I’m sitting in a cafe downtown this afternoon — at a local health food joint called Golden Temple. I perused the aisles for a solid twenty minutes when I first got here, taking in the sights (alternative brands of chips and cookies, locally sourced produce, and a whole entire onslaught of vegetarian “meat” options), sounds (about 10 minutes ago, Enya’s “Sail Away” briefly interrupted two lengthy and ambient instrumental tracks), and the interesting aroma pervading the store (it’s a sweet and spicy scent that makes me think of cultural food, botanical perfume, and organic paper packaging; that is a thing now, right? Organic paper?). After gathering a few items in my hands (namely, a carob and peanut butter-flavored protein bar, two bags of alternative chips: Barbara’s white cheddar cheese puffs and Peeled Snack’s baked peas, a small box of patchouli incense and two new stickers for my guitar case: “Don’t hate — meditate!” and “Imagine good things”), I checked out at the register and then checked into a wooden booth in the adjoining room (aka, M-F, cafe), where I can now hear Enya a little better over the speakers and the scents have all settled down into being a background sensory experience. The protein bar is already history and I’m about a third of the way through the bag of white cheddar cheese puffs. You know, most people are so nice and moderate about these things; they push the plate away with a little food still left on it, or elegantly toss the last half of their Chipotle burrito into the trash, and they definitely have those special, official “chip clips” in the cupboard at home… the ones that they use to seal and then reseal and then reseal (again) the same bag of chips… grabbing a handful of chips here, just a few to go with X (potato salad, a sandwich, a burrito) there, and making that single freaking bag of chips stretch out over a period of days. My bag lasts minutes. That bag, coupled with a protein bar, is my meal.
Anyways — returning to the title of this post: if you love something… what? I know the end of this phrase; do you? Pause and brainstorm (if you need to), and then scroll down to either confirm your suspicion or view the spoiler.
Here it is, and it’s simple:
If you love something, set it free.
I’d like to share a few (2) recent (and personal) applications of this phrase.
Numero Uno: Set Them Free (People)
For those of you who have read any of my previous blog posts (especially the most recent two), you already know that I filed for a divorce on November 24th. This is an abbreviated version of the story (and the one I relayed to my tattoo artist; you can read the full account of the event by clicking here):
“He (Donovan) powered the needle on and asked “Ready?” before he started. Yes; ready. And there it was; that familiar burn. I wanted to jerk away from it and surrender to it all at once, all in the same feeling. I sighed. Yes, there it is. I’m feeling something.
“Well,” I began, “I’ve been married for 5 years. I just realized that I was gay this year and we’re getting divorced on Tuesday.” I stopped. Yeah.. that’s all, really, I thought to myself. That’s f*cking it.
“Well that’s weird,” he perked up immediately, suddenly in the room with me, “because I knew you were gay the second you walked in here.”
There you have it.
And by filing for a divorce, two great things happened: Chris became free to pursue greater happiness.. and guess what? So did I. He would have to define the value of his freedom and the cause of his happiness, of course, but for me, I’m happy because I am free to express, further find, and develop myself. We’re both on journeys – walking our own, individual paths – and while our routes certainly crossed and overlapped for a significant span of time, benefiting both of us, by the end of November, it had become time for us to part. I would liken the separation to breaking a bone (which I’ve never done). Rumor is that it’s an excruciating experience, especially painful during the process of breaking — that it’s sensitive and tender afterwards (as your body heals), and that even once you’ve healed ‘all the way’, you’ll still flinch at the memory of the bone breaking; that, from time to time, phantom pains may haunt and disturb the affected area… but by the end of it all, the broken bone has transformed itself into a healed bone that is stronger than ever before. More difficult to break, and more resilient. Also: it’s badass. Completely and totally badass. You broke a bone and then lived to tell the tale — ROCK. ON. with your BAD self.
So; I loved Chris enough, and myself enough, to make the painful, NOT easy, NOT preferable decision of separating. I set us both free. And now we’re slipping and standing and struggling and seeking to shape our futures into whatever we want them to be. We’re planning, crafting, and creating. Determining our own destinies. Penning our own prophecies. We’re writing down and playing out our own stories, and it’s beautiful.
Here, I’ll shift gears and accelerate right into the second application of “setting something free” because of love. It’s a sensitive subject, because it just happened yesterday. I’m talking about Bunny Town.
Numero Dos: Set Them Free (Animals)
If you’re “friends” with me on Facebook, then you’ve heard about, read about, and known about Bunny Town for quite some time now. Bunny Town is a magical, whimsical, and enchanted land that is inhabited by two adventurous, mischievous, and adorable little rabbits: Hiro and Panda.
Two years ago, exactly four days before Christmas (12/21/2013), Chris and I drove about an hour outside of Birmingham into a countrified city I don’t remember the name of. We pulled off of the road and into a gas station parking lot (it was an old-fashioned gas station that appeared to be out-of-business). A red pickup truck was also parked in this same gas station. We all emptied our vehicles, exchanged bunnies for dollars, and then returned to our cars. I sat in the passenger’s seat during the ride home, gently holding onto a small brown box that contained two 8-week old rabbits, and cried tears of joy, stroking their soft, furry backs, gazing into their eyes, cooing over their tiny feet and noses, and adoring their preciously floppy ears. The female rabbit (black and white), who I named Panda, has a beauty mark near her cheek, to the left of her nose, and the male rabbit – Hiro – dons a permanent mustache. Ridic. They are pictured (as infants) below.
