The Power of Loving Attention

Gorgeous writing from dear writing Sister, Fanny Behrens.

Fanny's Blog

When I haven’t written for a while, it is as if the stream dries up.

The lack of care and attention to the muse, means that the stream starts to seep quietly underground. I know it is there, it hasn’t vanished forever, but it goes very quiet and I cannot even perceive it until I stop everything else and start to listen. I need to be willing to hear nothing, just hang in the empty space. I need to wait, and I need to remember that it works by magic, and it is a precious opportunity to love.

It seems to me that all things thrive when they are given loving, spacious, attuned attention. And that in the lack of attention and interest they go dormant. Or start to run amok! What is neglected either dies, retreats or kicks up a storm.

When I stopped holding back, began writing this…

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Giving Your Gift

Fanny's Blog

“If you bring forth what is within you it will save you, if you do not bring it forth, it will destroy you    Jesus, from the gospel of St Thomas

Some fortunate people, seem to know more or less from the get-go what their vocation is, and they give everything to the manifestation of it. Some find it over time and an ongoing trial and error process. Some just follow the thread of their interest and – in some kind of extraordinarily logical or often apparently random process – it reveals itself over time. Many people know deep down or even on the surface what they need to do but keep avoiding it. And some go through a whole life time never seeming to know what they are here for, or how to give their gifts in the world.

I have been fascinated by this for many years now…

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1095 Days With Leonard (in haiku)

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Dear Dog of my Heart
Gratitude for all those days
You keep me alive

You teach me Simple
like some ancient zen master
or comedian

You get me laughing
even though my mood is grim
You kiss my defeat

I follow you through
the days of my little life
I am so grateful

Mr. Cohen says:
Love comes how it comes. You came
to show me my heart

I could write haiku
for you, every single day
chasing the essence

Never even catching
the tailwind of loving you
It is just like This

You give me poems
You are the sweetest Dog Muse
Leonard had women

I had a few too
along the highways of life
You are so easy

to love full-hearted
My devotion is fearless
and it is massive

You kiss my eyelids
I raise up my face to yours
Blessings are bestowed

You stand beside me
You move inside me as well
I live in you too

I whisper your name
Your body moves towards mine
even as you sleep

Anniversary:
Looking for the last haiku
My gratitude Hymn

 

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Roadmap to Compassion

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Thank you, as ever to Rose Rouse and Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age, for the unstinting encouragement, love and support to my writing. I am so grateful.

https://advantagesofage.com/roadmap-to-compassion/

Recently, somebody asked how I found my way to The Fields of Kindness.  This is, as much as it can be, my reply.
I was first diagnosed at thirteen, and even though I grew up (eventually) and became a psychotherapist, I was particularly blinded to my own baseline and lifelong depression.

Through the prism of hindsight, I can see chapters like hills gently rolling out my little life. Childhood ended when I was sectioned into a psychiatric hospital. After that came what I call the drug years, or the lost years. They certainly were that. During those sixteen years, aged fourteen to thirty, I missed a few things. The vortex of addiction is a particularly narrow tunnel. The horrors of Thatcherism largely passed me by. I missed out on two opportunities to get Australian citizenship, just by showing up at an amnesty with my passport. I threw away a woman who loved me when she asked me to choose between her and the drugs.

Having taken myself to the very edge of the human world, I defied the odds and stayed alive. A third chapter opened. I was wretched and wrecked and it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to stumble back into the realms of the living.

Not in a Hollywood whoosh, but slowly and blindly little bits and pieces started to move, like metal filings pulled toward Home.

While in Rehab I’d been taught to go to Narcotics Anonymous, so that’s what I did. In the meeting rooms, some were talking about going to therapy, so I did that too. Looking back, I can see more clearly, just how ravaged I was. Commitment to drugs will take everything a person is or can be, and I had utterly given myself up to it. I had no capacity for self-reflection. I didn’t know what was going on inside me, or around me. I didn’t know that I was managing self-hatred as big as the world, the only way I knew how. I was held together by a few Leonard Cohen songs and a taste of something elusive I sometimes found on the MDA fueled dance floors with the gay men.

Coming out of that, almost dead but not quite, after multiple suicide attempts and all manner of unlikely failures at dying, there wasn’t much left. I’m taking a moment to look back at her now, from thirty years on down the track and it makes me wince. I don’t quite understand how I moved from there to anywhere.

