Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

A Full Cup

Bearington naps all day, quiet and cuddly. At 11pm, he takes all that stored up energy and uses it to bark at shadows in the window and at the sound of cars rattling a sewer cover on the street below. He chews on anything he can get into his mouth (except his puppy toys), from the autobiography of Gandhi to the corner of a cardboard filing box. He goes to the bathroom and jabs every bathing supply he can reach with his nose, just to hear them clatter into the bathtub.

At eight months, he is both puppy and adult, teething and ‘tweening and generally enjoying his own mischief. On our walks, he is childlike, picking up fallen leaves or branches that catch his eye and carrying them until he finds a rock or piece of paper that he likes more. He wants to say hello to everyone he sees, whether they are passing us or on the other side of the street, and barks in frustration, his little body straining against the leash, when he cannot.

The ACC hopes to put him up for adoption in the next two weeks.

The past month has been textured by failures and loss. Some days I wake up with my head stuffed with cotton and the precious time drifts by with cruel rapidity. Other days the colors of the neighborhood vibrate in the light, the edges of buildings razor-sharp against the variegated sky; still as a painting.

Dance has become a solace. The studio provides comforting stability. I can always go there, I will know the shape of the music, and the smiles of the people. I can fall into routine, and know what I am working toward. As ever, dance and dancers surround me with love, warmth, and the pulse of life. Dance is of the heart, and this is real wealth: people who enrich one another, who surround each other with mutual respect and support, who share rituals together.

On Thanksgiving, my dad put me on Facetime and carried me from person to person, perched me on the dining room table, described to me all the scenes of the holiday with my family. Their love overwhelms me; I feel unworthy, I try to fling that understanding and caring back out into the world. To push away the darkness and the sadness with that halo of light, for “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”

I was watching a video of Joe Biden pen a letter to his 12-year-old self. Now in his 70s, he lost his wife and infant daughter to a drunk driver, and his son to brain cancer. And yet he said, “out of everything terrible that happens, something good will come if you look hard enough… You’ll realize that countless people have suffered equally or more, but with much less support, and much less reason to want to get back up.” He then goes on to describe the pureness of purpose and resolve that his parents instilled in him, and how this is something that continues to drive him, despite - or perhaps because of - what he has felt. I, too, have this to pick me up again. My dad, who always told me, “Life’s not fair,” who strove always to make my life better. My mom, who taught me to take what I have, and to give back.

My wise friend said, speaking of loss, that “you carry the grief with you for the rest of your life.” She said, the grief will change you. You will never again be that person you were, nor would you want to be.

It is easy, isn’t it, to feel thankful for the good things in life - people I have loved or who have loved me, jobs well done, accomplishments. It is much more difficult to be grateful for the moments that have brought me low - chronic pain or injuries, illnesses, the loss of loved ones, projects or jobs that don’t go the way I wanted them to, situation in which I was not the person I wanted to be. It is easier to dwell on those things, to regret rather than embrace.

Every morning is a fresh adventure for Bearington. He greets me with a waving tail, a slobbery tongue, a brightness in his eyes that says, “Oh thank goodness you’re finally up; I’ve been waiting for you!” And even Cindy, the little pup with so much trauma that she will carry with her for her whole life, still greets every morning with the same gratitude: Thank goodness you’re here, let me cuddle you, let’s start this beautiful day together.

And so, on this Thanksgiving weekend, my cup is full. It overflows with my family and loved ones and all the good things (they are too numerous to elucidate), and also with all the bitter times and the loss. I hold it close, this precious cup that is my life, for it has changed me, and I am grateful.
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