Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reminding myself of compassion

Today, my mom called around noon, an odd time for her to call on a weekday. I'm weird this way and notice patterns in people, like the fact that she is even calling me means something is up--invariably it's bad news. Yep, I was right.

She was in tears, because one of her cavaliers died this morning. She had taken Fergie to the vet two days ago. Labs were run and it was conclusive she had diabetes. Then, she got a call this morning saying Fergie died in her sleep, that they just couldn't get her glucose levels under control and she had other damage to her kidneys.

Like most of us do, my mom blamed herself--that she wasn't aware which dog it was that was drinking so much water (there were 4 cavaliers and 1 chow mix plus two cats), that she should have gotten her there faster, that she should have gone to visit the night before but wasn't able to, that somehow she should have known.

All I could do was what is natural to me--to console, to comfort, to tell her how sorry I was, to let her know that Fergie was in a better place, that she wasn't in pain long, that Fergie knew how grateful she was for rescuing her, that she had people who loved and care for her. Still though, words never feel like enough when someone is distraught and in pain. I can only imagine my own suffering when my dogs pass.

I called her in the evening to check up on her. She thanked me and told me she would be okay. I know she will be, but she will be fraught with worry since four of the other dogs are the same age. I hate to see her worried. It's probably one reason why I have kept so many of my thoughts private from her.


I think about how easy it is to nurture, console, and feel compassion for someone else (humans and animals alike), however, when it comes to myself or people actually caring about me, it's like I'm really not allowed that. The image I always have with this particular issue is Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel. The fingers are there reaching out, and if only I could grasp it completely, fully.

Sometimes, I wonder where I have gotten this notion. Where and when did I set this rule for myself? I doubt I'll ever know the answer, so all I can do is remind myself of certain things:

Rules can be broken.
Sometimes, it's even good to break rules.
Compassion for others and oneself is allowed and needed.


On a side note, my mom said something interesting to me. She said last night she woke up at 2 AM and was wide awake. Although she discounted this thought, she wondered whether that might have been the time Fergie passed away. I told her this was a very likely scenario. I don't know whether she believed me or not, but I've always believed that animals have a wonderful sense of telling us things. And in this case, it was Fergie's way of telling her she was leaving this earth and going to the Rainbow Bridge where all animals go.


Standing in the Rain said...

it's so hard to lose a pet. wishing you and your mother comfort! i'm glad she has sound so compassionate and kind to her.

Gwen said...

I have a copy of The Creation of Adam in my bedroom. I get the same feeling from it that you describe. I'm sorry to hear about your mom's dog. I'm the same way about compassion. I can reach out to others but when it comes to me, I am generally merciless. And I have a hard time accepting help from others, also. I make myself do it, because I often need help. But I can't shake the guilty feelings that come up in me because of it.

Kristina said...


It was wonderful that you were able to offer your mother comfort, and although it can be so difficult to change, to take a risk and open up to people, but it ultimately helps us to lean on others and to ask for support. I think some people see that as being "weak", but there is a certain amount of strength involved in being vulnerable, a certain amount of self-awareness and trust.
You do deserve compassion, from yourself and from others, Tiptoe.

Lola Snow said...

ED's are so wonderfully conducive to secrets, and secrets put a wall between us and other people. By always keeping others slightly at an arms length, we keep the risk of hurting them to the minimum, but never feel we are able to accept their compassion. They are always a step away from us, and we are always a step away from being able to care for ourselves. I think the fear I have is that once I let someone in a little too close, the crack will bring my whole facade crumbling down. As if it is the thin end of the wedge. I'm sorry to hear about your Mum's dog, but very glad that you could be there for her. Maybe instead of considering yourself as "I" you could try acting for yourself as you would for a friend? You're such a kind person Tiptoe, you've always got support for those around you. Support yourself a little,

Lola x

Kara said...

I know exactly what you mean - how it's so easy to be compassionate to others, but not when it comes to ourselves. I wish I could be nice to myself. It's such a hard thing to do.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for the nice comments on my empathy towards others.

It's kind of sad that so many of us can relate to not being compassionate to ourselves. :sigh: Maybe we can all work on this a little?

Kristina, yes, there is a quiet strength in vulnerability.

Lola, I understand the facade thinking. For a long time, I desperately wanted to be able to be someone with no facade. But letting go of it is hard.