Life is imperfect. I know that’s a ridiculously over-simplified statement that hardly bears saying. But, even so, I’ve fought against that idea my whole life. You see, in spite of life’s imperfections, I somehow thought I was meant to be perfect within it (does that sound familiar to any of you?). Yes, little Jeane Weigel was born to break all the existing laws of physics in order to be perfect. So every time I failed (and you know those times were legion) I beat myself up (again, I’m guessing this sounds all too familiar to many of you).
In fact I’m seriously thinking, now, that this intense need for perfection, my knee-jerk need to be good (which was implanted in my child-psyche along with razor sharp consequences should I fail) may be, at least in part, a significant reason I had a shingles outbreak in the first place (any of you who have been reading the blog for awhile know I’ve been troubled by shingles for roughly 2 ½ years).
And possibly, in part because of this intense drive, I am among one in twenty shingles sufferers who end up with prolonged damaged nerves or Postherpetic Neuralgia, as it’s called. This means I’ve been in serious pain for 2 ½ years. Seriously.
Sometimes the pain has been great enough to test my life view. And, at times, I’ve felt so lost I was prepared to leave this world entirely. I was ready to cut and run. Except for the animals. I wouldn’t abandon them.
Yesterday Kim and I (see previous post A Very Mini Artist’s Colony in New Mexico) headed down the mountain in the dark of predawn…
… (with a stop at The Pantry, one of our favorite Santa Fe breakfast spots)…
… to go to the UNM Hospitals Clinical Neurosciences Center in Albuquerque.
I had an appointment with Dr. Koshkin who was, in my mind, supposed to cure me—to somehow take away or lesson the pain. He was supposed to do this for me. And, instead, he told me to stop fighting—to accept that I’m going to live with PHN for the rest of my life, in all likelihood, and even if he did the last remaining procedure I haven’t yet tried and, even if it was successful, I’ll certainly have to live on pain meds for the rest of my life anyway.
He said I needed to know that so I could stop fighting and accept it. Wow.
That, in a nutshell, is the major lesson of my life being handed back to me. Here is this medical professional, this wonderful scientific specialist, telling me in plain English to get back at learning what I came here to learn: to stop fighting life and, instead, accept it in whatever imperfect form it may take. To stick, no matter how hard that might get. That it is my work to do, not his.
I say it again. Wow.
I live with this little red pit bull named Scrumpy. She came to be with me about 4 months ago, in from the dark woods, covered with deep, infected bite wounds—a real sorry little bundle of a dog. You should know that I’ve been a big proponent of pit bulls for decades now, firmly believing they’re great, intelligent dogs that have been given a bad rap. And I know that’s true. But what I’m also seeing first hand is that breeding does, in fact, dictate something. As my vet said, pit bulls were born to kill. And, while that isn’t exactly true, they were originally bred for blood sports such as bull-baiting and bear-baiting in pits for human enjoyment (aren’t you sometimes just so ashamed to be human?), there is an inherent aggression bred into them. Which is why I suppose human beings have been turning them into guard dogs and fighters.
But here is this dear little lost soul, so earnest in her desire to do right, to be the good dog (that sounds vaguely familiar)…
… but who also has a streak in her that is hard-wired to attack cats—my cats. No, this won’t work. Twice I tried to give her back to my vet so she could be placed in a good home. The last time Dr. Ramsay sent me researching pit bull rescue sites. And the fact is this: in New Mexico anyway, a pit bull is destined, the greatest percentage of the time, to be badly mistreated. And a pit bull with behavioral issues will be put down. It’s as simple as that. So there it is. I’m her last chance.
I looked into those sincere red-brown eyes and decided I couldn’t turn my back on her. She clearly wanted to do what I wanted her to do, so it was up to me to figure out how to make my desires known to her.
She and I, together, would begin the project of rewiring her cat-hostile brain. And, at the same time, I would have to keep my cats safe while she was learning. We would all do the work together.
But the bottom line was that I would stick. Period. No other option.
And then there is my relationship with Kim. You all know how important he and his friendship are to me, how much a part of my life he’s become. But ours isn’t the shape I thought a relationship would take. It’s different. Completely different. And it’s not perfect—there it is again that attachment to perfection—it’s not always easy. So that “quitter” part of me sometimes wants to cut and run.
But something vital I’ve come to know is this: no matter how hard it is to hold on sometimes, we are not disposable. Our selves, our dogs, our relationships, are not to be shunted aside when they become too difficult. We, all of us, have something. Not a one of us gets through this life without our share of sorrow and pain, without the whole of the human experience. I know there are times to let go and times to hold on. Perhaps getting older gives us the grace, the wisdom, to know which is which.
Here I am back in Albuquerque, facing that imperfect news and I look out the car window and up there…
… far up ahead, up in those snowy mountains in the distance, sitting on a ridge line on the shoulder of those Sangre de Cristo Mountains, at 8500’, is my home.
My home. It sits there waiting for me, in the middle of what used to be Nelson Martinez’s family’s alfalfa field, pushed up against the land grant (as if for quick escape), in this rugged little village called Truchas. It is an old and battered village, strong and tough. But she holds my heart in her work-hardened, dirt-cracked hands. And I find she is also kind.
So, carrying this saddened spirit within me, as I reach for her succor, her compassion, I lean into her silence. And I come to know that this wise old one that has known more suffering than I ever will, is welcoming me home. There, also, is the imperfect dog, are the imperfect relationships, waiting for me and it is almost funny how the universe must be smiling at me now, at the (yes, damn it) imperfect me, at showing myself to me.
And I know I will stick. With the village, the house, the dog, the friendships, with me. It is, perhaps, the coming of a wise old time in me, when I know it’s better to stay than go, to not fight.
As Dr. Koshkin said, I need not to fight anymore. And that simply has to be an inside job. I need not to fight anymore.
I am. It is…
… maybe not the way I thought I/it would be, should be, but nonetheless here anyway.
So let me take that next step… imperfectly… into the shared human experience I’ve been struggling so hard to avoid, and leap, this time eyes wide open, and suppose the net MAY appear?
Or not… And, if not, we’ll pick up the pieces and go from there.
Love to you all,