Love and Healing on 24 Legs

I’ve been recovering from eye surgery this past week, which–so far–seems to have replaced double vision with single vision and welcome clarity.

The physical pain has been minimal, despite my resemblance to Oedipus (after the truth is known), Mr. Rochester (after the fire), and Suzanne Pleshette (after the birds). Despite their terrifying appearance, though, my eyes really don’t hurt a lot from the surgery itself, but become sore from exposure to light and from trying to focus on anything too intently for longer than a few minutes.

The wounding-to-be-healed that is the essence of surgery requires long hours of being still, resting, and, for me, lying in a darkened room for the desired healing to actually occur. The radio has been a comforting distraction and the length and frequency of my meditation time has been invited to grow, but the hours tick by slowly and enforced disengagement from activities that offer pleasure and invite me into the daily round is difficult to sustain with equanimity.

Phillip, hesitantly gauging my relative coherence and mobility as functional, returned to school with my blessing the day after my surgery. I had a burst of “well, this isn’t so bad” energy, and, quite overjoyed with my restored sight (slightly blurred by antibiotic ointment), darted around the house cleaning, answering e-mail, starting a load of laundry, bumping into walls, and predictably falling into bed about 9:00 that morning, thoroughly exhausted.

Whatever residual general anesthetic had borne me aloft with such energy and enthusiasm had exited my bloodstream completely, and I crashed into my pillow, leaking pink tears and feeling quite defeated and pathetic.

I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, trying to center my runaway thoughts and connect with my unsettled spirit. Gradually, but perceptibly, I felt an energy shift within and around me. The 4-leggeds had slowly crept into my room, one by one, and in silent communion, began to offer their comforting presence and peace. Clancy, the sweet gentle boy who normally follows my every step around the house, positioned himself beside me and near my heart, while his sister Riley kept her vigil by the window, always watchful in her natural role as the family guardian. The cats, Finnegan, Murphy, Mulligan, and Fiona, jumped up and nestled around me, joining Clancy and Riley, and enclosing me within their circle of love.

It felt as though I surrendered my otherness and separateness; my energy merged with theirs, and we rested in stillness together for hours that day, and have shared more “circles of love” throughout the week. Their selfless, peaceful presence has allowed me to relax deeply, and has revealed connections more profound than the limiting imagery of words can corral and convey. This is a different experience from that of a “shared nap” with my animals; it has felt more like a deep knowing, alive and actively present, is passing between us. Sharing loving energy with them this way has been one of the most healing experiences of my life, both surprising and humbling in its renewal of my spirit.

Gratitude has been my dominant feeling in response to the restoration of my vision; I am thankful for the surgeon, certainly, and even more grateful for the healing presence and care provided by Phillip, who has patiently tended to my pain, clumsiness, and craving for chocolate chip cookies. Family and friends have called, and sent notes, and e-mailed love and encouragement, reminding me of their individual and collective dearness in my life.

But it is the holy tending of the 4-leggeds that has most unexpectedly gifted my heart with healing this past week. Their deep sense of authentic presence has brought me to a stillness that is new and lovely. However transitory this level of stillness and awareness may prove to be, my animal companions have contributed to my lasting healing and spiritual growth; that is certain. I have learned that there are burdens we are able to release under the influence and presence of 4-legged companions that language cannot touch and physicians cannot prescribe.

It is good to be reminded of our dependency and individual frailty, at times. It is so easy to believe we are, as we imagine, the single-minded, autonomous architects of our lives. The ego drives the engine so effortlessly, until our genuine vulnerability reveals our inherent need for connection and care. I feel blessed to once again clarify my place within creation’s web of giving and receiving, with an emphasis, for now, on receiving.

It is frightening but necessary for us humans to fall, over and over, and be caught by Love. And it is always surprising what shape Love will assume. An infant, a friend, a husband, a teacher, a garden, a work of art…or this time, for me, two dogs and four cats in a darkened room made light by our shared and holy energy.

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