On a sunny late January day in a crowded park, I told a stranger to fuck off. And two days later, my heart thanked him.
My rottweiler, Monty, couldn't walk too far after a diagnosis of bone cancer on November 27, but he was social and I had a strong desire to take him to Stanley Park, to enjoy the sun and say hello to dogs.
Stanley Park had been my place for peace and healing and I needed it too. I was exhausted. I was emotionally low. We hung out for an hour but only one dog walked by. And as I thought about nine years of shared good times in the park, my sunglasses could no longer hide my tears. It was time to go.
As I walked towards my car, a man sitting on the ledge watched Monty limp by and asked, "What's wrong with your dog?"
"Um, he's got a tumor in his leg,” I said.
"Is there an operation for that?"
"So you want to leave him like that?" he asked.
"You're just going to leave him like that?” he said, “why don't you take him to the doctor?"
His words lunged and tackled me in the gut. My face burned as my vision narrowed on this man’s face. I no longer cared that 4-year-olds were playing within arm’s reach. I no longer cared that the seawall was wall-to-wall happy people. I saw the thousands of dollars – six and counting – that I had spent in the last six weeks, the ten-hour road trips for specialized veterinary care, the loss of income for closing my business for two months. All done with commitment and pure love, and, regretting none of it.
"You have no fucking idea what I've done. Take him to the doctor? Fuck off. Fuck you. FUCK...YOU!"
I yanked Monty to the car as I swiped at the tears that dripped off my lower cheeks. “Monty, c’mon, please!”
I clenched the steering wheel as I sped to West Vancouver’s Ambleside beach. Monty needs dogs! A few dogs came near but walked around Monty to go to the dog park.
C’mon dogs! Come say hello to my dog! Please!
A lady walked towards Monty and he suddenly stood up, looked at her and wagged his stumpy tail. “Oh, and who are you waiting for?” she asked Monty with a big smile. Monty leaned into her legs.
“Apparently you!” I said.
"Oh, what a sweetie, is he okay?"
I didn't want to tell the story. I didn’t want to keep the cancer story alive. And if I opened my mouth, I’d cry.
“Um, he's had cancer but I wanted to focus on his wellness now, he loves dogs, I wanted to bring him around other dogs--"
And I burst into tears.
“We’ve all been there,” she said as she looked me in the eyes and put her hand on my shoulder.
"I was okay until, just, right, now,” I said as I smiled and swiped under my sunglasses.
She gave me a hug.
“Thank you,” I said.
“He’s beautiful, enjoy him,” she said as she walked away.
Monty and I drove the twenty minutes home. I picked him up and laid him on my bed. I stayed on my bed with him the rest of the day, that night and the next day too. I balanced quiet time with reading and watching movies on my laptop.
I thought of the man-in-the-park. I told myself that he deserved my outburst. But that didn’t feel good.
Because it wasn’t true.
I cannot control other peoples’ comments, only my feelings, my reactions, to them. I knew that if I reacted strongly, it was because it had triggered something within me.
Why did I react so strongly to the man-in-the-park?
I thought of my first homeopathic appointment I attended a few weeks before. While I’ve used homeopathy as part of Monty’s total health care, I never considered it for myself. A friend had mentioned a recent homeopathic seminar she had attended and the next day, I found myself in the offices of homeopath, Susan Drury. I had a general request for help with fluctuating emotions related to Monty's declining health, but I wasn't sure exactly why I was there. I suddenly remembered a question she had asked:
“I wonder what’s coming up that needs to be healed?” she said.
Did I feel I wasn’t doing enough for Monty’s care? No. I was clear in my intentions and decisions I’d made for Monty. 100% percent. Fully committed.
As I rested beside Monty, I asked aloud again, “was this about Monty?”
What was this about?
What was coming up that needed to be healed?
"Okay, heart, I'm open to what this is about," I said.
Did I not do enough for my mom?
My chest braced against the boulder that pinned me to the bed. My hand shot to my mouth and stuffed my cries back in my mouth. Tears leapt from my eyes. I yanked my wool comforter over my head.
My bed shook for one or two minutes as I hid under my covers and wailed.
My mom died in 2006. I wrote about us in My Mother’s Daughter.
I whipped open my laptop and re-read the story. Again. And again.
In the middle of the story, I wrote:
“But after five years, my help wasn’t helping. So I distanced myself – maybe too much. I was sad when she lost her apartment, her business, her beloved sailboat. But I kept saying no. Even when an emergency room nurse said, ‘what kind of daughter are you, you won't pick up your mom?’ The worst kind I guess, but I don’t know what else to do.”
The italics. The only sentence written in present tense.
I didn’t do enough.
I wasn’t enough.
How could I possibly allow in life's goodness if I had a deeply held belief of unworthiness?
Let it go.
I hugged Monty and wept for three hours. I let it all go.
My tears evaporated. The boulder on my chest floated away. My hands unclenched and I stroked Monty's ear.
I loved my mom and I did the best I knew how. It was enough.
I am enough.
It's okay to Shine. I will allow light to Shine through me, around me and back into me too.
Thank you for sharing your light, Monty.
And thank you, man-in-the-park.
Postscript: Monty passed away a week later on January 30th due to neurological complications of osteosarcoma... after two months, I'm beginning to share my stories again.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thanks for reading my story, truly. If this theme resonated with you, I've written more in Standing On Life's Teeter-Totter.
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