So I’m an atheist. I don’t know how or why I was born and it doesn’t matter. But when I die, if there’s some sort of science-based chemical reaction where we all queue up again for another turn at life on earth, you can bet I’ll be in the bathroom smoking a fatty. I never, ever, ever want to come back here. Why? Because of love. Because love is a no limit credit card. Its bill almost kills you (death would be kinder) when it comes due. Death is the bill. And death always gets paid. Let me be clear: I don’t see death as an enemy. It is a tender mercy and a necessary release. I just dread the pain that comes with it.
Perhaps for you, this is no problem. Good. But for me, I’m a huge-hearted child who is bursting with too much love to give and no filters or cautions. Some examples: I love wildlife, so I dedicated my entire front and back yards to them; I can’t bear to cut flowers, so they stay put on the plants; I gently carry every spider outside, thanking her for her work and telling her she’s welcome and safe here; I invite wasps to nest anywhere they wish; I encourage bats, raccoons and especially snakes. On a recent walk, I found a snake in the street and I rescued it and carried it home and released it to a hollow under a rock in my wildlife habitat. I apologize to ants if I squish them. I am a beginning beekeeper because I want to help bees and will certainly not harvest their honey. I am vegan because I can’t bear consuming animals or participating in their torture and suffering. I forbade our cleaning service to disturb a spider in the bathroom ceiling corner for weeks until she had hatched her young and died. I cry when a see a tree cut down; a dead squirrel, or a dog on a chain.
“Well, sure, that’s just super,” you say, “you are one terrific lady. But what do you do for humans?”
A few examples: I put money in plastic Easter eggs and label them ‘for whatever child finds this’ and I hide them in playgrounds and parks. I make sure to visit everyone I know who is in the hospital; I attend all funerals and I send sympathy notes and deliver food and staples like toilet paper, plates, cups, and flatware. I give housewarming gifts; I send non-traditional Valentines every year to all those I love because I believe that if we’re going to have a fictional holiday like Valentine’s Day, it should be about all love, not just romantic. I write thank you notes for absolutely everything. Everyone works hard, life is a struggle and we are all doing our best, and a thank you note acknowledges that effort. If someone is home bound, I deliver food, do laundry, and run errands. For my last birthday, I withdrew a lot of cash and Kris and I drove around looking for the saddest cars and we anonymously tucked envelopes of cash under the wipers. When I’m out walking, I leave love notes in public places for anyone to find. I make desserts almost constantly so when someone new moves to the hood or goes through a hard time or has a birthday or provides superlative service, I make sure they are overwhelmed with a supply of truffles, cookies, or lemon pound cake.
I know it’s possible to hold love in your heart and never move. That’s powerful too. But for me, love is service. Love is action. Love is seeing the unspoken needs and filling them eagerly. And it doesn’t matter if I’m a fierce and ferocious medical caregiver for Kris before, during, and after surgeries or if I’m leaving a gratuity for the garbage men. It’s all from the same root and flow.
Life is full of such beauty and happiness; I grieve for all that aren’t experiencing it. I feel they are all me and I don’t want to hurt. I don’t need to go into gruesome, shocking detail, but like you, I have already had two lifetimes of hurt and I’m done. I am the tree, the spider, the bee and I want us all to be happy. I am filled with gratitude and wonder every moment and always seeking new opportunities to love; and without effort, I am surrounded by amazing people who love me. I’m lousy with love.
I regularly remind my spouse, Kris that I married her with our first kiss twenty years ago and that has stayed true every minute of every year since. I love her without limit or reservation and if she dies before me, I will join her one way or another in twenty-four hours.
A few years ago, when roller derby seduced and filled me with insatiable passion, I shocked myself repeatedly by finding no limit on what I would do in service of my derbylove. No limit. Think about that before you read on. My motto was “anything for the team.” Yes, I would’ve done sex work if it had benefitted derby. I only wish I believed in Satan so that I might’ve conjured him and made a helluva derby deal.
When I love, I’m all in. Nothing held back. And when death comes for that kind of love, it’s completely devastating. I don’t know about you, but I despise mental anguish and emotional pain and never ending despair as a result of loss.
I can sound just as sage and wise and peaceful as the bodhisattva next door, believe me. “Grief is a gift; honor your process; love never dies; death is a natural part of life and should be welcomed and embraced and yes, even loved.” But truthfully, I would rather be a robot than endure the nuclear meltdown of grief. Any grief. Yes, I want to cherry pick my experience and take only the joy and bliss of giving and receiving love and none of the heartbreak and hassle.
I was determined to begin skating to work, so when Kris told me to be safe as I put on my helmet and soared away, I saw fear in her eyes. Halfway there, resting at the top of an entire range of Olympian hills, I seriously questioned my sanity. After I completed the journey and called Kris from my desk, I asked, “Am I actually crazy?”
“No, really, I’m not kidding.”
“I know and yes.”
So multiply that by a squillion to reach the level of devotion I heap on cats. And every time one of the relatively short-lived beloved bastards dies decades too soon (in my opinion), I swear never again.
As I write this, I’m on our bed, which has been transformed into a sick bed for our gravely ill cat named Jonathan Bennett. He has a potentially fatal virus and my life has been dedicated to acute nursing, home vetting, trips to the doc, and worrying for the past forty-eight hours. He’s on our bed because it has the best view, birdfeeders close by, the finest sunshine and is cloud plush soft.
Sh, he’s finally sleeping. After repeated vomiting, diarrhea, coughing fits, fever, dehydration, refusal to eat, and losing two pounds in two days, we all need the rest. And Bennett isn’t your average cat-he adores people. Our entire neighborhood is upset that he is sick and have been giving continual comfort and support.
Bennett has been christened, “The Mayor of Brookside” because he’s such an enthusiastic, charming, goofy, dude cat. We adopted him as a kitten from a shelter where the previous owners had abandoned him and committed the unforgivable sin of naming him Garfield (Bennett is as orange as they come). So here I am, caressing Bennett as the sun sets and the birds sing and eat, and I’m caught by the short hairs again by that sneaky temptress love.
I am not sure how to end this, except to say surrender. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Love, unlike that rock and roll music and these gadgets called computers, isn’t a passing fad.
Kris sat with me this afternoon as I mixed potions, assembled injections, and loaded a syringe with emergency care cat food and I snapped, “This is your future if you get sick.” She smiled at me and that radiance reminded me that it is worth it. Love wins. Well-played.
So I don’t know what tomorrow will bring: tears, rage and despair or joy, gratitude and relief. I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s all love.
Time for the rehydrating IV and another syringe feeding.