moving forward

I keep meaning to write more about what's going on right now, but the truth is that it's a lot to keep up with. I'm saying my goodbyes in so many ways, in so many corners, to so many faces and special places. As a whole, it has been bittersweet, and it has provided me with a catharsis that is so necessary for healing. This whole experience. I feel grateful for so much of it, despite the sting of grief on my shoulders. It kinda makes the goodbyes a little more meaningful in their own way. It has been one heck of a wild ride. 2 weeks until moving day.

On the 15th, it was the 3 month mark since Breakfast passed away. I don't know why I felt the need to do so, but I took his ashes for a walk; to begin the process of letting some of them go. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it, because of how much it hurt to think of parting with him again, but it actually didn't feel that way at all when I got there. I don't look at Breakfast's ashes as 'him.' They're just what is left of him in the physical world. A little bag of ash and bone. Amazing to think what they used to be. It's hard to accept the end. Instead, I keep a memory box, that I stamped with a leaf, which I collected from one of our many adventures. Inside, is his leash and the ball he last chased, and I'll probably throw his crusty cheeseburger in there too. Those things mean more to me (and to him) than a plastic bag of pieces. My beautiful boy, I miss him so damn much it hurts. Deep breaths. I knew I was ready to get out there and try. 

I started with our first comfort spot, under a tree, next to a school, in our first neighbourhood when we first moved here. We would go there every day, every summer, for some familiarity, to feel at home. It was our spot. We've have a number of special spots like this in the city, but this was our first. So, I took a deep breath, said some words to the sky above me, and I sprinkled some ash at the base of 'our tree.' I cried a little bit, but it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. It just felt more like a tribute. A sprinkle here, more deep breaths, and a silent farewell to some sweet moments that once existed between us. I heard some great words about grief recently that have helped me cope. "We don't move on, we move forward." That's absolutely what's happening. 

Upon reflection, I've felt like a goldfish in this city. Floating in a bowl, feeling like an outsider, not quite fitting in with the current. I have my own little community within my fish bowl, but not much expands outside of that. I know the ladies who work at the post office, the man who pushes the carts at the grocery store, the vendors at the markets (free fruit!), nods from my neighbours, high fives from the kids on my block, all the way down to the sweet good mornings from the lady who cleans my building. I don't have many tight relationships like I do back home (where I'm heading, temporarily, to calibrate.) I have family there, lifelong friendships, my own roots, people I can be myself with; without an agenda or the need to entertain, or explain. Here, I'd say I have a million acquaintances (that I made on my very own), but no matter how many sweet hellos and connections I make on my daily commutes; loneliness exists. I need my backup to get me back on my feet. I need my roots to remind me who I am, who I've always been. Connection is a big deal to our emotional health, and while I'm glad to see how many people I've gotten to know in my time here, you really can't grow in a fish bowl.

The beauty in all of it, is that it took an incredible loss for me to stop in my tracks and realize something needed to change in a big way. Ever since I got back from the west coast, in 2015, it just hasn't been the same. I didn't realize what my heart needed until I was provided the opportunity to see it for myself, and I'm so grateful that Breakfast was a part of that process. I think he'd be pretty happy to know I've put my dreams in a place that I can aim and reach for. I have never done that before. So, it's a happy feeling, to know I don't have to pretend I'm okay where I am, because I'm not. Like a pair of old pants (metaphors work for me) the comfort has been sweet, but I've worn the shit out of them, and they don't fit anymore. As my dear friend Marc put it so well today, when I shared this accurate metaphor, he said, it's like there's a hole in the crotch that can't be hidden. These old pants can be retired for a new pair that'll fit me in the right places. Nature is calling me home. The ocean, the trees, the peace and quiet, the slower pace and presence, those sweet and beautiful corners that connect me to the earth. That's the stuff I need. That's the life I want.