Only possible, I think, because of the 12 Step Fellowship. Thank you Narcotics Anonymous, first in Sydney and then in London, for holding me. It was basic stuff. Go to a meeting every day. Or even two. If it gets bad enough, go to a third. Don’t use. Get a sponsor. Keep It Simple Sweetheart was KISS. The way we held hands at the end of meetings and said the Serenity Prayer.

I stayed drug and alcohol free and used the 12-step formula for six years. It was, to paraphrase Mr. Cohen, a Temple where they told me what to do. It was my first experience of being received. I was welcome and understood. I was offered some guidance, but not in a top down kind of way… I kept hearing versions of my own story. I got a taste of resonance and I liked it.

I didn’t know I couldn’t think, or that I couldn’t see myself at all. I went to therapy and slowly began to translate some narrative meaning. The story of me started to make sense. I was immensely moved, as I came into focus, not only by my desperation and suffering, but by the processes of self-rescue, and the intimacy of psychotherapy itself. I found myself training without ever having asked myself if I wanted to be a therapist. Some years later when I did stop to ask that question, I found the answer was yes.

As for depression and me… now that it’s achingly simple, I have to concentrate and focus to remember the wracking labour pains.

I didn’t like the word Depression in relation to me. It felt like a judgement and a terrible failure. I should have worked it through, or healed it. Or, God help me, translated it. I did so much cathartic bodywork, and was always disappointed not to get rid of my heavy. I worked like a dog with a bone… I did family constellations, all manner of group therapy, shamanic healing, rituals, prayers, plant medicine, laying on the couch three times a week, periodic (secret) antidepressants and then Tantra and 5Rythms dance.

Every single undertaking gave me succor. I was very hungry. If I gaze back at all my endeavors, I feel touched by my appetite and longing to be healed and whole, even as I was partially trapped in my own prescription for that. I was nourished, though. I ate a lot of light. I found a sense of place, or the beginning of one. I met with my own homelessness and started to welcome grief.

What did for me, was that no matter how much light I ate, and how much good medicine nourished me, I was still waking up each day with the weight of the world on my chest and the taste of defeat in my mouth. I didn’t even want to call that depression, which is a little bit daft for an experienced psychotherapist, but hey.

The worst symptom of depression is the relentless narrative voice. A violent and unforgiving self-rap. The head-fuckery of it. The impossibility. The fact that it is never, ever going to be okay, to be here like This.

I moved through life and life moved through me. Sometimes with more ease and sometimes with less, but never free from the weight of myself. Never able to make myself well in the way I had in mind and vision.

Something happened. After all the fighting, the twisting and spinning in the wind, and after every trick in the book was exhausted, there was just nowhere left to go, so I fell. It was a palpable fall. My system gave up and I lost my grip on it all. It was a relief.

I didn’t know where I’d landed for quite a while, but when I started to get my bearings, postcardsfromthewindowledge.com was born. I didn’t know much, but for the first time, that didn’t seem to matter. It seemed I had fallen, not from Grace, but directly into it.

This is my first Postcard from the window-ledge and I called it: Forgiveness.

There is a wide divid
between an idea of me in my life
and the truth
and I have tried and tied
myself in knots
with medicine and meditation
to make a better fit
and rearrange the pieces into
much more satisfactory shape

I did not understand why I kept failing
and falling, or see the hopeless, helpless
circles and cul-de-sacs of trying to make
a brand new cut out of old cloth.
I had to unlearn the tyranny of healing
and find my own
that didn’t have so much to say
about healing and transformation
rebirth and renewal
and especially about surrender
oh, how I had to stop trying to surrender right

the pitch perfect surrender
like chasing an impossible orgasm

Somewhere between a daughter being born and a sister dying
I have found that I can love life
and long for death, at the same time
that both are true and I am as full of tenderness
as of despair.

The last frontier was about my attachment to an idea of episodic depression rather than the baseline kind. If I was going to be a member of the depressed tribe, I really wanted to believe in, on and off, good and bad, in and out, alive and dead… you get the picture. I wanted to have episodes of depression, in between which I could be well, wide open, productive and even happy or joyful. This was quite a showdown. The truth is that I’m not an episodic depressive, though I have forced myself into that construct on occasion. It has been the source of so much suffering. Finding in myself a welcome state of well-being, I couldn’t ever let that be in co-existence with the bleakness in my bones.

