A couple of weeks ago, as the vast force of energy behind my new endeavor, 40 Percent and Rising, began to really propel forward, my family and I had a weekend when we were basically flat-out broke. I’ve invested a lot of money in this new endeavor, and we were stretched awfully thin. It was painful, and scary, and not at all fun.
And at the end of that weekend, determined to change things for all of us, I committed to the ideal that we’d never have another weekend like the one that had just passed.
As a part of that commitment, I made a vow: over and over again to myself, to the Universe, and to anyone who would listen, I repeated: “I will do whatever it takes to have the life I want.”
It was my way of telling the Universe that I was all in.
It became a mantra.
On the subway, in my brain, during meditation: “I will do whatever it takes to have the life I want.”
Next to my computer, tacked up on a sticky note: “I will do whatever it takes.”
At work, on the phone, in every decision I made, I repeated it, saying “I’m all in. I will do whatever it takes.”
I was thinking about what all that meant in very practical terms.
And then . . . well, then came tragedy.
In the early hours of last Friday morning, our beloved dog, Poohbah, woke us coughing. My husband took him out for a walk, and then came into our room about 45 minutes later to tell me that Poohbah was having trouble breathing.
I assumed Poohbah was just hot, and we relocated him from our bed to an ottoman near the air conditioning units in our living room, where he was able to get some sleep.
The next morning, however, he was still struggling. And every time I lifted him, held him, petted him, or cuddled him, he was shaking a little and wheezing.
My husband made an appointment that morning at the vet. And a few hours later, after scanning Poohbah’s chest, our vet insisted that he be taken to emergency services in Brooklyn right away.
Shortly after I arrived at the emergency vet, we learned that Poohbah had a cancerous tumor on his heart that was bleeding profusely in his chest and crushing his lungs with fluid.
Even in an oxygen crate, and after a procedure to try to clear the fluid, he was struggling mightily for air.
The tumor had been growing for some time, said the emergency vet, and was now bleeding continuously, and there was nothing to be done save impossibly painful procedures that would probably not prolong Poohbah’s life or ease his suffering.
Poohbah was only five and a half years old. He was the dog my husband and I adopted as a puppy just two months after we moved in together. There’s much more to the story than that– private things, spiritual things, that surround his presence in our life. Suffice it to say: He mattered. A lot.
And at 2:45 Friday afternoon, as I held him in my arms, and my husband stroked his face, and my tears fell in rapid succession on the metal table at the emergency vet as I held his little body and we said to him over and over,
thank you, thank you, thank you, it’s ok, we love you, you can go, thank you for everything that you have brought to our lives, thank you for being a part of our family, thank you, thank you, we love you so,
we let him go.
I have not been the same since.
Perhaps I never will be.
But I know this.
Doing whatever it takes has a different meaning now.
Doing whatever it takes is about stepping into life– all of it, even when it hurts, because that’s part of the price we pay for the gift.
It is about doing what is right, even when its the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
It is about being present for those who need you, even and especially when they’re suffering.
It is about loving to the fullest extent of your capacity.
It is about recognizing that the cost of that love, inevitably, is loss.
And it is about knowing that nonetheless, the cost is worth it.
And now, it is also about new ideals.
You see, there was this thing about Poohbah, from the moment he arrived in our lives as a tiny pup with a huge, beautiful heart.
When we would take him out for a walk on the street, people of all walks of life, all backgrounds, all income levels, all races, of every imaginable diversity, would take one look at him, and smile. Even if they were scowlingly angry the moment before, they would see his face and just light up. Some would stop, not even noticing his humans, and pet him, and just laugh out loud.
We got used to the mark he made on everyone he passed, sometimes in just a split-second.
He changed people.
He was noticeable.
He lightened the load in every being around him.
So significant was this effect that we even came to refer to him as something of a Boddhisatva– a being who, in a long lineage of beings, strives for the betterment of all other beings in his or her realm.
With Poohbah, there was never any doubt that his heart led the way.
Since his passing, I have been acutely aware of my own heart, both physically and spiritually.
It is the place where I have ached non-stop for days now.
It is the place where I have crushed, childlike, the teddy bear I share with my daughter.
It is the place where I have sought refuge at night when the silence in our home without him is deafening.
“I will do whatever it takes to have the life I want” requires holding myself to certain standards now, ones that honor his memory.
I will lead with my heart.
I will work to lighten the load.
I will change what I can for the better.
I will stand in the shoes of this beautiful small creature who gifted us with all he was for too short a time, and I will rise to meet my potential from THAT place.
And above all, I will remember and honor his complete and total Grace.
Because that, I now see, is what it takes to have the life I want. There is no other way.
And I am grateful, ever grateful, for this last lesson of many that sweet Poohbah brought to my life.
This week, I ask you to do the following: Live well. Love hard. Be thankful for the privilege.
Because appreciating the gift of your life, and your capacity to love all the way to your very last breath, is what it takes to have the life you want.
Thank you for being a part of mine.