The heart can hold both love and grief: brain injury, a neighbor's dog, and my slow path toward healing.
I saw that this was an 18 minute read & thought, I’ll just glance at it and return later. Nope. I read it all in one big gulp. Just brilliant on so many levels. I love the way you switch tenses. I love how you knit your story together with Ortiz. I love the balance of anguish and pleasure. Loneliness & companionship. Just loved this so much!
Never have I wanted something so much than to have that couple leave Ortiz with you 😭. That made me cry.
Your essay about Ortiz brought tears to my eyes. It was a gift having a soul like his to guide yours ❤️
You are an amazing writer and dog person. Every day I walk my aging girl as I age and we race to the finish..I worry that I’ll get there first.
With tears rolling down my cheeks, thank you. Dogs have saved my life, quite literally. They're the only things that kept me tethered to earth in my darkest moments of wanting to leave. Complex PTSD has a way of doing that. Dogs have been grounding, freeing, healing, and I now have three. Because of their support and constant needs, I fought my way through some of my most tumultuous times of processing grief and trauma. They're part of the reason I'm a writer today. And I so deeply glad they've helped you heal, too.
Jane -- This writing was remarkable. How I came to read it is not important except to me. I think what I read and savor on Substack often pivots on the one word authentic. It seems to be what will keep me coming back to a Substack even when the subjects are wildly varied. The antithesis of authentic, the shilling and redirecting to "what about me" is what will drive me away. This essay and how it captures the senses so many times along the way is remarkable. I live in a region where small talk of the unfamiliar is "yeah I hear it is cold". You capture the special feeling of the joy and peacefulness that can overflow when you trek out on a "too cold" day. A great bonus of life when others are retarded from being outside and you get it to yourself simply by dressing up and embracing it. I am familiar with Ypsilanti and can readily imagine how cold it might get at times. The dog part of the story (an easy hook as we love our dog and also briefly had a Jack Russell Terrier so the robust energy level is a sight to behold) is excellent. I am sure I will become a subscriber as your talent oozes. I constantly review my subscriptions and just lopped a few. I always wonder when I drop a subscription. Today, I am happy to have found this. My net joy has been increased -- thank you. It is early but this is undoubtedly the very best thing I will read today.
I love this glimpse into what makes you you, and the wonderful interviewer you are. What’s powerful for me is this personal piece comes after almost a year of your Substack so it’s especially poignant. TY
Good morning Jane. Thank you for this heartfelt, vulnerable read! Yes, to answer your question. Cooper, my wire fox terrier rescue, saved me after Regan (another wft) died suddenly, then six months later, I was diagnosed with stage 4 liposarcoma. Yes, love and grief, or was it joy and grief you mentioned? Anyway, yes, lovely, lovely read to kick off another day to breathe and walk the dog.
I loved this piece. Your writing is fantastic. I write a column on substack called At the Dogpark and it reflects, like your piece, the joys and pleasures of being out and about with dogs. Thank you for this, Jane. Lovely.
I remember several animals that got me through some tough spots. EmCat (Emily Roebling) lived with my roommate and me in our small 3 bedroom in South Slope (I.e. the working class part of Park Slope, Brooklyn) from the time she was a kitten til just before her death at age 3 to, of all things, congestive heart failure. She loved my flute playing and would curl up in a ball, purring, when I practiced Bach. Piccolo sounded like a bird to her. Then there was Lily dog, a pale white pit bull, a former fighter, who would curl up with me on our living room floor in Crown Heights. My mom is allergic to both cats and dogs, so I grew up without them. During COVID, my roommate Mike worked 18 hour shifts as an EMT and decided to adopt a cat, as therapy. Topaz was black with shining green eyes, seven years old, with a deep and abiding fear of men. So, she hid under my bed all day, only leaving to eat late at night.
I'm crying, but animal stories do that to me. As I read your essay, I also hoped they would let Ortiz stay with you. I'm glad though, that you then had room in your heart to adopt Delilah. Every dog needs a loving home. I'm impressed by your resilience in fighting against your head injury. It is a struggle but you haven't given up, and the dogs & cats & your wonderful father are there to help you along. I loved the pictures in my mind that your writing draws, especially that thin thread of life that Ortiz pulled out to nurture and grow. Thanks for this essay.
What a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing it. I wasn’t aware of your injury until I read this and it touched me in so many ways. As someone with a chronic illness, my dogs have been my healing grace. They offer so much in the way of love and compassion and teach us to slow down and enjoy each day, despite the challenges.
This is so beautiful. My own pup, Gizmo, is not an easy creature, but having him in my life since March 2020 has been a gift. I'm not sure I would have made it through without him by my side. I'm so glad you had Ortiz to guide you through healing and rebuilding your life.
The heart can indeed hold both love and grief. Thank you for sharing.
As Kahlil Gibran wrote in the Prophet "Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall."
I'm not a paid subscriber Jane, and I do enjoy your interviews and writing very much. I imagine your newsletter will have your health journey intwined deeply with any of your work and writing. As much as our society demands "compartmentalization" I think our beings demand integration. If I can be so bold to write, I imagine you are not the same writer as the woman who slipped under velvet ropes with her rock star husband, nor are you the same writer who trudged through snow with Ortiz. You are both those and more, and everything intermingled and unsure, and yet emerging. You are who you have so costly become. I can´t imagine that not echoing through your writing.
That's my two cents worth. Your are a legend by the way, just saying. Congratulations on all that you have endured, faced, overcome, and still dance with each day. Thank you for you.
Jane, this essay just slays me. I've admired your resilience for years, and the gorgeous and straightforward way you've always written about your life. I loved the way Ortiz guided you out of the darkness, and was glad in the end that he got a new friend (he must have missed you so much!) and that you got Delilah. Much love to you xxx
Still brushing tears away as I write this. Your depth of your love for Ortiz comes out in every word and sentence. So beautiful and heart wrenching. Thank you for sharing your story.