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Without One, You Can’t Have the Other….

Posted Oct 05 2011 11:19am

A couple of weekends ago, my daughter and I were planning on participating in the Falmouth Goat Race. This is an annual race that takes place on the last Saturday of September. We ran our first race last year when my pet goats were only 6 months old. My goat, Martha, almost made it to the finals. And the finals mean trophies—big trophies.

So in preparation for this year, we had been training. And then…rain, lots of rain, hit our area. Now the cancellation of the goat race is not huge as compared to the many people affected by the floods. My heart goes out to them. This is just one small story in the middle of thousands of other stories.

On the Saturday of the race, the weather was perfect. The sun was out, the temperature was great, but there had been so much rain that the ground was saturated. Hence, the cancellation of the race.

Now this race was special for us this year. This past May, my female goat had a baby. We named her Iris Pluie. Iris for the Goddess of the Rainbow and Pluie, French for rain. She was born on a day that saw a huge rainstorm and the threat of tornados. We had not planned for Iris, but goats will be goats. She was born and she was beautiful. Because her mother was tame, she was tame as compared with other nursing babies. She would sit on my lap and fall fast asleep. She was an imp and liked running and jumping and getting into the chicken house to get to the corn. (This is also a favorite pastime of her mother.)

And then in August, when we went to visit the goats (they board on a local farm), Iris was limp and listless. I sent my daughter scrambling to the house to get help, but Iris had a seizure and died.

I am not telling you this to try and make you sad. I’m writing about it for a few reasons. One, writing helps. That’s why I share these writing prompts. That’s why I write this blog. I believe in the healing power of writing. The second reason is that thinking about what happened, writing about it, grieving has helped me accept the understanding that without grief, we can’t have joy.

Part of what has been so fun about my goats is being able to go and have the farm experience and have them run over, curious creatures that they are, for some affection. Iris Pluie made us laugh with her antics. She made my heart melt when she fell asleep in my lap and made little, mouth puckering sounds. She gave my daughter and I more reasons to bond. So the grief at losing Iris was difficult. But without the attachment that I had with her, I wouldn’t have had the fun and loving moments. If we try to protect ourselves too much from hurt, then we can miss out on happiness. Without being willing to feel some of the difficult emotions, misery, grief, disappointment, we can’t feel the positive ones of merriment giddiness, or delight. Without one, we can’t have the other.


  • Write about the emotions that you are trying to avoid. List them and then see if you can come up with positive ones using the same first letter of each word. Understand that when you push away every woe, every pain, you are also pushing away wonderment and pleasure. You can’t only feel the good feelings. If you let yourself be open to life, it will offer challenges but also contentment.
  • Write about a tough time that you’re trying to push away. Describe what happened and how you felt. Working to understand your feelings can help you to move past the pain. Write about how it has changed you, what you learned. What coping skills did you use to get through? Realize, reflect on and relish in the fact that you survived this! It was probably difficult, but you made it through.
  • Write about joy in your life. Describe a great event. Celebrate something that you enjoyed. Understand what you liked about it so that you can work to get more joy into your life.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Try at the end of the day to find, at least, one thing that made you appreciate the world around you. It could be a rainbow or birdsong. It could be a joke that made you really laugh or the feel of a pet’s whiskers against your palm. Even these small images can make us appreciate what we have in life.

So, go, Write On!

Martha Peaslee Levine, MD



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