I Need You to be Okay Without Me

This post is about my dog. And about so much more than my dog.

It’s also about me, and possibly you, too.

You see, when the pandemic hit, I was one of the lucky ones. Through a series of fortunate arrangements, I have been working remotely for the past two years. My dog loves this deal, and despite the constant teleporting between virtual meetings, I love it too. She lays by my feet all day. We enjoy lunch on the back porch. We go for walks in the evening. We are, as the saying goes, attached at the paw.

Which will be a problem in a few months when I return to the office.

For two years we have rarely been apart. She co-pilots our route to the curbside groceries. She mooches treats from every drive-through establishment in town. She protects me from the brave and friendly delivery people.

And pretty soon she will have to be okay without me.

Except I know – and perhaps you do too – that sometimes there is nothing okay about being apart from those we want to be with.

It’s been three years now since my father passed away. I still catch myself expecting to see him, expecting to hear him, expecting to talk to him. I don’t think that will ever go away. The absence of his presence is nearly as tangible as his actual presence. It’s as though someone took that piece of my life and carved it into a metal ink press. The part that’s missing is the part that makes the picture when it’s stamped.

It’s not gone. It’s just completely inverted. And I don’t like it at all.

If our definition of okay is who we were “before,” then we may never be okay again. Instead, we become okay with not being okay. We become okay with being who we are “after.”

That’s what I’m working on with my dog now. The differently hard. And the differently joyful.

Dog chewing on toy.

We’ve started a robust separation desensitization routine. A dozen times a day I walk out the front door and right back in. Or gather my keys and then set them back down. Every day we practice quiet crate time in the other room.

Little by little the panic is a little less panicked. Little by little she is learning – I hope – that she can be okay without me.

She might even find that although this is new, and it’s not what she asked for, that there will be good things, too. There will be opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise – and no, I don’t mean sneaking into the garbage unobserved.

What can any of us say about the road ahead? We can say this: that our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, and our hearts have not begun to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him. We have the strength of the Father guiding us through both the lines and the spaces. We can embrace both the joy and the pain. And we can cling to the one presence that we never need to be okay without.

This post was originally written for inspireafire.com.