shaking with joy, shaking with grief

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
~ Mary Oliver

At Kripalu this summer as part of the 24-hours of silence – which was lovely and has only left me longing for more, 24 hours being the slightest taste of silence’s power – we did an exercise in which we shook for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of meditative motion (i.e., close your eyes and move however your body desires), followed by 15 minutes of savasana. The excercise, which comes from the Osho tradition, clearly unnerved some people while others lost themselves in it. There was growling and yelling, crying and laughter from different parts of the room – all of which are intertwined.

I think of this now as I watch my dog die – she wanders through the house, lost; she’s eating enough to keep her weight but a lot of it is coming up; her eyes are watery and phlegmy; she barks at nothing; she pants. She is near the end. I called the vet on Friday and then hung up before he answered. I prepared the kids. I woke up in the middle of the night and cried. Then I came downstairs Saturday morning to find her walking okay and wagging her tail. “We shake with joy, we shake with grief.” Indeed.

I wait to hear about possible jobs. On the cusp. I hate being on the cusp. My plate is full these days. Too full? The projects – freelance, volunteer, creative ventures, kid-related activities, new yoga classes, house rearranging, The Dog Hospice – it’s all A LOT. Stop. Be. I remind myself. And yet it’s so hard to find the time to be… I know what I could do, should do, would do to get in touch with my joy, but I so rarely allow myself to do them.

I do small things to try to stay on top of it. (What is “it”, you ask? Exactly. That is the unending mystery of anxiety, stress, not-enoughness.) I take the glass to the recycling center and return cans, taking my receipt in to gain about $1.45. I mow the lawn and pull out the tomato stakes. Tonight, I bought a pencil sharpener. My kids are always looking for the little hand held one we have, and all of our pencils are dull, dull, dull. This seems the least I can do. Nearly as good as breathing.

“Be aware of your legs,” Chris tells me. I think he’s a nuts. Your legs? Your legs are just there; what is there to be aware of? But I’m doing it. After months of listening to him say this and halfway wondering about his sanity, I’ve started trying it. The point is not to feel your legs so much as to change your awareness. It turns out to be really hard to feel your legs and the effort in doing so takes you out of whatever unhelpful head space you’ve gotten yourself into at the point when you need to return to your legs. I move them around and push my feet into the floor, slap the soles a few times to say, “Hey, wake up!” and, indeed, I usually get a little bit unblocked.

Taking a bite, she declared with great satisfaction and mild surprise, “This is really quite good.”

Bella is taking the ITBS this week. She hates it. Stomach aches. Hunched shoulders. So I play her her favorite song (see below) and teach her chimney breath (imagine smoke rising from your lowest belly; see it grey-blue, flickering and wavering as it floats up and up; when it reaches your crown, open your ‘chimney’ door and let it escape), which she tells me that she does in class. Tonight, she baked an apple crisp about 75% on her own – reading the directions, peeling and cutting the apples, mixing it all together. Taking a bite, she declared with great satisfaction and mild surprise, “This is really quite good.”

Last night, Tobey lost his first tooth. He did a crazy dance of joy, turned the tooth over and over again in his palm, and started writing to the tooth fairy. Tonight, speaking of the dog, he said, “Life is hard because you have to die but if you didn’t die and you lived forever then you wouldn’t care about life as much.” Ok, the exact quote was perhaps even more circuitous than that, but the point was that he got it! At seven years old, his first tooth missing less than 24 hours, he got the crux of it: pain begets joy begets pain begets joy – it circles and dances and swoops us round.  Press into you legs, dear boy, you’re going to need them!

A tooth. The combination of 6 apples with sugar, butter and cinnamon. A dog wanting out and in and out and in. Crying in the middle of the night and pressing into downward dog the next morning. Breathing into the belly. This is what we have. “As it was in the beginning (One Love), So shall it be in the end (One Heart).”


6 thoughts on “shaking with joy, shaking with grief”

    1. Thanks! Yes, I was clearly riffing and call-and-responding to you, which was fun and felt good/right – a little middle of the night communion in Blog Land.

  1. So sorry to hear of the impending end for your dog. Your post reminded me of when I made the decision to have my kitty put down as her cancer progressed. Too soon, too late, I wasn’t sure … it was just hard to say goodbye.

    1. Yes, I’m hoping that the “right” time makes itself known, but I’m also not at all sure that will occur. Being ok with the Unknown of it all seems to be half the lesson here.

  2. This is the quote I was trying to share the other night-
    “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
    — Thich Nhat Hanh (Being Peace).
    I feel like I am in the room with you when I am reading your writing and I smile!

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