Over the course of the next two years, Panda and Hiro enjoyed living life as “indoor rabbits.” As toddlers, we housed them in Bruster’s old XL-sized dog cage – – which was actually significantly larger than your typical, store-bought rabbit hutch. Still, this didn’t afford enough room for two rabbits (not in my estimation), so the buns were soon surprised with a playpen (and then, a few months later, a SECOND playpen that connected onto the first playpen, thereby forming a DOUBLE playpen) where they spent the rest of their adolescence zipping down the hallway, “binkying” (what on earth is a bunny binky? Watch this video to find out!) in the guest room, and hopping around the garage. They always had plenty of room to roam and were constantly supplied with fresh water, sesame stick treats, noise-making ball toys and generous handfuls of organic produce (kale, parsley, cilantro, spinach, broccoli and others).. but something was missing. They longed to be outside; I knew they did. And they belonged outside.
As a human being, in general, I am nothing close to being ‘domestic,’ and I also didn’t grow up with ‘farm smarts,’ so caring for rabbits [planning their weekly diet, changing out their litter pan (vomit), and providing some simple forms of entertainment, such as a ‘bunny bowling set’ purchased at the thrift store back in ’14] was a learning experience for me. I knew that they needed room to move around in, and I made sure that they had it. I fed them, I petted them, I watered them and I watched them grow. Simple; easy enough. But their life still seemed so drab.
I tried, once, to get them outdoors. Chris and I moved their playpen outside last spring, along with the old dog cage (we put a water bowl, a food bowl, and a few toys on the floor of the cage and then left the cage door open so that the rabbits could come and go freely into the play area). We broke down a piece of cardboard (thanks, Amazon!) and draped it over the top of the cage so that the rabbits could take cover from the sun (if they wanted to), and on that perfectly cool and sunny spring afternoon, the buns had a BLAST. They moseyed all around the new outdoor area (this “enhancement” to Bunny Town, if you will), binky-ed like mad, and I felt like a very proud parent that day.
I fell asleep that night and woke up the abruptly the next morning, startled out of my sleep by a loud boom of thunder. I hadn’t checked the forecast in a few days, but – apparently – a pretty bad storm had been on the radar and was here now. After my nerves had settled down a little, I fell back onto the pillow, adjusted the covers around me, and tried to recall what I had been dreaming about. Then – just as suddenly as I had woken up – I was startled by the sad realization that the buns – my rabbits – were outside in this hell.
I scurried out of bed and flew down the stairs — ran to the side door, fumbled with the handle, stumbled out onto the porch (which had already begun gathering sizable puddles), and looked down to my left, feeling like laughing and crying at the same time. Panda’s face was drenched and she was sitting sadly near the water bowl. Hiro’s adorable little head looked slick with water and he was actually wearing a scowl. The cardboard cover had collapsed underneath the weight of the rainwater, causing a steady stream of water to pour down – from either side – into the play area. The thunder boomed again, lightning struck off in the distance, and the rain continued pouring down on all three of us — completely unabashed.
The rabbits wouldn’t cooperate with me; they refused to hop into the plastic blue box that I usually used to transport them between rooms. Instead, they just sat there, looking miserable, acting miserable, and probably feeling miserable. I let the plastic blue box fall to the ground and stood there beside them, just outside of their playpen, barefoot and soaked.. looking miserable, acting miserable, and feeling helpless to help them.
The buns were moved back into the house later that afternoon. We eventually rigged a new set-up in the garage, and after relocating them one last time, that’s where they lived: in the garage. Until yesterday. And why, you’re probably wondering, did I just now decide to “rehome” them — to “set them free”? 3 reasons.
#1: The divorce was a major stimulus in me deciding to relinquish them. Chris had, while living at home with me, been hugely supportive in caring for and cleaning up after the buns, and when he left, I really felt the absence. It pretty much happened all at once, and it was a lot to deal with; there were too many responsibilities for just me to take on: keeping up with the house (it’s still on the market; I’m mopping floors and washing walls on a regular basis, which is way more than I’ve ever cared to), taking care of Bruster (the floppy-eared German Shepherd), paying the bills, finding time to look after myself, AND managing these two feisty and regal rabbits. I was stressed to the max. And that’s a super unhealthy way to live.
#2: I didn’t know (and still don’t know) where I was (or am) going to live — a house, an apartment, or an unused room at a friend’s place. It’s all up in the air right now, and in addition to my future living arrangement being contingent on the house selling, it’s also entirely dependent upon what’s available in the market when the house sells, so until that time comes, I really won’t know exactly what my options are. I didn’t want to drag the rabbits into an uncertain living situation (which is what I’m, inevitably, heading into). Me and a dog — that I can handle. But I couldn’t worry about them, too.
