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is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in
My 14-year old cat, Dusty Baker, is losing weight. If you are a cat owner, this opening sentence more than likely gets your inner alarm activated. We know this territory; the weight loss is common amongst cats that live a long life. Vets dole out all kinds of advice and in our fear of the inevitable, we go to great lengths to keep that belly full. We cook up some fresh ground turkey or beef; we buy baby food and tuna flakes. We try feed-on-demand rather than dishing out food only at arbitrary mealtimes. We weigh her at least once a week. And let's just say, we monitor her "output." These efforts are not misguided; they reflect our deep fondness for a beloved furry one.
There is an implicit contract when we bring a pet into our lives. The contract entails guaranteed love, and in most cases, guaranteed loss. Just as a child is expected to outlive his or her parents, we must expect to outlive our pets. So why do we engage in this profound attachment, knowing that it is more than likely going to be temporary? As a lifelong pet-owner, my perspective is that the short-term love is not just worth it but a profound source of joy. We have loads of tales we could tell about Dusty and many other pets. Even though some of their behaviors are downright annoying, it is their peculiarities that make them both unique and lovable.
Each love in our lives, i.e. not just the pets, is ultimately short-term. If love, affection, admiration and respect are in the mix, we will miss that love when it is gone. If we fail to recognize the possibility of loss, either due to death or a parting-of-ways, we may cheat ourselves from appreciating the joys in the present moment. To what extent are we willing to prepare the special meal, monitor the minutiae, and notice the slight changes in temperament or behavior in all of our loving relationships, not just the furry ones? After all, love is a verb, not just a noun. The gift of paying attention is priceless; it can be a source of joy for both giver and receiver.
Yeah, but -
Who protests that sometimes the heartbreak is not worth the joy? Well, you are not alone. This is where the line from Alfred Lord Tennyson"s poem "In Memoriam" is a good reminder:
" "tis better to have loved and lost than
never to have loved at all
In the throes of acute grief, we read a line like this and want to kick, scream and cuss in protest, don"t we? It is unusual to experience instant acceptance for a lost love if it is so deeply outweighed by mourning. This takes time, healing, and for some, a new pet or a new love, sometime in the future to bring joy back.
Replacements Don"t Exist
" Oh, you can always have another
This is the platitude often offered to parents who have delivered a stillbirth child, or whose young kid has succumbed to cancer or Sudden Instant Death Syndrome (SIDS). First of all, not all parents are physically capable of having another child. Second, for those who are, the implication is that the “another” will be a replacement. Not so. Each love of our lives carves out a special place in our heart. Fortunately, our hearts have plenty of room.
When Dusty’s time comes to eat her last meal, the next cat or dog in this household will stake its claim on different real estate in my heart. But nothing will cancel out Dusty’s spot. Nothing.
for September 2012
Try going through your days as if each of the people and pets that you love were only here in your life, temporarily. How can you attend to and appreciate them now?
Your September 2012 Prompts for Joy
Click here to see twin girls appreciating their Dad"s music.
Click here for Exhibit A of short-term love between a toddler and his dog.
This months Prompts for Joy came courtesy of Cassie and Sue Murray, and Claudette Bergman. Thanks, gals!
Sunset at Tomales Bay, August 2012. Blurry image courtesy of my Smart Phone.
Do a Daily Dance: Bring on the Joy!
There's a new flash mob dance for you to see at my D.D.D. Playlist! I guarantee it will get you moving. For your convenience, it is now the first offering on the Playlist.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·