It'll take some time to sort out how or when I get back to the coast, but I'm getting little nudges from the universe that my wishes are being acknowledged. I had an interview come my way, from that direction, and the timing is pretty comical. I have 2 weeks before I move out, back to Winnipeg. What if... What if.. What if I have to turn around and come all the way back? It would be pretty funny... but not. But totally. That is a lot of driving! I admit, I don't mind an extended road trip. I've been on plenty, and I always find them to be an emotional journey on their own. I'm looking forward to it, no matter the direction. The soundtrack, whatever it may be, will be fun to sing along to. 

If I don't get the job, that's fine. I'm just glad I got to see that there are opportunities in the direction I want to go in. This interview was a surprise to me, in so many ways. I didn't feel insecure at all. I felt at ease, I felt a certain confidence I didn't know I had. It made me acknowledge the work I've done, when I've so often felt like it has never been enough. A lot of my job as a freelance artist has pushed me into a deep dark corner, and that's a new post all on its own. I might go there, I might not. All I know is that my position as a business runner, on the internet, on my own (without legal protection) has been horribly damaging for my stability, my state of mind, and my concept of personal value. I'm ready to close that door, very hard. Just, where do I land? It'll be interesting to see. The surprise of the unknown is kind of fun in itself. I'm just glad I had the chance to speak my truth out loud, that I'm damn good at what I do. And mean it.

And so, with all of this loss and heartache, gratitude, release, realization, depression, anxiety, LIFE! I'm being provided with endless opportunities in front of me. Not to mention, I don't feel so alone anymore, in that fish bowl of personal limitations. I have so much support from so many people around me, who want me to succeed and be my best (and to wear a pair of pants to strut in.) The instant I picked up the phone to tell my parents "I'm not okay," I was provided with open arms to take me back without any questions asked. I'm not a failure for asking for help, I'm not weak for needing it, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. We all need someone to lean on when the world gets too heavy for us to handle. I feel so supported and loved, it's quite overwhelming. It brings tears to my eyes in a different way. There's a lot of crying going on in my world these days, but it's cleansing. It's necessary. It's time.

As I picked myself up, I continued on from our tree, and into the field where Breakfast last played. I sprinkled some more ashes in front of me and acknowledged the present. How on earth did we land here? I knew this point in time had to come one day, but wow, is it ever profound to be standing in it. I took another deep breath, remembering all of our special times here. When I was ready, I let it out into the open, to acknowledge for myself, and for him to hear if he's out there, I'll be leaving soon. I thought it would feel different to hear it for myself, but it actually felt good. It feels right, yet it feels so strange to be leaving without him. And while his memory remains in every little corner of this city, I know he is most certainly coming along for the ride, in spirit. How I wish he was here for real, but that's life/death as she goes. One more deep breath, I whispered one more time, "thank you, for being mine."

And now... we can move forward. 


My Birdie

I have one heck of a guy sitting in front of me, helping me through the most difficult grief I've felt in a long time. I feel he deserves a proper intro, though it's sometimes difficult to recap the past 8 months without drifting into Breakfast territory. There are things between us that take me back in time, while of course this is an entirely new experience. I laugh, I sigh, I sometimes cry, we carry on. He sits with me and listens, often seated in front of me, like he's there to protect or keep watch. He's doing his job, healing some wounds, working on filling some big shoes. This is my Birdie. My hero.

I don't really know how to explain where the name Birdie came from, because I was set on calling him Sprout. I still introduce him as such, but the word may as well have been equal to silence, since he hardly responded to it. Birdie, he took to in an instant. I suppose it was his little mask, which has always reminded me of a chickadee; or how his ears used to bend so sweetly in that floppy puppy sort of way. Not to mention Birdie (The Early Bird) was the mascot for McDonald's breakfasts. That part makes me smile. Still, he grew SO fast, and SO big. Sprout. I can't deny it.

I'd say, since losing Breakfast, Birdie and I have really gotten to know one another. There was so much stress in the house before, surrounding Breakfast's blindness, it was difficult to give Birdie the attention that I wanted to supply. There was a lot of juggling my focus, time, and energy, it wasn't an ideal lifestyle. I was exhausted, and sad, and frustrated; knowing my best friend was making his exit in front of me, while the other needed me in a different way. I did my best to be present. I really did. I know there is some form of relief behind all of it, but it stings to say so. I also hate to admit how much of myself got lost along the way. I was just scrambling to hang on to every moment while they lasted. Both the old, and the new.

