Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Dog's Life

We left the vet's office in a fog of disbelief. Hearing words like "carcinoma," and "chemotherapy" and "palliative care" is surreal for anyone faced with a loved one's diagnosis of cancer. But looking into the eyes of the 10-pound bundle of fur I carried in my arms, knowing those words meant nothing to her, that we couldn't explain or reassure her about the challenges she faced, I experienced a helplessness I had never known.

A Road Less Travelled 
Desi has been a part of our family for more than 10 years. From her start as a palm-sized puff of silky hair and round protruding eyes, through three litters of puppies, and countless hours of couch-cuddling, neighborhood walks, and watching her chase the cats through the house, she has been a constant source of love and laughter. My wife and I felt powerless to help her, and frustrated by our inability to prepare her for what lay ahead. Illness is a challenge to the strongest and surest of us, a path dotted with questions, what-ifs, unknown outcomes. We have the chance now to be the strength she needs, to support and calm her when she's scared or exhausted. We have the privilege of walking with her down what may be the final trail of her life, to be witness to a life that matters not because of exalted achievements or extravagant earnings, but simply due to the love her presence has supported in our family. None of us, I'm sure, would have chosen this road. But navigating it together, taking this risk that is love even though the cost may be great loss, is our effort to mirror her unconditional acceptance. We are here with you, Desi, wherever these next steps may lead, whatever the end may look like. You are our blessing. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Just Do It

Always Do Your Best. Upon first reading, the fourth agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements, seems nearly impossible to uphold. I assumed (yes, I'm aware that I managed to break one of the agreements before I even finished the list) that my "best" referred to some mythical extreme effort, some standard of exalted achievement that I could only hope to reach if the stars aligned. But Ruiz offers a more reasonable definition: do what is your very best at any given time. When I am feeling confident, skilled, or even rested, my best looks very different than when I am anxious, confused or exhausted. What I am able to accomplish or strive for is influenced by both my strengths and my weaknesses, and I can never be falling short if I accept my efforts with compassion and integrity. Doing our best doesn't have to mean that we knock it out of the park. All we must commit to is swinging as hard as we can.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Avoid the Guesswork

"Don't make assumptions" is the third guideline for living with integrity, according to Don Miguel Ruiz' book, The Four Agreements. The assumptions he writes about include predicting the outcome of situations, "mind reading" others, or even limiting our risk-taking because we doubt our abilities. Ruiz maintains that asking questions is the surest way to avoid the assumption pitfall. With accurate feedback, we can learn our partner's true needs, rather than guessing at what they want. We can accumulate facts rather than rely on hunches. By asking questions, we can assess the reality of risk, rather than catastrophizing ourselves into a paralysis of action. Asking questions demonstrates curiosity, a willingness to own what we don't know, and allows both parties to be a part of co-creating movement forward. When we don't assume we have all the answers, we allow room for authenticity and truth to flourish.