By Kate Kole
Last week, Chrissy Teigen shared on Instagram that her dog had gone to Heaven. Within seconds of seeing her post, I felt emotion begin to rise through my body. The kind signaling that a storm of uncontrollable tears and unspeakable words was coming. I grabbed a roll of paper towels (because I’m classy like that and we rarely have tissues on hand) and told my husband what had happened so that he’d understand why I was curled up in a ball on the other end of the couch crying. (Read: this isn’t our first rodeo of me losing it over random dogs on social media.)
This morning, the tears came again when Teigen posted a picture captioned, “The same day I got you, I told John I was sad. He asked why and I said because one day you’re going to be gone.”
I cried because I’ve been there, too. I thought back to the first apartment Dan and I shared 6 years ago, bringing our first dog, Nola, home. She was a crazy, energetic, Marley and Me-esque pup, who peed on our bed, ripped up our sheets, and tore through furniture. In other words, she was incredibly healthy and I had no reason to cry. Yet, I loved her so deeply that I spent multiple nights that first year of her life, crying on our bedroom carpet next to her, imagining the future heartbreak of not having her.
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The act had become familiar, almost habitual. I feared the inevitable feelings of sadness, disappointment, and grief that accompany loving hard. The kind of feelings that often made me question whether or not deeply investing and diving into anything was really worth it. In my mind it seemed that more love equaled greater hurt. And I wasn’t convinced that any relationship or experience was worth the intense, excruciating price tag of pain.
For as superficial as it sounds, the surface layer of life provides an appealing offer: hang out here and you’ll never hit rock bottom. Your heart will be safe. Your soul will be protected. Your emotions will be level.
But the flip side is this: Connection will be lost. Purpose will be fleeting. Meaning will be stripped.
Armor blocks it all. If we choose to harden ourselves from suffering, we also choose to bypass joy. There is no either/or.
So, this morning, I let the tears roll down my face as I cried out of compassion for Teigen, and also, for me and the now 6-year-old dog that I love so much. I cried because my heart is open, and today, it hurt. And then, I made the commitment to myself to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not because it isn’t going to happen. But because it very well might. Because part of living – really living – this life is feeling both the pleasure and the pain that accompany it. And as Nola licked away the tears streaming down my face, I opened the door to the coexistence of heartache and love. I stopped resisting the mixed emotions of the two, and chose to instead embrace the bittersweet nature of existence.