I love having one dog, though. There's just a certain bond I appreciate, that is focused and centred, and special; in that no one knows what it looks like but the two of you. I'd say, over the past 50 days (that's how long it has been?!) we've had some really wonderful moments together; as I've been introducing him to things that he has never seen before. It's his first summer, right now. There's fun behind that newness, and I'm being reminded all over again, of where my life started 9 years ago, when Breakfast and I first moved here. I love reflecting on such a life changing adventure. Yet, I'm ready to take on this new one, sitting in front of me. It'll be interesting to see where we go.

It's the familiar that makes and breaks me. Every corner of this city has some sort of memory attached. It's bittersweet, thinking of all the fun Breakfast and I had here; but it reminds me too often that he's gone forever. It's so messed up, I have a really hard time accepting it still. I knew this time in our lives had to come, and I'm just letting myself process it one day at a time. I shake my head a lot, in disbelief, in amazement, in shock, that it finally arrived. It's like, there's a great big hole in my heart, waiting to be filled again. Day by day, step by step. We're doing it together. Everything is new.

 I'm just grateful I have Birdie with me through all of this. He keeps me laughing, he keeps me present, and he just reminds me that I have so much love to continue to give. I don't think I could ever live my life without a dog beside me; for the joy and security it provides. I've come out of a very thick (afraid) shell over the years, and while I so often say that Breakfast taught me how to be brave... we did it together. I'm still here. And as much as it sucks to lose my best friend, I'm happy to get the chance to continue on and fill my heart all over again. I'm one lucky girl to have him... and I know, and Breakfast would agree, he's one lucky guy to have me. 

This is my Birdie. My hero.


Breakfast Jones

I don't know why, but I feel the need to let this one out. The heartache, the pain, the shock, it's fresh. Breakfast Jones, my sweetest boy, my best friend, my copilot, my adventure buddy, my first dog of my very own... my life saver. Gone.

I knew his end was coming, and no matter how often people tried to ease my sadness with their optimism of how happy he was, how healthy he looked, how long of a life he still had left; I knew. I swear I knew it for a long time that it was coming. I even grieved it in front of him, knowing it wasn't going to get better. I held him many times and told him how hard that goodbye would be. I just didn't imagine it would ever happen this way. But dare I say, he left this world in the best way possible. No suffering, no nothing. He just ran for the ball and his world went black.

I swear he gave me a gift with his end, by relieving me of ever having to make the choice of when to end his life. The quality of that life was becoming so evident that it was challenging on him, and my heart. He just wasn't the same. I actually missed him even when he was sitting right there in front of me. He taught me a heck of a lesson about presence, and soaking up every beautiful moment while they last. I'm so glad we had 9 long years together. I swear, there are at least a million fields and trails in this city that we've spent countless hours in, chasing ball, sitting in the grass, gazing at the clouds or the stars. Thousands of walks, millions of steps, side by side. SO much playtime! We even had a neighbour thank us recently, for the entertainment and joy he provided, by being the ham that he was when I treated him to a ball too big for him to fit in his mouth. He truly was a bottle of unlimited happiness. It was contagious, and yet I know I provided it.

When his blindness started to take hold, two years ago, I was in a bit of a slow state of panic. I wanted to fix it, make it better, clear out those eye clouds with a tiny little vacuum just so he could see and do the things he did with SO much energy. Heavy handed, bull headed, absolutely a loose cannon when it came to playing at full tilt. It's almost comical he left this world doing what he has always done. I mean, I'm so glad he died happy. It's how he has always been.

