What story shall I tell today? Perhaps I’ll write about lists promised weeks ago that remain undone. Maybe I’ll discuss some plan, still half-formed because without at least one list outlining a direction, the way forward is shrouded in fog. Perhaps none of the above because the subjects are too depressing. Also, I’ve found walking away from a thing can sometimes redirect you toward that object – in a roundabout fashion. So, would it inspire me to recount the tale of a legend long passed, or would it be better to herald the narrative of a luminary whose light is only beginning to shine? Again, neither, I think. No, I’m inclined to relay a story closer to home. I’m going to write about a lowly canine creature, tiny in stature with the largesse of Everest who has given me a grand message.
A few days ago, I spent a sunny afternoon with the aforementioned creature and his child. I adore the child, a baby girl crammed with curiosity and goodness, still wobbly on her feet, her words more sound than expression. He – the dog – might not love his child as deeply as I do. A nuisance, an irritant and attention-garnering intrusion into his previously happy life, he probably would not miss her should she go away. He only misses his primary human- the mother – when she leaves. The bane of his existence misses her, too, he has noticed. It’s something they share.
In fairness, that he seems bored by this small person, isn’t a big surprise. She neither feeds him nor takes him for walks. Hence, no need to bond. Wait. Mention should be given to the food that falls from her chair. His big humans do not tend to drop food onto their laps let alone throw it on the floor willy-nilly. In fact, this action of hers at meal times might be the reason he tolerates her at all. I have another theory, however, and have begun to ask myself if his disdain isn’t actually manufactured. I believe he has ulterior motives for his apparent disregard of her – motives known only to him. Still, I am convinced if she was truly in need he would leap to help her by whatever means possible. I mean, really, she’s unsteady; just learning. She is vulnerable; still a pup. I think he has her figured out quite well.
My short time in this city by the sea has been awkward. The moves I’ve undertaken the last 5+ years have been from town to town where getting around, settling in and making acquaintances are relatively simple. In most places, I had the luxury of an introduction or three, as well. Here, the ramp-up is slower, but it is a big city, after all. Most here agree getting from A to B takes forever! Meeting people is also challenging. Families move to places like this for various reasons. Singles tend to arrive with a job offer. As a result, a social life and a stability of sorts, are preestablished. In my case, to date, seeing anyone twice hasn’t happened. In fact, I doubt most people “see” anyone once. Are all cities the same, or is this one unique? I cannot say. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before. Dublin came close – close enough to teach me it’s not necessarily about the “city”. As always, it’s about me and my expectations. Also, it is about what I’m capable of, the connections I have or make, and how I manage my time and emotions on any given day. Certainly, a job would help. I’ve simply been unable to manifest one.
In the weeks since my thwarted return to the UK, life has offered up a lot of contrasts. Repeatedly rendered speechless at outcomes and surprised by an apparent inability to direct my own course, I am now staggeringly aware of what I do want. The “unexpected” stuff dealt me has come at a high cost, though. My health is suffering slightly, signalling the need to rest and surrender. Stress and confusion are taxing no matter one’s constitution. As such, I’ve decided to take a cue from the dog.
Dogs trust. They are spontaneous, fully in the moment. However, in spite of comments to the contrary, they worry. Their frets are the result of our failure to address their needs. We’ve taught them, regimented them to our protocols, which encourages them to forego their reliance on instinct alone. Thus, we become their caretakers, not the other way around. We are supposed to lead the way for them. When aligned and content, dogs leap and dance and play with wild abandon knowing what feels best, what is right for them. They also serve unconditionally and with unabashed joy, for the most part, making whatever task assigned, their happy duty. I’ll hazard a guess that’s their preferred state. We can pull them out of sync through our meanness, shortsightedness, or plain old ignorance, but it does not last. They rush back to their happy place at the first opportunity. Unlike humans, the Canis lupus familiaris cannot deviate too far from its centre.
Adults, on the other hand, shy away from what comes naturally. Encouraged to vilify intuition and denigrate emotions, we buy into a set of protocols, not unlike the dogs. Some of us adhere to the rules while others cannot abide them. Life can be cruel, of course, but we tend to take things too personally. We persist in telling the story that something was purposefully done to hurt us when it is likely not the case at all. Making matters worse, our responses are learned. We mimic others’ reactions to catalysts in our environment and often what we learn is not helpful – not in the long run. Not dissimilar to the dog, once hurt, we shy away, rejecting and sometimes retaliating against what caused us pain. Noticing how resistance ill effects an abused animal is a window into our own brand of resistance. It shows us how pushing against damages us. We have the ability to let go of the fear that our mother will not return. We can choose to trust she will. If she does not, we can mourn and grieve her disappearance and then find a way back to our centre. Regardless of our mother’s choice, we have our own.
Once aware of our ability to choose, we can better monitor our responses. We can do what feels good or continue to hold onto what hurts us. But is it that easy? Am I suggesting we are merely conditioned and that we can “train” ourselves as we do a dog? Exactly right. That is precisely what I’m suggesting. And like the dog, sometimes the learning is fast, while other times it is slow.
Time spent with my flawless granddaughter and her pooch is inspiring me at a time when I’m sorely lacking inspiration. Their presence reminds me of the beauty of innocence and the calm of simplicity. I remember how I once approached the world fearlessly. They also make me aware of demands. Select creatures are demanding. Why? Because their survival depends on us. It is the natural order. They also want us to play, to come away from the more vapid concerns of adulthood and pay attention to what is truly valuable. They want us to be of service to them so that we do not lose sight of what that feels like. