Calvin is nine in dog years, translated to human time – he is about 52ish. Maybe because he lived on a leash in hot Florida for the last three years, maybe because he is older and not as strong anymore, he wiped out in the MI winter snow. Result: torn miniscus or ACL. Either way, he stopped using that leg for a while. Thanks to a wise and conservative vet, Calvin is being given time, lots of time, as much time as he needs to heal. There was an initial prescription for some medicine to reduce the swelling and give initial pain relief. He also got daily chews to support joint health and encourage joint strength. I advocated for the continuance of walking this 80 pound lab for his mental health. The vet agreed but said “no more freedom.” He is leash restricted. No zooming around until the healing is complete.
For nine dog years I’ve walked with Calvin. He is pretty good though not stellar at staying right beside me. He would prefer to be in front with a bit of strain encouraging me to walk faster. Not now. His brisk jog lasts only a half mile if that. The rest of his walk is s..l..o..w. If you would meet Calvin for the first or fifty first time today, you would not see his internal injury on his outer body. So you would question his limp or hesitation to go up the stairs or clearly painful struggle to lay down. Its been over six weeks since the wipe out. And actually, he wiped out once which led to a limp, but the second wipeout a week later took the injury to a more serious level. When we walk, he does not want to be pulled. Nor does it help at all to push him to a faster pace. He is still on the DL. Pet owners – do you get it?
I get it in human years, in human pain, in human experience of having part of me injured. But its not on the outside where everyone can see. In fact, I am trying to keep the outside intact so I can keep interacting with life that I love – the relationship with my husband/best friend; relationships with family, long time friends, new friends in the making; work; play; volunteering; errands; keeping my house and clothes clean; exercising; walking Calvin. It has been a compact six months of hard – loss, old wounds re-opened, previous emotions of significant loss re-opened, moving, change, more moving, more loss, and all kinds of unfamiliar, new, learning. It is intense and this most recent loss has wiped me out. NO PITY PLEASE. The reason I am sharing this is NOT for the sake of personal condolence. It is to give a voice to people you know, that may not be able to say, “I’m wiped out. There is hurting places on the inside you can’t see. I need time to heal, and it’s not something that can be rushed.”
You who’ve been there, or are there – do you get it?
People who are reading this, look around you at the those you know and interact with. There might be one or more who is like Calvin, like me right now. Please, no pushing. Don’t pull us. It won’t help the healing for you to try to speed us up or tell us to “keep our chin up”, or say to someone else, “It’s been long enough. They need to move on now.” Everyone is unique and what is going on inside might be more complex than you understand, than even they understand. So how they heal and the time it takes will be unique. Think about the internally injured person right now. Take a deep breath. Another one. Let go of your need to have them get over it and get better already. If you can’t, you would love them best by giving them space from you and your need. If you can, replace the pushing with hugging. Drop the rope you are trying to pull them with and extend an invitation to have a beer, or a wine and cheese, or ice-cream or go to a funny play. Someone unexpectedly extended the invitation to really listen yesterday. Those kindnesses are loving and helpful. But be ready to hand out the rain-check graciously if they can’t say yes this time. Keep on living your life and let them live into theirs even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if it takes a while for them to be like their old self.
I read these words today; words of a person who was overwhelmed by troubles: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” This was a statement made to God by a man named David. (Ps 56). It struck me that I know God cancels my sin, but then goes and collects my tears. I wonder what he does with them. Maybe he taps people on the shoulder, or knocks them on the head and sends them out to love the hurting. Sometimes He does something Greater and floods the hurting with Peace and Comfort that is more profound than people can offer. I know this personally too.
And one last thing – if you are the one with the hurt who is pushing and pulling on your old self to pull itself up by its proverbial boot straps, I grant you permission to let the old self off the hook for what it cannot possibly accomplish. There is work for grief to do. Let it do its job and have its way. For if it completes the unique task it has, the old self will return whole and changed and equipped with compassion it did not previously have. It is worth the wait.
I’m eager to walk briskly with Calvin again. Not just because his leg will be better, but because my heart will be too. For now, slow is just fine.