Saturday, September 8, 2012

What we carry

Last night my dog Birdie was hit by a car. The sense of loss I feel over her death is crushing, something so painful it feels as if I can’t bear it for one second longer. I alternate between replaying my memories of her and forcing my mind to turn elsewhere so that I can experience some relief from the sadness. This morning I decided to take a walk around one of the area lakes where I had been taking Birdie to run lately. It seemed like a way to be with her memory but also be distracted at the same time. I hid behind my sunglasses and was surprised by how invisible I felt. I really have no idea if the rest of my face belies my emotions or not, but for the time it takes to walk past another person on the walking path, it felt like I was free to let my feelings go and not pretend that all was okay. And since no one stopped me in horror over my obvious anguish, I’m guessing I looked like any other normal walker at the lake.

And that makes me wonder about all the people you encounter in any given day. What sort of pain do we carry with us when we are out in the world? It seems to me that if you reach age 40 and do not have some emotional scar, some sorrow or trauma hidden inside you, you are either very lucky or you are hiding under a rock.

As I walked, my mind ran through many thoughts, memories of Birdie and when she first came to our house, how light she felt when I would pick her up and how incredibly soft her fur was; how she liked to snuggle up against me in bed and how her tiny legs could run so fast for so long. But I also thought about how my pain felt so obvious and so enormous that it must be apparent to everyone who saw me, as if my sadness was a wall that people would walk into if they passed too close to me. If my feelings are so painful to me, how can they not be causing pain to everyone around me. Yet I’m not so self-centered or naïve to think that other people might be feeling badly, as well. Did that person lose someone they loved? Did something traumatic happen to that person? Did they see something bad happen and are they haunted by what they saw? Everyone has some pain, something for which they grieve. How much do we carry around with us and would it surprise us to bear witness to the sorrows of others’ lives?

I like to think things happen for a reason. When Birdie came to me, I was feeling sad. Many areas of my life were fraught with difficulties and Birdie was such a pure, simple little package of love that I felt certain she had come to me for a reason. While parts of life have definitely improved since June, I am, by no means, carefree, and therefore cannot fathom why fate would see fit to remove Birdie from my life at this point. But again, I’m not so naïve as to think this is really how life works. Bad things happen all the time, events much worse, more tragic than the loss of my dog, and rarely is there any clear reason that makes the sadness or pain comprehensible.

So I wonder, what do we carry and how is it we can outwardly appear to carry it with such ease? Sorrow is far too common yet we rarely notice it in the people around us. How does it stay hidden and is that good or bad? Might the world go to pieces if each one of us was honest about what is inside ourselves and let our true emotions show through? It fascinates me to think about it, but maybe it’s a little terrifying, as well. Whatever it is, I hope you find something or someone to help you lighten the load. Be kind. You never know what others carry.