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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Thin Line Between Solitude and Loneliness

It's been 10 weeks since Doug broke his leg.  He has been cleared from all medical limitations and now just needs to work at getting his leg strength back. His calf is rather sad looking and the pain and swelling where the break occurred continues to be challenging.  He will not be able to walk Tanner until we are back from our vacation which begins on Thursday and ends the first weekend of March.  He has missed being able to be out and about with Tanner and me and we've missed him too.
I have never had the primary responsibility to make sure that Tanner's exercise needs are met.  He needs an hour out a day and then 3 other outings to, well, take care of business, as we like to say.  My usual responsibilities included the morning outing for sure.  On Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays we would try to take him for a long walk together, enjoying being out, exploring the weather or the city with our trusty companion by our side.  Tuesday-Friday Doug usually gave him the long midday walk.  I tried to take him on at least one of those days.  For the past 10 weeks however, I have had full responsibility for getting our canine out the door.  It has been a good albeit difficult discipline.  He is a great dog and a wonderful companion but he is huge and strong and at times I've wondered if we were both going to survive this arrangement!  At times throughout these weeks I've felt the burden of having to walk Tanner by myself and Doug has felt the sorrow of not being able to.  Life is often that way, isn't person's burden can sometimes be another person's longing.
Sundays have been the hardest as our habit for Sundays was, after all of our responsibilities had ended, our time to unwind from the week's events, review the worship service, talk about the week ahead and just reconnect without the pressure of the week bearing down on us.  And we did this while walking the dog!  We would often wander the waterfront, taking in the beauty of our amazing city, being able to enjoy the splendor of nature in the heart of our city.  But walking the dog alone on Sundays has been a lonely time for me, a time when the acuteness of Doug's injury has come into focus.  I was alone with my thoughts during a time when I wanted to share them with Doug.  For some reason, being out with Tanner often opened up doors for us to communicate and discuss issues that were sometimes hard to talk about in other places.  It allowed us the opportunity to unwind together, to take pleasure in our surroundings, to laugh at the antics of our silly pet.  I still was able to do those things, but doing them alone was often not as satisfying.
I was always amazed at the gorgeous sunset and light that emerged around 2.30 pm.
The flip side to all this is that the discipline of taking Tanner on a daily basis, knowing that I needed to clear space in my schedule for him, yielded great benefits for me as well. I was forced to get out and thus also able to enjoy one of the most beautiful Decembers we've had in years.  I took in the scarce daylight and was dazzled over and over again by the sunsets, the light on the snow, the beauty of landscape and found this to be refreshing in its own right.  I would've missed seeing this amazing icicle in our back garden if I wasn't the one taking Tanner out all the time!
And truth be told, Tanner is a lovely companion and certainly keeps things interesting.  There have been times when he's been a prince, obeying my every command, walking nicely and restoring me to balanced mental health.  There have been other times when I have wanted to leave him in the park and just walk away from the stupid beast whose only purpose in life it seemed was to drive me crazy!  All told, I have enjoyed being out and being with him.  I have used the time to think, pray, listen to music, reflect, unwind, ponder, etc.  Even so, there were times when the outing was laced with loneliness and I just missed having Doug by my side as well.
Yesterday, Doug took his first outing with me!  We walked through the park nearest to our house.  He still cannot hold the leash as Tanner is too unpredictable and his leg is not strong enough to make quick turns.  But as we strolled through Humleg√•rden, I noticed how nice it was to be out walking and talking with Doug again.  Near the end of our walk, I slipped my hand into his and felt a genuine sense of contentment.  Solitude is a good and necessary aspect of our life.  But we all need safeguards and companions to ward off the loneliness that can come when the solitude gets to be too much.