“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
– Robert Brault
I am usually a champion for the slow approach, for letting things unfold, and for waiting patiently. It’s recently occurred to me that there is an exception to this rule. (isn’t there always?)
This is in no way to diminish the pain that comes when bad things happen.
- Heartbreak sucks.
- Watching someone we love suffer is so hard.
- Disease is painful and sad.
- Loss hurts through and through.
I’ve experienced all of these things and more, and with each thing comes something bright. I never see it at the beginning, but I’m getting better at seeing it faster. It took me a year to see my MS as a blessing, but in less than 2 months I discovered blessings in dog cancer.
When Guinness was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in April, our family was devastated. The cancer started in his front right leg and it was so painful that he couldn’t walk without limping and didn’t want to walk very far. Our options were grim. We could opt for amputation or say goodbye to our faithful friend. After researching, and praying and having big conversations, we decided that Guinness still had a few trails to hike in his life. Even if the amputation wouldn’t stop the cancer, it would give him some pain-free time to enjoy his life.
Guinness had his surgery on May 19th and on June 21st he was back on his favorite hiking trail. As soon as we saw his paws in the dirt, and watched him discover all of the scents, sights and blessings of the trail, we knew we had made the right choice.
Guinness finds blessings everywhere and takes time to appreciate them. He doesn’t need to wait for the right time or until he clears his to-do list or feels like it. It comes naturally. With his guidance, I’m learning to do the same.
The Blessings I’ve Noticed in the Past Month
My friends and family have cried with us and given us the space to make tough decisions all while reminding us that they love us, love Guinness and want to help how they can. The vets and everyone who works at the University Veterinary Hospital in Salt Lake City fell in love with Guinness, and we fell in love with them. They were professional and did great work, but they were also deeply caring, understanding and available.
When I wrote about how sad I was about Guinness, the outpouring of compassionate comments, emails and messages was overwhelming in the best possible way. You lifted our family when we needed it the most.
Everyday is extraordinary. Knowing that Guinness may not have many healthy days ahead, we are getting our carpe diem on. We’ve explored the Pipeline trail in Millcreek Canyon, had treats and Liberty Park, played with a ball in a park overlooking the city, jumped in the stream in City Creek Canyon and at Petsmart, Guinness picked out a treat as big as his face.
Even in the down times, in the ordinary moments, during quiet cuddles or naps, we are present and absorbing all of the joy.
Guinness has no mental or emotional hangups about his missing leg, but not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop us on our walks to give him some love and ask me his story. For awhile I wanted to make things up and keep it light so I didn’t have to tell the cancer story over and over, but my friend Heidi reminded me how important this story is. To show how happy this dog is even after losing a leg, and how quickly he recovered, might give other people in a similar situation hope and remind them that amputation isn’t as bad as it sounds in most cases.
Often, after being vulnerable, and sharing our story, someone will give me a story back. Our vulnerability invites their vulnerability and with that there is connection, hope and love.
In addition, I’ve noticed blessings like resilience, friendship, and a deeper connection with my husband as we go through this together. And the tiny blessings like having space in my day to go to the park, lay down a blanket, and sit under a tree with my dog.
I notice all of those blessings and more, but only when I’m open. When I’m too focused on the future and what comes next, or thinking about the past and how hard the first few weeks were, I’m not thinking about how blessed I am to have time to experiences simple joys with my dog right now.
I was going to give you a big list of how to find the blessings faster, but this is the very best way …
The best way to find the blessings is to look for them. Be open. Be open through sadness, fear, anger and denial. And the only thing you have to do to be open is to say you are. Say it out loud, write it down, or make it a silent mantra. “I am open. I am open to all of the blessings this situation has to offer.”
Blessings usually never start or appear as blessings, but they will appear. Instead of looking back in 10 years and seeing all of the beauty and blessings you missed, find them faster. Notice them and fully appreciate them. They will ease the pain and give you purpose. They will give you the clarity you need to calm down and engage, and they will quiet your worry and fear.
And if you are really open, they will even make you laugh.
Whatever your struggle is today, claim your openness to the blessings that have yet to appear and then give them room to rush in.