We are a people prone to worry. To letting things roll around in our minds until we're sick to our stomachs and nowhere closer to an answer. And what are these things that make us worry?
More often than not, they are things we cannot do anything about in the first place.
Late Friday night, my 12-year-old labrador/shepherd mix had a seizure. In human terms, we would call it a grand mal - twitching and seizing and contorting on the floor for a good three full minutes. My heart was breaking as I knelt on the floor as near to her as I dared; she has been a special dog for me and my family, and she's such a sweetheart. I kept trying to say her name, trying to reach out and pet her but a little afraid to touch her. And when she finally came out of it, she stayed there, paralyzed, a few more minutes before pulling herself up and hobbling straight over to me to nuzzle my shoulder and give me that moment to touch her.
I guess she knew I needed that. (And I was really honored, because by this point, our neighbors were in the house and you'd think she'd go for the strangers who actually DID come to visit her this time.)
The on-call vet called back a few minutes later, so I'm sitting in my room with one ear to the living room, where my brother and mother are comforting our big hairy girl, who is hopelessly agitated and has no idea what's going on, and one ear to the phone, trying to figure out what we're supposed to do now and what happens if it happens again....and all my energies focused on keeping my gut steady. And after I hung up, I went in the living room, put my arm around my dog, knelt...and prayed.
Now, I'm a rock in a crisis. In the moment, there are things to be done and needs to be taken care of and hearts to be steadied and nerves to calm. And I am steady and solid. But afterward...
Afterward, there is time to worry. Because there's nothing to do any more and your mind has all the time in the world to replay those events, to wonder when it's coming again, to think about what it means, to look at your companion, your friend, indeed - your family member, and feel completely helpless. Worry is our desperate attempt to find control in a situation that is beyond it.
There was nothing I could do for Kiira. Not in the moment and not a lot afterward. The vet got us a couple of valium pills and an appointment first thing the next morning, comforting us that about 50% of dogs will have one seizure and never another but the valium would help her calm down for the night.
My immediate thought was the ultra-dramatic, completely defeated, heartbroken response of "I can never sleep again." I could never leave her alone. That's worry. That's our superman complex that says we should be able to do something. If we're watching close enough, if we're ready, and if we're already planning six steps ahead in our minds what we might possibly do...then yes, we can do something.
Then she wandered into my room and laid down on my rug and just kind of looked at me, tongue hanging out, panting, covered in whatever foam was left coming out of her mouth. Thumping her tail a couple of times, still not sure what was up.
It's not plausible for me to stay up forever. Just like it's not plausible that she would never be alone. Looking at her lying in my floor, waffling between agitated and exhausted, I was evaluating everything in my life to figure out how I could be most available for her, most present, most ready in the event this would happen again, though my mind was turning that 50% over and over and praying she would fall into that group. I was just looking at her, waiting for the valium to settle in, and in that moment, I knew.
Staying up, worrying, watching over her every move, her every breath, her every twitch was not going to do either of us any good. At the same time, my heart would not let me just ignore the night and go to bed. So I looked at her again and instantly knew - I am here, I am up, I am right here on the floor next to this girl until the valium gives her rest. When she finds rest, I will go and seek my own.
This was the decision of love. To love. Love is not delusional; it has no ideas of grandeur. Simple love is surrender. It has a realistic understanding of its abilities and knows its limitations. Love was not going to try to stay up all night and cure canine epilepsy. Love was committed to giving what it could in that moment and nothing more.
Love says, I know it's tough right now, but here I am. There's nothing I can do about it. I can't fix it. But I am here. And I'm staying here until you have peace. I refuse to let you face this alone. I refuse to abandon you, even though there's nothing I can do. Because for peace to come, love has to be here. And for love to be here, there has to be the two of us.
All the worry in the world had nothing to offer that night. It has nothing to offer today. Contrary to what all our worry itself might tell us, there is a lot that worry cannot do. But what worry cannot do, love can. And does.
Love is, in the moment, the answer our worry is looking for. And love is able to do that because while worry has already moved on to tomorrow, love remains. In that moment, love is there.
That night, love brought us both peace. Love brought us through. By its mere presence. And somehow, love changed something - it changed everything, really - though it changed the circumstances nothing at all.
What would happen if we walked away from worry and instead sought love? What would happen if, instead of obsessing over fixing it all, we surrendered ourselves to just doing what we can? What love can.
(We are still awaiting the results of testing on our precious friend, Kiira. The vet said that because of her age, it is likely a brain tumor, but we are holding out hope that it will be a thyroid problem, infection, or other unexpected something that shows up in her blood work. She had a second seizure the following morning, but a smaller one by far, just before going to the vet and is now on anti-seizure medicine until we figure out what to do for her long-term.)