What questions do you come back to over and over? What “what-if” or past-life thoughts pull you from your present day?

Almost every happy hour or date night, Kyle and I get going on two topics – where we want to live and making friends.

The funny thing is, we live where we wanted to live and we have so many incredible, quality friendships. But for a long time after moving here to Arizona, it felt like we didn’t have closure with our past life. We felt a longing for Des Moines, the city we moved here from, and for the friends we’d grown so close to.

(Of course, we miss family all of the time too, but family will always make an effort to see you throughout the year. Friends are trickier. They have their families and plenty of their own things pulling for their attention.)

When you make a big change, it’s easy to start dreaming again about where you were – the house you lived in before, the job you quit on, the people you used to see every day. This has happened to me several times.

For Christmas this year, Kyle and I made an ambitious decision to drive back to our families in Illinois, a 26-hour road trip (one way) that would cover seeing close friends in Colorado, Des Moines and back in our Illinois hometown. To be honest, a big reason I wanted to do the road trip was so our Yoshi could come along for the ride and see her dog friends in Des Moines and her dog cousins in Illinois. It has pained me since the day we left Des Moines that we had uprooted her without her knowing that she’d likely never get to steal Roxy’s bone again or run around with Breaker and Puck.

Part of me needed closure for Yoshi, too.

The day after Christmas was rainy and dreary, Midwest weather that I surely don’t miss. Kyle and I drove the 4 hours from Streator to Des Moines and took Yoshi to see her old best friend Roxy, wondering if she’d remember the golden she used to play with every day even though she hadn’t seen her in a year and a half.

She did, and watching them play was a Christmas miracle.

Roxy and Yoshi playing with a bone

They literally kissed each other repeatedly for the hour we visited, which was cute but also got pretty weird and gross after a while. They played just like they used to in the woods, where Kyle used to walk with Roxy’s human, an 82-year-old retired firefighter and policeman named Ed. While at Ed’s house on this rainy day, Yoshi stole Roxy’s bone and teased her with it, then lay on her back submissively, waiting for the sassy golden to pounce on her. It was ridiculous and adorable, and just what we all needed (well, at least what this dog mom needed).

Yoshi and Roxy playing

Then we took Yoshi to see her former foster parents and dog sitters – Kara and Mike – and their handful of dogs Yoshi used to have slumber parties with. Again, she picked up right where she left off with them.

Just like Kyle and I did with our hometown buddies, our Des Moines friends and our couples in Colorado.

Replaying the image of Yoshi reconnecting with her old dog friends makes me smile. Thinking about the dozen friends in Des Moines who braved the nasty rain on a week night to spend a couple hours with me and Kyle fills my heart. Reflecting on the fun times we had in Fort Collins and chatting with our buds in Loveland lights me up.

The morning after we returned home from our epic trip, we awoke in Phoenix to a bright blue sky, the glowing sun and 50-degree crispy air. Everything felt right.

We even went out that day and hiked Camelback Mountain for the first time, dead tired from the trip but excited to be alive and in this state.

A bunch of us hiking Camelback

There are plenty of things in the past decade I never thought I’d get over – long-ago boyfriends, departing with my wild side in Orlando, leaving my first house with Kyle. I’ve found that two things make closure possible – 1) an adequate amount of time passing, or 2) going back to the place/experience/person after an adequate amount of time has passed.

For a long time, we dreamt about Des Moines. I dreamt about our old house. Yoshi dreamt about seeing Roxy again (okay, I dreamt about Yoshi seeing Roxy again).

But we’ve gone back to Des Moines. I’ve even gone back in our old house, which has been completely remodeled. And Yoshi has gone back to check in with Roxy. All of these things have happened now. They weren’t at all easy to make happen, but now I know that they are possible. And I can move on.

Kyle and I talk about where we want to live. We talk about living close to people whom we have really meaningful relationships with. We talk about finding the perfect place.

A place will never have everything, because everyone we love is in different places. What’s important is that we love the place that we’re in together.

What’s important is that we always see that the people we love – our parents, siblings, nephews, friends, neighbors, and their dogs – all have a place within us too. Living by all of them isn’t possible and isn’t the answer. We don’t have to live by them, but we must make the space to be with them while being where we are.

Past places and people don’t have to haunt us or tempt us, we just have to see how they’re a part of us and realize that they’re always there, never fully gone.

The Importance of People, Place and Pups

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