It's been two weeks today since my greyhound Meg died. The moment when, at the vets', I knelt down on the floor and she snuggled her head in between my legs, remains imprinted in my brain. She'd never done that before, and I felt overwhelmingly that she was thanking me for noticing that she needed to leave, and telling me I'd made the right decision to help her go. (I knew I'd cry writing this paragraph.)
Letting Meg go – in quite an unexpected way, because I wasn't sure whether I'd leave with or without her that evening – has left me thinking a lot about life, love and loss. They are both one and the same, in that they tend to come as a package deal. But how they come are quite different.
Life comes to us without our choice – at least not our human choice. Spiritually or religiously we may think otherwise. I tend to oscillate between believing that I chose this life based on the circumstances. I doubt there are few people who, like me, haven't used this line of protest as children with their parents/guardians: "Well, I never asked to be born!" And it's true – that choice is made for us, with varying degrees of intentionality.
So life comes to us, seemingly unwantedly. In our early years, we are unconscious of this but, as we grow and gain self-awareness, we may reflect on the fact that we're here, living without choice, yet making choices in our choicelessness.
One major type of choice we make is whether or not to love. We may choose to to start loving, continue loving, or to stop loving. If we stop, we may have to have to choose whether or not to love again. Loving is life-changing, affecting our thoughts, feelings, actions, our lives (both social and work) – and much more. It even changes our choices.
But there's one thing that love can't change,. and that is the potential for loss. Whether it's a person, animal, inanimate object, activity or idea, we have to be willing to lose if we are to love it. To love life itself is to be open to the reality of one day losing it.
And so losing Meg has made me realise how much courage it takes to love. Loving is courageous because it leaves you open to vulnerability, pain, grief, loneliness, emptiness...and a whole lot of other really messy, ugly, terrible shit that, paradoxically, is the antithesis of love but is its inevitable outcome.
On Saturday, I'm meeting some new greyhounds, one of which (though I know I'm going to want more than one!) I am going to to choose to love in the knowledge that, in time, I'll have to go through the process of losing again. I'll survive that loss and then it'll be time to chose courageously to love again.
So, in a way, when we choose loving over not loving, perhaps we are making a different choice. Perhaps, instead, we are choosing courage and acceptance of loss, over fear and the avoidance of loss.