Tag Archives: Love

Paging Dr. Dog! 1

Paging Dr. Dog!

I’ve never met a dog who’s not also an excellent heart surgeon. That’s right – heart surgeon.

Every time I meet a new dog, they manage to slice and dice my heart until there’s room for them, too. Having never taken an anatomy class, I have no idea how these dogs keep doing it. Maybe they keep adding additions?

Yet somehow there is always room for another dog in my heart, and the dogs I’m already hopelessly and completely in love with (here’s looking at you Annie, Dodger, and Fergus) wag their tails and high five each other to welcome that new dog to the pack.

Paging Dr. Dog! 2

Everyone, have you met Hailey?

Paging Dr. Dog! 3

Hailey is the sweetie pie rescue dog who lives below our Norfolk apartment. I’ve known her for well over a year now. She can be shy at first, and I never thought I would truly make inroads with her. But then her human mom had to unexpectedly leave town for a few days. I AM IN LOVE!

I think it’s obvious why:

Paging Dr. Dog! 4

What a goober!

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Hailey entered into a deep depression when her mom left. This separation was the first time they had been apart like this, ever. It took several days for her to warm up to me. After those few days, when Hailey began to trust me and liked all the treats I’d been giving her, she started running to the door when I unlocked it. She wiggled her butt and wagged her tail and a few times even jumped up at the door before I opened it.

I visited Hailey for eight days before her mom came back. Even though I’ve been having a lot of narcolepsy troubles lately, those were eight days with moments of doggone good love and joy. Those moments matter a lot to me when I’m struggling with sleep.

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment of my time with Hailey, but if I had to, I would pick the times when I’m getting ready to leave their house and I hide a handful of small biscuits in Hailey’s toy box. As you can imagine, Hailey is absolutely adorable rooting around in a wicker box filled with stuffed ducks, bears, and cats.

I am so grateful that people trust me with their dogs. I can’t imagine my life without them.

Also, just for fun, here are two other dogs I met recently.

Paging Dr. Dog! 8

Maggie is a poodle and cavalier king Charles spaniel mix. I met her in downtown Hartford when I was supporting my author friend Lynn Katz at Books on Pratt. If you’re interested in a psychological thriller with some dark and twisty turns, check out her book The Surrogate. I’ll also be chatting with Lynn on October 7 when the Norfolk Library hosts a virtual author talk with her. If interested, you can register here: http://www.norfolklibrary.org/events/virtual-author-talk-with-lynn-katz/

Then there’s Wilson. Wilson is a basset hound! I never knew a basset hound could be a solid color. I thought he was a basset mixed with a dachshund. Also, yesterday was his birthday! He’s a jolly eight years old.

Paging Dr. Dog! 9

I wonder how many dogs I’m going to meet this week? I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m confident they’ll figure out what to do with my heart when the time comes.

Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2021 Edition 10

Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2021 Edition

Now that it’s 2021, it’s time for my annual death meditation. This is my fifth year in a row of imagining how I would live if I knew 2021 would be my last year on Earth, and thanks to the gut-punch-then-kick-me-while-I’m-down year that was 2020, thinking about my death this year has been quite different from past death meditations.

I experienced a staggering amount of loss and grief in the last year. It started early on with learning about Faith’s liver tumor in January, followed by the loss of Oscar Meyer Weiner Dog a few weeks later.

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In February, we lost the incomparable Eve Thew, one of my first (and dearest) friends in Norfolk.

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In March, the whole world changed as COVID-19 spread and we, humans, made it significantly and substantially worse than it had to be. Heath and I had to temporarily leave our Norfolk housesitting job, which meant I had to say goodbye to living with my beloved Smudge and Faith for the foreseeable future.

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In June, my father went into the hospital after an acute attack of his nervous system by his own immune system. The doctors diagnosed him with Guillain-Barrè syndrome. While in the hospital, he also suffered a heart attack and contracted pneumonia. When he was released a month later, it was to come home to die.

My father died in the early morning hours of July 19th. Eight people attended his funeral, and nine people attended his burial three months later on a freezing cold and wet day in late October.

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Four days after my dad died, Smudge unexpectedly collapsed. The vet recommended immediate euthanasia. I said goodbye through video messenger because that was the only option I had.

