For the living, life is the only game in town. For zombies, ghosts, leprechauns, and fairies options abound. Perhaps that’s why we love fantasy, because life, though a gift and our only option, is challenging, is beauty wrapped in thorns. Is fragile.
Since January, I’ve been fighting the most human of battles, a process every person will experience, a process so common, it comes with already defined stages.
Last week, I had an epiphany that changed my direction and pulled me back to the lightness I’ve been missing in my life. Grief, the knowledge that loss is coming, whittles its way into our core, takes root there, and controls the curtains in our souls that have the ability to bring light in or to leave us in darkness. I’ve been warring with those curtains for months, constantly wondering where my previous easy happiness had gone. I deliberately sought the things that make me happy, the things that inspire me to laugh at myself. Things that gave me little bits of light, but the shadows soon returned, overtaking all my hard work.
This is what grief does, overpowers everything else. And now, I’m so surprised I missed the reason for my season of sadness. I am going to lose a treasure, a dog, a best friend, a companion for more than a decade. I’ve talked about my Darby on this blog before, after his surgery last year and the return of his cancer in January. What’s strange is that I thought I was dealing with all of this so well, congratulating myself for my thorough organization and compartmentalizing of grief. I thought I’d mastered the beast. But in looking at the months between January and now, I see that all my struggles, my battles to get back to being happy, were all signs that my body, without my permission, was dealing with all I sought to control.
Last week, while sitting on the floor, working with frustration to get Darby to eat something—anything—thoughts began rumbling in my mind, and within a couple hours, I was searching the Internet, reaching for an understanding of the stages of loss. And I found myself.
Somehow, my efforts to get Darby to eat, which have been difficult since February, turned out to be my epic battle against cancer. If I could just get Darby to eat, everything would be okay. Cancer’s vicious efforts to waste away formerly healthy bodies wouldn’t win. That’s a lot of pressure to put on dog food, treats, even hotdogs, and especially on my plucky border collie. More than that, it was an unbelievable pressure to put on myself. To control that which cannot be controlled.
In the moment I realized what I was doing, I found myself in a new stage: Acceptance. And even though an exhausting transition, I could see that this necessary step would lead me back to happiness even though the great loss is still ahead of me. My struggling to just reach normal faded away behind the ease of surrendering to forces beyond my control. Acceptance, even of awful things, is a necessary part of life—and one of the hardest for a person like me.
What shocked me was that in accepting my limited power over cancer or canine aging, I found acceptance of the other things beyond my control, other things that have been riding me through the dim times. The pursuit of publication is right in the mix here, as are the other things missing in my life that exist beyond my control.
We can write the books, craft them, edit them, submit them to readers who slice them, and we can send them out. Those are the things within our control. The beyond is what people will think, whether publishers will publish, whether readers will read... and tell their friends—all the beyonds that we can do nothing about but trust, accept, and surrender to life, the only game in town.
That trust, acceptance, and surrender equal an even greater thing: faith.
And faith allows me to enjoy Darby, relax about what he eats and how much, and just feel grateful that his trusty soul is still in my presence for a little more time.
Okay, well, I might have discovered that Darby will eat Three Dog Bakery carrot cake pastries no matter how he feels. Maybe I should have called this post: Acceptance... with Pastries.
Quote for the Day from Melody Beattie
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”