Depression Is My Home Address. It just is. Of course, I am thoughtful about this. Nature and nurture, generational mental health and all manner of self-diagnosis. But this thing called depression, the sheer weight of it, and its particular quality of darkness, have always been with me. Having spent so much of my life trying to get rid of myself, it feels so good to stop.

When I fell, I landed in The Fields of Kindness. I don’t really know how that happened, but suspect it could only happen in that tiny beat of surrender. In that precious moment when I couldn’t go on and gave up on everything, the thing that was trying to happen, could.

These fields were here all the time, just waiting for me. I have to tell you though, that they are not warm and fuzzy fields. They exist in an elemental world, rather than a Disney film. The wild winds blow in and the grass often tastes of salt. These fields though, they are so kind and so damned inclusive.

Radical simplicity: it is just This, over and over, breath by breath. I was here all the time. And depressed without the internalised voices making it wrong, over and over, is a much simpler kettle of fish. Embodied rocks, laboured breath, the darkest, almost starless night sky, and all the sighing and moaning that living with a dog and a cat forgives. What if there’s nowhere to run from? Or anyone else to try and be? What if there is nothing to fix?

Sometimes I can’t work out if my little life got smaller, while knowing for sure that spaciousness happened. I’m always saying, thank you, Life, and loving the absurdity of having so much gratitude for a life I also long to be done with and out of.

If I have anything to contribute to the dialogue about depression, it’s to do with compassion, kindness and welcome. What if there really is nothing to fix? I know it’s controversial and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but absolutely nothing else worked until I put out the welcome mat.

I have to tend to that mat, pick it up and bash it against the wall once a week, and brush off the debris. I reckon it’s a lifelong practice of remembering to welcome the one I’m with and keep giving myself up to This, especially when This is not what I had in mind or plan.

Mercy

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I was walking with Leonard The Dog earlier, all tangled up in headfuck (technical term) about feeling hopeless, defeated and angry. The struggle was, to relax where I found myself. I didn’t want to. I was trying so hard to make it into something easier to welcome, something more palatable. I tried to make a poem about it, but the poem knew what I was up to and wouldn’t cooperate. Poems, like the body, are where truth lives.
 
When there’s nowhere left to turn, I pray for Mercy. Often, though not always, this cracks me open so I can just put my head down, and rest in what is true. Today, my prayer took me to Leonard’s prayer… I am resting in the cradle of Mercy.
Just this.
 

Losing Things

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A few weeks ago, Bebe The Cat went missing. She doesn’t wander far or for long, so I knew she was in trouble. Some well-meaning people, told me stories about cats that wandered off for days/weeks/months and returned home none the worse for wear.

I knew she was in trouble because I know her ways. She had a few secrets, but was never out of range for more than an hour or two. If I stood by the back door and called her name, she’d often appear from a few gardens down. I knew she was in trouble and she was. On the morning of the sixth day, I found her under the barbeque. Her back, right leg was obviously broken. It turned out to be more shattered than broken, and the only course of treatment was to amputate. My tiny black panther is now one leg short.

We are all coming out the other side now. The light is back in her sea-green eyes, and my system has just about stopped trembling. Leonard The Dog doesn’t quite get it. He’s looking for the cat that jousted and danced with him, and doesn’t yet recognize our more vulnerable Queen.

Maybe, that’s why I’ve been slouching through my days with this title: Losing Things, sitting at the top of an empty page. My attitude to losing things is not what it was. I have lost a few things along the road: people, places and things, like we all do. It’s not only that. More like a deep curiosity and borderline preoccupation with loss and losing. I remember listening to Janis Joplin singing, Me and Bobby Magee: freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. That song, and particularly that line would crack my thirteen-year-old heart wide open, with something like tenderness and despair.

We lose everything, and in the end, we are gone. I find this so damn comforting, and it makes me laugh that I do. I’ve written before, about simplicity and it’s something to do with that. All that, down to the bone simplicity, just waiting for me.

I had a significant ‘losing it’ moment in my late twenties. I was living in Sydney and practicing the dark art of self-hatred, with all my might. We use that terminology, don’t we? Losing it. Losing what? I had lost a lot already, but never IT, if it meant the capacity to hold on. This night, walking through Darlinghurst as dawn broke, I did lose that. I was so broken, drug addled, psychotic, homeless, loveless, empty and humiliated, that I fell over the edge. It’s so long ago now, that I only just remember the street beneath me, the lightening sky, my bedraggled body, only just dressed for dancing. I barely remember the narcissistic boy that left me there, once the chemicals had run out and worn off. What I do remember though, is the feeling of falling. I remember crying out: it’s happening… it’s happening. I remember the fall and those words in my mouth.

