October 6, 2019.
I sat on the deck of my steps this morning, not long after the sun had risen above the horizon. It was bright enough for the sun’s rays to highlight the golds and yellows of grounded leaves and the endless shades of October green, but not bright enough to warm the cool, crisp air left over from last night. It was a beautiful morning. My favorite time of year.
I watched my dog, Fizzle, manage her painful, disorganized 4-beat walk. She was going nowhere in particular, driven by instinct as she staggered in a crooked path. She didn’t get far before the pain stopped her and she just stood, awkwardly, breathing heavily and staring at nothing. We had just given her a heavy dose of relief, and alerted our vet that today was the day. My closest companion, this constant source of unconditional love, meet me at the door with tail wagging every single time – was only here in this life for a few more hours. Cancer was winning.
A thought arose as I watched her; I wish she could have just one more snowfall . Fizzle loves snow as much as I do.
My chest seized and I felt a wave of grief rising up. But just a moment later a cool breeze blew across my cheek. I saw Fizzle lift her nose to smell what it brought, and that painful thought was replaced with another; She loves the fall. Just like me.
My body softened and my thoughts shifted to how grateful I was that she was here, experiencing this morning with me. I loved that we could love it together.
It occurred to me at that moment that my pain was caused by my wanting. I wanted what I couldn’t have. More of what I’d already had. And every moment I spent with that thought, I was missing the moments that I could have with her – moments of beauty and time spent doing something we both loved.
I pondered this. I remembered time in my life I’d spent wanting. The earliest was when I was pretty young. I wanted the shirts with the alligator on them, the jeans with the red tag on the back pocket, and the fancy suede sneakers with three white stripes. In my twenties I wanted to be the only thing my boyfriend wanted. In my thirties I wanted it all. In my early forties I wanted to be something in the eyes of my kids. And then, slowly, I came to realize what I really wanted was to be at peace with what is. All of it. And in that space, there is not much room for wanting.
I had come across this path many times before, in the writings of Byron Katie, Tara Brach, Thich Nhat Hanh and others. I grasped it first intellectually, and practiced it half-heartedly. I was peaceful in many areas of my life, I think because of my early exposure to this – my young years when it simply wasn’t possible for me to have these things other people had. I’m not sure how, but somehow I knew that if I stopped wanting things, I wouldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t have them. Certainly it was easier said than done, but I had the concept.
Obviously, it’s still easier said than done. Even after years of practice, there are still times where I lead with wanting. But this morning, I smiled at how quickly I caught myself, and brought myself back to the moment. Where I had what I wanted. And peace was there waiting for me.
Rest in peace my friend. And thank you. With all my heart.