I spent the past 24 hours in Spokane
This was supposed to be the second weekend of teacher training, and all started out well Thursday night, until after class. I noticed our lab, Duke, was having trouble peeing. Not a good sign. After hours of debating and phone calls and no one in our local area able to see him, my husband had no choice but to drive to the Spokane Pet Emergency clinic at 10pm Thursday night. I never sleep with my phone in the bedroom. That night I made an exception. As all this was happening, my brain and body went into survival mode. "Ok, I've got Daisy taken care of. I can still lead teacher training and get updates and it'll all be fine." Life didn't go as I had it all neatly planned out. I got the call you never want to get. The words you never want to hear. "We found a tumor on his spinal cord." My heart sunk and broke into a million pieces at the same time. It gutted me. I didn't know I could shed so many tears. The waves just kept coming. I'd look at his container of kibble and it'd send me over the edge. Someone would ask how he was and I'd lose it. I'd hear my husband's gut wrenching sobs and I'd join in with him. It became very clear I would not be able to lead other people this weekend.
I needed to hold space for myself.
I cancelled the rest of the training weekend and made my way to Spokane, unsure if we'd be able to bring Duke home. Spinal cord surgery is possible, though costly and with no real certainty his quality of life would be improved. We were at a crossroads. Keep him alive and try to keep saving him and going down what could be a long and scary financial and emotional road, or keep him comfortable and have a few more days with him before choosing to put him down. The choice no one wants to make. In spite of all of this... the pain, the heartache, the impossible decisions, the grief... there have also been incredible moments of love and laughter and joy and feeling so, so, held. Most people reached out to say they were thinking of us. I got no advice or quips about feeling better. People just let me sit in my loss, which allowed me to feel the whole range of emotions. I felt (and strangely still feel) calm and hyper aware, despite all the pain.
Opening myself up to this raw, gut wrenching emotion has reminded me of something: we have to feel to heal.
It's so cliche and yet I'm seeing it as reality in these moments. When I allow myself to feel the sobs caught in my throat, the tears streaming my face, the seemingly bottomless hole in the pit of my belly, I can also feel how my body is healing itself. How I'm simultaneously coming apart and being stitched back up. I'm also allowing myself to be seen, and to be supported. What a gift that has been. We made it through the weekend and we are home (with Duke) and we don't know how long we have. It might only be a few days. Because I felt the pain this weekend, I'm also now able to feel the relief of getting a few more days to soak up time with our sweet hound. I've been given a chance to be present and honor and love him before we have to say goodbye.
We never know how long any of us are gifted on this earth.
We thought we'd have Duke for at least 6 more years, and we were quickly reminded of life's fragility. Anytime I'm reminded of this lesson that the Universe seems to keep showing me, year after year, I live a little freer. I stop worrying about the mundane. I stop caring so much what people think. I let my hair down and I do the best I can to soak up each and every minute I have with the people and animals I love. I remember, once again, that presence is the best gift we can give ourselves at any moment. THIS is why I practice yoga. Anytime I step on my mat, I have the chance, the opportunity, to be with my emotions, all of them, as they rise and fall. I have the chance to really experience my body and my breath (and the people around me, if I'm so lucky) in each and every moment. I also get to know that in practicing it on that little rectangle, or in my breathing practice, or when I'm meditating, I'm taking that into my everyday life and living the yoga. I know that is where my ability to be hyper calm and aware came from this weekend. It doesn't dull the pain- and actually- I don't want that. It makes the pain real and connects me more to others and helps me see things I didn't see before. For that, I am grateful. I'll be spending these next few days I have left loving on my sweet boy, allowing myself to feel whatever needs to be felt, and remembering that even when presence and feeling things feels hard, they are the best gifts we can give ourselves. Whatever you are going through or dealing with in your life right now, I encourage you to feel it all, to practice being present to the experience of it all, and to know you are simultaneously being broken apart and stitched back together.