The Expandable Heart

I joined my ex-wife, Suzanne, this Tuesday to see a cat we had adopted some 15 years ago, beloved E-Bear, put to sleep. Sent off to heaven. We love you little buddy.

There were valid health reasons for doing this but still I feel sad. I did not live with him for the last 5 years, but still I feel sad.

The Power of Habit

What is it that our pets do to us? While they are making themselves at home in our physical homes they are, at the same time, making themselves some room in our hearts (or, less metaphorically, one’s capacity to love). One’s heart is said to ache in these times. The description is apt but, for me, sometimes also includes my stomach and eyes and nose.

I have a theory. Your capacity to love increases to accommodate a new loved one. Your many moments in each day become new habit loops, new neural pathways, that become a part of you. And then, suddenly, this deeply ingrained part of you can no longer act on their subject because they were built for your beloved pet, who is no more.

You can keenly feel all of the sensations that you will never get to enjoy again firsthand. Only in memories and in your heart. I treasure that I will always remember what it was like to live with E-bear. But in this moment, I’d rather have my cat. This will morph in time when I am able to see with perspective. Right now I just can’t yet. This is where I am.

Taking Advantage of My Unusual State

I am amazed at the power of habit in this case to be not only connected to my behavior but also connected with my emotions and my values. In this unusual moment, where certain senses and wits are dulled and other ones are sharp I have this guess to make:

Love can be built by just showing up, just choosing to be with some thing (some one), and being consistent about it. It can be practiced. But it does require that we choose to be there. Not occasionally and not only for the key inflection points of life but for the great many ordinary moments.

I don’t know for certain. I could be totally wrong here. But that’s how it feels to me. What’s my proof? Back in 2001 or so I cried when my ex-wife’s guinea pig, Hugo died. I did not think I was attached to him. All he did was eat and drink and live in a tank. Though he did have rapid movements and was fun to watch when he was chewing.

The little bastard had snuck in. I did love him. This one data point influenced my thinking a lot.

Questions and Actions

Given this thought about love… (and switching gears to human beloveds) I am inspired to ponder who would I want to show up for that I don’t show up for enough now? What can I do to start to change that?

With my encounters in the world with people I do not yet know… how would I feel about them if I just slowed down a bit and made chit chat? What could I do to start to change that? (idea: don’t always be plugged into my phone)

I’d love to see just how large a heart could get given practice.