Of course, I hit the ground, and continued pursuing relief or communion, or whatever it was I ached for. And, for a very long time.

This falling though, it left its trace memory in my cells.

Much more recently, I fell like that again. I was so tired of never quite being okay, and from working so hard to not be depressed. I was exhausted from trying to heal and somehow failing. Even though I can’t pin down an exact day, when there was just, nowhere left to go, I went over the edge into free fall. I lost some stuff on the way down, and funnily enough I don’t miss it.

You could say my life got smaller?  Or more spacious? That’s the thing about simple: both small and wide at the same time. I love this idea: My Little Life, not as a put down, but as an affirmation. My little life. Your little life. All burning briefly, like wave after wave of tiny lights. We burn, flicker, and we die.

So, what did I lose?

Some deep, oh, so deeply entrenched ideas about what matters and what makes me okay, or not okay. Some stories about success and failure. Some notions about who I am, or should be. Yes, in a nutshell, that is what I lost in my fall, not from Grace, but directly into Grace.

Into the Fields of Kindness, rather than onto a lonely road in Australia. And the cry from my lips and heart, this time, is something like: thank you. I have found a lot of gratitude in these fields, now that I know I don’t have to fix myself, and that even if depression is my home address, I am whole, as well as broken. That we all are.

I’ve been thinking about my mother, and how her life was an epic journey of humiliating losses, until all that was left was bitterness, self-hatred and the husk of a tiny body, attached to oxygen. She taught me well: how to find myself in the mirror of all that. Her little life feels brutally small. I had to go all the way to Australia just to keep breathing. Breathing and dying on the sunny side of the world. I didn’t know she’d died for quite some time, but strangely, it happened at the very same time I started living.

In eleven months time, I’ll turn sixty. My mother died three days after her sixtieth birthday. I wasn’t there, but felt it in the realms of mystery. Maybe a death/life baton was passed from hand to hand? From mother to daughter? It has taken a lot of my little life, to find the Kindness, Mercy and Grace, that brought me home. It has taken my fierce attachment to life, in chaotic coexistence with my appetite and longing for death. And, it has taken so much help: from strangers, friends, dance floors, poets, healers and destroyers, from cats, dogs, horses, nature, and from my teachers and their teachers, and  many, many circles of courage and love.

I am increasingly, more humbled than humiliated by losing things, and that comfort I mentioned, maybe there is a kind of freedom in nothing left to lose…and, even though that’s never going to be quite true, until the very last breaths, at least I can offer up my struggles with losing things, to what is truly precious.

 

 

 

 

Haiku Days

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Thank you, as ever, to the inspirational and downright delicious, Advantages of Age

https://advantagesofage.com

for supporting and encouraging my scribbles and riffs.

My small enquiry into a small form of expression.

https://advantagesofage.com/haiku-days/

HAIKU DAYS
On August 11th, I took a picture of my dog’s paw, resting gently in the cup of my hand. Not a work of art, photography not being a thing I’m particularly good at. It caught a little sweetness though. Without me trying, a haiku arose to sit beside it. I posted them on Facebook.

The next day, another haiku arrived, and the next day, another. I decided to make a haiku a day for a month. Thirty-one haiku later, I am grateful to this thread of small constructions of word and syllable: a spontaneous ritual that called me to meet myself on a daily basis.

I hold my dog’s paw.
Ribbons of light, bind me tight
to this little life

I’ve never been a journal keeper. In fact, my writing is wholly undisciplined. I’m full of unwritten writing and that’s a sad fact. I suspect forgiving myself for that is a life-long project.These haiku days, have been illuminating. And medicinalDog haiku each day

Keeps Black-Dog,
hound teeth at bay
It’s a small Blessing

I have learned some things along the road, that hold me now. Of course, I wish I’d learned them sooner. Mostly these lessons have been about simplicity and kindness. How to be kind to the one I am, the one I’m with, and how to welcome, even revel in sometimes, a simplicity that’s like an empty table.

