Love and loss. We crave the first, fear the last…hell, we often fear the first one, too. Love pries us open, invites us to be vulnerable, out-of-control, and oddly, so does loss. These two experiences are flip-sides to the same coin. Without love, that deep, gooey, connectedness, we could not know the knife-stabby feeling of loss.
Loss comes in on a winter wind, regardless of the season, and strangles us just to the point of barely breathing. Love makes us feel expansive — at least the good variety does — filling our hearts with warmth as if emanating from a soft-focus lens under the influence of good lighting and even better wine. Yes, love looks great on us. Loss? Not so much.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Yeah, right, Al, sure. That’s like saying it’s better to have had your teeth kicked in by small invisible fairies, than not at all. When in the grip of grief, it’s hard to agree with the sentiment. Sometimes it feels like it would be better to have not bothered with love so as to avoid the pain of its end.
Alas, that is not why we are here. And I don’t mean “here” as in you, here, reading this, but why we are here as a species. We have the gift, like it or not, of complexity consciousness, meaning that the more complex our thought processes, the more self-aware we become. Too bad we haven’t learned to channel this gift so that we can think our way out of the hurt. No, we must go through it to get to the other side.
At the time that I started writing this piece (it’s taken me a while), I was facing a loss of heart-smashing proportions. In fact, by the time you read this, my beloved French bulldog, Lola, my little sidekick for the last eleven years, will be gone. Some people say it’s just a dog, and to that I say, how many relationships with sentient beings have you had — good ones — that have lasted eleven years or more? We gain so much from the animals in our lives and feel their absence with a visceral ache.
Lola, especially during her yearlong battle with cancer, taught me a lot about being human. About being a better human. About love and caring and showing up. I had to show up for her — she needed meds three times a day and had to go out to pee nearly every two hours since the Prednisone wreaked havoc on her kidneys.
She reminded me to be grateful each day. Grateful that I work from home so I could give her the best care possible. Grateful that I have the best friends, family, and the best vet on the planet. Grateful that she was still lovable and sweet, even toward the last few weeks when she was so tired. I will be grateful to leave this mortal coil with as much dignity as that little dog did.
Lola showed me that taking myself too seriously was no fun at all. She made comical chortling noises when I was on the phone with clients and would dance a wild bucking-bronco sort of jig when I wasn’t paying attention to her. She grounded me and made me laugh.
Lola, that funny little dog with the flat face and the bat ears, contributed to my development, and for that I am blessed. And as I move forward on my path with a heart full of loss and love, it’s the humans in my life who will benefit from my growth, a gift from the master teacher and superlative canine, Lola.
Featured image by Flickr user “Penguin & Fish,” used under a Creative Commons license.
Shanna is a writer, catalyst, and force of nature; at least that’s what her business card says. She loves to travel, relishing both the great outdoors and the great indoors. She holds a black belt in napping. Shanna enjoys discovering inspiration in the ordinary; magic in the mundane. You can hire her for legal things (mainly writing) or follow her witticisms and sage commentary on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website. Photo by Lori Brookes