Just Go Left

Why I Go Left: A Tale of Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy, On My HeartAshtenComment

Warner was sick to begin with.

His sickness, now behind me, defines so much of who I have become and the journey I'm on. A journey that has brought me back here...to the Internet of all places. 

Something inside me changed last year. I wouldn't call it an overnight transformation; I wouldn't call it lightening going off in my brain or some magical switch flipping, but if this was Oprah (and let's face it, I always wish this was Oprah), I would call it my "ah-ha moment".

And then I would cry because I love Oprah. 

I was always inherently negative. I was raised in a negative household, where I was taught that "too good to be true" meant that it was and we should never trust it. I was taught to look for the bad before the good; to focus on the problem and not a possible solution. I was told good wasn't good enough and I learned how to hold on to anger. I battled depression, I still battle anxiety, and I have been crippled by self-doubt. I often wondered what it would be like to actually let myself be happy, yet I was too scared to walk through that door. 

Now, Warner was sick, you remember......

2014 was the hardest year of my life. Now, I can be pretty dramatic but in this case there is no dramatization: I often find it almost impossible to find the words to articulate how hard it actually was. When I look back on the year, I see countless moments when negativity and unhappiness could have won. I see moments that could have crippled me, robbed me, put me back in a dark cave of depression. I learned a lot about moments in 2014: moments have this incredible power to change us, when we choose to live in them....

I was defined by the moment I decided to choose joy.

I was hiding in a conference room at work, talking to the vet only a few months after Warner's diagnosis. The medication regime we were enduring at the time was enough to make someone angry and hostile, Warner's appetite was on the fritz and I felt like I hadn't slept in days: all I wanted was a tiny shred of hope, and a little good news to get me through the next hard thing. She was reading back Warner's most recent test results (a foreign language to me at the time). As she read her voice cracked a little; hinting at bad news. She paused, unsure of what to say next....as if in that moment we were both made of glass and her words, like stones, could break us. 

Don't say it. Please don't say it. Oh God please no.

He's getting worse, she said. We don't have a lot of options, she said. 

After we hung up I spent many moments with an ugly combination of tears and make-up streaming down my face. Words escaped me, but I could feel the anger and the fear rotting away at my heart, turning me bitter and cold: that horrible familiar feeling of depression sneaking up on me. I looked up and pleaded for the answers to unanswerable questions: "why? Why is nothing going right? Why does it have to end here? Why are you doing this to him? Why isn't it going right?" 

Something inside me, something quiet and small, whispered "it's not going to go right. So go left. Just go left."

Choosing joy in a moment of anger and fear was foreign to me, but as the words "just go left" echoed in my mind I realized that nothing was going to change, unless I changed my mindset. Warner's disease was not curable, but the attitude I approached it with, was. Our story was not written in permanent marker, not yet. I walked out of that conference room with a plan: medicine, vet visits and blood tests were going to do their jobs, but we were going to attack our horrible situation with joy. 

Choosing joy never paid a vet bill, but it made me rich. It never fixed our problems but I am convinced it made our difficult year more bearable: we were able to find reasons to celebrate, even the darkest moments during our battle with Warner's disease. And, when Warner passed away on February 4, 2015, I was able to celebrate the happy life I gave him; knowing I did everything I could.

Even though Warner is gone, my desire to choose joy remains. The journey we started together isn't over, and as I find ways to live a more joyful and balanced life, I hope to share them with you here. 

I hope you'll take this journey with me.......