Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Year: 2017 (page 1 of 10)

How much is that doggie in the window?

When Kristy and I lived together, we decided to venture into the doggie world and found one at the local shelter. In her wisdom, Kristy had me agree to a puppy prenup before we brought Dinah Mae Crowder home, so I fully recognized that when Kristy moved out, the dog left with her. Within a month, I found the absence of the canine energy unbearable and began a search for a new dog. JJ agreed, but only if we adopted two.

We drove a few hours away to get our girls, litter mates, (or so they told us, because they bore no familial resemblance.) We loved the silky coat of the blond, and a certain boxy black pup caught my attention. We brought home Lizzie and Roxanne when they were about 8 weeks old and fell immediately in love.

We could propose ours were perfect dogs. Our girls never chewed on things. They didn’t get on the furniture. They loved children. Lizzie was a known favorite by babies; she would recline on her side and toddlers would crawl into the pocket of her 4 legs and lean back in comfort. Lizzie might lift her head, as if to check on which child was taking a turn, and then return to her lounging.

And I came to agree with JJ’s insistence on two dogs, even with the fortune we spent in dog food. When our children arrived, the pups had one another to roll their eyes at every time we brought home a new baby. They slept together every night, shared a dinner plate, and like two widows who needed to take their medication, they made sure the other remembered to go outside to pee.

We lost our Roxie a year and a half ago to the diabetes. (Lesson learned on the cheap dog food. We extended her life from a one-month prognosis to over 6 months just by switching to grain free.) The last 18 months without her beloved sister left Liz in a funk, mopey, despite the extra love and attention our kids would shower upon her. The kids had been indifferent to the dogs; they were fixtures, like the big brown chair that has always been a part of our living room. But once Roxanne was gone, the impermanence of our creatures sunk in and they began to give more value to the doggie in our living room.

This week we had to say goodbye to our sweet and affectionate Lizzie as well. It happened quick, after what we thought was just an incident of her finding and ingesting the thanksgiving turkey, but she got worse rather than better. We weren’t afforded the months in advance to emotionally prepare. One day she had bad gas, and then a few days later our home was significantly more empty, despite the 6 humans who occupy the small space.

Beyond my own grief, this process of walking with my children through loss and heartache gave me opportunity for reflection. One of them goes to bed and arises in tears. My oldest asked me, “mom, do you cry with tears?” I told him I cry in a thousand different ways. He told me he really only cries with tears or without them, but that he cried with tears for Lizzie. Even our littlest, who only understands time in terms of “yesterday” and “tomorrow” no matter how many days separate us from the past and the future, broke down at our little burial when he realized the dogless situation wasn’t changing. It’s here I notice my tendencies and natural desire to change the situation for them, even when the voices of wisdom tell me to respond otherwise.

The kids are already asking for a pup and part of me wants to say, why? so it can rip your heart out all over again!? If we don’t get a new dog, I won’t ever have to watch them feel like this. Their willingness to love after loss is far greater than my own. It’s amazing how my experience of the world has taught me to clamp down on my heart to protect it, to harden rather than to risk hurt. My kids still have a trust in the goodness of the world, even despite pain and disappointment.

But I’ll be honest: It’s taking every ounce of power in my being not to run out and find a puppy for under our tree this Christmas. Everyone is right, I do NOT want to potty train a pup in the winter (or at all, as JJ is so talented at it), which may be the only thread holding me back from liking every doodle-selling page on FB. I crave the dog energy in my home. I want to share space with another being when my kids have left me for the school day. But most of all, I want the pain of absence to fade to the background. I don’t want to feel loss anymore, so my natural inclination is to go get something; fill the gaping hole of my love for my dogs.

Their willingness to try again, coupled with my desire to fix it all, is a dangerous situation. I have a feeling this is the breeding ground for codependence, so again I must heed to the voices that remind me the hard thing is the good thing, and I must resist the puppy (and quick and simple solution) temptation.

The irony lies in my yoga class from Monday, when I taught a yin class and implied that we often get into places (poses) that bring about discomfort and our tendency is to wiggle and move – to try to find a way out. We don’t let the pose in, so it never does its work in us. Grief** is probably one of the most commonly avoided emotions in our culture, and we sidestep it by doing all the things I really want to do right now, like buying a new dog.

