Last Séance by Deborah Thompson.

28. 20 Marriage Tips Everyone Needs to Know, written by a guy who just got divorced.

29. Why you shouldn’t be a writer by Rebecca Dickson.

30. 10 Ways to Create a Meaningful Ceremony from Pixie Campbell.

31. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

32. Ten Tough Truths About Cancer from the Atlantic.

33. From Happy Links on Rowdy Kittens, Where Bloggers Blog.

34. Bill Watterson’s Uplifting Advice To College Grads, Illustrated In ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ Style. on Huffington Post.

35. On Not Feeling Alone from Lisa Congdon.

36. Wisdom from Nancy D. Solomon, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”

37. The Pursuit Of Bravery from Method & Scribe on Vimeo, (shared by Brave Love on Facebook).

38. From Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list,

And,

40. Collaborating with a 4-year Old on the busy mockingbird.

41. “Downton Abbey” Season 4 Trailer Is Here! on BuzzFeed.

42. Into the Woods, a beautiful picture I saw on Reddit.

Day of Rest

Sweet, lionhearted Henry, a beautiful beast of a dog, died yesterday. Only one day before, his mom learned he had an inoperable tumor on his liver and was already very sick, too sick, and she’d have to let him go. I never met Henry, or his mom, but the pictures and stories she’s shared made me love him, and her, anyway.

Every loss like this is folded into my own. I almost can’t separate the sadness of losing my Dexter (or Obi before him) from the loss of every other dog loved and missed by someone, just like me. And certain dogs, for whatever reason and especially if they have cancer, touch that tender raw spot that I carry with me everywhere, always.

That’s what they don’t tell you about a broken heart — it’s not that it gets broken and then fixed, restored to its former state, but rather it gets broken open. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around in the world not just naked, no clothes on, but with all my skin peeled off, my chest cracked open, utterly vulnerable and wounded, nothing to hide behind, no armor or mask or shield, no protection.

Oddly enough, this is an experience I chose. This is my path. You can armor up and numb out, run away or reject this way of living. It’s entirely possible through all sorts of means to disconnect from reality, to opt out. And yet, two years ago I made a distinct, conscious choice otherwise.

Committing to benefit others is traditionally called the path of the bodhisattva…the path of the spiritual warrior whose weapons are gentleness, clarity of mind, and an open heart. The Tibetan word for warriormeans “the one who cultivates bravery.” As warriors in training, we cultivate the courage and flexibility to live with uncertainty–with the shaky, tender feeling of anxiety, of nothing to hold on to–and to dedicate our lives to making ourselves available to every person, in every situation. ~Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

This is my path, to ease suffering, in myself and the world. There are days like today when I am feeling sad and a little stuck that I wonder if I can really do this, and yet when I give any attention to contemplating the matter, I understand that for me there really is no other way.

#augustbreak2013 Day 19

White

dexterspawprintThe pawprint, the box and the ashes inside, all white. I have two full sets of these, one for Dexter and one for Obi, both lost to fatal cancers, treatable but ultimately incurable. Over the past four years, two of them have been spent living with, loving, and letting go of a terminally ill loved one. It’s been hard, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, to love that much, to hurt that much. And yet, to do so, to open my heart to them, love them so big even though I knew they would ultimately leave me, break my heart, to be there as a witness when they did, is a precious thing, a horrible, terrible, brutal, tender, beautiful thing.