Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: leaving (page 1 of 4)

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.

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And now, gone

When my sister and Chad moved to Akron over ten years ago, they settled into a little community of people who were simply delightful. Hilarious. Generous. Helpful. Every time we visited, we met another new and friendly face, or a pair of them.

After they bought their first house on Marvin Avenue (note: they’ve owned 3 on that street by now), it required some major renovations, starting with a bathroom. My dad and JJ came over one Saturday to assist, and Chad called a buddy. At one point, they needed to get an old, heavy cast-iron bathtub out of a bathroom and as the men stood and discussed best options – as a good Wingfield would – Chad’s friend Ricky, a burly man over 6 foot tall and 200 pounds, simply pulled it out. From the bathroom he called, “hey guys, where do you want this?”

We’ve told that story countless times, my dad in nothing short of awe that a man could single-handedly remove such a large, heavy, bulky item.

As time and friendship often does, things changed. These particular friends faded into other circles, while newer friends with school and church proximity floated in. Every once in a while I would hear from Angie about the old friends, she would bring me up to speed on new children, jobs, and events.

Now, he’s gone. This friend wasn’t well, but this wasn’t supposed to happen. Not now, not yet, not like this. Not with so many young children at home. Not with so much youth left in his own soul.

I grieve with this family and their loss of husband, dad, brother and son. I grieve with my sister and their community of families at their loss of a good man, a good friend. And I grieve with the world, which lives with such uncertainty. Sometimes it’s downright painful to come face to face with our mortality, our lack of guarantees.

At this stage in life, we’re regularly celebrating the welcoming of a new life as families expand; a stark contrast to the brevity of life. We see these young things, and the years of toddlerhood drone on into neverending nothingness of potty training and naptime prison. Then, suddenly, they have spelling words. I’ve been told the whole thing just picks up steam from there and basically you blink and they’re married.

Somehow, the short years of long days fool us into believing that we have all the time in the world. I think this is why the particular pain of losing young people stings so badly. These frozen years of tedium will not last forever, yet neither will we.

I’m a resurrection gal. I believe there’s something on the other side; life isn’t a string of moments that suddenly ends with nothingness. I’m an earthy gal, too. I believe that life, here, matters. If it didn’t, then death wouldn’t leave such a wound on the living.

As I sit in the sadness with these friends, my hope is that our grief will help us honor life. Regret comes easily in the early hours – we should have called, we should have talked; we should have tried harder or helped more. But don’t let fear and regret be the loudest voices.

I hope we grasp life with two hands and give it a firm shake, rather than waving as it walks across the room. And, I hope we do the same with the hands of our friends. Give them a hug, a call, a smile – not out of fear that it could be the last, but in celebration of another opportunity to do so.

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Balloon Heart

The past two nights I’ve retired to bed with my heart singing with joy. We enjoyed days at the lake with our friends who used to live down the street from us. We played on the boat and went to the beach and enjoyed delicious meals and swam and played cards and drank beer and laughed and told stories. Our biggest worry was if the toddler was too close to the water or if one of the girls had taken the other’s preferred life jacket. Life was easy and good.

Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps it’s my yoga practice, but I remained fully present to this joy the entire time we were together. I noticed in my mind I would say, “this is an amazing weekend” and “I think this will go down on my list of top favorite lake trips.” I was aware of the joy expanding my heart.

Photo Jul 26, 11 06 52 AM And then the dreaded time comes, as it does any time we go to the lake, that we all must go home. I could barely stand the goodbyes. I watched them hug my children and we made promises to see one another soon (and confirmed the date). But as they pulled away it felt like someone had taken my heart and stomped on it, leaving it completely deflated. The sadness I feel is even much greater than when we pulled away in the moving truck.

This probably has a lot to do with our friends being completely fantastic, for sure. And it also is likely related to missing the comforts of our old life amid the transition into a new community. And, it’s Sunday and I get weepy on Sunday.

I’m inclined to believe, however, that it has much more to do with the elasticity of the human heart. Only when it expands does it know how it feels to be empty. And, as it does when pumping blood throughout the body, as it does this more often and with more power, it actually grows stronger. Perhaps we get better at loving people by loving people. The more we do it, the better we get.

The downside to an ever-expanding heart is the process of deflation – the missing people, the sadness, the ache. By not filling your heart, you never realize the weight of its emptiness. Like a real balloon, our hearts become lighter as they expand.

In many ways it would be easier to deal with the rest of this day – the tired toddlers, the cleaning, the return home – if that dull ache of loving people could subside. I can be so much more operational when I’m not feeling all of the feels. But today I have a bit of gratitude for my current deflated state. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m loving well. I’m going to choose not to numb the sad because I want to be able to experience the sense of joy that precedes it.

May we love well. May we feel the sad as and indicator of the joy that led the way.

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