I awake to the absence. When I’m working around home, my sense of being alone is heightened. For years now, I’ve become annoyed with the growing mountain of dog hair I had to sweep. I griped about the cost of leaving the dogs while we traveled. But not long ago, a wise teacher asked, “do I see the hair or do I see the dog?” and it made me reflect before it was too late. What these girls added to my life was far greater than the time it took to run the vacuum or the costs of booking a doggie sitter. I wish it didn’t take absence to heighten the love. Maybe that’s should be intention of the next furry creature that will eventually pee on our carpet: to engage the process, not just grieve when it’s over.

 

**If you’ve not read anything by Caleb Wilde, you should. His blog was Confessions of a Funeral Director and his perspective on grief and grief support is astounding. He even made it onto the Robcast recently.

Visit me elsewhere:

The Subversive Act of Gratitude

For years I’ve been curious about Thanksgiving and the idea of gratitude. One of my earliest posts, Thankshaving, (which hilariously looks a lot like Thank-shaving instead of Thanks-having) attempted to parse through this. I’ve remained a student of this idea of gratitude for years. This year, I think I graduated to 8th grade in the subject, as I’ve begun to realize what a powerful act it can be to cultivate a sense of thankfulness in any situation.

Thanksgiving is the day we sit around the table and say what we’re thankful for, the stuff that we readily forget for the other 364 days of the year. Our homes, our families, and our jobs move high on the list because we often only complain about these things, but on Turkey Day, we are glad to have them and cannot imagine life without them.

On the 4th Thursday of the eleventh month, we corporately and individually declare what is right in our world. Hidden beneath our gratitude, we find a layer of acknowledgement that life isn’t perfect, and we still find space to be thankful for what is good. It’s our way of saying, what I have, and what I am, is enough. Maybe, even, (probably!) more than enough.

In our culture, one that tells us how we aren’t beautiful enough, or successful enough, or loving enough, this is a radical act. We’re led to believe that we’re constantly without enough time, money, friends, power, control, and love to be worthy of our existence, and yet, on a day full of White Carbs of Happiness, we have the power to look at the Black Friday ads and say, “liar.”

When you begin a month full of shopping from this posture, you hold all the trump cards, my friends. You can play the right and the left bower as you see fit. You are free to enjoy a month of giving and receiving because you get to do so as a response to – not a source of – gratitude.

No one really disputes the consumerism of our society, specifically in the month of December, yet it continues to progress. Some propose downplaying all the gifting, and taking a “minimalist” approach (which I appreciate and even integrate). But I’m not sure it actually gets to the root of it. It can slightly shift us from the financial burden and the overcrowding of our homes, but it doesn’t return us to center. Making enough holiday gifts can keep us in the same rat race of earning our worthiness as the old fashioned way of buying it. In fact, now it’s so trendy to reduce the holiday consumption that we’re adding more stress by needing to find that perfect amount to spend and give, so that it’s not too little or too much.

I’m really digging the idea that moving from gratitude will provide much more peace and joy to our Christmas season because we’re not trying to do it right. The perfect gift isn’t necessary, because we’re practiced in saying “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.” We’re moving from a place of enough. We already are enough, and any gift we give is just gravy on the taters (and stuffing and turkey).

This year, as the children write their wish lists and I start my Amazon (and local!) purchasing, I’m finding a new kind of excitement about the season. I can’t wait to look for the things my kids enjoy, and not because I need to provide them perfect presents or risk ruining their childhood. All of heaven knows they don’t need anything. Gratitude reminded us: we are enough. We have enough. We’re simply celebrating our enoughness, and the result is joy.

Visit me elsewhere:

The Early Holidays Hypothesis

On Tuesday (note: November 14), I came home to find JJ hanging the Exceptionally Large Wreath on the front of our house. Let’s reiterate: November 14. We’re still a week away from Thanksgiving. He even turned it on. He strung lights around the top of my kitchen cupboards (which, admittedly, give off a certain beauty when they glow in the evening.)

He’s not alone. November 1 my FB feed LIT UP with the premature Christmasing. Some folks get excited about the carols every year, but others, who aren’t chronic pre-season celebrators, also indicated that they were feeling particularly festive about the holidays already.

