Marley & Me… and Me

Alternate Title: Sometimes You Just Need a Good Cry

Pro Tip: when you’re already in an emotionally vulnerable place, don’t watch Marley & Me on a crowded trans-continental flight.

I was 3,000 miles away when my family put our dog Chloe to sleep. She had been on her way out, already one leg short from bone cancer, but the news still hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. She slept with me the night we brought her home — wrapped in one of my T-shirts on the floor just outside the kennel she was supposed to be sleeping in — and the distance between us in her last moments was a second, palpable blow.

I was living in Seattle with my then girlfriend, and for all that she’s the reason for my poorly-timed emotional breakdown on said Delta flight, she was wonderful that day: holding me and crying with me while I cried in that special way you save for when you’ve lost someone you truly loved. I still treasure the fact that K got to meet Chloe, and my final memories of her will always be as a healthy, if three-legged, pibble with terrible depth perception who could always be counted on to enthusiastically lick the air right in front of your face.

“She’s such a love,” K said about her, and it’s true. Chloe personified the L-word in a way no human really could. The last picture I took of her shows her lying down on a pillow in front of our Christmas tree, surrounded by the humans she loved unconditionally, and who loved her back just the same. That will be how I remember her… I guess distance has its perks.

Tonight, 35,000 miles up and an hour due west of New York City, returning from a hellish week in Seattle for work — a city which is, at least for now, swimming in memories of my ex and the life we built there together — I broke down again. This time not just for Chloe, the sweetest of our dogs, “such a love” to the very end; I also cried for the family I thought I was building, the future with K that I recently ‘lost’ in as palpable, if not quite as literal, a sense as I lost Chloe. I cried for my own mistakes and the things I lost sight of. I cried at the betrayal and anger I still feel. At promises broken, and promises never really made.

I cried hard, in public, and I am so glad that I did. The macho male stereotypes can go f**k themselves.

The entire week I’d been trying desperately to squeeze out a tear. I wanted badly to break down, ideally alone in my hotel room, but by the end of the week I would have taken “in a bathroom stall at the office” if I could manage it. Tears, like nothing else I’ve experienced during my grieving process, allow you to really feel the sorrow, feel the regret and the disappointment and the anger in a way that helps wash it all away. Afterwards you feel genuinely better, if only for a little while, and I honestly envy those people who can allow their difficult emotions to flow freely at a moment’s notice.

So scratch the first line of this column. Let’s start over.

Pro Tip: if you’re heartbroken and emotionally vulnerable on a crowded trans-continental flight, watch Marley & Me… and cry your f**king eyes out.

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