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Animals, Divorce, Picador: Living in the Moment

I once heard George Carlin say dogs can't tell time; they don't differentiate between one minute and one day, so when we leave them, upon our return we get the same exuberant greeting whether we were gone for three hours or three seconds. This merits some thought. Is it that animals don't recognize time or that they don't worship time the way we do? We obsess over time lost and time coming; we struggle to retrieve the past, seeking some previously missed key to consequences we endure in our ongoing life sagas. Or we project and fantasize about the future, what will be, what could be, what we want. Doing so, we miss the present moment, the essence of a happy life. The Buddhists teach us that by living in the moment, we have no expectations and feel neither sorrow nor disappointment. So sensible. So difficult. Do our animals experience disappointment and resentment? If they do, such states are momentary.

I am still winding through my fresh divorce, which I know in my heart was inevitable despite loving my husband. Yet I sit here and dissect the last 12 years of my life looking for mistakes I may have made, and finding few, look again, deeper, because there must be some wrong I committed to have placed here, but instead I land in a pit of sensory images. I see our early years. I smell optimism, excitement: the night he proposed, visiting his parents that Christmas and singing oldies during the entire two hour drive, taking pictures on our wedding cruise, eating oysters on the balcony at KPaul's, unpacking Farberware in the new house, his kissing the Blarney stone, his kissing me all of 3,188 mornings with an "I love you, Munchkin, see you later," all scenes dripping with the hope of a joy-filled, "normal" life. I am pained physically by my loss of hope, this well of disappointment, of failed expectations. Without exposing the demons in my ex-husband's closet and publicizing the details of his final month-long hateful treatment of me, I -- and every person who watched this union disintegrate-- can say that I worked harder to preserve the "us" than most people would have, that I bore more figurative cuts and jabs than most sane women would have. In assessing the last month, I find only one word: picador. And I ache. Because I took it.

I never understood what hope meant until now, and really, it's an almost terrible word to me.

So where are the animals in the midst of my reflective meltdown and our newly quiet space? A couple of them seemed to love my ex-husband. But they're not moping. They don't wait wistfully by the door until midnight. They act no less happy than they ever have been before. Except for Baby, the macaw -- the creature whose temperament and emotion parallel a human's. For years, he has been battling feather picking, making himself bleed and leaving his pink, dimpled chicken skin chest exposed. He's been e-collared, medicated, fed a natural diet, and isolated from scented and toxic household substances, but he has continued picking himself raw.

My ex-husband did not like the bird. He's actually told people he hated "that (*#$&(*&$#(*& bird." Deeply. ( Both my vet and I still want to know how Baby mysteriously broke his leg while I was out, a break repaired by an $1800 microsurgery ) But in his absence I see promise. In three weeks, I see healing. Today I examined Baby, finding a patch of new green feathers, the first in over a year. I cried. How little we know. How much the animals do. We should listen.


Melissa said…
So poignant and wise. I love what you wrote, Lisa, and will share your insights with others whose hearts have been tattered and bruised. May you and Picador heal rapidly and quickly look back to these days as the beginning of the gift of your new life revealed.
Patrice said…
I wrote a blog entry about hopes dashed:

And also, Laura Burns wrote a thoughtful piece on the topic also:

Our blog are about our dogs and not our human relationships, but the issue of hopes and dreams dashed is alive and relevant for many of us.

Best to you, Lisa.
Lisa Shaw said…
Thank you, Melissa. Light to you and yours.
Patrice, I'm going to read yours now. You know I love your writing.
Randi Sue said…

Your comments are so inciteful. What is we miss so often is hope -- or the loss of what we thought we had. Things can seem very bleak when we lose hope but you will heal. Love ya,

Louise said…
I cried for you and Baby, but I do have HOPE for both of you, and I know you will both come shining through. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. So many lessons from the other animals.
Lisa Shaw said…
Thanks,Randi; thanks, Louise. I feel validated when my words touch a reader, truly.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Lisa for inviting me to your Blog. I've felt the pain of 14 years marriage end abruptly, My heart sympathizes. I also believe we can learn form our pets behaviors and reactions more than most people give credence to.

Lisa Shaw said…
Sorry for your tsuris, Abe. It's not easy for sane and compassionate people to immediately
recover from a long term relationship that explodes; it naturally yields loss and pain, but again, only mentally healthy,feeling people allow themselves to go there.

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