I posted on social media recently that I did not appreciate the dog dying in a certain movie (some of my friends did not appreciate me revealing this spoiler, so I’ll withhold the title here). I thought it was a gratuitous plot device, an intentional tear-jerker. And it worked. I had to take off my glasses because I was crying so much.
I was on an airplane, leaving to be away from home for a week and I couldn’t help but to think of my dog Lucy, who was probably curled up on her pillow next to Desi at that very moment.
Lucy is showing her age (which is unknown since we adopted her as an adult) and all of sudden she seems really old. Surely the pain she carries was brought on my getting hit by a car (I guess I should admit, MY car, I wrote about it here). I love this dog. The thought of her passing away when I am out of town picks at an old wound of losing our precious dog Bear years ago when we were in London. He was our first dog, adopted before we had kids, and surely the coolest dog ever.
I felt the impulse to write about my broken heart of losing Bear when I was so far away and the broken heart I was preemptively feeling about Lucy from watching the movie. Which made me curious about why I want to write about my broken heart. Why do I choose to go there?
Speaking to book clubs about my memoir Float On has forced me to be articulate about why I’m sharing these personal and often painful stories about my family. It’s been interesting to experience other people’s reactions about it all. I’ve realized that our own reactions about someone else’s experience reveals much about ourselves. And part of me growing personally is looking closely at my reactions to life; writing is the best tool for me to get close with anything I’m curious about.
When I pull something out of the recesses of my memory, I try to be gentle with it – especially the painful stuff. I want to re-experience it but in the most loving way possible, like setting a fragile object in a sunny windowsill to better appreciate. From there I can look at the curiosity in the light. No matter what it is – even heartbreak – I can turn it over and see what might be tucked into the other side.
I write about the painful stuff to help me remember it, because there are lessons for me in remembering. That other side of the pain resting in the light often shows love. Wanting to write about losing Bear helps me remember what a faithful friend he was for so many years. I want that kind of loyal love in my life and writing helps me to appreciate that. I need to remember that heartache is inevitable when I am out there living my life, but to live life anyway. We all have to; it’s the only answer against loss.
As the poet and novelist Ben Okri wrote, “Live while you are alive.” Writing helps me do that. What helps you?