In the past month, I’ve gone through a lot of changes. Having found a class called Yoga Nidra, I’ve been able to relax completely during that hour of class and beyond. Our local co-op has a free yoga class every other week, so I’ve been attending that too. I’ve been taking classes sponsored by the DFL party, which have been enlightening to say the least, making me want to get involved in our democracy. And I’ve had a few pain-free days. Each one of these events on its own is a big deal. But all of them together has created a change in my life. I’m living my life with an awareness that I haven’t experienced in years.
These activities are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, no one wants to stay at home, debilitated by pain. That’s where I’ve been for the last 4 years. In my experience, I felt like I was passing time, day after day as I watched the second-hand tick, rather than living my life. Yet, I didn’t feel well enough to be actively involved in something. I was so fatigued all the time, sleeping for hours each day. The fatigue and headaches caused a constant inability to process information. My pain was unbearable, and even driving 10 minutes was difficult with my head constantly getting pulled to the right. You can’t just tell someone to snap out of it. “Get over it already!” It doesn’t work that way. You really have to feel well enough to go outside yourself. Finally being in a place where I can find some ways to provide my life with meaning outside my home, though, has been invaluable. And these acts of taking care of myself have given me the strength to take care of others.
Last Friday I found out that my sweet dog Morey has cancer of the liver. I could go into the details, but I’m choosing to focus on what can be done for him and with him. Is the tumor operable? We’ll find out after his CT scan today. In the meantime, I’m carrying out his bucket list. For the first time in 7 years, I took him and his brother Speckles to the dog park over the weekend. Admittedly, I was scared to go back. You see, the reason I’d stopped going was the fact that Speckles was in a fight or flight mode whenever we went. And if it looked like a dog was going to attack Speckles, Morey would protect him too. Morey’s diagnosis and prognosis made me get over my fear quick. To my surprise, they thrived, smelling all the dogs, greeting them with curiosity, and obviously wanting to play, probably more than the other dogs. Sometimes, I realized, I have to set my fears aside and just do it. If he enjoys eating a few extra pieces of kibble from his brother’s bowl, then that’s okay too.
“Get over it” has become my new motto. His opportunities shouldn’t be determined by my fears and anxieties. These last nine years, he’s taken care of me. Now it’s my turn. He’s inspiring me to stay active as best I can, and he’s teaching me to figure out what is best for him rather than what is best for me in regards to the cancer. It’s amazing what we learn if we open our hearts and minds to another species.
My Hopes: Think of a living being, hobby or talent that has motivated you to take action and feel more alive. How have you grown as a result of this external force? In what way has it influenced you to feel like your life has taken on a new meaning? If you can’t think of one yet, my hope is you will. Research shows that relationships with people and animals help ease our anxiety and treat depression. That’s certainly been the case with my furry kids.
Do you know anyone with a disability or someone experiencing high levels of stress who could use a reason to get up in the morning? How can we help people who don’t have the ability to go beyond themselves? Is it our role to be involved, or do we let them lead the way, even though it may take years for them to get to that point? There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.