Today my dog died. He was my best friend, my biggest fan, the sweetest boy you could ever meet. His name was Charlie Brown. He died at 5:08am PST in my arms. I wrapped him in a blanket, scooped him up in my arms, and held him as close as possible. I put my hand on his chest and kissed his little forehead repeatedly. I pet him gently, and told him how much I love him. How he changed my life. How I will never be the same because of him, and without him. And, that it was okay for him to go. I felt his last two heartbeats, and saw his last two little breathes, and then he was gone.
10 days earlier…
Work was hectic, the project I was working on was all-consuming, and I found myself working straight through the day with little to no breaks, and sometimes at night. In those 10 days, I took Charlie for granted. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him or his brother because work and kid made life action-packed. I didn’t snuggle with him as much as I should have. I didn’t take him out for a walk like I usually do. By the time I realized he was sick, I think it was far too late. I looked for vet appointments, tried to feed him gentler food, held him and kissed him and begged him to forgive me for not paying attention. He looked at me with his loving gaze, like he always did. But this time, his eyes were heavy, his body trembling. He was in really bad shape and at this point, too far gone. It came fast and furious, and blind-sided me when I was already at my limit with stress.
It was just days prior that he went on a walk with me, that we snuggled on the couch, that he kissed my nose. I didn’t see it coming, so I let work consume me. But that’s all it takes, taking your eye off what matters the most just for one moment – one defining moment that changes everything. In those 10 days, I was too tired to take him for a walk. Too tired to play with him. Too tired to cuddle with him and watch our shows. Too tired to brush his hair, bathe him, or put him in one of his cute little outfits. I was too tired because I broke my own rule – I let work get to me. And maybe that is okay for some people. Some people thrive on work, their identity is their career, their purpose. Those people have a different work-life balance than I aim for. I work to live, I do not live to work. I work to provide for my child, my dogs, and myself. So that I can afford for my tiny family to be comfortable and happy, and have as much quality time together as possible.
There is nothing wrong with being committed to your career. There is nothing wrong if you want to work 30 hours per week, or 80 hours, as long as you know your limits. As long as you know what your priorities are. That is what we call, work-life balance. Knowing how much work you are committed to, and how much of the rest of your life you are committed to. What priorities you hold, how you want to define who you are and what you want to do with your time. There is no wrong or right answer. It is an individual decision that no one else can make for you because at the end of the day you are the one that has to live with the choice. It is your heart and your conscious; like they say, whatever helps you sleep at night.
The takeaway from this story is this… Take time to learn what you value, and what you prioritize. Decide what your work-life balance is. Take time to figure it out now. Do not put it off, do not dismiss it, do not wing it. Figure it out and decide what your boundaries are, and set those boundaries, taper expectations. Because all it takes is that brief moment in time, when you look away and lose something you hold so dear to you.
**And I know what you’re thinking, it was just a dog. But he wasn’t just a dog. He was my little guy. An adoption turned into family. He was the biggest momma’s boy you could imagine. He snuggled with me, he gazed lovingly at me, didn’t sleep when I wasn’t home, wouldn’t eat when I was away. He put up with my toddler climbing and petting and screaming at him. He didn’t judge me, or get mad at me, even when I was a jerk. He was always happy to see me, always excited to go for a walk, ride in the car, or just get head scratches. He wasn’t a biter or a barker or a chewer. He was with me during times when I was lonely, when I was sad, when I was lost. He was the sweetest dog, easy going, healthy until the end. He was one of my priorities, and I forgot, and I hate that.
Find your work-life balance. Make sure it is something you can live with. Life is short. Especially for our little furry loved ones.
Best of luck, friends.