Remington Woof! 2015-2019
I was fortunate to have grown up in a home where love, support, and a healthy family system produced confident kids. For the majority of my developmental years we lived in Orange, California, whose neighboring city, Anaheim, was home to the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland’s magic, along with Disney films and characters, wove through the tapestry of my childhood and adolescence. I sang, danced, tapped and tumbled my way through my early years.
Junior high arrived and the fun continued. I was the lead solo in several of the choir’s productions, experienced success and accolades in my speech and drama classes, won talent shows and school dances, and made the cheerleading team my ninth grade year. Alongside of all that, I was a serious gymnast who worked out and competed with a private club. But more importantly, it was during these formative years, when I was 12, that I came to Christ in a real and personal way. (I didn’t know it then, but I was part of “The Jesus Movement” in the early 70’s, that started on the West coast and swept across North America). The newly formed relationship surpassed any earthly one I possessed and changed the trajectory of my life.
Throughout high school the magic continued. At 16, I was cast as Grumpy, one of Snow White’s seven dwarves, for the annual Disney Christmas parade. How could I have known that I had barely 6 years left to dance, execute backflips, and challenge my high school guy friends to handstand contests in restaurant parking lots? After graduating from high school and working assorted jobs, I had the opportunity through a Christian outreach to briefly live in both England and Holland. At 21, I moved to the center of the red-light district in Amsterdam to work at a Christian youth hostel. After six months, I returned to the United States with the intention of leaving again, this time for Greece to work aboard a Mercy ship, called the Anastasis. But travel plans were interrupted by another trip, a downhill adventure that landed me in undisclosed, unknown territory not found on any world map.
I had no idea the bubble of grace that encapsulated me for most of my young life would violently burst and drop me into a crucible; a dark, deep place that would force me to change. I had a choice though, as to how, and in what ways. I could allow my pain to violently toss me into extremes—fear and denial—or I could engage my pain and trust that no matter how complete the wreckage, good could still emerge. I learned what we do in life’s crucible—our willingness or unwillingness to self examine, disassemble and reassemble—differentiates the resilient from the non-resilient, and determines our future mental-health and quality of life.
Once I left the hospital, I slept. A lot. The massive drugs the hospital had pumped into my body were still circulating in my bloodstream, causing profuse night sweats and handfuls of hair loss. Rest was the optimum healing agent. I rested for several months. Some would label this a period of depression, but I didn’t feel depressed, nor did I ask for or receive antidepressants. There was a psychological and spiritual need to wander sleep’s hallways, search the various rooms that held my past experiences, and look for clues to reinvent myself. Time, not psychotropics, led me out of the valley of the shadow. Mood altering drugs would only have impeded the natural and normal feelings associated with catastrophic loss. As painful as those feelings were, I knew the journey to the underworld was both necessary and significant.
While wandering through the netherworld, I realized that the world’s obsession with body image, and its sensual attractions, was of little import to me now. I had already watched my dancer’s legs atrophy, my abdomen extend roundward since its muscles could no longer hold it inward, and my breasts drop downward (at 22 ladies) because I had no working trunk muscles to afford me a decent posture. My once nicely formed derriere, now flat and atrophied, would remain unannounced in a tight pair of jeans. But it was at this juncture that I held my values tighter and my belief that, “We are eternal spirits, temporarily housed in a body.” It was in my 20’s that I decided a good character would be my greatest attraction moving forward. It’s the same today. Do I always display this? Oh, heck no.
With the prime of my life in ruins, I would discover my second resiliency: To Find Meaning in Our Suffering. I didn’t know it at the time but a lifeline was lowered into my crucible that others had found before me. When psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl, was imprisoned at Auschwitz and various other death camps during the holocaust, he questioned what kept certain people alive and why did certain people die. Those who found some sense of purpose were ultimately those who survived.
How do you find purpose in the most purposeless place in the history of humankind?
He surmised over his years of confinement that the most basic motivation in life is the will to meaning. Later he would write extensively about his findings in his classic book: Man’s Search For Meaning. Out of this horrendous experience, Dr. Frankl distilled that one’s life is discovered in 3 different ways:
1) by creating a work or doing a deed;
2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and
3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
I recently watched the Rubin Report: Religion, Trans Activism and Censorship with guests Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson and Shapiro, a Jew, stated, “If human beings can find meaning living in a concentration camp where people are getting gassed to death every day, then we should certainly be able to find meaning in the freest, richest, most prosperous human society in the history of humanity.” Ben Shapiro
On this note, there are multiple reasons why author and clinical psychologist, Dr. Jordon Peterson, has become one of the most sought after international speakers on the world stage and his book, “12 Rules for Life” has sold millions 12 Rules for Life. Since his early 20’s he has been working on solving the 2 most fundamental questions of human existence and their antidote.