Then, on November 14th, I said a final goodbye to Faith. I had moved back into our Norfolk housesitting home on November 12th. All through the summer when I visited Faith, I asked her to please hang on until I moved back. With all the loss this year, I didn’t think I could handle losing her, too, and not being there.

On November 12th, I brought an overnight bag to get me through until the weekend. That Saturday, the 14th, Faith and I woke up together. We sang our going down the stairs song, which I created one morning while walking down the stairs back when we took care of four dogs – Tobey, Smudge, Faith, and Moon – and their tippy tappy paws provided a nice accompaniment. It goes a little something like this,

We’re going down the stairs

Without any cares

Not wearing underwears

It’s time to eat some food

We hope that it is good

If not, then we’ll be rude

Faith and I had a nice morning together. I snuck her lots of extra turkey slices every time I went into the fridge, because I thought she was looking a little thin. We went for a walk about around the pond and up and down the driveway. I even snapped a picture to send to her human mom and described Faith as being “very frisky on this chilly day!”

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I then went over to our apartment to pack up the rest of my belongings since I had only brought that overnight bag for the first few days.

When I got back to the house, Faith watched me make five trips back and forth from the car. I set my belongings on and around the dining room table. That’s our staging area for whenever we leave or come back to this house. Faith has watched me do this unpacking at least a dozen times in the past.

She died less than three hours later. It was like she knew I had *finally* moved back to the house and she had fulfilled my request to please hang on until I got back.

As Faith lay dying, I lay next to her. Heath sat by her head. We both put our hands on her, giving her all the love we could. I stroked her little ears, scratched her head, and petted her back. I told her my favorite stories of our time together. I told her that she would be with Tobey, Smudge, and Moon again very soon.

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I thanked her for the chance to love her and to live with her these last four years. That she brought so much joy and happiness to my life. And that it was her little face, more than Tobey’s or Smudge’s or Moon’s that I fell in love with at first sight on the TrustedHousesitters.com website that made me say to Heath, “Look at how cute this dog is! Let’s apply for this job.”

Losing Faith after losing so many other people and dogs this year was right in line with how awful 2020 was. At the same time, my love for and loss of Faith has instilled in me the mantra I want to take forward into 2021. We spent a perfect last day together. We filled it with love and fun and some of our favorite activities.

I didn’t know when I woke up on Saturday morning, November 14th, that it would be the last time I woke up with little Faith asleep next to me on her dog bed.

I didn’t know it would be our last time singing down the stairs.

That it would be our last parade up and down the driveway.

That it would be the last time I said, “let’s go to bed,” and then wait for her to walk up the stairs with me.

I didn’t know that my life would change (again) forever that day.

And it didn’t matter that I didn’t know because I enjoyed every single moment of that day with her. I loved her. I appreciated her. I thanked God for letting us be together again.

So, as I think about my own death and what, if anything, I would do differently if I knew 2021 was my last year on Earth, I think about that last day with Faith. I take that day with me going forward. That day with Faith will serve as my guideposts for how I want to live in 2021 – quality time with those I love, enjoying the quiet moments of our lives, and knowing and expressing just how grateful I am to be there.

Hello, 2021. Welcome to my year of Faith.

Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2021 Edition 17

And Kelly Wept .... 18

And Kelly Wept ….

Last week was an emotional week for me, as it was for many Americans. I had already cried many tears in the last several weeks leading up to the election. I had hope that the current president would be defeated. But I also felt terrified he would not. I didn’t know how I could stand another four years of the heartache.

Someone once asked me why I care so much. I’m not always good at thinking of a quick response and I couldn’t come up with a coherent answer that summed up everything I was feeling about the election. I mean, I was sobbing at the time, so I’m not sure what kind of answer I could come up with in that kind of moment.

I’ve taken the time to reflect on that moment these last few weeks. Here’s what I’ve come up with about why I care so much.

In the past, I’ve served as a math and literacy volunteer at the local elementary school. Children are adorable! They’re clever and witty and they’re imaginations are delightful.

And Kelly Wept .... 19

From one of the students I worked with at Botelle Elementary.

