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January 31, 2017

What is Zero?

1500+ miles on the road alone with Penny over the past few days gave me plenty of time to think about nothing. I don't mean "not thinking," I mean "thinking about Nothing." Nothing is Zero. It’s broke. It’s empty. It’s everything I feared. We painstakingly build our lives, fighting against the tide to construct something meaningful. Yet in the back of our minds we know one day it will all be washed away. Our efforts are rarely engulfed by a tidal wave. They are usually victim to an encroaching surf, relentlessly lapping at the walls of our sand castles.
1500+ miles on the road alone with Penny over the past few days gave me plenty of time to think about nothing. I don’t mean “not thinking,” I mean “thinking about Nothing.” Nothing is Zero. It’s broke. It’s empty. It’s everything I feared. We painstakingly build our lives, fighting against the tide to construct something meaningful. Yet in the back of our minds we know one day it will all be washed away. Our efforts are rarely engulfed by a tidal wave. They are usually victim to an encroaching surf, relentlessly lapping at the walls of our sand castles. A high-tide ripped my puppy from my arms and left me with nothing. Zero is the number of days I get to spend with Eko. Zero is the empty space on the couch where he should be. Zero is the phantom limb pain I feel each time I walk outside without his leash in my hand. Yet, in the months since Eko died I have learned to find profound joy in simple moments. Watching the sunrise from the beach, sitting in front of the fire during a storm, running along the lake on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Sharing all of these experiences with Emily and Penny and savoring each moment of the time we spend together. I am the king of a half-crumbled castle. If I look forward I see the wonderful life I’ve built, but just behind me lies the ruins of my loss and a receding tide which I know will one day come again. After Eko died I devoted myself to everything those waters did not wash away. I have a stronger relationship with Emily, with Penny and with myself than ever before. I have fortified what’s left of my castle as if somehow I can save it from its inevitable fate. But I know I cannot. In fact, by devoting so much effort to “what is,” I have neglected to nurture the opportunities of “what could be.” I have reinforced the walls, bridges and foundations of my life but I have built nothing new. The weight of Zero, the heavy burden of looming nothingness, chained me to the prison of inaction. Recently I decided to confront Zero. To contend with its painful truths and to accept it as an inevitable outcome. I am learning to hold Zero as close to my heart as I do Eko. We cannot fight Zero, but we can learn to love it. We can build our sandcastles, watch them wash away, and joyfully build new castles in their place. But in order to do so we first must answer the existential question, “Why?” Why do anything when we know it will succumb to the waves of time? Why struggle and sweat and suffer when you know that whatever you create, it cannot last? As I wrote last week, I have wrestled with that question for the past few months. Quite often my answer was, “I don’t know.” But then I’d see an email from someone thanking me for helping articulate the loss they felt with their own dog. Or I’d read a message from someone on the other side of the planet who we inspired to add a dog to their family. A mother wrote to me about how happy our videos made her son. A father told me his daughter was no longer scared of dogs after giggling through Instagram clips of Eko and Penny’s antics. Each of these moments led me to a new answer for that question of purpose. I learned that just because something washes away does mean that it is gone. I have seen the pieces of what I lost wash up on shores across the world. I have watched people find courage in those pieces. It is not the mighty, infallible courage of gods. It’s the broken, humble courage of humanity. The type of courage it takes to begin again. So what is Zero? For me, Zero is the name of that courage. It is a courage I am fortunate to have shared with so many. It is a courage I must now embrace for my future. Because I have discovered the true measure of a man is not what his love can build for himself, but what his love can build for others. With that in mind, the better question for today might not be “What is Zero?” but “Who is Zero?” Well, that’s an interesting story… Stay tuned!

Comments for What is Zero?

  1. thanks to you… you are much braver than me… you wrote about all the things I always try to ban from my mind, because I can not stand them… Hugs to you…and thanks again for sharing the truth about Zero… it’s the number what nearly never happens at any roulette table of this world… but that means not that this number not exists…

  2. meANXIETYme says:

    What an interesting way of seeing things, Will. I always feel like I have learned something about life when I read your blogs. I hope your trip to and from and was uneventful, and that your sister’s wedding went went.

    And as everyone else, I wait with baited breath for …news??

  3. Will as someone who is considerably older than you and has had so very many difficult life experiences along the way, I can say that your life will send you those zero moments always…..usually when you least expect it and you will make it through to the other side just as you have with losing Eko. I do remember that some of my “early” life losses were HARDER to get through but now I know that it’s just another bump in the road that we ALL wish was smooth for us. Eko is forever a part of your “road”…….and each of the bumps will make you stronger and show you more of what’s so wonderful about these lives we lead. Can’t wait to hear WHO your Zero is….!

    Hugs, Pam

  4. midge says:

    I believe the greatest gift Eko gave was an appreciation for TODAY. Part of the sorrow is that we don’t realize how precious it is until it is gone.

  5. Connie Taylor says:

    Its always fun to open up the computer and seeing a new blog you have posted and wondering what new experiences you will be sharing with us will be next. With today’s you leave us with a cliff-hanger (like your favorite tv show making you wait till next week’s airing). Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long! The last photo of Penny looks like she’s appearing into the future!! Did she help with your sister’s wedding?