I can't even describe the way he changed my life. I had no idea I could ever love a dog so much, but I chose him, as he chose me (at 8 weeks old) with a lick on the nose when I said "hi" to him for the first time. He was my one and only, my best friend, my sweetest four-legged love. I was reflecting on our time not too long ago, and how he has been with me since I lived in Calgary. SO long ago, and my goodness we have both grown up so much since then. He was there during a crucial time in my life. It was the year everything changed, as I left a 9 year relationship (the same age as Breakfast left this world) to be on my own, not knowing what the eff I was doing. I try not to dwell on what I would have done differently, knowing what I know now; but I wasn't afraid... because of him.

It's tough to be honest about just how much he saved me, too. I used to be incredibly anxious, and afraid of the world; so badly that I went months without ever leaving the house even for a minute. I was paralyzed by old trauma, which I hadn't faced at that time, and without knowing, he provided me a cure to a very hard and dark phase of depression; where I had once thought it wasn't going to get better. With him, there was no way of keeping myself contained. I had to get outside and be there for him, to show him the world. My fears of being seen, just suddenly faded away. Day by day, step by step, on every adventure, he introduced me to things I never dreamed of seeing. It's an endless scrapbook of memories that are just for the two of us. A special thing to treasure as I do my best to accept that this is where it ends.

The biggest gift he provided was the joy of summer. I grew up playing outdoors, so the nostalgia of the sights, the sounds, the colours, the smells; he showed me such a rainbow of beauty I'd almost forgotten about. He also got me out of my shell, he pushed me through my fears, he really got me out there; especially when it came to meeting new people. We'd walk in any direction, around any neighbourhood we could find, for hours on end, numerous times a day, getting lost on purpose. On my own, I don't think I would have had the courage to do so. That's something I can never thank him enough for. Life. Hell, I named him Breakfast because I'd made lists of gratitude, to ease myself out of my own darkness. Incredible what that name will always mean to me now. Something so sweet and simple. The best way to start the day, indeed.

I'll always be so grateful for the smiles he generated just by being himself, or the surprise that came when I'd tell people his name. That smile of his was so damn contagious... never mind those shit (funny) moments when he'd take the time to soak in mud puddles (or splash parks) to cool off from the heat. I don't want to forget how hard he'd run for it, to scoop his belly in the cool water, and breathe deep with that big dumb smile of his. My god, I'll miss it. So many silly memories, I'm glad to say, with confidence, that I know I gave him such a happy life. Of course, he did the same for me.

I noticed big changes in him, especially over the past couple of years. I knew that my time with him was becoming really limited when I saw how badly his blindness started to take his mind with it. He was disoriented, very nervous, VERY unaware of how much he actually needed to slow down. He's a bit like me in so many ways, in that regard. He didn't know how to stop, and no one was going to take away the things he always knew and loved throughout his lifetime. He had a bit of an "I got this" attitude, and so, I see the dangers there when it really is so necessary to STOP before someone gets hurt. It wasn't easy to slow down, for either of us, but I also knew it was necessary to stop more often and soak it up while it lasted.

And yet, this end is so horribly bizarre for the timing. My life itself is changing in a way that I knew was going to be hard on him. It was almost a little cornering in a sense where I knew that doing something for myself was going to have to put him in an ending position. There's no way he could come with me, with his level of stress and uncertainty. But how? How on earth do you make those choices? I paused, I froze, I just couldn't even imagine.  I think I was swept away by a new wave of depression, by trying my damn best to hang on for dear life. How do you say goodbye to someone you love so damn much? I think he could sense it in me that I was falling so hard to get that container back. To lock things up, and try to hide from life and death itself. Goodness knows that doesn't work, and he wasn't about to let me go back to that place again. He loved me hard. I felt it. He knew I was breaking inside.

It's a big part of why I brought a new boy into our posse. It wasn't an easy choice for me to make (for years) because Breakfast was just such a solo roller and I loved giving him my absolute attention. It wasn't the easiest transition, and I really did mourn the loss of 'just the two of us.' Still, I did it for my heart, knowing that when the time came, I wouldn't be alone. Honestly, without Birdie here right now, I doubt I'd be able to peel myself off the floor, or go outside. Actually, today was my first day taking him out to the market (in Breakfast's harness) to see what sort of universe we have gotten to experience through the years. It's like the torch was passed, like Breakfast died knowing I'm taken care of.