Knowing that our country purposefully chose to separate children from their parents at the border and put them in cages has destroyed pieces of my heart. I don’t understand why everyone also isn’t destroyed by this cruelty. Sometimes, I wonder if people just lack empathy that they could never imagine a situation in which they could be separated from their children in such an awful and scary way. And, perhaps, even if they couldn’t, surely they have heard the words of Jesus at some point in their lives – that which you did for the least of my brothers, you did unto me. I suppose those words don’t really mean that much to people anymore.

Or, what about knowing that these children are watching and hearing “the most powerful man in the world” berate, condemn, criticize, name call, insult, and admit to sexually assaulting women and not be held accountable? He is not a role model for children in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I cry over the idea that some children will lose their innocence because somehow this level of rudeness, incivility, and criminality is acceptable to many people. It will never be acceptable to me.

There is only one person that I stay in touch with from my grade school and high school years. She is a Black person and I love her dearly. When Heath and I eloped, I carried pictures in my pocket of all the people I would have had as a bridesmaid in my wedding party if we had married in a traditional ceremony.

And Kelly Wept .... 20

How can I love her and value our friendship and not get emotional when I see people in this country targeted for something as stupid as skin color? What if she were next?

Some of my favorite students from my time as a college professor are Muslims. These students are some of my best and brightest memories from an often-depressing time in my life when I wasn’t brave enough to say I had chosen the wrong career path.

And Kelly Wept .... 21

Graduation, 2014

We share the same God! How is it fair that their particular beliefs are not just considered less sacred than mine, but also considered radicalized and extremist? Christianity has also had its fair share of radicalization and extremism throughout history, yet somehow, we’re better than others? How does that make sense?

One of my favorite people at the church I attend is a 90-something year old woman named Dottie. I love her! She has such a mischievous twinkle in her eyes and she is always happy to see me. Getting a hug from Dottie is one of my favorite parts about going to church on Sundays. I haven’t hugged Dottie since March due to the pandemic. It is almost painful to see her and not be able to hug her. So, yes, I cry over this loss. How many more people are out there who can’t hug each other? Who miss their family members? And for some people, there will never again be the chance to hug them. Over 238,000 people in our country died in part because of the ineptitude of our leaders. It is so bad that one of the most esteemed medical journals in the country took a stance on the election for the first time in their 200+ year history. My dad was a doctor. I took it very personally when the president claimed that doctors get more money when they put “covid” on a death certificate.  Yes, of course, I am emotional!

Nature is my go-to place to connect with God. I am blessed to be surrounded by abundant beauty in Norfolk. We are lucky to have so much of the land protected here.

And Kelly Wept .... 22

Haystack Mountain State Park

But that’s not the case everywhere. Millions of acres of protected lands have now been opened for industrialization. God is the breath of life! When there are no more trees, how are we going to breathe?

I love polar bears! They’re my favorite wild animals. In 2018, I lived out a life dream of seeing polar bears in the wild when I served as a volunteer at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

And Kelly Wept .... 23

October 20, 2018, Churchill, Manitoba

Seeing polar bears lose their habitat and the rippling effects that loss of arctic ice has on the rest of the world devastates me. I can’t imagine a world without these bumbling, lovable, playful, and yes, powerful creatures, and I can’t imagine a world where we can survive the coming climate catastrophe from climate change. Why wouldn’t I cry over more loss of life?

As I think over this list, frankly, it is amazing that I wasn’t crying nonstop these last four years! But you grieve when you need to and then you live the best you can other times. Hopefully, there’s a good balance between the two. For the last month or so, I have been so out of balance I cried many, many days.

This morning as I stood by our sliding glass door and stared out the window, I realized a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Everything that broke my heart these last four years, those problems are still there. Yet, I now have hope.

In fact, today when I walked Dodger in the woods, I sang to God about my blessings. I do not have a singing voice. And then, I cried. But this time, they were tears of joy.

And Kelly Wept .... 24

Barbour Woods, November 8th, 2020

 

We All Fall Down 25

We All Fall Down

This past week, I had to cover the Circulation Desk for the afternoon hours at the library. So, I didn’t get my usual dog/nature fix with Annie on our bi-weekly afternoon romps in the woods.

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Annie!

Thank Dogness, I also have this guy in my life:

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Dodger!

