I broke myself upon the stones of a ruined Bosnia.
Why did I cry? Perhaps I could trace my tears back to the aching in my heart for the stray and skittish dogs seen in every alleyway. Perhaps it was the tiredness, the weeks of sleeping in a car. Or, just maybe, it was the events that followed our arrival into Bosnia:
In the back of an abandoned airplane hangar, nestled in a pile of garbage, we found a tiny puppy. He was near death - his legs spindly-thin and his tummy was bloated like a kettle drum, stretched tight over his rib cage. He was sleepy when I found him, shivering from the extreme cold that had forced even hardier souls indoors.
Together, with our hostel friends, we decided to take this puppy and give him a chance. We cleaned him up, fed him, loved and cuddled him. By day three, he was still far too skinny, but he had lost all sense of fear, and was now happily frolicking around the hostel room, chewing on stray shoes.
Meanwhile, we were busy frantically trying to find this sweet soul a new home. It was a hard task - Bosnia is full of strays and abandoned pets, and seems to lack the infrastructure needed to re-home these poor animals that were left to fend for themselves at the beginning of the Bosnian war. The townsfolk, fleeing their homes, opened their doors and simply said go. War is an ever present remnant, seen on every broken and bullet-riddled street, felt in the air. Time heals all wounds, and will heal this one, but for now the wound is fresh and the country is still getting over the shock.
We had very little time. The story could easily have become a sad one, but let me sooth the readers heart a little, and say this: that the puppy did find a new home - in Belgium, with a loving family who paid for his vaccines and travel arrangements. But somewhere in between it all, we received threatening phone calls and emails from a scary group of animal activists.
On top of that, Oliver was very sick.
And then, as luck would have it, we got into a minor car crash.
Heart racing, nerves frazzled, I went into a state of shock. It felt as if time had split into two trajectories. In one world, I had missed the car-door that was flung out into oncoming traffic on a tight corner, and all was well. In the world I was living in, however, I hit that door, and nearly hit the lady too. I began to feel like butter spread too thin, I was being pushed to my limits. I needed a break.
The day of my meltdown was a grey one. We had decided to drive to Bulgaria. Then, six hours into the mountains, we decided to make a sharp right turn, and instead drive to Serbia. An hour later, and we had to turned around, and then around again. We were going in circles in the middle of nowhere, but if there had been a sign, it would have read in block letters:
I felt a worn down, despondent even. I kicked at the glove box and roared like a hurricane. If I am to be completely honest here, I would have to say I had given up more than my hopeful attitude, I had given up on taking care of myself. At this point, showering, or even eating seemed a pointless venture.
Then, I began to sing - a beautiful song, a song about the full spectrum and cycle of life; the gift of all feeling:
I have felt it all in this blessed life of mine. Childhood dreams, tragic love, soul connections, divine inspiration, sibling rivalry, PMS, deep hugs, solidarity, fullness, total overwhelming awe...
And I am grateful for all of it. The capacity to feel is the gift I was given when I entered this world. I think so many of us want to push away the uneasy parts, tell ourselves we should be happy, always.
Avoiding unhappiness is not the path to happiness.
We must see that feeling, that is - our ability to engage with this world so intimately - is nothing short of a miracle.