I plan on moving back to the west coast, as it has held onto my heart since the day we left it. Breakfast came with me the first time, and I will always remember that magical freedom of adventure as we looked at the ocean in front of us, driving through mountains, soaking our feet on the shores, hopping rocks and simply breathing in the gorgeous open space between the trees. Nature sure is a healer, and he took me through it all with such courage. We were unstoppable. Actually, one of our songs on that trip was 'Nothing's Gonna Stop us Now.' A happy song, with a funny sort of confidence neither of us knew how to handle. All we knew is that we were happy so long as we were together.

I can go on for ages about this profound experience, and how someone so small and special has come and gone; and the impact he left on my life. How much I've grown and changed because of him, and how damn grateful I'll always be for finding him. He really did save my life from a darkness I didn't know how to escape from. The mark he left on my heart and soul will remain forever. My god, the impact. I have been shaking my head a lot in absolute amazement. All of it. Start to finish.

And while I mourn, and smile, and cry and laugh at the memories we had,  it's the sweet stuff that hurts the most to accept as an end. I'll miss his comforting snores, the way he'd "falump" when he licked my nose, how he'd sleep against my back or let me spoon him at night. How he'd lick my fingers when I was in the bath, how he'd stomp when he wanted me to throw the damn ball; the huffing efforts it took for him to burrito in a blanket nest just right, how he'd "mmm" when I squeezed him or scratched his tummy, his hilariously timed toots, boobie scratches, ear rubs, that tiny nose of his. Ugh, Binky, my sweet wonderful little lump of love. I miss you so much already. I knew this day had to come, somehow. I just feel like you did your best, by sparing my heart from having to decide when it was your time, by taking it into your own hands.  You knew I was haunted by time, and it brought me to overwhelming tears so often, wanting to contain all of those sweet wrinkles and smells that made you the only Breakfast Jones there is. We took full advantage of what we could, of our time together, and I am glad to say I have no regrets, no guilt or wishes I'd done more somehow. I know I gave you something special, just as you provided to me, without debt, without effort. That's love, and that's the lesson. You showed me a beautiful return, with a beautiful end. I mean, despite the heartache of it all, it's the happiest end I could have asked for.

And so, when we shared our final moments, in the quiet room of the vet's office, his body lifeless and still, his eyes lost of shine, his beautiful paws crossed in a strange running stand still, in absolute silence, knowing I'd never see him again, I pressed my face into his cheek, grabbed those sweet folds of skin, I smelled him in,  and said "Thank you, I love you so much, my sweet boy. You saved my life, and I will never forget it."

Oh how I miss you already.


time capsule

I don't know how I feel about blogging anymore, though I'd say that I definitely needed some time away. I keep meaning to write about stuff, the way I used to, but something lost its charm. I think it has a lot to do with ownership, and how we maintain healthy boundaries; in a world where expression gets bombarded by opinion.

When you're someone who is comfortable with expression, but anxious with communication... you enter a weird sort of atmosphere where you feel like you're being watched, and expected to perform in a certain way. If you're not careful, you might hurt feelings or offend someone; and my goodness I've learned to bite my tongue with a lot of things. I adjusted what I like to share with others, and what I like to keep to myself. I'm kind of enjoying the latter, because not everything needs to be shared with the world.

Still, there will always be a side of me that wants to write things down and keep my memories in tact. This place contains years of my life, which I am so glad I took the time to record. I can literally go back in time and see pieces of my life, what I was learning, who I met along the way, and what type of person I was becoming; especially since 2015 (our biggest adventure) while 2017 threw me for a really big loop which I still believe I'm recovering from.

But, before I ramble with a recap of all that has happened in my life since the last time I wrote... life is good, life is scary, life is sad, life is lovely, and holy crap is it changing fast. I just want to take it in and put it down in front of me, because I know I'm going to look back at it and wish I'd put it in a time capsule... to treasure forever.

Deep breaths. And we're back.