Just like Annie, Dodger is a spirited dog with lots of heart and personality. His sassiness level is several notches above Annie, whom I’m convinced is an actual angel in a dog costume. As such, instead of nicknames like Annie Banannie, Dodger gets nicknames like Bossy Britches and Sassafrass.

Nevertheless, I LOVE him. I’m also grateful I had an excuse to be out in the woods this last week as fall lives up to its name and our trees are starting to get a little bare.

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That’s not the case everywhere here, as evidenced by this glorious tree I came upon on Saturday while driving back from Oblong Books in Millerton, New York.

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When I see this kind of overwhelming beauty these days, a sense of sadness wells up in my heart and spills out as tears. It’s the same sadness that takes over me when I watch leaves swirl through the air, then tumble to the ground for their final resting place.

I can’t help but think about how last fall, my dad didn’t know that would be the last time in his life that he would get to see the leaves change to their ultimate glory. He didn’t know it would be his last Halloween. No more eating the stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups my mom started buying in September, just to make sure she had enough. He would never again get to wish my niece or mom a happy birthday.

He didn’t know.

Most of us don’t.

So on this cold and chilly fall day in Norfolk, I take a few moments to Thank God that I’m still here. I Thank God that I get to watch the leaves light up my drive to and from work and brighten my already delightful time in the woods with Annie and Dodger. I Thank God for my loving and supportive husband and my family and friends.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God!

And thank you Dogs, too!

We All Fall Down 30

Smudge Love

One month ago today, the world lost Smudge.

Smudge Love 31

This loss came four days after my dad succumbed to complications of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

July was a tough month for me.

In some ways, losing Smudge is more difficult than losing my dad. With my dad, I had a few weeks to prepare. I saw him suffer – first in the hospital and then at home in hospice care. Even with the hourly morphine he lived in pain. Nobody should have to live or die like that. I’m grateful he’s now at peace.

With Smudge, I had no preparation. I received a message on my phone that Smudge had been taken to the vet that morning. The vet recommended he be put down as soon as possible because tumors had infiltrated several organs.

Smudge Love 32

I remember sobbing words like, NO, and it’s too much. I remember the weight of the news literally knocking me to the floor. I pushed a button on my phone and talked to Smudge’s human brother. He held his phone out so I could see Smudge at the vet. It was through video messenger that I said goodbye to him.  I told him he was so handsome. That he was the best good dog ever. That I loved him. Then I hung up because I was afraid my sobbing through the video was causing more stress to Smudge than he needed.

I will never be able to thank Smudge’s human brother enough for calling me. For giving me a chance to say goodbye.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t see Smudge before I left for Pennsylvania when my dad took a turn for the worse. I stopped to see my friends Cecily and Dodger on my way out of town. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, and I thought if I didn’t see them, I would regret it.

Smudge Love 33

Dodger of Cecily & Dodger

The world can be cruel that way.

It didn’t occur to me to stop and see Smudge and Faith. I knew Faith might not be here when I got back. The vet found a tumor on her liver in January. Every extra moment I’ve had with her has been a gift. I already said goodbye to her, just in case, when our housesitting gig with them ended in June. I whispered in her ear all the things I love about her. I told her how much I loved taking care of her.

Smudge Love 34

But Smudge … the last time I saw him he danced around the yard, splashing in the pond, and wagging his tail at the speed of light. I thought Smudge might actually live forever. Or at least to 16 or 18 years old.

Smudge Love 35

The last time I said goodbye to Smudge it was more of a see you later. I fully expected to have more time with him. I would sit on the rock in the pond and we would be together. I would nuzzle his head and rub his ears. Then, I would kiss his forehead and say see you later. We would then repeat this togetherness for months or years to come.

Smudge Love 36

I could not have been more wrong.

This pain and regret will be with me for months, if not years, to come. Much like the time I thought I had with Smudge.

The thing is, it’s totally worth it. Because I got to love Smudge for almost four years. I wouldn’t trade that time and those experiences for anything.

Smudge Love 37

Good-bye, Smudge! I’ll see you later.

 

How to Celebrate Memorial Day in 2020? Wear a Mask

Poppies in a field -- How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Photo by Laurentiu Iordache on Unsplash

There’s been a lot of talk in our country as of late about personal freedom. This conversation is especially relevant as tomorrow marks the 152nd Memorial Day celebration in the United States. So I have a recommendation for how to celebrate memorial day 2020 given our current situation — Wear a mask!

