It has been difficult for me to write lately. I am not exactly sure why but my mind has been bifurcated; my emotions have felt disjointed and my patience has been altogether broken. I sit down to write and instead of waiting peacefully for an idea to shape itself into an image, I become agitated by the sheer whiteness of the virtual page before me. The way my cursor blinks like its tapping its foot, the vastness of the white box itself and the fact that my favorite writing music sounds more shrill than usual . . . it is like sitting a little too close to a camp fire whose sparks keep escaping the blaze and landing impetuously on my skin. Annoying, a little painful and seemingly purposeless.
I am grieving the loss of my dog. Believe me, I wrote that sentence with a rolling of my eyes. Not because she does not deserve to be grieved and not because I fancy myself to be above sadness: because I do not feel like grieving.
I am not an overly emotional person. Sure, the older I get the easier it is for me to live in moments and be emotionally present . . . but I am not a big hugger. I do not often allow anyone to see me cry or to comfort me if they do. I am not a fluffy dog and the color pink kind of person. I am emotionally available for others, but not one to emote much for myself.
So, this process of grieving is very uncomfortable to me. One thing I take comfort in are the words C.S. Lewis wrote in his book A Grief Observed as he grieved the loss of his beloved wife, Joy. Before I go on, I MUST make it 100% clear that I do not compare the loss of a dog to the loss of a spouse or family member. Even so, there is a measure of grief surrounding me and these words describe it perfectly:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
I can’t help but feel there is a bigger grief unfolding.
I often feel, then believe, and then repent of something specific: a feeling of purposelessness.
For some reason, I feel a little like a car whose gasoline is being siphoned because I am not sure what I am supposed to be doing on any given day. About a year and a half ago I quit my job so I could write and then perform a one-woman show. I am happy to say that the play is written, it is currently sitting on my desktop in its 20th draft form and I am positive this play will find a home. Hopefully, many homes during its life. Also, the play is no longer a one-woman show. Now, it is a four- person play that tells the story of Eva Mozes Kor, who survived Auschwitz as a 10-year-old girl and later in life chose to forgive her tormentors. Through the play I also tell my own story of surviving childhood sexual abuse and working to forgive my own perpetrators. I am proud of the piece. It is a powerful play.
My initial plan was to perform this play, which is entitled Throwing Stones, in many venues all over the world, in conjunction with a speech I have written under the same title. The two were to work in tandem and my objective was simple: enter a global dialogue on the topic of forgiveness. Forgiveness has the power to break the chains that fear, anger, false guilt and mistaken self-identity use to strangle those who were once victims. Even if the offense was not as flashy as surviving Aushcwitz or walking through the perils of sexual abuse. When it comes to victims and perpetrators there are no degrees of harm that the soul suffers: a wounded soul is a wounded soul.
You can probably see that this is where my passion lies. You might even say my heart lies somewhere in the pages of this play because I understand the power of the message.
For now, I am in a season of waiting. I am waiting for a theatre, a director, a producer, a cast. Waiting for guidance and wisdom while also purposing to be proactive in my thought-life and in finding doors on which to knock . . .
Waiting. Patience. Stillness.
No one ever told me waiting feels so like fear.
What I am beginning to sense is that I am grieving the loss of my dog, fearing the loss of my dream to see this play produced, feeling confused about why I am 37 and unemployed but fuller than a hot air balloon with ideas, energy, passion, talent and desire to DO something meaningful with my life. What exactly is that? I know it might sound crazy but I think my little Duchess was fulfilling a sense of purpose for me. I loved her as much as I could possibly love a dog. I used to tell her all the time, “I love you as much as I could possibly love you. No more and never less.” And, perhaps because she was blind, she became second nature to me. She depended on me for more than an average dog might: I had to tell her to “step up” when we reached a set of stairs or a curb. I had to be her eyes and warn her when she was nearing a danger. “Careful,” I would say. At the sound of my warning she would stop, back up and then slowly move in a different direction.
I had to let her know when her water bowl was filled, “Come here, Duchess, let me show you,” and then I would flick the water with my hand so she could hear its contents.
Duchess trusted me. The teamwork with which we moved throughout our days together gave me a feeling of pride, contentment and joy. It was an effortless dance of mutual respect.
I wish I trusted God as much as my dog trusted me. I often watched Duchess maneuver her world while listening to my voice. She felt safe when I was in the room. In fact, whenever she walked into a room and could not hear my presence, she would lift her nose into the air and walk the entire room until her nose bumped into me. Then, she would sniff my legs and lay at my feet. She depended on me to love her actively.
Perhaps, this bigger sense of grief I feel is a lack of trust. I know God is there—here—and I know His plans for me are good. He tells me that he will never leave me nor forsake me and I know this with my mind. And yet, I wish I could hear him more clearly. Heck, I would even settle for lifting my nose and smelling Him! Just…something tangible to let me know that my purpose and the dreams with which I am filled are not heading toward danger. A divine, “Careful!” would be very helpful right now!
I do not doubt His provision, His goodness, His plan. But I do doubt myself and I am scared that I have not, will not, cannot do enough, or be enough, to advocate for this play and, by extension, the message itself and Eva herself.
I guess I am feeling a little lost right now; grieving the loss of my sense of direction; grieving that daily experience of seeing, first hand, what it looks like when clear guidance is given and received; the give and take of love and trust. Grieving a lessening of confidence while sensing a waning expectation.
Eva would say, “Never, ever give up.” Jesus would say, “I have a plan to prosper you and not to harm you.” (I should have put Jesus in front of Eva, but you get the idea). Duchess would say, “I’m here. Are you there, too? Oh, good.”
We don’t always feel our faith. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1:
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Even in the absence of feeling my faith, I absolutely believe that God has put me where I am for a reason and that He will use this weird, still, boring, quiet time to lead me to where I need to go. I do believe that in my mind. But I am having a difficult time trusting it in my heart. I do have confidence in His plan, but the sound of the ticking clock is deafening, and when the evidence of that plan seems as barren and dry as a tumbleweed-laden dirt road in Kansas, I even begin to doubt what I know.
Duchess had faith. Her mind didn’t have the capacity to reason through my whereabouts. She simply came into a room trusting in my presence; and when at first blush, her senses didn’t perceive me, she kept her nose up in the air and continued to scour the room until she could lay successfully at my feet. Duchess loved me.
And I loved her back.
If I could love Duchess, a dog, so much as to constantly watch over her for the sake of making sure she was moving in the right direction, how much more is my Father in Heaven actively involved in the direction of my life?
“Step up. Careful. Let me show you.”
—Jill Szoo Wilson
Photo Credit: Safwan Dahoul