Precious, Peaceful Bubble of Not-Knowing

By Emma Pearson

June 12, 2024

Image by Marina Raspopova on Unsplash

7th December 2023

I no longer remember if some of this is a real or imagined story – but my memory tells me that – during the short timeframe when Mike and I knew something was “not quite right” with his insides, when he was getting some appointments and consultations, tests and scans scheduled and completed, someone had the foresight to say to me, “Emma, until you know, you don’t know”. I think it might have been Emma C. It might have been LF. Or it might even have been my own wise woman inside. I don’t know. It was a familiar voice – one I think I have drawn on over the years as an effective counter strategist in the face of potential anxiety.

We knew it could be something big and awful. But we didn’t know that it was. Not yet. We didn’t know. And I had to find a way to rest in that not-knowing, that “peaceful bubble of not-knowing” as I came to call it.

I love that space. Truly. It is a both-and space – a time of alternate, parallel worlds in the making. One world might just go on as before, with this time ending up being a mere knot in the fabric of life. Alternatively, a new world might suddenly emerge, its debut as brutal and unwelcome as silk being ripped.

I am in that space again. Probably for a few more hours. Perhaps a day, max.
For yesterday, my dog Black was unwell – truly not himself.

At 5h45 am, as I was getting ready to head off swimming, he went outside as always for his breakfast and to do his business, but then didn’t bark to be let back in. That never happens.

He also didn’t eat his breakfast. That never happens.

He vomited and shat. That never happens.

He lay outside in the earth, digging into it, eating it. That never happens.

I got the first possible appointment at the vet’s (still a couple of hours from when I came back home), and within minutes of being seen, the decision was made to keep him in, do some tests and a scan. They were pleased that I had had the presence of mind to take Black’s vomit with me (I had thought twice, three times about doing so).I didn’t think to take any of his poo, but perhaps should have.

Initial supposition was “possibly pancreatitis”. Later on in the afternoon, a call came confirming – “yes – pancreatitis”. Possibly from ingesting something toxic (a local compost being the most likely culprit). Further tests, hydration, stay overnight, scan scheduled to the next day to see extent of organ damage… No other news for now.

Okay then.


We don’t know.

It might be fatal (it was for our cat Shishmi, adopted from the animal refuge the same day we adopted Black the dog. When Shishmi got pancreatitis, he died within 48 hours).

He might suffer a while and then gently recuperate.

He might make a wholesome recovery.

We don’t know.

I like the not knowing. I can handle the not knowing. My brain doesn’t spin too much into the terrible scenarios. When it does, I can somehow breathe it back to the precious bubble of peaceful not-knowing.

There’s not a lot I can’t use that strategy for (the big outlier is climate change – my peaceful bubble doesn’t have big enough capacity to encompass that one). But for the day-to-day, very immediate things, it’s a precious refuge in peace.

Not knowing can be so very hard. And it can also be the last bastion of peace. Better use it well.

(epilogue – 13 Dec 2023 – I have had a couple of people contact me to ask how Black is doing – thank you so much for asking – so – as of today, exactly a week later, he seems “back to himself” – truly incredible recovery. He spent 3 days at doggy hospital and came back for the weekend but it was very challenging – for me, for him… poo and pee accidents, clear distress for him and me, and despite Medjool’s help, great difficulty getting any medicine in him. But on Monday he was hungry and we went on a little walk; on Tuesday he was very hungry and we went on a longer walk – and he was back to sniffing compost heaps; and today, Wednesday 13th, you’d never know anything had happened to him. I am so very grateful. I would have hated for such a painful and sudden end to him).

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