Memorial Day began as a way to honor the 620,000 soldiers killed during the Civil War. When the United States entered World War I, Memorial Day expanded to include those killed in all wars. It was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1971, while the United States fought during the Vietnam War.

To the men, women, and animals who have died serving the United States– thank you. The freedom I enjoy every day comes from your sacrifices.

Since I will never serve in the military, I will never know this level of sacrifice. That does not mean I will not protect my country to the best of my ability.

It is for this reason, that I continue to wear a mask as the death toll from COVID-19 approaches the 100,000 mark.

It’s such a simple thing to do. At no time wearing a mask do I feel like my personal liberties or freedom are being impinged upon. On the contrary, I think about the people I am protecting and how their lives can remain free from the burden, suffering, and even death from a preventable disease.

It is not much, but it is something  I can do. And I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve in this way.

I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to offer my life for this country. But ask me to wear a mask to protect it?

Yeah, I can do that.

Wearing a mask even sounds kind of trivial when I think about the sacrifices of our soldiers. These women and men who put their lives on the line for me and for my freedom and all I’m being asked to do is strap some material across my face when I go out in public?

Of course I can do that!

So when we discuss how to honor those who died and how to celebrate memorial day 2020, sign me up for wearing a mask.

I’ll gladly wear a mask for the people I love. I’ll wear a mask for my friends and neighbors. I’ll wear a mask for the people living in nursing homes. I’ll wear a mask for our healthcare workers. And I’ll wear a mask to protect those veterans who survived war. Because they deserve the very best I can offer.

A good friend of mine shared with me this YouTube video her son created for the #NewYorkTough Wear A Mask PSA Contest. It makes my point far more beautifully than I ever could. You can watch the video here.

A man wears a face mask that reads "For Maria" - How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Image from Mike Schneberg #NewYorkTough PSA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3UURdY6FQY

Here are two of the people I wear a mask for:

An older woman gets licked by a border collie while her friend laughs - Honoring Those Who Served

This is Cecily. She’s Dodger’s mom. Obviously, I love her on that fact alone. But Cecily is a hilarious, witty, talented, kind, and generous woman who has opened her heart and home to Heath and me when we needed a place to stay.

Of course, I will wear a mask to keep Cecily safe. It’s the least I can do!

This is Barbara.

A senior citizen poses with a bouquet of flowers - How to Celebrate Memorial Day

Barbara and I met during my first month in Norfolk during the creative writing group at the Congregational Church. When Barbara’s husband of 60+ years died in October 2017, I imagined what it would be like if something happened to Heath and how lonely that would feel. Coming over for tea and company is what I would want someone to do for me, so I started going over to Barbara’s house for (mostly) weekly tea dates. We have such a nice time together, and Barbara has two excellent recliner chairs where we drink our tea, listen to classical music, and sometimes nap because the music is so relaxing.

I wear my mask for Barbara, too. She deserves not to have her health put at risk for circumstances she can’t control.

So on this Memorial Day, let us continue honoring those who died. We choose how to celebrate Memorial Day and the lives lost by being good citizens.

Let our soldiers’ sacrifices not be in vain.

Let us make sure that in our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, we start with life.

Protect each other.

It’s that simple.

Adorable dog wearing a photoshopped patriotic hat - how to celebrate Memorial Day

In Memory of Eve Thew 38

In Memory of Eve Thew

If the world seemed a little darker to you this past Monday, February 3rd, it’s because a woman named Eve Thew died in the early hours of the morning. And if the world seemed to brighten in unexpected and myriad ways in the days after that, well… that was all of us celebrating her life.

I met Eve within our first month of moving to Norfolk in September, 2016. The congregational church on the Village Green offers a creative writing group on Wednesday mornings in their Battell Chapel, and since I’m a writer, I thought I’d give it a try.

Eve was outside the chapel doors that first morning I showed up. “I’m here for the writers’ group,” I told her.

“You are?” Eve’s face lit up like someone flipped a dimmer switch  to it’s highest setting. “That’s wonderful.”

Eve and I have been friends ever since.

We have spent Sunday mornings together at church, Sunday evenings together at supper, Saturdays at Makerspaces, and random other times of friendship and fun throughout these last three and a half years.

