Being present

I was early for my therapy appointment today, and was sitting in the waiting room browsing magazines. I opened up a Buddhist one, Shambala Sun. The first article was about Buddhist jargon stuff that I never get and frankly find annoying. I studied philosophy so I’m quite comfortable with arguments that for example try to prove that a tree doesn’t exist, but this was not making any sense to me at all. This is why I am not a Buddhist. I agree that everything is interconnected, but I have no need or desire to get off the wheel of life. I’m happy to be connected in the here and now.

End of Buddhism rant. Sorry to any Buddhists out there. I’m clearly not getting it, I know, but if I was meant to get it it would make intuitive sense to me, and it just doesn’t. I don’t get Christianity either, so it’s fine.

What I did like and what brought me to tears was a piece by Thich Nhat Hahn which was on about how being present with anything you’re doing or feeling makes it holy, or puts you in a holy space. He said something that I did agree with and made intuitive sense to me, that ritual done without the priest(ess) being fully present and mindful had no meaning. Sitting there in the office taking a moment to bring mind and body together in the present moment, so hard for us survivors, brought tears to the surface. I didn’t even know the story behind the tears, but only that they were there.

I had to put my dog down last week. My wife and I were on a trip and our dog has an existing hip injury that would have been difficult and costly to repair. He’s a nervous, active, wilful dog (or was one anyhow) and was flailing around making it worse in the car. Even if we had repaired the injury and dragged our difficult doggie through a year of rehab, his other hip would probably have gone and then he’d have died of old age. So we cut the journey a bit short for him, and us. I feel less guilty now than I did. His death was not the calm one I’d envisioned – he was never a calm or easy dog. We’d had him since he was less than a week old and had never been able to train him out of his behaviour problems, which included aggression toward other dogs and sometimes kids. He whined constantly whenever he didn’t get what he wanted, which was most of the time, and which meant constant accompaniment on car trips. If we’d been able to find dog care, we wouldn’t have brought him, but couldn’t find any. He never actually bit anyone, but we had to watch him closely.  My wife and I feel guilty being relieved he’s gone. Our remaining dog is happy to have the extra attention.

I miss him most at night. In my rough neighbourhood, he’d often bark if something was going on on the street, and although he had a lot of false alarms (cat’s in the yard are not the danger to me they seem to him), I could count on him to notice if someone was lurking around the house. My wife doesn’t seem to hear these things. My other dog is pretty good as alerting me to trouble too, but I haven’t lived with her for nine years like the dog we put down. I still feel him sometimes, and can feel the hair on his chest as I reach a hand to stroke it. I think if he is confused, wherever he is after death, it is my job as his alpha to provide a safe place to go to if he needs it. He can haunt me as long as he likes. I’ve been present with my guilt, my grief and my relief, and now with just missing him. The storm is passing.

Today in therapy I talked about the possibility I might need to end my marriage. It’s a big deal. I’m the first gay person in my extended family and my wife’s to get married ever. it’s like being the first inter-racial couple in a family.  It would suck on so many levels to have it end in divorce a mere three years after people stood up for us and blessed us. My wife and I are very different on so many levels, and the glue we once had that made it work anyways has worn thin. We’ve gotten into power struggles where I try and change her and she resists, and it’s not working. The only way to win a power struggle is to give up, like letting go of the rope in tug of war, and that’s what I’m trying to do. My therapist has suggested I write down a list of what needs to change so I can look back in March and see whether anything changed once I stopped nagging. I’m also to make a list of ways I can feel safe that are independent of her.

I have a book called “Too good to leave. Too bad to stay.” that I’ve been looking at. It’s not bad. The author, Mira Kirshembaum, takes the position that deciding if a relationship is worth staying in is not a weighing scale with the good balanced against the bad, it’s a diagnosis of whether the relationship has the factors that make it possible to be satisfying or not. She asks questions, starting with the obvious “has your partner hit you more than once” (no), which signal a “sure thing, do not pass go, this relationship is never going to be worth having” to more subtle things. She says things like ” most people who answer yes to this question do not regret having left the relationship”, rather than putting a value judgement on it. I read the first chapter or so and then stopped. So far  we’ve of course passed the obvious tests, but in the more subtle stuff, there’s no clear indication this relationship is a keeper just yet.

I’m not going to talk about my marriage a lot, so as to respect my wife’s privacy, but it’s definitely something running through my thoughts and feelings right now. Everything we do seems bittersweet, and sometimes I slip into denial and wonder what I’m going on about, my marriage is fine. Perhaps all I need to do is be present with it through this all.

0 thoughts on “Being present”

  1. Hi, SDW –

    I am so sorry for your loss . . and glad that you provided such a great home for your buddy while he was alive. I truely believe that animals don’t want to live in pain . . . and, they are grateful when they don’t have to — rest assured you did right by him.

    I am also sorry for what is going on in your marriage. It sounds like you are approaching the matter in a responsible and loving manner. You have to take care of yourself and do what is best for you. My thoughts are with you.

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

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