Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Leaping and Landing

When I was seeing Cameron-the-Counselor for grief counseling after Jeff died, we spent time talking about the fact that grief and loss is a change that makes everyone uncomfortable. He reminded me that pretty much everyone else is invested in those who are grieving getting back to "normal." I treasured the people in my life who were not invested in that, who let me just be who I was and let me feel how I felt. We talked a lot about how "back to normal" is not normal and would never again be normal, how we never are the same people again after a major loss.  

What has been apparent to me recently is that I forgot to count me among the people who wanted to see me back to "normal."  For a while I remembered this, and guarded against it.  Then I forgot.  And pretty soon I was back to some semblance of normal, but a normal that was sometimes like an ill-fitting garment. There are still elements of my life that do not quite fit, that chafe tender places.  

Two weeks ago, a woman I know on Facebook, the director of a dog rescue in Seattle, sent me a note. I had been considering fostering to adopt some small dogs, rescues who had become bonded to one another in the rescue foster home. I'd decided it was the wrong time for me to add those little creatures to my life. To my life with Eric in the small house and the pretty gardens, to my life with a demanding job, to my life where I was still grieving the loss of Jessie (and Ella, to be honest, who died last year). Jessie was the last of my trio of felines, the most challenging of the three in personality, and beloved. Her death was the end of something, something I'm still working through.  

Then I received this message from the rescue director, sent very late one night, that these sweet dogs would have to be split up, because no one wanted them both. And so, uncharacteristically, I leapt. Yep, we'll try it, is what I said. 

Years ago, I was in a work meeting and one of my coworkers presented a very compelling model for envisioning your life plan, your daily commitments, as a written document. Be careful, was the advice, to leave enough margin on those pages. Make sure to put both life and work on your plan. Leave margins so that you have room to squeeze in the unexpected, the unplanned. It was good advice, a good life strategy. It felt like it was better advice for other people than for me.

My own experience is that I couldn't ever leave enough margin. My experience is that a life plan is more like a hazy outline of things that you might do. My experience is that things will happen in your life that splat all over your life plan and splash coffee on that bad boy. While I never really realized it, thinking of my life that way has contributed to a habit of thinking that says "no" to what I want too often. Sometimes before I even let myself admit what I want. Some of the decisions I'd like to get back, the choices I'd like to re-choose, or more actively choose, were made with knee-jerk-no thinking. And then, too, I'm pretty big on commitment. When I commit, I am in. Through fire, flood, hurricane, illness, money troubles--I'm in.  

Those habits and that thinking is part of the reason I am not usually a leaper. I am usually a person who has minded my limits about those things I can choose because my life has had a bunch of hand grenades thrown into it, and I have too often let my work take up too much page space. And when I commit, it's for reals. In my confused (and busy) brain, I think I developed these habits because I am trying to leave a LOT of margin. It doesn't work, by the way.  

This is a very long wind-up to explain why and how it was very out of character for me to just try this dog foster thing. It will seem silly, I'm sure, to many of you who have complicated home lives. Or children. But it was out of character for me that with very little planning, we climbed into the car. We drove to Seattle, saw a friend, saw Eric's mom, picked up two little dogs, and drove home. 

What I have to keep remembering is that commitments come in stages.  

These little foster to adopt dogs have dragged me out of my routine, mostly in a very good way. I'm out before sunrise and after moonrise, wandering about with them while they sniff *everything* and relieve themselves. I've been humbled by poop bags (mine are lavender-scented--I am not kidding). They have cheerfully jingling collars and tags, they are zoom-y, they are sweet as sugar most of the time. They greet me like I'm a rockstar when I come into the room. Balance all of that against the fact that they deserve more of my time than I have to give (I know we all wrestle that one), and they have some habits that will take work and focus to change. I'm trying to discern what they need and what I can give and see if it's a close-enough match. I'm trying to weigh how this leap impacts my marriage, because I don't live alone in the small house on Roosevelt Street.  

So far, I have this:
  1. If this can't be their permanent home, I will know that I tried (and that they had a great Idaho vacation).
  2. I don't have to travel to spend time outside looking at stars and moons and sunrises.
  3. Even if this leap doesn't lead down the path I expected, leaping isn't all bad. Stick the landing, that's the trick.
  4. I spend way too much time glancing into the lives of people I know and care for on social media, sharing snippets of my life with them.  Too much Facebook, too little face time.  
This life thing is a journey, y'all.  My best, as ever, to all who wander this way.