A misfortune, disappointment, development, or an event can be the genesis for self-evaluation. One might say that’s a benefit of painful, or challenging, circumstances. 

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”-  C.S. Lewis

“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.”- Zig Ziglar

There are two recent events that have had a tremendous effect on me. Each has caused some reflection and deep thought, mixed with sorrow. And, they are both experiences we all face.

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. My Birthday

Our family dog had to be put down on March 6. She was twelve. Her rapid decline was fairly unexpected. Coco had been a part of our lives for twelve years. Ironically (or not), she entered our lives when my youngest son was six. He was just beginning school. Now, he’s finishing up his senior year in high school. 

My youngest son in kindergarten.

I knew with each year, she was aging, obviously. That meant she was inching closer to sickness and/or illness, and old age. She showed very little sign of decline until the last few weeks of her life. It became obvious that we weren’t dealing with a temporary illness after several efforts of diagnosing and treating. 

She was a part of the family. She was like another child to me. Honestly, it hit me harder than expected. There were many times I was annoyed or resentful with the planning that went into taking care of her: rushing home to let her out, arranging care when we were traveling, vet appointments, regular administration of meds, making an extra trip to the store because we were out of dog food, etc., etc. Of course, in hindsight, if I could do it all again, I would.

I have never considered myself a dog person. The people closest to me would agree. She was the perfect companion for me. With each passing year, there is no better word to describe what she meant to me: My companion (and now the tears have started flowing again). I’ve never had a dog for any length of time, or that lived inside the house. There were a couple of dogs we had growing up, but they were outside dogs. We lived in the country with plenty of land. Honestly, no one I knew actually had an indoor dog in the small town where I grew up. When we first got Coco, getting used to an indoor dog was a slow process. 

With each year, however, my companion, Coco, grew on me more and more. This relationship really blossomed exponentially as my boys grew older. They began to build their own individual lives, as they should. Coco and I relied on each other more for companionship. We understood each other. She knew when I felt lonely, when I was happy or excited. She often reminded me of my grandmother. Her personality was identical from the moment we brought her home. She didn’t want to trouble anyone. She just wanted to be around. 

Part of the devastating pain of her loss had a lot to do with the fact that time was marching on. I had planned for her to help me get through the loneliness or separation anxiety I knew would be felt when my youngest son left this fall for college. It was comforting to me knowing that she would still be there to welcome me home.

The realization that time marches on, with or without people or pets in our lives, is frustrating, painful, annoying, scary, and hard to face and accept sometimes. So, I try my best to not think about it. That it is so completely out of our control stings. We think we can be in control. Maybe there are some things we can control, but usually not forever. We love being in control. It means we can keep ourselves from hurting, right? We don’t want to hurt. However, it’s impossible to keep from hurting because we really don’t have control. I couldn’t make Coco eat during her final days. I knew if she didn’t, she would suffer and die. I tried telling her that, but she kept turning her head away from food. I thought about cramming food down her throat but knew that was no way for her to live.

The irony of having to face the loss of our dog, the jump to an “empty nest” the same year that I turn fifty, has forced me to realize how temporary moments are in our lives. At times in my life, I have placed so much value on doing more, having more money, taking more lavish vacations to exotic places, buying nicer clothes, designer bags, going to expensive restaurants…When faced with the loss of a loved one, all I want is more time with them. When something like that happens, you realize what really makes you happy.

Aging does an amazing and painful thing. Unfortunately, you have to age and experience pain in order to realize what brings you happiness. You have to go through these hard things to find peace and contentment. It’s bittersweet. I would do anything if I could make my children understand that. My mother tried to tell me that when I was younger but I thought I knew better, as most kids do. Every person has to go through the process. There are no shortcuts. There’s very little anyone can make another person understand if they haven’t lived long enough to experience hurt. 

Many people say they found the most happiness in their lives when they were in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and this is why. You go through things and reach a point where you start to realize what’s most important. That’s where you want to spend your energy. You stop caring about all the other things. 

Airplane ratings are an exciting diversion for me. That is something that I do for me. It is not a complete picture of who I am. My interest in aviation started a long time ago, when I was around nine years old. It was never the most important thing in my life. Being a mom was what I wanted most. My flight lessons started when I realized my kids would be leaving one day. What was my life going to look like after that? Who was I going to be? I wanted my boys to “fly” and build their own lives. I didn’t want them to feel tied down to me. 

I love flying. Maybe I love it because it takes me places and keeps me busy temporarily so I don’t call my boys and nag about seeing them!! 🙂 Or, maybe I love it because it helps me keep things in perspective and appreciate all of the little moments. 

If I could go back in time, or if I could tell anyone what the most important thing is that would guarantee a full and satisfying life it would be: Build and do something for yourself (your career, a hobby) but don’t forget about the individuals who are in your lives every day. Spend the most time you can with the people and pets in your lives.

Airplane ratings and climbing the career ladder is great but it’s not everything. The circle of life isn’t stopping for anyone. You won’t be on this earth forever. That doesn’t need to be depressing. It needs to be a reality used so that you can keep focused on what will really bring you true happiness and fulfillment. 

Blue Skies!