I sit here listening to Miley Cyrus on YouTube, a compilation of ‘Happy Hippie’ live segments and her ‘Malibu’ video. A serendipitous moment, as I remember her losing her beloved dog Floyd, and openly grieving the tragedy. I couldn’t understand it at the time, I’ve lost pets throughout the years, to age, declining health and circumstance, but I’ve never felt the way I feel right now. I’m sure we all process loss differently, person to person and season to season, and I have no doubt that we all suffer the pain of it at some point.
I close my eyes and I see them, I breathe in and I smell them, and all I want to do is cry. I scan the walls of my sanctuary, clear evidence of the pain I’ve been feeling, a pain that is overwhelming me. Every mindful reminder of positivity, God, hope, and love ripped from sight. A vision board left in a pile on the floor, a reminder of all my son does for me. I’m finding it more and more difficult to fight the fight. Most days I wish my personality would allow me to simply check out, but instead I’m strapped with the gift of mindfulness. The problem is, there are no answers to my incessant questions. None beyond what’s been asked an answered repeatedly!
I sit here devastated by my allowance for walls to be lowered and hearts to be opened. I spent years on the surface of relationship, always trading true unconditional love for codependency and servitude. Always hiding, never allowing for a true demonstration of an open heart for anyone, not in a way that would allow me to feel like this. Yet here I sit buried in years of feeling…. Feeling and feeling. All of it. Every ounce of life, every form of loss, every slice of it! We all do, I have no doubt, a reminder of the guilt trudging through the sludge of my lizard brain. A toxic trigger awakening my inner critic – ‘Stop whining! Get over it! You’re too sensitive!’
And the clincher… ‘someone always has it worse than you!’ Lessons learned young, programs stored deep within the recesses of my mind. Voices of the past translated to my own these days. A voice that embodies my mind and body, battling it out with all I know to be faithful and true. I imagine the four decades required to rewire the first four’s mix-ups, malfunctions, and manipulation, and the thought exhausts me. And still, I fight! I do. No matter how many times I meltdown publicly or privately, losing battles left and right in the dark recesses of my mind, I find myself rebounding against it all. A desperate fight to overcome history, genetics, and circumstance. Reaching out and leaning into God and love and hope and compassion in any way I can. Never sitting in the filth of an enemy I never welcomed, but one who sits idly, quietly waiting.
These are the moments that teach us to appreciate the beauty of it all, ‘in’ the moment. These are the moments that allow for either growth or detriment. These are the moments when choices matter most. There was a time when I wouldn’t have allowed myself to feel this, but that isn’t who I am, it’s who I was programmed to be – programmed to hide my pain in shame. Now I choose to embrace it, while never living in the filth of it. The choice to bury the pain and consequences of loss will create a fiery backdraft of grief later. Believe me, whatever we bury, will revisit us when life slams us against the wall and drops us off the cliff. It will happen, and it will all come bubbling to the surface, without our control.
So, I ‘feel the feels,’ because I’m human, because I’m highly sensitive, and because I should. We all should, at whatever level complies with us as an individual. I sit here in my sanctuary, listening to ‘So will I,’ by Hillsong United, and I know. As my boys sleep sweetly in rooms nearby, my son’s cat Nitro chilling in the window next to my desk, I understand that this too will pass. I understand the pain and grief we are buried in as a family will pass. The three of us and our sweet Moose, saddened by the loss, by silence, by absence, and the missing pieces of our hearts; we will survive this, but we will also feel it. We will feel the loss of our children, our companions, our best friends, our elderly BFF’s – our beloved pets of 11 and 15 years.
We will get through this, and every pain of loss before us as we always do, but for now we will feel it. The pain of reaction and routine, the senses creating reminders around every corner, a backhanded gift of memories. The morning routine of a whine and a whimper from Scribbles, his way of waking me at the wee hours of the morning so I could take him outside. The sight and smell of the empty pantry as I habitually glance in search of him, a vacancy I feel too deeply. The sound of the neighbor’s dogs, triggering a prick of the ear in search of Skittles incessant yipping and Scribbles bouncing bark, as they both run up and down the fence line. The reflex of searching Skittles out in the dark, eager to pick her up as I coddled her and spoke sweet loving assurances to her as we made our way outside.
We played our part in their lives and they in ours, a lifetime of habits and loving companionship, multiplied exponentially over the past five years. A time when we desperately needed them, and they desperately needed us. A precious gift of time and circumstance. Both spending more and more time sleeping, and sleeping nearer the family; leaning into love and compassion more than ever. I look for them on the couch that seems too bare, too still, and too quiet. I hate the sight of the stairway landing, an empty spectacle where a large pet porter used to reside. We no longer used the crate to house anyone, instead, my boy Scribbles decided it was his little sanctuary. A tight and cozy spot, leaving him feeling safe and secure. I expect to see Skittles lying next to it on the landing or pacing the perimeter of house and yard, but there’s nothing.
A deafening silence, replaced by the resounding gong of realization that a large part of our lives and our purpose has been ripped away – lost! A rippling effect, leaving reminders of pain and emptiness in everything we do (or did). No job or great responsibility to distract us from how much it hurts. Yet, I know we will get through this. Swiftly or not, I have no way of knowing, but I imagine it will feel never-ending. Then suddenly we’ll look up and think, ‘wow, I feel better. When did that happen?’ Love, life, and loss, a perpetual cycle leaving us with emotional amnesia when time and process is left to pass unobstructed. But for now, we will feel it and we will celebrate the love of nearly two decades that can never be replaced. The love of pets!