#3: They deserve more than #thatgaragelife. Wherever I end up — whether it’s me renting an apartment, or renting or buying another house — they deserve to be happy, really happy, and that means having the option of living outdoors. Rabbits are farm animals, you guys; they love adventuring, and digging, and bouncing around, and I want them to do just that. Bunny Town to the max. Without walls, sans borders, and without bounds.
I shared the availability of the buns and my desire to find a loving home for them on Facebook several weeks back, and a handful of friends (as well as friends of friends) expressed interest. Ultimately, I decided to give them to a woman living on a horse farm in Tuscaloosa. She was very kind in her messages, very excited to take them in, and she had previous (and current) experience handling rabbits. I stalked her Facebook profile a bit before making my decision and took note of her track record via the Timeline feature: It says here that she rescued a hog in January.. awww, that’s nice. And here’s a picture of her daughter feeding a hamster – apparently on the living room couch – in late September; THAT means she’s cool with having pets in the house; you know, during in-climate weather. Good to know. And here she is, brushing a horse outside last month. (Smiling). Yep. She’s the one.
So we made arrangements. I rode out to Tuscaloosa late yesterday morning with my best friend, Charlie. He drove the car so that I could sit in the passenger’s seat with the rabbits (it would have honestly been less painful to just situate them in the back, but I didn’t want to regret not spending those last few minutes with them). They were nestled comfortably inside of their carrier, and I was holding the carrier on my lap; I stuck my fingers through the metal rods at the carrier’s entrance, and Hiro laid down right there at the front, rubbing his nose and chin against my thumb and index finger. I could feel a damp wetness on his nose; the barely noticeable heat of his breathing. I cried.
Then I stopped crying: “Look — they’re going to a BETTER PLACE!” I consoled myself. “LITERALLY! Better! This is what’s BEST for them, Jace. You’ve got to remember that.”
So I peeked in on Panda, who was lying happily near the back of the carrier, and started crying again. I composed myself by rolling the window down; I let the cold winter air chill my face and focused my eyes onto the blurry procession of trees rolling along beside me. Breathe in; now hold it. Okay. Now breathe out, and quit feeling anxious. It’s stupid.. pointless. Relax into this, Jace. Accept that it is happening. Separate emotions from actions, if need be, so that you can get through the ordeal, and then process the whole thing later.
Okay; that sounds good.
We arrived at the farm. I shook the woman’s hand in an awkward greeting. She smelled homey, and pleasant… like mother earth; a three-way combo of dry dirt, freshly cut grass, and.. rice. We removed the rabbits from the car first, and then their train of accessories (the “double” playpen, an over-sized bag of hay, two storage boxes full of aspen wood chips, and a re-purposed, plastic Publix bag that carried pellets, sesame stick treats and corn husks). We lingered on the farm, by the horse stalls, for about 15 minutes, commenting on the stately handsomeness of the big brown horse named Stetson, the adorable stoutness of the miniature white horse named Whistlepig (a miniature horse with, purportedly, “no personality”, but a real knack for screeching and screaming in the night), and the black and white Holland Lop rabbit cuddling in the woman’s arms: Fiona. Our farmer friend related that Fiona had just given birth to three premature rabbits the night before; the woman had a friend who was standing a few feet away, and she had the three baby rabbits tucked underneath her sweatshirt, holding them against her chest. She was keeping them warm. She was trying to keep them alive. They were hoping for the best.
There was a little more conversation (which centered around rain, hutches, and the donkey on the farm being a total ass), and then there was silence. “Well, we’ve got a long drive back,” I mentioned casually, shuffling my feet, and starting to feel anxious again, “so I think we’re going to head on out. But truly –” I extended my hand again and thanked her, again, for taking the rabbits in; for promising to give them a loving home and a happy life. She smiled warmly. I trusted her. I began walking away. As I did, I passed the little brown carrier. I knelt down and slipped my finger in through the front gate; Panda was there this time. She tilted her head back and sniffed my finger. Hiro was in the back; he gazed at me from a dark corner and then looked away. It’s like he knew.
“I love you guys,” I whispered in a raspy voice, fighting back a flood of tears.
We got in the car and drove home.
I cleaned out their area of the garage last night.. tossing soiled wood chips, gnawed corn husks, and a few overlooked toys into the trash. I swept, and then I mopped the floor with a bleach solution that Charlie had concocted, running, every few minutes, from their area (where I was cleaning) to the driveway for fresh air.
I woke up this morning and did a load of laundry (start to finish). I put a few dishes away. I took a shower and prepared to leave the house for the afternoon, grabbing a Kombucha (tea beverage) from the fridge, my laptop from underneath my bed, and my skateboard and related gear from off of the wooden chair in the hallway. I felt my back left jean pocket to confirm that my wallet was there and then stuck my phone charger into my backpack.
Almost ready to go, I fed Bruster, topped off his water, re-opened the fridge to pull out a handful of “yum yum” (cilantro, parsley, or something equally as fresh and delicious) for the rabbits and —– wait.
I walked out into the garage, knelt down on the concrete floor, and cried like a baby, staring at where they had been yesterday morning. Where they would be today if I had made the selfish decision of keeping them forever.
If you love something, set it free.. and if you truly love it, you will.