The thing about living in the hinterland of depressed, is just how much racket the storms of judgement can make. It’s hard to find the gateway to simple, within all that banging and crashing. Somehow, between my hanging on and giving up, by the kindnesses of others, a beloved dog and a few maps and signposts left by the poets and vagabonds, I have found that gate.

Dog repetition
He takes me out, and back in
Three times, everyday

It’s been much quieter since the condemnations have ceased. I should be this. I should be that. The erosive violence of all that should and shouldn’t: weights and measures of success.

Mouth open: shouting
Gold falls out, and other things
It is not pretty

The haiku have helped me. A small discipline, but a discipline nevertheless. A practice, like walking Leonard The Dog. A commitment. A deal. A promise to show up. An actual showing up that is small and distilled enough for me to succeed at. See, even I’m doing it. Success: what does it mean?

Sometimes. Often, I can only stay for a fragment, a heartbeat, half a heartbeat. I need to retreat. I do come back, to myself or to you, but not immediately. I need a lot of breathing space. Quite literally, to just ‘breathe in’ space. I used to tear strips off myself for this disappearing. I deemed it absent, as a pose to the altar of Presence, where we all seem to worship. Now, I don’t even know if that’s true. I just know that I can forgive myself, if I need forgiving, and that I am free to be the one who disappears and comes back and then goes again.

No haiku came through
Running empty, all day long
Dog kissed my eyelids

The haiku are both small enough and big enough. Tiny and huge. A container. A street corner. A date. Every day the promise to haiku tugged at my hand and brought me to myself for a heartbeat or half.

And, looking back at these captured fragments of my last thirty-one days, I realise I have kept some kind of record. It’s a haiku diary.

Depressed needs to rest
Aches for the Aegean Sea
Body remembers

I dabble with the possibility of carrying on. A year of haiku. Or a lifetime.
On the 19th of August, Leonard and I ambled in our favourite London cemetery. This is the note.

Forgiveness of death
Old stones and trees, bent by time
accompany us

Many of these of these tiny reports, are love letters to my dog. The one who’s teaching me just how much love I am capable of: the one I share my days and nights with.

You are my darling
The face I wake up and see
Sweetest company

Dog rolled in something
Dog got washed from nose to tail
Dog smells wonderful

I am often lost. I stumble and fall, I lurch and crawl, and while these are metaphors, it is also direct reporting. I can’t quite understand how no-one else seems to notice me crashing into walls and falling over my own feet. Stumbling through the days of my little life, is graphic. Now, I know to keep things simple. There is a cradle I can fall back into, and it’s made up of small things: domestic repetitions, lighting many candles each day, always having flowers, walking in and out with Leonard, lists, naps, gratitude, doing the best work I can with my clients. This cradle of Grace is a living thing. There are flowers, reeds and weeds, growing in the nooks and crannies. I lined it with moss and earth. It both holds and anchors me.

Maybe, just maybe, the haiku can hold and anchor me too.

The Pain Closet

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I consider myself out in the world about my broken bits. I write and post and publish. It helps me feel connected to the heartbeat of the world, and if sometimes it touches another human, then that’s an extra blessing.

I’ve written about depression, my mental health, sex, longing, hopeless and helpless, poetry, death, dogs and despair. I’ve even written about my relationship with money, and thought it was my last taboo. It was hard to write about me and money. There was a suffocating cloud of shame keeping the closet door closed, tight. I crowbarred it open, and light got in. The shame fell away, as it always does.

Why? Why? Why, does deeply knowing the truth of that, not translate into closet doors being flung wide open?

Retorical question.

I have never written about my physical pain. I didn’t even talk about it, directly and clearly (shamelessly?) until relatively recently. I’ve lived with back pain for so long that I can’t remember an embodied experience from before that. I actually don’t know when it started or if there was any, before that. Six or seven years ago, I was diagnosed with herniated discs and offered steroids injected into the spine and surgery. I was so horrified by either possibility that I chose pain management, with a combination of prayer, medication and the support of my precious GP.

Before this. Before any diagnostic dialogue, I just thought it was my fault. I bought into a narrative, seemingly about healing, but in a slippery way, about blame and shame. I was holding something in my body that I should translate and release. I should welcome it, name it, rescue it, love it, give voice to it, give kindness to it, and above all, by these methods and more, I should be able to release and heal it. I made so many journeys to so many mountains, rituals, medicines, practices and practitioners, and at some fundamental level, I kept failing.