Of course, Theory A is that the Economic Machine that is the retail industry is behind it all. I’m sure they’re happy to see the early elfing, but I’m not convinced this to be the cause. Every year we hang stockings around the big box stores by Halloween and every year the culture decries the overstepping of boundaries, but this year I’m catching a different vibe from some people. The Thanksgiving Die Hards still want the Turkey to be featured first before moving on to eggnog, but I hear hints in their voices as well that they’re ready for the feasts to begin. I feel like our culture is yearning for the holidays without retail assistance.

The holiday season, the final two months of the American calendar year, holds a lot of meaning to nearly everyone, no matter if a person holds to the Christian religion that centers on Christmas. It’s a time traditionally allotted to family and friends; we finally get around expressing gratitude toward the people we love and appreciate through gifts, cards, or – more popular now – experiences and moments. It’s the season of gathering, not just the harvest but the people with whom we hold close ties. For those who hold negative feelings about the holidays, it is often evoked by a lack of these ties, or broken connection to people foregone.

In short, the holidays are about connection. Whether it’s connecting to family, to friends, to God, or to the community around us, it’s a season where we remember that we belong to one another.

I cannot think of a time (post Civil war? post WWII?) where our society has felt the quakes and rifts so strongly. (Of course, I wasn’t alive back then to compare. And I’m not a studied historian. And data will be hard to come by.) Yet when we look across the landscape and the headlines, we’re seeing bigger and bigger divides, not just by political party, but also by race,  gender, and even within religion. We’ve seen an uptick in uprisings centered around the ways in which some have been historically mistreated because they’re not white, male, and Christian. The Woman’s March, the stand against Nazis in Charlottesville, the #metoo viral awareness movement – these are just the headliners of the ways 2017 rustled our feathers and asked us to dig deep into our collective unconscious and ask hard questions about who we are and what we believe to be true about other people. (At least, they should. If not, than that’s why these things keep arising.)

Add to the mix of divisive topics and issues, we’re living more of a solitary existence now than ever. At least partially to blame is our dependence on social media to “connect” which leaves us feeling lonelier than ever. (Add a dose of FOMO and your loneliness compounds.) We desperately want to be seen, understood, and included. Our society and our networks are highlighting the ways in which we feel forgotten, excluded, and sometimes, just plain terrible.

So we find ourselves one year after one of the most heated elections, in a collective heap, tired of the fighting, tired of the yelling in all caps, tired of the anger, tired of trying to move through our routines as if everything is fine, just fine. The holidays seem so alluring.

Finally, we’re forced to come together (because it’s the holidays and we love each other, dammit!). The holidays require that we all try. This season elevates the other – giving instead of receiving, hope and love instead of competition and winning. It’s as if we’re begging for a reason that we have to love the ones with whom we often can’t stand, those with whom we don’t get along, and those who don’t understand us. Give us a reason, and we’ll try harder. They’ll try harder. That reason, unconsciously, might be the holidays.

My forecast for the next month-point-five: a season of unparalleled generosity. I see us collectively longing for goodness and doing what we need to make this world a little better, despite our differences, because we all feel it. We feel the strain of our past year and we’re ready for something softer. I think the busy parking lots will have a few less angry people. I anticipate hearing more stories of people rallying around causes, specifically in our own immediate communities. I foresee pantry shelves getting lined because people know that they have to be the change they want to see, and giving just feels good.

Let’s run with it. If we know what we’re craving, than we can find a way to meet those needs. We can go to all the Home for the Holiday events and support our downtown merchants, wishing family businesses to have a prosperous year as much as Amazon. We can make sure our less fortunate neighbors stay warm and fed.  Search extra long and hard to find a thoughtful gift for the family member who wouldn’t talk to you last December. Call friends who you haven’t heard from in a while and invite them for one of your own holiday traditions. Whatever it takes for you to fulfill that connectional craving. If you’re looking for a reason find goodness around you, use the holiday season to go create it. 

Swords get heavy after a while, and I imagine everyone is ready to set them down for a feast. We can take a big breath against fear, and let love have the run of the house. Because it’s the holidays. Already.

Visit me elsewhere:
Older posts

© 2017 Michele Minehart

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