Of Worst Case Scenarios and Learning to Love Again
There are times when the worst thing you can imagine happens. For anxious people like me, worst case scenarios (WCS) usually only happen in the mind, though that doesn’t mean that the suffering is lessened much and it doesn’t mean you skated through it without a bump or bruise.
Over the past couple of years, I had a few potential “worst things” happen outside of and within a collective difficult time, including one rather massive lifequake, and somehow managed to dodge the worst effects of those bullets. I was rendered a little wobbly, yes, but the WCSs were somehow evaded. On the last day of July, though, I wasn’t so lucky. We weren’t so lucky.
Something bad happened and it really happened.
We lost our beloved Romeo suddenly, unexpectedly and horrifyingly. He was a ten-pound ball of fluffy curls as well as my personal earth angel who saw me through all of the jarring vagaries of the past couple of years with steadfast loyalty and love. Words fail to describe the breadth and contours of the trauma and deep, cascading and erupting grief that followed his death and continue to tug at me but I will just suffice it to say it was one of the worst experiences of my life.
I have lost loved ones abruptly and I have lost them in protracted, bit-by-bit ways. There is no reason to quantify the devastation of each individual loss but I will say when trauma is involved, the suffering is worse. While the losses are all uniquely felt and grieved, some, especially when there is ceaseless suffering, can be experienced with a measure of relief for the end of one’s pain. Not with Romeo, though. I wouldn’t say Romeo was in the prime of his life because every freaking day was his prime as he greeted each day as a fresh joy to bask in, but it was definitely premature and to say that his death hollowed me out is an understatement. The loss, right when we were finally seeing the light at the end of my husband’s scary, circuitous medical marathon, was gut wrenching in the anatomically-correct sense of the word.
. . .
How do you love again after devastation?
It seems to me that allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to love again and risk loss is an act of faith, betting that the benefits of potentially exposing yourself to grief again outweighs the drawbacks. In my case, it is trusting that I would rather have the multitude of joys (and occasional hassles) of a life shared with another frustratingly mortal and impermanent being than armor my heart against the pain of loss and settle for the sadness of longing instead. I opted to open my heart again to another.
Ruby-Mae was one of six puppies born to a pregnant chihuahua my friend rescued and fostered. She and her littermates were born on Mardi Gras, February 13, so they all had New Orleans-inspired names. Ruby-Mae was originally Roux, as in a flour and fat that have been slow-cooked and whisked together to thicken a dish, common in recipes like the gumbos and jambalayas of Louisiana. When I saw my friend’s post that she had puppies in her home, I felt a little pluck in my heart. It was an opening. I checked back in with myself. Was it just the feel-good hormones from seeing happy, safe puppies? I slept on it. No. I was ready to adopt again, and I let my friend know I was going to toss my hat in the ring of prospective adopters. If it worked out, great; if all the puppies we’re already spoken for, well, that was okay, too. All I knew was that my heart was ready again. About six weeks later, I learned that a puppy was mine if I still was up for adopting. I checked with my heart again. I was ready. (Oh, I also checked in with my household.) Two weeks later, we picked her up and Roux became Ruby-Mae. On the car ride, she started relaxing her weight against me, an act of trust. Ruby-Mae was home. Today, it has been one week. She immediately became an essential part of our family.
. . .
I remember when my son came home from the hospital after I’d given birth, even though I’d had 35 years without knowing him, within a week, I couldn’t remember a time without him. What did I do before??? (Well, sleep was one thing.) It is the same with Ruby-Mae. Yes, she has the needle-like teeth of a pterosaur and an uncanny - or perhaps fully canny to puppies - ability to summon forth every carefully hidden cord in every room like a snake charmer, but she is perfection. Like Romeo, Ruby-Mae is tiny (actually, he would look like a giant next to her) but she is lion-hearted, self-possessed and full of life. She’s affectionate, sensitive and never met a sweet potato chew she didn’t devour like a termite in a Warner Bros. cartoon house.
I am head-over-heels. How could I not be? First of all, there’s her little puppy grunts and breath, that’s a given. There’s her perfect little chestnut eyebrows. How observant she is, how playful, loving and hilarious. I even love those toenails that rival her teeth for pointiness.
She is not a stand-in for Romeo. No one could be his proxy. She is her own perfect Ruby-Mae.
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