Friday, February 25, 2011

The Other Side of Winter

For those of you annoyed with winter, I am on your team. We've been having all sorts of schizophrenic weather during the past few days, and even, most painfully, a day that felt almost like spring, only to be whisked away by rain, sleet, hail, ice, flooded backyards, and then this morning, snow again. I say unto you, "Yuck."

But, there is a cause for joy, because we are on the other side of winter. The downward slope leading straight into spring... and summer... and gorgeous fall, before we have to go through all of this again. So, even though today’s weather is cause for much shaking of fists and a scowly rant, knowing that temperatures are going up and warmth is just over the horizon is enough to keep my spirits up.

Which got me thinking about life (as I’m prone to do) and all the other sides we face or find when we’re hit with unpleasantness. Illness comes to mind. My worst illness was mono, a heap of years ago. Going from a healthy, fit person to someone who couldn’t walk ten feet without resting was a life-changing experience. I remember asking a fellow college student (whom I didn’t even know) if he could get me a scantron (yes, I’m elderly... :), because I couldn’t walk across the campus to get my own. Humbling to say the least. (FYI, he did get me a scantron and became a good friend for a few years... suddenly wondering where he is and if he’s happy.) Anyway, even in the midst of that debilitating illness, I found the other side. I changed my life. I became a climber. Became more daring in every aspect of my life.

I was fortunate that my health issues had an expiration date. But even people who face terminal illnesses often find that other side, the beauty in appreciating their lives more, more fully living every single moment. And that’s enough evidence for me to believe that everything has an other side and that if we work at it, we can either find or make one for ourselves.

As my writer friends know, every rejection is one step closer to an acceptance. Our other side is the belief that we will get there and that when we do, everything will mean more for the time it took.

For me, I’ve been searching for the other side of my current struggle, the aging and not-too-far-off end of my much loved dog, who’s been with me for eleven years. He’s special, and I know that everyone thinks their dog is special, but there is a unique spark in some animals that transcends others. I’ve had ones with the spark and others without. Darby has the spark, enough that friends are taking trips to visit me just so they get to see him again before the end. I’ve been lucky to have him and I don’t want to spend all our remaining days wallowing (which, as a border collie, he simply doesn’t approve of), so I started searching for the other side.

And I found it... her.

What started as a mission to help my other dog (who considers Darby her soulmate and has never been without another dog in the house), became something so much more.

Meet Agatha Jayne.

I wasn’t actually looking for a puppy, but she found me (or I found her at a border collie rescue in Minnesota... and yes, I trekked out there in the winter to pick her up). And what I found was my other side, because she proves that life continues. She lives in the now. She is bouncy and chews on Darby’s face. She inspires all of us (pups and people) to play. To take time to throw the ball, and feel the rain/sleet/hail/snow (because I have no other choice now). She is my other side of the ugliness of loss. And Darby, though he complains about her presence, hasn’t played this much in years, and he actually gets more of me than he has in quite a while. And best of all, he gets me happy and hopeful for all the days we have left.

So, every ugly thing in life has an other side, have you found yours?

Quote for the Day from Rainer Maria Rilke

“Believe that with your feelings and your work you are taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you cultivate this belief, the more will reality and the world go forth from it.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Snowflakes Everywhere

You are a snowflake. Yup, you really are. One in a million... no billion... no infinity-ion. That’s right. There has never been, nor will there ever be, another you. Or another me. And that rocks, but there is also some pressure too. If you are the only one who can ever be you, then you better be doing a good job. Right? Makes sense.

We are all snowflakes, and yet it is clear to me through my own journey and the journeys of my friends that even though we are unique in this world, the world presents us with some very similar stories. Loss. Yup, not one of us is getting through this life without experiencing true loss. Maybe we’ll get lucky and not experience the very worst of suffering like a friend of mine did last year—the loss of her child. But we will know loss. We all will be blitzed by some unexpected hardship. The loss of a job. A relationship. Something. We will be let down. Certainly the writers know this. Stacks of rejections tell us so. And we will see our expectations for life obliterated. None of us thought that this was how our life would look when every milestone lived somewhere over that distant horizon.

There are so many facets of my life that are anything but how I would have designed them, and truly, I am better for it. What can we possibly learn if life doesn’t give us the hiccups, if everything goes “romantic comedy” smoothly with a bow-like ending? Life and real living means struggling to make the right decisions and more than occasionally tripping over our good intentions. Life is about the struggle and the people we become from walking through the fire. Shaping ourselves as much as life shapes us. Like a steel blade, we hold ourselves to the burning, never giving up and always continuing. Because even though we are unique in this world, we are never alone in this journey, because we walk together.

So, no matter what challenges are dragging their way through your life, just keep going. And reach out a hand when you need one. I promise, there’s always a snowflake at the ready to hear you, see you, and know you.

So, here’s to us, putting the flake in snowflake and making our lives incredible simply but living them.

Quote for the Day from Rodney Atkins

“But the good news

Is there’s angels everywhere out on the street

Holding out a hand to pull you back up on your feet...”