Failing, is an interesting concept, of course.

I have been held, helped, supported and loved by many of my endeavours. I value all the nourishment, beyond words or measure. I think, now I am less invested in being fixed, I can allow more nourishment.

As for the pain… it has slowly, but surely got worse year by year. I have been slowly but surely, moving towards some kind of treatment plan. Even the inconceivable suggestions from those years back. Then in November last year, the slowly worsening pain started galloping. It was escalating day by day. It took my breath away and not in a good way.

It stabilised in the Spring. When I say stabilised, I mean at the new, much heightened pitch.

Maybe, I haven’t written about it because the words don’t pour forth? Maybe, as well as the shame, it’s a technical difficulty? And, what’s funny in an awful sort of way, is that the language I find to write about depression, is kind of the same. It is unforgiving and relentless, it hammers and smashes and breaks, and crushes breath and hope out of every inch of me… so, I feel like I’ve written about it already. But I haven’t. This is me trying.

I think it is something like this: I was learning to live with my depression. And, I do mean in a good way. Kindness and welcome. Celebration even. Here … I am… and, what if that can really be okay? I was getting it. Not getting it exactly… allowing it to find me, this sweetness restored… I believe in this simple possibility, so deeply that my heart could just burst from it… and… oh my, how I am struggling to find the softness around living like this. My back and hips constantly roaring. My knees going. My stumbling and wincing and grimacing, and trying to look vaguely normal, and not be a total bore. I mean how many times can I tell you how it rolls, when I seem to have taken up residence here?

So, somewhat the same, but also not the same. I’m crawling towards steroids and surgery, and I am attached to getting fixed. In the meantime, I am trying to practice welcoming what I don’t want to welcome, and being where I don’t want to be.

It is a small and vast terrain: PainWorld. I am surviving. And, I honestly don’t know if writing about it, is helpful, or not. What I do know, though, is that I can’t breathe inside a closet.

730 Days With Leonard

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It’s two years ago today that Leonard The Dog came home.

I’m making a tradition that can only end in the vale of tears, where all stories end… but there is something compelling about counting the days. How many days will we have? I have an inner nerd, if only I were better at mathematics. I wonder about things like how many miles I have walked in my life, so far. How far?

Loving Leonard is a fine thing. It’s much more of a breathtaking thing than I ever could have imagined. I mean that literally. This dog love, it cracks in my chest and catches in my throat. He is often my muse. There is a folder on my laptop titled: Love Songs to Leonard (the dog) not to be confused with any fragments of love, inspired by Leonard (the man).

It’s the proximity of human coupledom that has always defeated me. I need so much space, silence and solitude. The extrovert I thought I was, turns out to have been hiding the deeply introverted truth of me.  Living with Leonard is fiercely intimate. He’s always there and he sees everything. It is unutterably healing to be able to give myself up to this life sharing kind of love, that I’d thought was not to be my lot.

And you might say, but he’s a dog, not a person. You might think it’s not a true compare. You might never be able to grasp just how much one person can love a dog. This person. This dog. This love.

Almost all of those 730 days, I’ve walked out with Leonard. It’s unequivocal. It’s just what happens. This is the best dog medicine for my baseline depression. It doesn’t fix it, but rather takes it out perambulating. I would never walk myself through the days, through the changing colours and smells of the seasons. Sometimes it’s a labour to walk the length of my own corridor. But for the love and commitment to Leonard, I walk or stumble four to five miles a day. I know this because someone bought my nerdy self a little machine to measure the ground we cover.

Did I say that my dog is a comedian? He makes me laugh, even and especially when I’m very gloomy. He’s such an optimist and an extrovert: he shows me the good stuff every day, just being himself.

Last summer I had my bedroom redecorated. I bought my first ever bed. And because it is almost certainly going to be my one and only bed, I got a truly beautiful one. Then I got Leonard a new bed: a luxuriously simple, soft blue corduroy, beanbag bed. Up to this point, Leonard had a very nice, though not quite as nice as that, dog bed, in the corner of our bedroom. He spent a lot of time on the bed with me, but usually retired to his bed to sleep through the night.

I wanted him to sleep with me, which he did on rare occasions. It always felt like a bit of Grace when that happened. I always said, thank you.

