This is Sir Walter, my first-born puppy love. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and dogs have always had my heart. But this one, he’s the first one I chose for myself. He’s the first one Scott and I chose together. He made us puppy parents almost 16 years ago. You know what that means; he’s a little elderly. To make matters worse, he’s a King Charles Cavalier, which makes him a fantastic dog, but also prone to definitive heart struggles and a shorter than typical lifespan. But he has the most wonderful vet, our friend Corry Pupp. So he’s been taking (ALL) the heart failure medications for nearly seven years and he’s long outlived his brother, God-rest-his-puppy-soul.
But inevitably, he’s showing signs of slowing down.
He’s completely deaf and losing his vision. He’s having trouble getting up. He slips and falls when he’s walking, so I carry him to the backyard to go to the restroom. And most days, he’s needing to wear a doggy diaper all day, in order to keep from sending me to the looney farm from cleaning up 900 doggy pee accidents around the house. As you might imagine, the thought of losing my beloved first-born pup carries an underlying ache every time I look at him. I want to enjoy every moment we still have, but the pain I feel when I think of losing him is deep.
I usually push that thought aside and keep going with my day.
I was talking about something else with a wise friend last week and she said, “You know, you can’t contain pain. No matter how hard you try to hold it tight and squeeze it in, it eventually oozes and bleeds out on everyone around you. You have to find ways to work through it and eventually release it, to be free.” Her words were profound for the topic at hand. They spoke precisely to the heart of the matter. I could see how some pain I carry oozes out on those around me, which motivated me to work to release it instead of to keep holding on.
Later that night, I picked up Walter to carry him to bed.
Cue all the waterworks. It was as if deciding to begin releasing pain elsewhere softened my heart and opened the floodgates for me to feel. As I carried his shrinking little body to the bedroom, the tears flooded my eyes. Rather than trying to hold it in and think about something else, I just let myself cry. Knowing he couldn’t hear me, I told him how much I was going to miss him one day. I reminded him of some of our best memories and just sobbed by his bed. I could tell he knew because he was trying hard to keep his eyes open. (LOL)
It was a cleansing cry, that oddly enough, brought peace.
As I went to bed that night, I thought about the profound effects of emotional pain in our lives. If simply allowing myself to feel the pain while putting my puppy to bed brought that much emotion, I can only imagine how healing it would be for each of us to decide to allow ourselves to feel pain. I realize, especially as leaders, mothers, and caretakers, there is an appropriate time and place to hold it together. After all, people are counting on you.
But with that, comes the responsibility to find a safe time and place to let it go.
Because you really can’t contain it. It will eventually ooze out on the ones you love anyway. One way or another you’re going to have to work through it, or they’re going to have to work through it too.
I invite you to find that safe time and place this week.
Notice the pain you’ve been pushing down and take one small step to work through it. Maybe you need to tell someone. Maybe you just need to write it down. Maybe it’s a simple acknowledgment of the situation.
I don’t know what the pain looks like for you today, but I know she’s right that you can’t contain it.
And I know you’re the kind of person who cares too much to let it ooze on others around you.
to more love,