Guinness Dying With Dignity and Me is what I have titled this blog post because I have learned in the last couple of weeks that Guinness has Cancer. It is under his skin in the form of lumps and spreading and growing. The vet offered surgery but didn’t guarantee that more lumps would not occur. He does not appear in pain although he seems to scratch and lick at a few. Dr. Coles, his vet, says it is because of histamine buildup from the mast cell tumors that make them itch and recommended Benadryl twice a day.
I decided not to do surgery because it is not a cure. Guinness is at least 12 years old. He was a rescue so I don’t know his exact age but I have had him for 6 years and he was at least 6 when he was adopted from the rescue. Guinness has taught me so many things and he is my best friend. Now, 30 years later, I still learn daily from Guinness how to live my life.
Guinness is now in a new stage of life as a senior dog who is dying and our goal is to keep him happy and comfortable for the time he has left whether that is two months or two years. I am observing him as he teaches me new things every day about aging, being sick and dying with dignity and grace. Some of the things I am learning from him are:
Live in the moment
Guinness teaches me daily to live for today. He doesn’t worry about the past or the future but only the moment he is in. When I let him out to go potty in the back yard, sometimes he goes and immediately does his business and comes right back in. Other times, he goes out and explores his surroundings and sniffs the grass, looks for bunnies by the birdfeeder, or just hold his head up toward the breeze blowing toward him. He is enjoying the moment. If I learn to do this depression (from living in the past) and anxiety (from worrying about the future) ceases to be a problem for me.
Guinness connects every day and even every minute that he is with me. He needs love and time from me and from the rest of the family. I need to learn to stay connected with others to feed my soul. When I disconnect from those that I love, that is when my depression and anxiety set in. Innately, Guinness already knows this in his soul.
Less fear and more love
Guinness started out a fearful dog as a rescue. When fearful, dogs tend to be either very shy or very aggressive, but they can be changed through love to be happy and well adjusted. I replaced Guinness’s insecurities (evidenced by fear) with love and acceptance and slowly he came out of his shell and became friendlier. He will always be on the shy side but that’s my Guinness.
Let go of grudges
Guinness doesn’t hold a grudge because he lives in the “now” not the past. That is very intelligent. I have learned to let go of resentments held about being hurt as a child by living in the “now” too. We are much happier that way.
Trust your instincts
Guinness lives by his intuition and instincts. He trusts his gut instinct for safety and for relationships with others. If he meets someone he does not trust, he stays away from them. If Guinness senses that something is unsafe, he will stay away from it. I need to pay more attention to my gut instinct leading me to trust my inner soul or self.
Seek balance in life
Guinness loves his daily routine and seeks balance daily in his routine. When he needs to rest, he does. When he wants to play, he does. He expects his meal at a certain time of day within an hour or so. He has taught me that balance and a daily routine is good for. Notice how a dog does best when he knows when he is going to be fed or exercised. Now that Guinness is sick he does much better with routine and knowing what to expect. The same holds true for me as I grow older. The less chaos and focus on the negatives in my life helps me to balance and to decrease my stress.
Self-acceptance is essential
Guinness doesn’t want to be something else. He is perfectly happy being who he is even with his illness. Have you ever seen a Pug wish he was a German Shepherd or a Poodle wish she was a Terrier? No. This is because they accept who they are without question. I need to accept myself rather than trying to change my looks, my features, my size, or who I am. We each are perfectly unique just as we are.
Loyalty and unconditional love are vital
Guinness is very loyal and his love is unconditional. He learned loyalty instinctively by being a pack animal. Unconditional love is evident from my dog by the wag of his tail, the enthusiastic greeting when I come home and the slobbery kisses he gives. Unfortunately, adults usually set conditions to our loving. “If you do this…I will love you.” is a common scenario with humans. I just need to love without setting conditions, period. Guinness is teaching me this.
Make each day special
Guinness finds life exciting. He finds excitement in the simplest things such as being fed, going for his walk, seeing me come home and even having visitors. Even on days when he doesn’t feel as well, Guinness still finds something to make each day special. I am learning how to be enthusiastic about the simple things in my life. I am also focusing on gratitude and enjoying life one day at a time.
Age and Die Gracefully
This is the biggest lesson that Guinness teaches me daily. Both of us are aging in years. He is about 12 and I am 65. Both of us are sick although one of us will leave this earth sooner. There is no guarantee how long we live and how we die. There is only the guarantee that we are passing through this life on a journey to somewhere else. Guinness will likely cross the Rainbow Bridge sooner than I will go to heaven, but I am sure we will meet again. The only way to grow older and to die is with grace…God’s grace and the unconditional love of those you leave behind.
May you share your loyalty and unconditional love,
How to change your life. Change can be a scary thing. Are you afraid of change? I know that I used to be afraid of it, but not anymore. Now I look at change as an opportunity to grow. It is a chance to reevaluate where I am at and where I am going. Maybe I have gotten into a rut, a comfortable rut, no less…but a rut. It may be time to change it up. You know that saying, “No pain, no gain.” Well, the same is true for change. No change, no gain or growth. Sometimes you just have to seek out the change before it is thrust upon you against your will. Take some control over the change. Make the change positive rather than negative. It is all in your perspective….looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty. So here are some great quotes about change that I found…
So how do you change your life?? You make the decision to change and you place one foot in front of the other foot and take baby steps at first until you increase your courage and practice a little more. You ask God to help you by directing your path of change and to let you know if you are going in the right direction. You seek the counsel of close, trusted friends so that you can receive encouragement from them. Accept that at first you will feel uncomfortable with the change or changes because they are new and unfamiliar, but hang in there and give it some time. The new will become more familiar to you and you will become more comfortable. Keep a journal so you can keep track of how the change/changes are going and how you feel about them. You will be surprised a few months down the road when you read your beginning entries at how much differently you see things now.