1) How do we live in the face of the undeniable tragedy of human life?
2) What do we do with the fact that malevolence exists?
Jordon is a follow-up voice to Dr. Victor Frankl’s classic work. What I realized years later when I read Frankl’s book was that the lifeline that pulled me up and out of my own crucible was similar:
1) I had encountered someone (I became engaged to my boyfriend who was on the inner tube with me) and
2) I decided that whatever God had for me standing up I would just have to do sitting down (attitudinal adjustment)
Last blog I shared with you the first resiliency I dug out of my wreckage, “Accepting the Paradoxes Inherent in Life.”
The second resiliency I unearthed is: “To Find Meaning in Our Suffering”
Is it easy? HELL NO. Not ever.
This very afternoon when I finished typing this blog, my beautiful three-year-old black lab, Remington, was outside in the yard with my husband. She trotted over to say hello to the neighbor, came back, and plopped down next to my husband. Lew was sitting on a log finishing up a phone call with a friend when he got up and called Remi. She didn’t move. He reached under her girth and lifted her up and she fell back down immobile. He raced into the house to tell me to call the vet immediately and let them know he was on his way.
Just a week before Remi was limping after she played (which was every chance she got) and we made her rest the following day. But the day after that she was clearly in pain and yelping intermittently. We took her to the emergency clinic and they prescribed pain meds and diagnosed her with a neck injury. The following day her primary vet saw her, concurred with the diagnosis, and added to the protocol a steroid injection followed by 3 weeks of pain/steroid meds with full rest, no play.A few hours after the steroid injection, Remi was doing much better. Her eyes were bright once again and by the next day our vivacious dog was bouncing and frolicking like usual. She continued to improve daily and we continued with the protocol into the second week.
Lew called me from the hospital after the xrays and evaluation. The news was not good. Remi had a ruptured/herniated disc in her neck, pressing on her spinal chord, and was paralyzed. She still had deep pain sensation, which was positive, but the nearest vet neurologist and MRI/surgery facility was 2 hours south. The neurologist felt that Remi could be stabilized overnight at our local hospital and brought in early the next morning for both procedures. I felt I had been sucker punched. Uninvited shock and fear from my own trauma, 37 years ago, took me hostage. Lew was still at the hospital. I was home packing an overnight bag when I received a call from Dr. Jayson. She told me Remi’s paralysis had crept higher and her diaphragm was no longer working and that she was now on a breathing tube. I told her I was on my way. Frantic three-way-calls flew between myself, my husband, and my daughter who purchased, trained and then surprised us with our beautiful Remington Woof! It was excruciating.
I forced myself to drive slowly but my mind was racing. I cried out, “God, what a cruel, ironic twist of fate. Why do I, of all people, have to go through a neck injury and paralysis with my beloved poopy dog?” My husband was waiting for me outside the hospital and we went straight back into the interior where Remi lie. Our wonderful, young, black lab was lying on a table unmoving barely breathing, working her mouth in a fish like motion sucking in oxygen. We could place her into a medically induced coma, intubate her, hook her up to a breathing machine and transport her but in our small town that was not a viable option so we had to make the brutally painful decision to let her go.
Lew and I, somehow, made our way outside, sat down on the nearest bench and collapsed into a mass of sobs. After vacillating between my crying, cussing and praying, perhaps my one mature response this time was not raising my fist in anger and cursing God (Hey, Job’s wife suggested this in her deep pain so don’t give me the eyebrow raise). After all, we live in a broken world; we live under a curse. Death, sickness, disease, pain and sorrow is our lot; but ONE DAY all shall cease.
As I processed Remington’s life over the next week or so, I found some meaning in my suffering. Animals, created by God for His good pleasure and ours, bring us great joy, unconditional love and seriously, no back-talk. Remi’s love language was play, play and more play, and she reminded us every day of its value.
Joy and Play, we could all use more.
“Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” Lam. 3:22-23
For more insights from my book, Pain, Power & Promise
I bless you today with a new mercy,