About a month ago I became obsessed with getting a puppy. I’m not sure what happened in my life or if something happened in my life to trigger this obsession – I just knew that I needed a puppy. Now.
It was almost one year ago that our dog Buster died. We went out for the afternoon and left him to romp around the backyard and sleep in the sun just as he loved. When we came home we found him dead on the patio. His dog tag had slipped into a crack and gotten stuck on our wood patio. He pulled and pulled to get free until the collar clamped down and choked him to death. My heart breaks open all over again whenever I think about it. Buster had been a part of our family like no other animal had. He had touched our hearts and opened our souls in a myriad of unexpected ways. That day, we lost so much more than a dog, we lost a best friend, a true companion, and an important member of our family. We lost Buster.
So back to being obsessed. Memorial day weekend I decided it was time. Something in me knew that I was ready, and that my family was ready. I wanted to bring some joy into our home, so I headed off to a great pet shop here in Eugene with the intention of meeting some new dogs. A part of me wanted to hold back. A part of me told myself that I wasn’t ready yet – that maybe making a new friend would be traitorous. I decided to not listen to that part of myself. That part of me hadn’t been helping me. It was time to take a new approach.
We picked up a few puppies, and like all puppies they were just adorable yet something was missing. Then I picked up Lacey. Unexpectedly, tears sprung to my eyes. I locked eyes with my husband – and anyone who knows us would not be surprised to learn he had tears in his eyes to. We had found the one that felt right.
We took Lacey home and as we watched her explore the house the grief, hurt, and self-blame we were both holding in ourselves for Buster broke out. We cried for Buster again, we cried for ourselves, and we cried because we knew it was going to be okay. As we held each other, each of us acknowledged that it’s okay… it’s really okay. We get to love again. And Buster would have loved Lacey as much as we do.
So now I want to introduce you to Lacey. She does look a little like Buster – that wonderful terrier look with the messy hair and eyes that look right into your soul. And, she isn’t Buster. She’s Lacey. She has her own wonderful way about her, and every day I let myself love her a little more.
In the past, I have heard others talk about the loss of a beloved pet, and I thought I understood because I had lost pets too and been upset. Now, I REALLY understand what it’s like.
And I understand that no matter how big the hurt or how overwhelming a tragedy seems – whether it’s losing a friend, a job, or just taking in some of the horrible stories that have been on the news this year, allowing ourselves to heal matters.
Healing isn’t easy. It’s much easier to push our feelings down and stuff them away – only dealing with them when they pop up in less productive ways like anger or when they creep up and punch us in the face. Yet we all have opportunities to heal – moments that push us closer to it, the great fortune of friends in life who reach out to us and offer an unexpected path, and most importantly the voice inside of us that wants us to heal.
So it’s up to each of us to make a choice. Do we listen to the voice that tells us to shy away from feeling anything that hurts, do we push it away and then wonder why we lost our temper or got too easily frustrated by a bad encounter at work, or do we forge ahead and let ourselves heal? We get to tell ourselves that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel, it’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to grieve, and it’s okay to love. Because when we decide that it’s time to heal we make our world better because we aren’t so focused on hiding our pain or beating ourselves up. When we make the choice to heal, we nurture ourselves and those we love, and we set an example of true, personal leadership that inspires all of those around us.
This month, I want to talk about healing. My healing, your healing, and healing in our communities.
Take the first step of your journey today by noticing what pops up when you feel upset, by digging a little deeper, and taking a moment to quietly acknowledge the pain. Let it sit for a moment. Be mindful and aware of it, and remind yourself that it’s okay…. it’s okay to love yourself.