In Memory of Eve Thew 39

In Memory of Eve Thew 40

In Memory of Eve Thew 41 In Memory of Eve Thew 42
Eve was sitting in the front the first time I preached at the church. “This is so exciting,” she said, “to watch you go through this.” She then gave me a truly wonderful gift: she cried tears of joy for me when I had finished my sermon.

In Memory of Eve Thew 43

Thanks to Heath for taking this picture!

To know Eve is to know joy. Even in Eve’s death, there is still joy. When I ran into John, Eve’s husband of nearly 69 years, in the parking lot of the post office on Wednesday, his eyes twinkled and there was a wondering smile on his face – he told me he could still feel Eve. He marveled over the different ways Eve had let him know she was okay and happy where she was, and he was excited to keep experiencing these “joy bubbles” as he called them throughout the day. He wondered when he would next encounter Eve’s love from beyond. John didn’t know, and he couldn’t wait to find out.

I love you, Eve. I know you still can’t wait to see what I do next in this life of mine. I feel the same way about you.

In Memory of Eve Thew 44

Just Another Winter’s Day

Animal in the snow

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

On the morning of January 20th, 2016, I stepped outside and headed to my car since I soon had to be at work. I stopped, however, to observe some animal tracks in the snow.

I was so taken with how the tracks crossed each other, I snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram.

Crossed Paths

At the time I took that picture, I had no idea on that same night, January 20th, 2016, I would cross paths with a stranger from Nashville while at a restaurant bar in Downtown Naperville.

I also had no idea that this stranger and I would elope three weeks later in Nashville on February 12th, 2016.

I had no idea that three years later, we would be living in Norfolk, CT, housesitting in a quaint New England town, and caring for two dogs that amuse and delight me nearly every moment of every day.

Just Another Winter's Day 45

Just Another Winter's Day 46

I had no idea Heath would study Spanish in Guatemala.

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I had no idea that people would want to pay me to walk their dogs.

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I had no idea that Heath would become certified as an EMT.

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I had no idea that we would travel 11,500+ miles on an epic road trip to see bears and National Parks.Just Another Winter's Day 50

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I had no idea I would spend seven weeks in sub-Arctic Canada in the land of polar bears.

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On that morning of January 20th, 2016, I didn’t know any of the above (and more!) would happen. I was simply taken by the idea of how those tracks crossed each other.

When someone asks me if I believe in miracles, of course I say yes. Look at all that has happened in our lives because of where Heath and I were at one moment in time.

Heath and I could have missed each other.

I’m so glad we didn’t.

Heath Hughes, you are outstanding in so many ways. I couldn’t help but fall in love with you.

Just Another Winter's Day 53

I look forward to seeing where this next year (and beyond) takes us.

To All The Dogs I’ve Loved This Year

To All The Dogs I've Loved This Year 54

To All the Dogs I’ve Loved This Year is my year-end tribute to the 80+ dogs I loved in 2018. My heart is in this video, and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Love,
Kelly

 

A Death Meditation for 2019

A Death Meditation for 2019 55

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I don’t mean Christmas. Although, let’s be honest. I do enjoy some good Christmas spirit, ginger snap cookies, and pictures of dogs with Santa Claus.

Dog Photo with Santa Claus

Dodger with Santa Claus

What I’m talking about is my annual reflection on what I would do in 2019 if I knew it was my last year on Earth as Kelly Kandra Hughes. Yes, I know. At face value a death meditation is a morbid topic, particularly during a season that is known for its joy and wonder.

But that’s exactly the purpose of a death meditation – to make you mindful of your limited time on Earth so that you make better decisions in how you choose spend your time.

You don’t have to take my word for it. As I’ve written about before, thinking about death is essential for living in joy, as written about by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy, as well as happiness and productivity expert Dr. Christine Carter, PhD, in The Sweet Spot, and lay people such as Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

During my most recent death meditation as I thought about what if 2019 is my last year alive, two thoughts bubbled to the front of my mind:

  • I am so blessed;
  • I still haven’t sold any books.

