So now two are gone.
This “serenity in bereavement” thing is proving elusive. However . . .
I’m listening to a book about attention, and the ways we pay attention. I know that in the depths of very bad emotional pain, I long to escape it. I often can quickly shift my attention to what in the situation demands gratitude. So, these critters had very nice, very long lives. Life is finite. Theirs are over.
Yes, I guess there is some small measure of serenity there. Small. Today, I can’t not miss them. They were here every day for many years, and now they are not.
And now just the cat and Phyllis decline.
We ended it for the one yesterday. This is the 20-year-old cat, on his way down as well. This time last year we had five critters, now three, soon to be two.
A note from the trenches.
Carole, Nicholas and I sped over (seven hours or so in the car) to see Erika for Easter. We arrived late at night. Carole and I slept on the floor, Erika on the couch, and Nicholas in her bed. This year their Easter baskets had not much candy and some kitchen implements.
Carole and I went to a church in Erika’s city. It was surprisingly diverse for a regular Lutheran church. After church though we got a message from the dog sitter that the old one was fading fast.
Stream of consciousness here: not fast enough. This is Monday now. I sit here, working at home, Carole’s gone to work and the old dog continues to go down by inches. He doesn’t seem to be in pain or distress. We look for that like hawks and will take him right away if that happens. But he’s not even drinking now. He rests for long periods of time but not long enough.
The process is so awful. We want ………. we want ………… we want …………. This is what we get. A very long time with a very pampered pooch. Vets and money to pay them. No amount of money or expertise will spare us from this.
So my thoughts in the midst of it. I know it will pass. It won’t be like this forever, or even for very long. We have had an extremely privileged life with this dog, and we’re having a privileged death, but we aren’t being spared from at least some of the process.
I had a cat when I was drinking. Thankfully she lived long and saw me sober as well. But I know some little something of drunken pet ownership. Sobriety has given us fairly clear heads and present bodies ready and able to do what’s best. Sobriety has given us a huge support network and they’ve been supporting us as much as they can. Sobriety has given us the gift of no major regrets. We have some small regrets about the way things have gone with this particular dog but no big ones. At the bottom of it, sobriety has given us the ability to make a living to support a dog and now to let him go the best possible way.
I have no idea what that way is right now, but I am getting an excellent lesson in living in the moment. It truly is moment by moment here and I guess it will be for a short while, and then it will pass.
The A.A. answer to these questions about living is “Yes, all of these things are possible.” We know this because we see monotony, pain, and even calamity turned to good use by those who keep on trying to practice A.A.’s Twelve Steps. And if these are facts of life for the many alcoholics who have recovered in A.A., they can become the facts of life for many more.
An important key to my sobriety was believing that whatever had happened to anyone else could happen to me – both the good and the bad. I had to believe that the accidents, arrests and other calamities I hadn’t yet experienced were good possibilities in my future. I also had to believe that the successful sobriety I saw in others was a possibility in my future.
Now I know from the inside that long-term sobriety isn’t all cake. Sometimes, at the very minimum, it simply, simply, maybe, just beats the alternative.
The three-part decline that is part of my daily life continues. The cat, the dog, and Phyllis get worse every day. In the case of the cat and the dog there is the added burden of being responsible for continuing their time on earth, or not. And they cannot rate their pain on a scale to help us decide what to do.
The Daily Word had a wonderful Good Friday meditation today, and there’s part of it that I want to keep and make my own.
During hardship or heartache, I become truly teachable. In the transition from darkness to light, I gain new understanding about myself and about life.
During hardship or heartache, I become truly teachable. I think I learned that lesson a long time ago as well.
No matter how hopeless it seems, the earth always responds with spring.
My “baby” is 23 years old.
My 50-something sober friend made it through a rigorous course.
Snow tires are off, waiting to be stored. Forsythia is blooming.
Keeping watch for spring.
Or really, for anyone who dares to walk or run or ride up that road. But also for baby squirrels so yes, for spring.
SPRING CARRIES SURPRISES ~ Carl Sandburg
Be gay now.
Shadows go fast these days
Unlocking the locks of blossoms.
The lilacs never know how,
The oleanders along the old walls,
The peach trees over the hills-
Out of the lock-ups they go,
Out and crying with leaves.
They never know how.
Be gay–this is the time.
The little keys of the climbing runners,
The opening of the doors again,
the letting loose of the shut-ins–
Here is the time–be gay now.
Ask spring why.
Ask in your heart why.
Go around gay and foolish and asking why.
God be easy on your fool heart
If you don’t go around asking spring
In your heart, “Why, why, why,”
Three times like that, or else
One long, “Why?”