And then, dear reader, the beanbag bed well and truly threw him. He wasn’t at all sure about the beans and all the moving and grooving that getting onto it entailed. Before giving up on the beanbag bed, which I was rather attached to, I initiated a small training programme to befriend the bed. Everyday I encouraged Leonard to approach and master the weird beans, and sustained by treats and compliments, he started to get the hang of it.

While this process was winding its way, Leonard took to sleeping up on the bed with me. It is oddly tricky to put this into words, but something beyond the shores of tenderness ensued. Sleeping very close together, each night, which I’m sure for Leonard was a tempory thing, has woven us more deeply together. It is quite something to sleep in such close company. It’s that proximity thing again… but, oh how I am able to delight in and cherish this. I wake frequently. I need to pee. My back and hips hurt. I wake up frequently in my beautiful, white ash bed, and he is right there: his body against my shoulder or a paw on my head. He snuffles and snorts and forgives me all the getting up and getting down, the rearrangement of body parts, both dog and human.

You might say I’m being anthropomorphic… nevertheless; we are more tightly linked together now we sleep pushed up against the other. Sleeping with another is an intimate thing: an intimate thing that I’ve never really known and tasted. For all the good company I have had in my bed(s) over a lifetime, no, not ever like this.

I’m going to post this anniversary, dog card from my window ledge, and walk out with Leonard into a sunny afternoon. Blessings and dog prayers for the next 365… and gratitude to Leonard The Dog, for sharing my days and nights.

 

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Forgiveness: Ongoing

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Walking through early Sunday morning in my part of London. Not many people. Not much sign of the recent Spring light that has been breaking through. A low, grey sky. Feet and paws going forwards.

Does the fact I have to keep forgiving myself mean I’m doing something wrong? Or that I think I am? I wrestle with this, and it’s not so cut and dry. Not so simple.

There must be a part of me that yearns for a different life, another version of me. There must be, because I keep needing to forgive myself for being here like this. Maybe because depression is in itself, such an unforgiving beast, I have to keep forgiving it?

An hour or so ago, with Leonard The Dog: lurching, stumbling, slouching, not toward Bethlehem, but just through the simple mechanics of another day. Park. Home. Leonard snoozing. Me: tapping on a postcard. Chewing on the word, the flavor, of forgiveness. Dreaming of death, the way that I do.

I can do it.

First walk. Done.
An impulse followed through… a postcard or a prayer.
A batch of chocolate & peanut butter muffins (new recipe)
Second walk.
Bath (not negotiable as getting smelly)
PJs.
Food.
Netflix.

Made it through the day.

Sometimes I can’t help judging my little life, for, well, being so little. I imagine myself much more productive and functional. I imagine myself with some of the stuff I never will have. Maybe, that’s why forgiveness has to be an ongoing project? Maybe, we just have to keep forgiving ourselves, and each other, for being who we are?

Would I really trade myself in for one that didn’t wake up every morning full of dread, or one that wrote productively and socialized with ease? Oddly, I’m not at all sure I would. This is the one I am. And, I’d miss her.

And the sort of forgiveness I’m tugging at is different from the radical forgiveness required in the face of violent acts, though radical enough in its own way. Forgiveness as a homecoming, as acceptance and love. Forgiveness as a celebration of being just like this. Forgiveness as a doorway to our own precious hearts.

I seem to have riffed my way into a kinder place. And the kindness, as one of my teachers once said, can hold everything.

As Leonard sings: the sweetness restored… not forgetting to include: I’m tired and I’m angry all the time…

It’s all true. It all resides in the Fields of Mercy, Kindness, and Forgiveness too.

I’m here with my dog, pushing and pulling breath in and out of my lungs. It’s my Sunday. It’s my here and now. It is quite, quite simple, if I can let it be so.

I read this poem out loud. I kiss the sweet belly of dog. I sign off the window ledge and walk towards the muffins.

RELIGIOUS STATUES by Leonard Cohen

After a while
I started playing with dolls
I loved their peaceful expressions
They all had their places
in a corner of room 315

I would say to myself:
It doesn’t matter
that Leonard can’t breathe
that he is hopelessly involved
in the panic of the situation

I’d light a cigarette
and a stick of Nag Champa
Both would burn too fast
in the draft of the ceiling fan

Then I might say
something like:
Thank You
for the terms of my life
which make it so painlessly clear
that I am powerless
to do anything

and I’d watch CNN
the rest of the night
but now
from a completely different
point of view