We are home and Benny is barking again. For him, everything is “back to normal.”
Does he remember the Grand Canyon? The Painted Desert? The petroglyphs? Does he remember the excited feeling of wondering what brand new place we were going to see today, for the very first time?
Maybe it’s like that for him every day.
For me, the road trip was a much needed disruption in routine. I wanted to feel the movement of living against the relatively comfortable stagnation I had allowed to set in, quicken the pace of my recovery from the burnout of last year by driving 80 miles an hour through the stunning and sparse American Southwest. I wanted to inject each day with newness and change in contrast to the apparent predictability that I had come to expect.
And it did! The trip rejuvenated my creativity and revived my sense of adventure. I got IDEAS for things to write, photography projects, art. I found courage. I was finding solace in being ok with myself.
And then, in the space of two hours, Lenny was very sick and I was making the decision from 1,500 miles away to help him die. Time stopped.
Suddenly the trip I was still on seemed far in the past. Lenny’s death disconnected me from the new flow I was getting into.
I guess you can’t always choose your disruptions.
Death disrupts the delusion that you can. It disrupts the illusions of control, continuity, predictability and changeless reality.
In truth, the trip I am now missing was already over when tragedy struck. It was already a memory. But, it was a memory with residuals.
What were those residuals exactly and how could I get them back?
The drive back through the same landscape that shifted my perspective on the way out showed me that the former happiness was just as real, and just as accessible as the new pain. I found I could recall in my mind and body the same feelings of awe and possibility. I MADE it real again for myself. In the context of my sadness, this served to highlight the illusory nature of “reality” OUT THERE, the sense that we create what is real to us at any given moment. And somehow, instead of that making me feel confused or delusional (in a bad way!), I found it comforting.
I called up the sense memories of Lenny: his weight on my chest when he sat on me, the hardness of his head as he butted me in the chin with it, the softness of his fur, his warmth, the smell of his paws. I was grateful that this creature had given me his love. I knew it was real, and my sadness — also real! — went away for a bit.
Losing Lenny is NOTHING like losing my Mom, but I am trying to feel through this experience as deeply and fully as I can. I am trying to practice what I think I have learned about grief.
Death disrupts; but disruption can be a gift. The trick is to appreciate even the disruptions we didn’t choose.