These thoughts make my 2019 relatively easy. For thought #1, I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing. This includes:

Loving Heath as much as possible

Selfie at Jasper National Park

At Athabsaca Falls, Jasper

Petting as many dogs as I can

Selfie with a golden retriever

Kelly and Phyllos

Wandering around in the woods, ideally with a dog

Dogs running through the woods

We never did learn who this yellow lab is!

Spending time with my family, especially my niece

Waving Goodbye from a Bus Window

Saying Goodbye at the Harrisburg Bus Station

Absent from my list is seeing bears in the wild and visiting as many national parks as I can. It’s not so much that I’m experiencing a been there and done that feeling, as these two goals came about from recent death meditations, and they majorly contributed to how I spent my time in 2018.

It’s more that in the past year I’ve learned that wonder is so much more wonderful when it’s not planned.

Instead, I will (ideally) remain open to the world around me, (try to) have zero expectations for what an experience should be like, and instead (hopefully) stay present in the moment and enjoy it for what it is.

Which brings me to thought #2: I still haven’t sold any books.

Being the optimist that I am, I am already generating BIG PLANS for all the writing I’m going to do in 2019. I’m not going to go into detail in this blog post because I’m still plotting (haha) and planning the stories that I want to write, finish, or revise next year. But I can assure you that 2019 is the year where I do my absolute best to sell one (or more) of my manuscripts to a publisher.

Let me be clear: I have made a lot of progress towards this goal. In 2018, I wrote three picture books (around 500 words each), one chapter book (16,000 words), one middle grade novel (48,000 words), one New Adult novel (57,000 words), and one adult novel that is hand-written on small yellow note pads and still needs to be typed so your guess is as good as mine for how many words it actually is. For the record, my guess is 50,000 words.

Also, for the record: I do not advise anyone to write a novel by hand. Having to type my story into Word is quickly becoming one of my least favorite writing activities of all time.

If you’re wondering why I don’t consider ALL THIS WRITING I’ve done in 2018 my absolute best is terms of getting published, it comes down to one reason.

Fear.

I write books and then I don’t submit them to agents with any sort of tenacity typically required of an unpublished author. I like to tell myself it’s because God is figuring out the details and I don’t have to worry about that part of the process. That’s just a cop-out excuse.

It’s not my job to manage the universe; but it is my job to give the universe something to work with.

This time I spend on Earth is God and Kelly willing and because of my fear, Divine Providence can only do so much. If I don’t share my work with people who are in a position to publish it, then I am making it so much harder for that right-place-right-time moment to occur that God has so graciously granted me in the past.

As I thought about my death, what I realized is that I have been afraid of failing as a writer.

What if I write an amazing story and it still doesn’t get published?

What if I write a dozen amazing stories and none of them get published?

So instead I’ll watch one more YouTube video of a dog trying to sneak a tater tot or check out Instagram for pictures of polar bears or mindlessly scroll through Facebook seeing what friends/family are posting instead of researching agents or submitting my work or writing.

If I don’t do my absolute best, then I always have a reason for why I haven’t achieved my goal of being a traditionally published writer. It keeps me in my comfort zone. Giving up the fantasy that the book I’m writing is going to be my debut book and a best-seller and become beloved by millions throughout the world (all publishing goals of mine) terrifies me.

But now what terrifies me more is taking my last breath in 2019 and wishing I had done more to become a traditionally published author.

Thanks to my death meditation, I’ve now realized it’s necessary to give up my clung-to fantasies in order to make them actually come true. The only way for me to get traditionally published is to put my work out there. Agents and publishers may so no. And, if they say no, then that particular fantasy for that particular book is dead (for the time being).

That’s a scary thought and it’s one that has kept me from doing my absolute best with my writing. I have spent countless hours this past year allowing myself to procrastinate and waste time and generally do things which are counter-productive to my publishing goals.

I think I’m *finally* done with that, and I have my death meditation to thank. I am living out all my other goals and dreams and I don’t want to waste any more time on the one that I’ve wanted the longest.

So, what does my absolute best include? Not letting the fear of failure get in my way (i.e. NO MORE PROCRASTINATING), improving my writing craft, writing as many new stories as possible, submitting my work to agents, and then keep on celebrating the blessings in my life – Heath, family, and dogs.

My husband with Smudge

Heath with Smudge

I look forward to the opportunity to share this journey with you in 2019. Thank you for your love and support.