I, like my dogs, have become a master of escape. Instead of trying to get out of my physical confinement though, I do my best to avoid what has become my reality — a life without Jim, my husband and soulmate. I use lots of mechanisms for escape but my favorite by far is dog sports.
I have four Brittany dogs ranging in age from 9 years to 20 months with which I participate in various dog sports, including flyball (a dog relay race of sorts), conformation (think Westminster Dog Show scaled down) and field events, and I use them for bird hunting in the fall. They are trained athletes, so making sure they get enough exercise to stay in shape makes sure I get exercise as well. It’s a win-win situation.
Much like people, each of my dogs has a distinct personality.
The youngest — Quincy — has always seemed to be immature for his chronological age, often responding to situations as a much younger puppy would and pushing the adult dogs to their limits of tolerance for juvenile behavior. Quincy’s personality is developing as he is indeed a juvenile, but he is quick and intelligent like his mother, yet can be laid back and biddable like his father. He is persistent when he wants something, but generally lives within my rules, albeit with his own interpretation of them.
It is that “interpretation” factor that gives our household something I call “Quincy Time.” It means the action will get done or the behavior will be learned when Quincy finally gets around to it on his own schedule.
This behavior, so different from the other dogs, has taught me an important lesson and helped me deal with this place in my life where I find myself. Quincy Time is not only a way of life, it is a philosophy. It acknowledges that the world is rushing past and there’s always so much to do, yet insists we still have choices. We can jump on the train that’s speeding by us, or we can wait for the next train, and still make our desired destination. It allows breathing room in a chaotic world.
Quincy ignores everything that isn’t relative to his moment, and instead chooses what is relevant to the current spirit that’s moving him. The simplicity of that is so very beautiful and restorative.
Quincy’s approach allows me to choose what I do daily. I could take on all of the weight of my world all of the time. Or I could choose certain focuses for each day, do those things well, feel the sense of accomplishment, and be ready to tackle a new set of tasks the next day.
This is a welcome change in my life because I’ve been charging full steam ahead since Jim’s death, doing my best not to have much time to think, staying on the road with dog sports most weekends, and filling the rare weekends I was home with other activities, often pulling my neighbor and friend Alice into my schemes to avoid my reality.
If I was not playing flyball after Jim’s death, I was showing dogs in conformation, or participating in field events. I often would do these events with my dear friend Ann, and would stay with her and her husband John. Ann’s and John’s home became my home away from home, and their love and support carried me through some difficult times. They still fill those roles, and are more family than friends.
I could be on the road every weekend if I wished, and did my best to do so, as money allowed. It was a kind of escapism I enjoyed, and it took on a life of its own.
But I was not facing my reality. When Thistle became ill a year ago and I stopped participating in so many events, I realized I was never home any more. I also realized that I wanted to be home more. It wasn’t as painful as I had remembered. So, how could I get off the crazy path I was on?
Quincy Time would dictate there is always a dog sport going on and it is my choice of whether or not to participate. So with that in mind, after a grueling schedule of dog events nearly every weekend this past summer, I started saying no. I cleared my calendar for October so that I could hunt birds with my dogs, which is what they are bred to do. I decided not to do the November and December conformation shows, or field events.
Now I am making plans with family and friends instead. There will be more dog shows, and I eventually will finish Quincy’s titles I want to accomplish, but he and I are going to wait for another train.
It takes a different kind of discipline, a flexing of different mental and emotional muscles, to really embrace the concept of Quincy Time. Grief is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. There is no putting it aside until you are ready to deal with it. It doesn’t give you a break. It is forceful and pervasive and enters every element of your life. It changes the rules and can take over if you let it.
Having a way to relieve that burden is a rare gift toward healing. I tried the avoidance method through my many months of dog sports keeping me on the road all of the time. I thought it worked for a while, but all I did was postpone the inevitable.
And as frustrating as I found Quincy’s “Quincy Time” behavior at first, I now truly appreciate the permission it gives me to slow down, to take stock, to make choices, to face my new reality.
Sometimes, you have to just be.