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Saturday, January 17, 2015

On Grief and Learning and Living

Jean Sexton muses:

A comment from a friend sent me looking back at past Januaries in my life. For the past few years, they have been rough.

In January 2010, I returned home from a trip to Amarillo to find that the landlord had decided that many of my belongings in the common area (where they had been for 14 years) were clutter. They were tossed haphazardly in boxes. I was furious at the cavalier treatment of my things, as that in many ways was an invasion of my space. It marked the end of my thinking of that place as "home," and I grieved for that loss. It solidified my decision to move to Amarillo. I even got a storage area for my "clutter."

In January 2011, someone tried to break into the house where I was living. They didn't get in, but I started moving more things into storage. In January 2012, someone successfully broke in and stole things that belonged to my landlord. They tried to get some of my things, but there were too many things to disconnect with the burglar alarm going off and police on their way. That incident ended any illusion of security and safety that I harbored. I grieved for that loss of innocence.

In January 2013, I lost my beloved cat, Sapphire. That was followed in January 2014 by my new dog, Markie, becoming ill and succumbing to the effects of a genetic defect. I mourned for those losses -- a cat who lived a long life, but who still fought for her life and a dog who died far too young.

Today I am promising myself that I will live my life, learn from those events, and not clutch the losses close to me.

I learned I don't need as much "stuff." I shouldn't be defined by things and I certainly shouldn't live my life around them. I didn't know what I would need when I moved to Amarillo. When I got here, I made some decisions and gave up many of my things. I didn't want to look at objects and forget to look at people and the world around me.

I learned that feeling secure is a state of mind. The crime rate in Amarillo is nowhere what I faced where I lived before (the county where I lived was recently named the second most dangerous county in the United States). Part of my sense of security is that a Steve walks me to my car whenever I work late (our building is next to a bar). Part of it is that I have worked hard to make my apartment feel like home. I've chosen tranquil colors and favorite pieces of art. I have a feeling of peace when I am at home.

I learned that leaving a place isn't necessarily running away from failure. Sometimes it is moving to success and happiness. You cannot let your fear of failure, of change, and of the unknown take charge of your life.

I have learned that my furkids are loans. Each one is its own being; each one brings a different joy. Saph was always tranquil and was a lap sitter. Markie was fiercely protective and the world's best soccer-playing dog. I will always miss them. However The Wolf is just what I need now. He protects me from strangers when we walk at night. He plays hard; I am still trying to learn the rules of his puppy games. He demands that I walk him, even if I am feeling lazy, so that I am getting healthier. When he feels I need it (or there is a storm), he sleeps in my lap.

I think what I am working around to is that living can be hard. Loss happens, both of "stuff" and loved ones. Bad things happen, even to good people. What you have in your power is how you face it. I am choosing to face life, good and bad, by moving forward. I want to live life exuberantly. I want to celebrate the happiness I have and let that define who I am. It may not be easy to do so. I may not always succeed. But I will have tried and I will continue to try. For me, that is what matters -- that I never, ever give up hope.