Diapers and Dragons

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Wisdom of Dogs or There for the Grace of God Go I

So there's a coincidence for ya. I just noticed that my little Quote of the the Day over at the side is one by Agatha Christie: "Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more. "

This made me think. In a sense, at least the blogging sense, this is exactly what I've been doing the last three months. I've been in my corner, licking my wounds, hoping to be whole.

And yet...the wisdom of dogs only goes so far. I understand that moaning and complaining about one's wounds to the world at large may worsen one's situation. Being prone to drama myself (I know, you're shocked at this revelation), I am deeply tempted to draw attention to myself in times of agony. Very much a Hello! Look at me! See how much I'm hurting? Don't you want to slather attention all over me? sort of thing. However, this tends to be true about the more minor drama in my life--the sort of thing that doesn't make me look weak or, God forbid, cause people to pity me. Sympathy is one thing. Pity is another.

So for the last three years, as I was struggling with depression and emotional turmoil of a different kind than I've (not) dealt (well) with for, oh, say three decades, I lamented publicly about the surface drama. Oh look, my son is sick all the time! I would moan. Woe is me--witness the torment of dealing with food sensitivities! I would sigh. You would not believe the unending pressure and stress of my career! See what the idiot politicians and administrators are doing NOW? I would whine. Because then my audience could groan in sympathy and whisper She's so amazing. I don't know how she deals with it all! She's practically SuperWoman! and I could feel smug and content.

And underneath I was wasting away emotionally, mentally. My relationships--with friends, with family, with my own husband and children--were suffering as I withdrew more and more. I could not admit, to myself or anyone else, that I was in deep trouble. And as I sunk deeper into that pit, I made choice after choice that damaged me, my marriage, and my family.

Licking one's wounds in a quiet corner does not always lead to healing. If those wounds are festering, if they are slowly poisoning one's system, no amount of attention to the surface will suffice. There are times when one must be vocal, saying out loud I am in trouble. I am sick. I cannot do this by myself.

When I could no longer stay in my corner, when my illness was already betrayed to those around me, I finally began talking honestly with myself and others about what had been going on inside for years. And here's the amazing thing: I thought honesty would be met with disgust, weakness with scorn, failure with abandonment. Instead, I was flooded with love, support, and acceptance. People who had sensed that something was wrong but did not know how to approach me were so relieved that they could finally be let in. I expected the worst and received the best.

Dogs retreat because they live in a world where only the strong survive. Weakness leads to persecution and even death. We as humans are capable of rising above the hierarchy of the pack. We are capable of reaching out and helping those in need, succoring them rather than tormenting them. And so survival of the fittest, in its brutal practicality, gives way to the generosity of the human spirit. I have learned an amazing and illogical truth: admitting weakness IS strength.

I'm glad I'm not a dog.

8 bits of love:

Kathleen said...

Wow! Just wow! So very well said! I'm glad to hear your wounds are no longer festering, and while you deserve some time alone in a corner, it's nice to also have company in that corner to shower you with love and support.

Lauren said...

I'm waiting for an amusing anecdote from teaching that shows the rays of sun from between the clouds.

karen said...

isn't it FUNNY how we terribly smart people can be so amazed at the kindness of others when we are in pain and weakness--when we ourselves would offer that same kindness to them if they told "our" story, without expecting them to clean up their act first. I'm really glad you're surrounded by such truly wonderful people, who love you and yours. i think that's at least half of getting better. Hang in there! love you tons.

Twilighter said...

I can see how you've lived your life so clearly, now. I'm sorry you had to go through all of the crap to find the good. As a human, you will have to continually go through crap on your way to your "happy place." I just hope the trip through is shallow and fast and you find deep joy in the end of it all!

Beck said...

I think that the blogging community can be such a lovely, supportive place. I'm glad that you were able to reach out and that it was received with kindness.

All Rileyed Up said...

I'm glad you're not a dog too. Keep on reaching out. I get into those moments too, where I just don't want to put it out there, but inevitably I feel better once I do.

LoriM said...

"Admitting weakness is strength"
Excellent post, Marisa. I'm glad to see you're blogging again, too.

mom said...

Hon, I had given up checking to see if you were blogging. Now I'm back. There are advantages to being stuck in Chicago! What a privilege to hear your heart this way, too -- as usual, your gift of words is one of the most precious in the world. I'm so glad you're not a dog, not anymore. You are you, and that is a lovely thing, even when transparency shows the suffering.

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