Lessons of life & death

As I sit in the cool calm of the Adirondack Mountains, sipping on my warm tea, it hits me… When I go home, my little fur ball friend isn’t going to be there to greet me.

My rabbit, Puffy, had passed away on August 29th. He was almost 11 years old. To say my heart is broken would just be an understatement.

Now I know what you’re thinking… it is just a rabbit.

But have you ever met one of those animals that just had something special about them? Yep, that was Puffy.

He was a little more like a dog than rabbit & had been a little buddy of mine since I was quite literally a child. We grew up together, moved around together, and went through a lot of heartbreak and joys. He loved to cuddle and give kisses, was picky about what food he got and loved to get on my yoga mat with me. He never had a door to his cage yet liked his carpeted areas nearby, never causing any sort of worry about chewing on things he shouldn’t be. When we’d travel in the car, he got too anxious in a carrier, but sat perfectly still and content on my lap. The vet had told me the day before he passed,

“Puffy is literally the smartest and most compassionate rabbit I have ever come across in my career.”

It was so, so hard to say goodbye to the little guy who was my baby before my baby.

 

In the silent moments up here, my mind began to think back to the end of the summer last year. I couldn’t help but think of the duality of life and death. Last year, almost to the day of Puff’s passing this year, I found out that I was pregnant with Lily.

One of the first signs that I was pregnant was Puff’s behavior. He seemed a bit clingier and often would sit on my belly instead of near my neck nuzzled the way he used to. He would start to nip at my clothes, almost like he wanted to move them. When I would, he would kiss my belly. As I got bigger, he would fall asleep along side or on top of my belly and wait for her to kick. When she would, he would jump over the area she kicked and kiss it. It was the most heartbreakingly adorable thing ever.

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When she was born, he would kiss the top of her head or try to climb into her seat with her. If I was in the other room and heard her crying, I’d rush in to see him stretching up next to her on his hind legs to check if she was okay. If I left anything on the floor that smelled like her, I knew I would find him sitting right on top of it.

I started noticing the signs of something not right with him around the end of April, when Lily was born. I was juggling recovering from a rough birth, having my fist newborn and running him back & forth to the vet. At first the vet thought allergies and put him on children’s Benadryl. Then it progressed to a cough and it was antibiotics. Then we noticed he wasn’t hopping around like he used to- a laser treatment for a degenerated disk in his back. He still had his wits about him though, eating and drinking despite the coughing/ sneezing that came with it. Then he started to lose fur. I don’t mean the slight shedding rabbits normally do, I mean big time– bald patches everywhere. Then I got the actual diagnosis,

… there was a tumor in his chest that was causing all of the symptoms.

When talking about his health one day to a family member, I mentioned how it seemed to have started after Lily was born. I secretly wondered if somehow I was slipping on how well I was taking care of him. She said to me, “Think about it this way… maybe he has been suffering and didn’t want to show you since he knew Lily wasn’t here yet. Maybe he needed to know that you had her and it would be ok for him to let go.”

It broke my heart and all at the same time made perfect sense. This rabbit was also the last living piece I had to my stepfather who had passed away 5 years ago.

Maybe it is my need to believe, but I tend to feel my step father’s presence around me still, and I especially felt it in all of those bunny kisses. Of course he would want to meet Lily! Of course he would be excited! Of course he would love her! I had to let go of my step father with the same reservation I had with Puff- “in no way do I ever, ever want to lose you, but the suffering is way beyond my capacity to make you comfortable.”

This life/death duality hurts SO bad to process but all at the same time gives me such a peace. Feeling it all is by far a necessary component to healing from each loss. In my case, with every loss I didn’t properly process, it came back hurting more so in the next loss.

I’ve learned how important it is to surrender. Each time I thought I surrendered, I had more to do. So I keep surrendering and keep reminding myself that there is a plan much bigger than mine. Whether you believe in God, the Universe, spirits, Mother Earth- it is bigger than you and I and what happens is not in our control. The lesson in surrendering is the same.

My job now is to appreciate every little thing I’m given- the good and the bad. There are lessons in both. This whole experience was a reminder that all these beautiful things in life aren’t ours to keep. It is all temporary and cannot be taken for granted.

I have one focus now- this beautiful baby girl. She isn’t mine either. I have her for a short time, and it is flying by! There will never be enough time, never the “right” time, but when she is ready, she’ll be spreading her wings and becoming who she is- and I’ll have to surrender in that time as well.

Love, let go, surrender, learn, and repeat

Finding balance within the WILDEST of adventures…

So I figured I would start this blog off with a bang… start it with the wildest of adventures- AWAITING THE BIRTH OF MY BABY. ;P Insane! I’m literally just waiting… could be weeks, days, hours or even minutes! Partaking in the journey to motherhood has in fact, been the wildest of adventures. It has been a wonderful way to reclaim my balance in life however, due to the unbalanced and totally unpredictable nature that growing a human requires of a person.

There are a few things you could have counted on from pre-baby Karen… I would wake up and drink my lemon-ginger tea, I would practice some yoga, find some time for meditation, drink my green juice- ya know, all the typical healthy stuff. But here I was morning sickness that was not settled by the ginger, sick at the thought of ANYTHING green, too tired to get on my mat (or too swollen to comfortably do asana at ALL towards the end), and breathing … who are we kidding? I had a child sitting on my ribs for months! My routine, my patterns, my sense of health and wellness, my identity was being questioned by this human I had growing inside of me. My place of balance I had found before pregnancy was no longer working for me. It was really hard to change my habits and beliefs about what I “should” be doing everyday. I was at a cross roads that I think so many people face: “I know this is good for me but… (enter excuse).”

Now I would love to say that I powered through and drank that juice, got on my mat everyday and never had an unhealthy craving- but I would be lying. And I’d rather not lie. In fact, I ate more ice cream than I have ever have in my life & those pints my friend,  were my biggest teacher.

It is true, I worked hard to get myself into these routines to start but once they became part of my day to day, they were easy for me. This isn’t the case for everyone, especially those who are just starting out on their wellness journey. Experiencing these struggles in what felt like a foreign body at times, really helped me to put myself into some of my  health client’s mindsets. It has also helped me to understand physical limitations of my yoga students that I haven’t ever had to consider. It taught me how to re-balance when I was out of whack and most importantly: It has taught me about not getting stuck in routines, even the healthy ones. 

I’ve come to learn the modifications of my yoga practice quite well. I’ve learned that having some ice cream at the end of the day may in fact make the whole day worth it. I have learned the beauty of just taking a walk when reaching for my toes is no longer accessible to me. I now bend at the knees or say “screw it” when something drops to the floor– these are all my new normals. Soon, I’ll have a baby girl in my arms and will have to adjust ALL over again. Getting stuck in these habits- not an option. Going with the flow is the ultimate in learning to balance, over and over again.