Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cheating Grief... and Other Impossible Things

So, I was okay. Moving forward. Facing the future. Rallying around all the things I’m grateful for in my life. And then, this morning, the wheels fell off the scooter.

Did I really think I could cheat grief by being grateful, busy, and letting my brain be swallowed by all the challenges of self-publishing? If I did, I was really, really daft.

You see, a week ago Monday, I lost my Darby Dog. More than lost, I had to take the living, breathing (with some strain), bright-eyed, smiling dog to the vet, carry him into a special room, and preside over his end. I gave him a special treat with pink frosting from the Three Dog Bakery. I loved him up and then put my head against his head and told him how much I loved every day of the past twelve years we’d spent together. A passel of seconds later, my Darby Dog was gone. Still. Peaceful. Gone.

The rest of the week was an ultra-focused attempt to keep Darby’s soulmate, Lucy, busy so I don’t lose her too. She’s a ten-year-old Ridgeback. Thankfully, I have my puppy monster, Agatha Jayne (who was adopted last year for just this reason), who is so in love with Lucy, she flips up poor Lucy’s ear so she can lick it clean. That will distract from the grieving process for Lucy, no doubt.

I was supposed to lose Darby last March. That’s what everyone thought. My vet recently said that he would have lost a lot of money in Vegas on Darby’s expected lifespan and will to survive. Just before we commenced with the event, I asked my vet if I had done everything possible for Darby, and he gave me a slightly incredulous look. “What you did,” he said, “is the equivalent of a human cancer patient being given a few months and living ten years.” Darby is plucky that way.

And even in the end, he was still bright and happy to be alive. I had been waiting for him to show through not wagging his tail, fluttering his ears, and smiling at me that he was ready, but he never stopped doing those things. His body just became incredibly weak, while his feisty spirit remained in tact. The morning I took him, he was still eating, catching a ball, and sucking up to me for chicken and special treats.

Friends of mine have accused me in the past of not allowing myself to grieve. I don’t like grieving. There are so many people who have lost more. I had an extra year that I hadn’t expected to have. There is always so much to be grateful for. But grief is grief and must be given its due. That due came this morning.

I was going along just fine last night, working through some comments from a beta reader when I hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out how to fix something she thinks would make the book better. I couldn’t even find a place to start, to make an inroad. When she gave me the feedback, she said, it might sound like I’m asking you to do a massive overhaul, but I’m really not. At the time she said it, her warning didn’t really hit me, but last night, looking at the comment, I felt like I was stuck in one of those awful math story problems: If a train is leaving the station traveling in a south-westerly direction and another train... blah, blah, blah. I was trapped and the only way I could think of to fix the problem was to start over (even though she clearly said that wasn’t necessary and loves the book).

This is a bit of a self-publishing lesson as well. People who are fortunate enough to get the traditional publishing deals have a team of people working to make their books ready for market, but when a writer self-publishes, it is all on them and the faith they put in beta readers. That ends up feeling like a truck’s worth of pressure on someone who never really imagined going this alone.

Anyway, this morning, all the frustration stemming from the story problem-esque conundrum caused a much-needed breakdown. I know this isn’t about the book (as much as I’m a bit high-strung about making it the best it can be before I send it out into the world), it isn’t about my irritation with everything in the universe this morning, and it isn’t about the fact that getting ready for work seemed like an overwhelming task. All of this is about me and my Darby Dog and twelve years of having his beautiful eyes watching over me (border collie style) every single day. It’s about grief that won’t be suppressed. And it’s about the fact that for the rest of my life, I will never get to smile at him only to watch his ears flutter, pretend to milk his very soft ears (one of our favorite games), or make him bark at me by telling him he looks like Kermit the Frog (he never saw the resemblance and didn’t take kindly to it).

It’s about loss that, like it or not, I am going to have to face.

Quote for the Day from Rumi

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”


Indigo said...

Darby was a friend and companion for 12 years sweet friend. He saw all the highs and lows in your life and loved you completely despite them. He'll always be with you, right there beside your heart. You gave him a forever home and loved him just as completely. Darby had all he ever wanted in you.

I can understand trying to keep Lucy distracted and from hurting too badly over Darby. I'm kind of in the same boat with Pickles, she's not dealing with going blind so well. I'm so very afraid she's going to give up.

Our pets are so much more, they're our sounding boards, best friends, our laughter, and all the things we need when we need them.

I'm thinking of you in your grief and sorrow sweet friend. May the pain be lighter knowing Darby was truly loved. (Hugs)Indigo

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

I feel so sad for you. Darby was not only a dog, he was a vibrant, loving, loveable part of your family. Grief is a sneaky mistress. She sneaks up on you when you least expect. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Allow yourself to cry. Allow yourself to sit and remember everything you possibly can about Darby. Time heals all, but time takes time. Darby was a very lucky dog and he knew it. Hugs and kisses, D.

Glynis said...

My heart goes out to you. So sad, but how lovely you had those years together. I am watching our old boy of nearly 14, getting older. He loves his food, and a little walk but is sleeping longer, and longer. I dread the day.

Liza said...

So many happinesses in life we come to expect...and then the pain of missing harpoons us. I wish you strength and many fine days with your remaining buddies.

Laura Marcella said...

I'm so sorry, Julie :*( Darby was a beautiful dog and I know he had a wonderful life with you. Wishing you peace and comfort.

Beth Zellner said...

Oh, Julie. I am so very sorry for your loss. Even though our trade is in words, there just aren't any for this moment. Instead, I am sending my heart to you. I know yours will heal in time and that the wonderful memories you have of Darby will tide you over until you can meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.

inluvwithwords said...

This is my first visit to your blog. I'm so sorry for your loss.
Beautiful Rumi quote, thanks for sharing it.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've been computerless for several weeks, so I just saw this today, Julie.

I'm so, so sorry that Darby's gone. I'm also so amazed and happy for you that you got that extra year. He shared a very special bond with you, and that must be grieved. I'm not good a grieving on schedule either - take your time and do it your way.

I hope little Agatha is keeping you and Lucy busy enough to distract you with real life.

Treasure those incredible memories of your time with Darby. Take care *hugs*
~ Jemi