Without my health care salary i could no longer afford our vet. We were settling into our lives in our new tax bracket. I had to switch the brands of supplements i had taken for a year to cheaper ones. We bought dry supplies from the clearance table in town. I found bar soap for 89 cents a piece. Also, the dogs would need to be seen at the low-cost clinic for their vaccinations and preventative meds. Namely, i was out of flea and heart worm meds for the coming month. I would need to obtain some by the first. It had been a long roundabout headache of a process and with training for my new job starting in two days i was losing my window to obtain these meds. I got the dogs up before dawn, put the tarp and towels down in the trunk, and packed the car. We were going to the clinic on the outskirts of town.
They either vaccinated the wrong dog or recorded it under the wrong name but either way i didn’t care. At that point, i’d spent absolutely all i could afford to spend and i had in my possession 6 months worth of flea and heart worm meds for each dog. That was what we needed. The babies needed to not have worms in their hearts. Did they need a lot of other stuff? Sure. I needed a dentist visit, a new glasses prescription, and a not-cracked night-retainer. But life is not one big abundance party and one has got to prioritize. The important thing was that the meds were in the car. Both dogs had received their rabies shots within the past two years and one of them probably twice in one-year. Whatever the vets did, we will be okay. The important thing is, we have those flea and heart worm meds.
The girls were so good. They sat in the trunk like good dogs most of the way just watching cars out the back window. They hushed when told “no bark”. They tolerated my two errands without any fuss. They didn’t pee, poop, or vomit on the ride there (an important one). I sat in the front seat breaking apart the individual tablets and putting them into labeled baggies for storage. Getting these heart worm meds had become the second most important task of my month.
As we headed home on the winding country roads i noticed the girls getting sleepy in my rearview mirror. All the excitement of the other visible cats and dogs at the clinic had worn them out. I fancied a bit of quiet and wondered if they would take a nap. I tuned the radio to a church sermon and both dogs laid down. I wasn’t sure if they were sleeping or just resting but neither one of them made a peep the rest of the way home and the drive was peaceful. The sermon was about depression. Specifically, about the misconception that faith is the absence of despair. The minister argued that most Christians felt they didn’t have a right to feel despair or depression because how could one feel blue if they had faith that God was in charge? But there is no passage of the bible that promises Christians a life free of suffering. In fact, the bible actually promises that there will be suffering in this world, and that God will be with each of his children throughout that suffering. The minister listed all of the individuals from the pages of the bible that had asked God to end their lives for they could take no more suffering. He mentioned that Vincent Van Gogh had painted starry night from an insane asylum and that Winston Churchill refused to live on the second floor for fear he would throw himself off the balcony because at times, on hard days, wild thoughts did enter the head. The minister argued that the real courage lie in the perseverance throughout the depression in the middle of circumstance and reason not yet understood; that faith was to trust even when the big picture was anything but clear. I realized that i had been looking for the reason we were experiencing plagues and natural disasters. I realized that perhaps the answer wasn’t for my eyes or ears. It wasn’t my job to know everything in the world, but i did have to live in it. Then the minister spoke once more. He said he wanted to read a poem by Rudyard Kipling. It was called “If”.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
It was a stunning poem. I repeated the verses over in my head as he continued with his sermon, trying to dissect the lines and squeeze every last drop of meaning out of their words. When i parked at the gate i brought the car to a stop softly, realizing the dogs were indeed asleep. I sat and googled the poem on my phone. I read over the lines again. There was something about that poem that just captivated my attention. It had its own truth. I decided, if i ever successfully went back through school and obtained another degree, if i found myself with a comfortable salary again at some point in the future, i would call my cousin with her engraving machine and put in an order for my wall; the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling etched in wood.