On my dog’s last night in this physical world, I put him in his bed in the kitchen and realized with a shock that, with the exception of petting him in the living room and bringing him into the bathroom with me while I showered and got ready for the day, he had spent the last week living primarily in the kitchen and the backyard.
I thought with disbelief, How did that become okay? How was it okay that my baby’s territory had shrunk that much?
Then I started thinking back further and further. How did it become okay that he had to wear his harness all day, every day because the only way for him to get from my bedroom to the back door was for me to hold on to his harness and lead him? How did it become okay that I had to watch him constantly to make sure he didn’t get lost in his own house? How did it become okay that we stopped taking our daily walks or that he was no longer able to play fetch, his favorite game?
It shocked me how easy it was to watch his life become smaller and smaller, more and more limited. Or rather, how easy it was to accept it. The alternative was his death. I couldn’t bear to be away from that sweet creature, and so as his health declined, I accepted his new limitations because it was easier than having to endure being apart from him, forever.
I immediately realized that the same thing happened in my relationship – and happens to so many of us in our relationships for the very same reason. We compromise and accept the downsizing because it’s better (seemingly) than losing the relationship. I wondered, how did it become okay that Former Boyfriend and I broke up so many times and then were just crazy enough to keep trying, even when we got the same results? How did it become okay that I was willing to try to reconcile with him when he was seeing other women? How did it become okay that I committed myself to a relationship with someone who was always running after the next best thing?
Now I realize, these two situations aren’t entirely comparable. A person’s (or pet’s) declining health is something that creates limits, no matter what, and it’s natural to hold on to our loved ones for as long as we can. I don’t have a lot of regrets about what happened with my dog – I think he was mostly happy until the end, and when I finally made that decision to put him down, he died on his own the night before the appointment. Even though his life seemed to shrink so much in those last two months, it was the natural course of life (or death, really) moving ever onward and there was little either of us could do beyond accepting it and making his life as comfortable and happy as possible.
But in other situations, I think there’s value in realizing how easy it can be to accept the unacceptable because of the fear of losing someone. It’s important to remember this in those moments when we start making seemingly harmless compromises. There’s something mythical about it – I often think about it as a “sleeping spell,” just as in the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Sometimes, sleeping spells are a necessary and positive transformational tool – and sometimes they are a trance we fall into out of fear or unawareness. There’s a seduction to that sleep when the only other option feels like loss.
The irony is that both of these situations end in death. Whether a literal death, or the death of a relationship. And the truth is, the death will come, in one form or another, whether we recognize our downsizing and take the hit, or not. There’s a very deep archetypal journey of transformation here.
Sometimes, I wonder what the ultimate lesson is. I want to say, with conviction, that we should stand up and say, “I won’t accept the unacceptable anymore! I will keep my eyes open and take a stand when I realize it is happening! No more sleeping spells for me!”
But then I wonder if there’s an even simpler lesson than that – one of acceptance. Acceptance of the acceptance of the unacceptable. (Did you follow that?) Not in the sense that we should take whatever crumb we are given in this life. But more in the sense that perhaps it’s more important to give up the fight against what’s happening and the judgment of our reality.
Perhaps that total acceptance, that surrendering of the need to fight, of the need to judge what’s happening, is what will ultimately set us free and allow us to transcend the circumstances and rise into the infinity that Spirit is.