Another Lesson from Daisy for which I am grateful:

Sugar cookie dough and vanilla ice cream really do help the medicine to go down: Why force a solution when I can notice and follow a sweeter, easier, and effective path that is there all along if I will get out of my own way full of fears and control and allow life to flow.

On April 15, 2014 Daisy turned 18 years old. We were blessed with another full year with Daisy and a birthday celebration on the 15th with treats and a gold ribbon tied to her collar.

Later that month I wrote an essay entitled "Another Year of Lessons." Here at this Thanksgiving time of the year - yes, I have not yet rushed to Christmas - I want to share a few of the lessons I included in that essay:

Every day is a gift: Yes, every day is a gift and not to be taken for granted. Life is precious here and now. Each morning when I wake I want to remember this. And each day that Daisy wakes, I want to remember this. As Daisy’s veterinarian has repeatedly suggested, “Enjoy her.”

Walking an old dog promotes mindful walking: Practically speaking, Daisy’s slow moving style has helped me greatly to practice my mindful walking and to learn how to shed hurry and busyness and replace it with presence and peace.

It is fun to sit together in the shade and feel the breeze on our faces.

It is fun to walk together in the dark with me noticing the stars and lightening bugs while Daisy enjoys some night sniffing.

Thank you, Daisy, for this abundance of lessons that just keep coming.

Helping and fixing come so naturally to me. I readily extend my self to others. Nothing’s wrong with this until it goes too far. As I told you, I so want to fix Daisy’s aged body. I so want to remove every drop of pain and, quite honestly, create her youthfulness again. Daisy and I are both servers. She is a greeter, a protector, and a herder. I am a helper and fixer, even professionally. A “Lesson Learned” for me about these helping behaviors is:

How can I serve my self?

If I am not mindful as I give and help and serve, this is the question that I forget to ask and answer. In the midst of our important work of helping others, it is very important to remember our self. In fact, important is an understatement. It is imperative to remember our self. It is our very self that is doing this serving, and without the health of that self, no serving can be done. So how can I serve my self? I believe that in order to answer this question, we must check in with the thinking, feeling, physical, and spiritual aspects of our self. I believe we want to give equal consideration to each of these important parts of who we are and ultimately integrate them into a healthy self.

In being loyal and committed, it is important for me to consider my self as well. This does not mean that I must always have my way or attend to my needs without consideration of others. It does mean that as I deeply attend to someone else, or for that matter, some cause or activity, that I also connect with me. Is what I am about to choose good for me? Will I feel okay about me and my choices if I am acting out of my devotion? Am I starting to feel compelled to say or do things that may be driven by my devotion? Has my devotion blurred into an obsessive watching and checking to protect my self from abandonment by this object of my devotion?

My dominant codependent behaviors include being devoted, helping/fixing, people-pleasing, over-reacting, and controlling. I prefer to think of codependency from a behavioral perspective, because this gives me the opportunity to become aware of my behaviors and to moderate them according to what is healthy for me and my relationships. If I simply think of my self as a codependent, then I may get attached to that label and not as readily see the avenues for change.

Daisy’s devotion to me is what helped me to start looking at my devotion to others. Devotion is one thing; unhealthy, obsessive attachment is another. I could not write these things without knowing them my self. I can be obsessively preoccupied with someone else. Over the many years of my recovery and life with Daisy, I have learned many lessons that move me toward a healthy self. There are over 140 of these “Lessons Learned” in My Life as a Border Collie for twelve examined traits. In my next several posts, I will be sharing some of these lessons about devotion, pleasing, and letting go. And then I will move on to additional lessons from this last year of Daisy’s life.

As I begin to write about my recent lessons learned from my life with Daisy, I am first going back one year to share some writing I did last November about me and Daisy's declining health. These writings will freshen us all up on the ways I think about codependency/loss of self in someone else, and I will be offering them in small pieces in the spirit of the 19th century serialized novels: 

Give me the least bit of stress and my character defects start showing up. Even after 25 years in my recovery program, my “weak links” present themselves and can take over if I am not working my program. Today I am aware of my impatience. I can be so stubborn and self-willed that I completely forget the spirituality that I love and value. My controllingness and desire to have the outcomes I want come fully into play as my stress increases and I lose my self in that stress.

The stress I speak of now is the declining health of Daisy, my Border Collie mix, who is 17 ½ years old. I am not good at letting go of most anything. I can hold on too long to too many things. So when I bring the letting go of an important being in my life into play, I can be sorely challenged. And I am being challenged.

I want to fix this situation. I want Daisy to be well. I want her to live forever. I worry, fret, and obsess. I try to feed Daisy this. I try to make her feel better by doing that. I call home from work to get reports from my husband about what Daisy is doing right now, about how many times she has gotten up, and how she acted when she got up. I could drive us all crazy with my obsessive thinking and efforts to manage and control what I can’t.
Daisy, the Border Collie heroine of My Life as a Border Collie, passed away on September 12, 2014. She was 18 and 1/2 years old. As you know from our book, Daisy taught me many lessons about life and love. During this last year of her life, I wrote a few essays about the lessons that continued to emerge after the publication of our book and as we traveled this ending-of-life path together. Soon I will offer those writings here.