A dear friend was coming to spend the night in our guesthouse a couple of days ago, so I went up to tidy things and make sure that everything was ready for her. On a whim, I decided to take the sheepskin rug with me that has been hanging over our footboard for a couple of years now, put there to keep a certain nocturnal tap dancer from waking us up during the night.
It’s still difficult to wrap my head around the fact that we lost Cooper suddenly just over two weeks ago. Reminders are everywhere after over nine years of her large and in charge, joyful presence in our home; I keep expecting to find her wagging her tail when I get home and open the door to my garage, and I call Sophie ‘Coops’ far too often. Dan is feeling it, too, and we are both still quick to tear up when we talk about the hole her death has left in our family. It is just different here now…everything is different. Things are too easy in some ways; one dog in our bed, one dog to bathe, one dog to feed and walk. We used to laugh and say that Coops was the brains of the operation, and Sophie was the love bug sidekick; I adore Sophie and am so very grateful for her gentle presence that always balanced Cooper’s wide open spirit so well. I guess I just miss the communication I had with Coops- she understood so much of what we said and reacted to it; Sophie stares at me with complete adoration, but not much comprehension in her sweet brown eyes. That’s okay- she is a balm to my soul right now. I don’t want or expect her to be something she’s not; I’m just aknowledging to myself how important that connection with dogs has always been to me.
In many ways it is tough to grieve openly about the death of a much-loved pet. Pet owners understand the deep emotional impact of the loss, but others think you should ‘get over it’ very quickly (“It’s just a dog, honey, get another one!“), when in reality, it takes most of us much longer to plumb the depths of loss and swim back to the surface before we are ready to open our hearts again. We become very attached to these animals that are truly family members to us. I am very much an introvert who has a small inner circle of very close friends that I have had for many, many years. I like to be inside myself for long periods of time, and I bond deeply with my animals. Losing Kasey (our cat of thirteen years) and Cooper so close together, on top of losing a very close friend, my hysterectomy and recovery, and a myriad other ‘life’ things that have happened and are happening over the past couple of months, have drained my psychic battery. I am the person who likes to do for everyone else, the person people come to for help often- something I love to be, but I don’t have much to give right now. I feel depleted, on empty…and knowing that stresses me out even more and makes me feel guilty. A viscious cycle, for sure.
I’m not equating the loss of of my animals and my friend to the depth of pain I felt in losing my mother three summers ago (August 15th it will be three years…how can that be?). But the pain is real nonetheless- I recognize my old friend Grief, who comes to visit and sometimes stays past his welcome. Any one of the losses would have been sad to bear, but all three in just over two months? Well, it has taken its toll. I feel like there is a thick veil over me and I am separated from the world, and like I am wearing cement boots, walking through thick mud. Life feels like it is in slow motion…or maybe it’s that I am in slow motion as life is whizzing past. In any case, I have withdrawn from most of my usual contact with the world; just going to the grocery store takes everything I have. I have to mentally prepare to be around people, and force myself not to back out of commitments- even with people I love to be with normally. Dan is the exception, as he has always been so sensitve, knowing when I need my space…he is very much like me in that way.
It sounds ridiculous even as I type the words…how can I be depressed? Me?! I am frickin’ Mary Poppins, Slayer of Negativity, for God’s sake. But, there it is…even the most stubbornly positive among us can have chemical imbalances, too, can be brought down by loss and hardship. And as a bonus, we perfectionist-tending, positive people can easily be in denial about it all, or feel so guilty that we ignore the symptoms for too long and plummet straight into the depths of full-fledged depression. I don’t want to do that. I began taking Wellbutrin yesterday and will see my therapist soon, and I have high hopes that it will be the stop gap that helps me regain my footing so that I can head back up the hill. I will continue with daily exercise and with writing (though I promise that my blog will continue to strive to uplift and not slide down the hill into the mire.), and other things that help me to move forward. I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be honest, and I will continue on that path.
That sheepskin throw was a part of my ‘little steps’ forward through the darkness. I also changed the screensaver on my office computer at the suggestion of my best friend that featured the dogs and made me tear up. I don’t want to get rid of every reminder of my cat and dog, but the things that tug heavily on my heart don’t need to necessarily be front and center twenty-four/ seven. Sleeping with a person or with animals is a very personal, intimate thing, and that throw was too strong a reminder as I went to bed each night that Coops will never join us again. It’s time to let some things move a bit more to the background, making room for happier thoughts and more forward thinking. Life truly does go on, and we have to go with it.
I have pulled myself out of this dark place before, and I know that I can do it again. In the meantime, I have sweet Sophie, my little ‘Bumblebee’, as my constant companion, a wonderful circle of support, and this blog to ‘write it out’. I’m a pretty fortunate lady. I see that light ahead, and I will claw my way there if I have to…I am stubborn like that. Every day is a new chance to heal and move forward, and even if some days find me sliding back down the rabbit hole of sadness, I know what to do to stop the free-fall. And no matter what, love is worth it all, over and over again.