  6. Pat says:

    I am not very good with words. It’s been some years since I have been able to have a dog. It’s been a huge empty place in my life. This blog has given me a little of that back. You write so beautifully about your “pack” that’s it’s hard for me not to feel part of that. You’ve given me back a little of what I have missed so very much. And given me something to look forward to. 🙂

  7. I look forward to hearing more……my heart is still hurting (((hugs))))

  8. Emmadog says:

    Human instinct compels you to keep going, to keep moving forward, to do what you love, and to love others. Some people seem to lack that instinct and they are the ones who really suffer in life as they never move forward. It all takes time, and each experience makes humans better. Glad you survived the trip with Penny. I’m guessing you did not let her drive?

  9. Kismet says:

    At the bridge, Eko is looking at you and wondering what he did to make you this sad. The best way to honor him is to get one of his kind, a dog that really needs the home that you, Emily, and Penny provide. We replaced Kenzie and Kyla with two dogs who were on the euthanasia list. I’m certain that Kenzie and Kyla are smiling.

  10. coastingnz says:

    Will you have such a way with words – it is like you pull all the thoughts and emotions from us all and put them into words for us. You are right, you, Eko, Penny and Emily have touched many hearts and souls – enriched our lives, broken our hearts but helped them heal also and given us the tools to help heal in the future – whatever the future brings us. Your strength is our strength and all I can do is thank you – and thank Eko for all he has shared with the world – yep the world. I know you would know what to say better than I but I hope you know what I’m trying to say.

  11. Ane says:

    We keep building simply for the pure joy of creating, of making something come into existence that used to only live in our thoughts, regardless of whether or not we get to keep our creation.
    Have you just announced a new puppy called Zero??? <3

  12. Victoria Coleman says:

    Does this mean Penny is getting another brother? A new friend that she can show everything to like Eko showed her? That would be wonderful.

  13. Ellen Quilty says:

    OK Will,my curiosity is piqued.We leave for South America in a few days for vacation but I will be tuning in from there.Zero?I can think of a couple of things it could be but I will await the big reveal.

  14. Jo Rhodes says:

    I want to remind you that while half your castle may have crumbled its cornerstone remains. Life is decorated with the imprint of physical reminders. Eko is gone. What habit did Penny learn from him? His space on the couch is empty…except for you. Sitting in the imprint of his contentedness of having you and Penny and Emily. He lived his perfect dog life in those spaces. You’re lucky. You can’t start fresh because for the rest of ever you get to say you loved Eko. We’re grateful to say those words too. The thing is we never got to honour your dogs by feeding them ,( because you obviously never did :)) or walking them or just snuggling them.
    Much love, Jo, Sam and Dean

  15. I am getting a happy feeling that Eko is making some choices and singling out some needy doggies and filling your head with ideas you ever thought you could fill your head with. Go, Eko!! This is exciting.

    Love and licks,

  16. Victoria Coleman says:

    Will – what is going on w/comments lately – they disappear – even when you hit older comments they don’t show up – any idea

  17. Robyn Brown says:

    We are all staying tuned and very excited for what may come your way. You deliver such wonderful words about dogs and life, in general. I look forward to reading what you write each time. Losing a four-legged family member is the worst. Healing takes time, and we never ever forget them. They leave a place in our hearts forever. I know that with each day you, Emily, and Penny are healing a bit more.
    I’m so glad you took your crazy little girl on a road trip. I bet it was amazing and you made special memories with her.
    Keep us posted on what lies next in that doggie world of yours. We can’t wait to see what wonderful moments life has in store for you……………….

  18. Thanks again for sharing the wisdom and insight you have gained, it really does help and inspire Will.

  19. Will,
    i think, time is running for you and your small family, and i hope that you know it too. Eko is and “Will” always be there, esspcially for you, but also for all of use who likes & loves your Blog. I can feel that you know what you have to do and you can be sure that we are always on your side.
    Please do the right thing, no matter when, but you know you have to do it. Eko would be proud, because we all love and your family. “Zero” is a good name for a new chaper but it it also could be the Name of a new membership for your loves family. That’s just my opinion, think about it.
    With best wishes from Berlin Germany from Helge and Nelson (my second RR Love)

  20. fredrieka says:

    Zero has room for abundance

  21. Having read the subsequent “second part to this Zero sum game.” Congratulations with all good wishes as you begin a new life with this latest addition. No doubt life as you knew it is gonna change dramatically and for the better. Well, maybe not so much for Ms. Mayhem, but it will be a hoot as ‘little’ Zero grows up.

  22. Thanks! Going to be quite the adventure, that’s for sure.

  23. Alcohol, lots of alcohol and plenty of chew toys. 🙂

  24. Judy Petitto says:

    Your writing is so expressive and beautiful.One can feel your pain and understand it.You speak the truth that each of us have to some how, some way face in this thing called life.You have grown much in these last months and have shared your wisdom with us.You have put into words what is in our hearts and spirit.Thank you Will for sharing your zero with us.

  25. Gypsy says:

    Food for thought… Zero = 0
    If you let the tides of life soften and dance with it… You might get an 8… Tackle it down to get the infinity symbol…
    Zero I’d nothing more than a circle… Add such it is also considered a universal shape… The root of all other shapes…

  26. […] strategy seemed to work. My bond with Penny strengthened, I opened a new part of my heart to Zero, and my love for Emily grew in leaps and bounds as we prepared for our first […]

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