Be gay now.
“Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”
I’m actually not dreading writing about this! I read the text last night, and I don’t have the book out here on the back porch with me (there are VERY high winds, and my book is VERY delicate – I think I need a new one, I didn’t take it to a meeting the other night because there was a very light rain). So I can’t quote. But when I read it, something in the text jumped out at me.
It said, approximately, that professionals have never been able to help us the way we can help each other. So true! And so cool!
I know that some of the criticisms of AA center on the fact that AA doesn’t advance medical advances in the treatment of alcoholism. It’s important for me to say that in my experience, AA does not deny or hinder these advances either. But if some newcomer were to show up at my meeting and ask about a pill or a therapy or anything else, she would be told that for us in that room, maybe to a person, these things did not help us stop drinking or stay stopped. I also need to point out (not to the proverbial newcomer, but here) that those things are not readily accessible nor are they free.
But anyway. Nonprofessional. I guess the thought is that once someone, anyone, even a member in excellent standing, a certain percent of us stop listening. And the motives of the paid person don’t stay 100% pure (or nearly).
I think it goes along with the traditions for therapists and counselors to disclose they are in AA, if it fits, but they have to make it clear that they don’t speak for or represent AA, except in their own person.
And thank goodness for all of the paid people through the ages, members and nonmembers, who have kept the business of AA going so that when we needed it, it was there.
The other thing about this question and me is that the more glittery achievements have not been denied me. I never sought them.
Because …… I’m a good person, right? I’m not very talented at any one thing. I’m not terribly or even slightly gifted in any one thing. I never set out to be famous or have lots of money. I haven’t even really wanted to be a “manager” at work, and I’ve only done it’s when there’s seemed no other way.
I truly believe in humble, durable satisfactions. I am steadfastly content.
More than that, most days I manage to be grateful that I’m able to make a (humble?) living at doing something that is very rewarding and often fun.
Can we steadfastly content ourselves with the humbler, yet sometimes more durable, satisfactions when the brighter, more glittering achievements are denied us?
This will be complicated for me to address.
Content? Yes! But . . . I still fear the future, and whether or not I will have “enough.” I fear the future my children will live in, with things like the economy and the environment. I have no grandchildren, and if I envision a future without them, I fear what’s in store for humans. If I envision grandchildren, the fear is that much worse.
But I DO NOT walk around fearing for myself, my children, or anyone, really. Those thoughts are fleeting and they don’t dominate my mind. I feel those thoughts are both right and wrong. Right, because I’m not exempting myself from the human condition, though I have so much to insulate and protect me from hardship (and really, I don’t get this about the rich, who go about protecting the rich at the expense of the poor – don’t they know they, or their children, or their grandchildren, or someone they care about could one day be poor?). I know that my life on earth could change for the worse quickly. I have health insurance, but I really want everyone to, even if it costs me.
Wrong, because I have nothing in my history to make me afraid. I have little in my behavior to make me afraid. Fear is character defect and I would like to cut off its sunlight so it ceases to grow.
I disagree with this on several levels. I don’t think cats should eat dry cat food. I DON’T think they should be punished (at all, for anything). But I’ve been reading some Quaker blogs, and hey, this post mentions a 20-year-old cat (the same age as mine) and AA, so I can’t resist linking.
How I Converted My Cat to Quakerism
I’m sitting on my back porch, listening to giant raindrops hit the awning and worry the dog. Xandra shows every sign of developing a thunder fear. Carole and I know how that goes. Our older dog had a terrible time of it, starting when he was about seven and lasting until his mind started leaving him. Not fun. I really hope Xandra doesn’t get any more afraid. One thing that makes it harder with her than it was with him is that she looks to us for comfort, and, informed dog mothers that we are, we know that to offer her comfort will only confirm to her that something is wrong. Which it isn’t.
Spring is teasing us a tiny little bit. It’s in the low 60s right now, and warm enough to be outside. But the temperature is going to plummet again and it really hasn’t been warm at all for more than a day. Temps are well below normal and people in my corner of the world are sick of it.
I had a nice, full weekend, with two AA meetings and the week ahead looks fine. Carole and I will both be home late tomorrow, but the dog sitter will come twice. I’ve taken Friday off from work because Friday night we’re attending the graduation of a friend in the program. At our meeting Saturday night, Carole made the announcement that this friend had just celebrated a birthday, and would be graduating in less than a week. The friend protested the attention, and Carole pointed out that she’s sober and graduating, rather than dead and uneducated. Or something like that.
The old dog, the old cat, and the neighbor Phyllis continue their declines. It remains difficult to watch. We remain watching.