In memory of Rudolph
A little over two months ago, I experienced one of the most difficult events of my life. Our little dog, Rudolph, passed away. My wife, Jess, and I don’t have children, so our lives very much revolved around our furbaby. Rudy was eight and a half when we adopted him from an animal shelter, a 30-pound former stray, small in stature but big in character. For over five years, he was our pride and joy.
Needless to say, we were devastated. For a while, the grief was debilitating. I was in no mood to do very much of anything, let alone anything creative. But as the painful blur of those first few weeks began to clear just a little, we were left to face the gaping hole that had been left in our lives.
I wrote a little tribute to share on social media. One thing I am always thankful to writing for is its ability to help us get our thoughts and feelings down on a page. I’ve always been big on journaling and find that the act of writing helps me bring some order to my thoughts, which can often be chaotic. Putting them down on paper somehow allows me to better understand what I’m thinking and why, as well as which thoughts are useful and which would be better left inside a closed moleskin notebook.
As time rolled relentlessly on, that way it does, I actually started to become more creatively productive. I dived into my day job at an ad agency with renewed energy. Much of the intervening spare time has gone to helping Jess with her upcoming cookbook and working on my own writing, including this blog, which is in itself cathartic.
In the still-early stages of my grief, having distractions – things I can truly immerse myself in – has been helpful. My darkest times come in those rare moments when I am left alone with my thoughts. It’s a blessing of creative types like you and I that our minds never seem to stop. When applied to something productive, this is a great benefit, but when allowed to dwell on dark thoughts, they can become a bit of a pain.
A few years ago, I suffered a burnout. I worked myself too hard, for too long, relying on the wrong methods to try and settle my increasingly fraying nerves, until the inevitable point that the situation became untenable and my body gave up on me. In the year or two following that episode, I became fearful of being ‘overworked’. I came to think that relaxing meant doing absolutely nothing, and that a lack of that ‘nothing time’ every day was a recipe for illness. What I’ve come to realize is that the ‘nothing’ can be as dangerous as the ‘too many things’. For many of us, the act of being creative in some way is absolutely a relaxing experience. Being immersed in writing, or painting, or music, or (insert creative outlet of choice here) can be the best way to occupy your mind and relax your soul. In many respects, it’s a similar concept to mantra meditation, where you give your brain something to focus on and let the world melt away around it.
On top of that, when you apply yourself to a creative endeavour you enjoy, you inevitably come out of the other side with something to show for it. That feeling of accomplishment can be the best medicine of all.
It’s no real secret that loss can be a great creative catalyst. We don’t all have to be tortured artists, suspending ourselves in a state of perpetual turmoil in order to create our best work. But we will all at some point experience such heartbreak in the regular course of our lives. It jars us. It slaps us in the face and, when we come around, we have to find an adjusted way to look at the world. We are reminded of our mortality, the fragility of it all, the value of time. The importance of doing, of creating.
Rudy’s loss also got me thinking about doing something for the animal shelter we adopted him from. I’d had a few thoughts (go figure) over the years, but with this hole and his memory, the list of ideas for adoption campaigns I’d been keeping on my desktop started to grow. I was determined I would at some point do something with it.
Then something pretty extraordinary happened. I found out that the ad agency I work for had won the contract to create a capital campaign to raise funds for a new shelter.
For the exact same animal shelter Rudolph came from.
Now, whether you believe in the manifesting powers of our most heartfelt desires, or hold that coincidences are just that – no more and no less – you have to agree that this was a pretty remarkable one.
Needless to say, I immediately requested to work on the project. We’re a week in now and it’s been tough, but as hard as it is on the emotions, I’m determined to turn my grief into a positive. I have help and am so desperate to play a part in creating something that will make a difference.
I have an opportunity to contribute to a campaign that will help all the animals that go through that very busy shelter in the future.
I can hardly think of a better way to honour Rudolph’s memory.