Loving yourself is the focus of this blog. The reasons we learn to hate including how we repeat self-hatred daily through our self-talk and our inner critic judges us and reminds us that we fail or we are not “good enough.” At least 100’s of times a day if not 1000’s of times we do this. You don’t just stop negative behavior because it leaves a void. So the objective is to change negative, critical comments to positive, self-affirming ones that build up our self-worth and our confidence. Learning to love yourself is important to us and our relationships with God and other people in our life.
Once we realize that we are acting out of self-hatred through our inner critic or dialog, the cure is to change our inner dialog to loving thoughts of acceptance that we are good enough, and refusal to reinforce negative thoughts. The past negative habit is as addictive and takes time, practice and support by others in our lives to overcome. Through time, effort and commitment, we can change how we speak inwardly to ourselves and outwardly how we treat ourselves and let others treat us. Remember perfection is not the goal but “good enough” and self-acceptance is the goal.
There are 10 Days to love yourself. Don’t worry. I am not into perfection but only doing your best. When you get to the end of the 10 Days, it is perfectly okay to repeat them until you feel you master them. I learned them a long time ago in a 12-step group and want to share them with you…
Ten Days To Love Yourself
*** STOP ALL CRITICISM ***
CRITICISM NEVER CHANGES A THING. REFUSE TO CRITICIZE YOURSELF. ACCEPT YOURSELF EXACTLY AS YOU ARE. EVERYBODY CHANGES. WHEN YOU CRITICIZE YOURSELF, YOUR CHANGES ARE NEGATIVE. WHEN YOU APPROVE OF YOURSELF, YOUR CHANGES ARE POSITIVE.
*** DON’T SCARE YOURSELF ***
DON’T SCARE YOURSELF. STOP TERRORIZING YOURSELF WITH YOUR THOUGHTS. IT’S A DREADFUL WAY TO LIVE! FIND A MENTAL IMAGE THAT GIVES YOU PLEASURE ( MINE IS A WATERFALL), AND IMMEDIATLEY SWITCH YOUR SCARY THOUGHT TO A PLEASURABLE THOUGHT.
*** BE GENTLE AND KIND AND PATIENT ***
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF AS YOU LEARN THE NEW WAYS OF THINKING. TREAT YOURSELF AS YOU WOULD SOMEONE YOU REALLY, REALLY LOVED.
*** BE KIND TO YOUR MIND ***
SELF HATRED IS ONLY HATING YOUR OWN THOUGHTS. DON’T HATE YOURSELF FOR HAVING BAD THOUGHTS. GENTLY CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS.
*** PRAISE YOURSELF ***
CRITICISM BREAKS DOWN THE INNER SPIRIT. PRAISE BUILDS IT UP. PRAISE YOURSELF AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. TELL YOURSELF HOW WELL YOU ARE DOING WITH EACH AND EVERY LITTLE THING.
*** SUPPORT YOURSELF ***
FIND WAYS TO SUPPORT YOURSELF. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS AND ALLOW THEM TO HELP YOU. IT IS BEING STRONG TO ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT.
*** BE LOVING TO YOUR NEGATIVES ***
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU CREATED THEM TO FULFILL A NEED. NOW YOU ARE FINDING NEW, POSITIVE WAYS TO FULFILL THOSE NEEDS. SO, LOVINGLY RELEASE THE OLD NEGATIVE PATTERNS.
*** TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY ***
LEARN ABOUT NUTRITION. WHAT KIND OF FUEL DOES YOUR BODY NEED TO HAVE FOR OPTIMUM ENERGY AND VITALITY? LEARN ABOUT EXERCISE. WHAT KIND OF EXERCISE CAN YOU ENJOY AND TOLERATE ACCORDING TO YOUR ILLNESS? CHERISH AND REVERE THE TEMPLE YOU LIVE IN.
*** MIRROR WORK ***
LOOK INTO YOUR EYES OFTEN. EXPRESS THIS GROWING SENSE OF LOVE YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF. FORGIVE YOURSELF, LOOKING INTO THE MIRROR. TALK TO YOUR PARENTS AND LOVED ONES, LOOKING INTO THE MIRROR. FORGIVE THEM TOO. AT LEAST ONCE A DAY SAY: “I LOVE YOU. I REALLY LOVE YOU”
*** LOVE YOURSELF ***
DO IT NOW! DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU GET WELL, OR LOSE THE WEIGHT, OR GET THE NEW JOB, OR THE NEW RELATIONSHIP. BEGIN NOW…. AND DO THE BEST YOU CAN!
What you have been doing for years is destructive to your inner soul. Today, you can change that through following the above process to the best of your ability. Again, the goal is not perfection but self-acceptance. I have been down this road personally and can tell you how it destroyed my concept of who I was inwardly in my core. But through following the above principles, I was able to change and learn how to love myself. You, also, can learn how to love yourself.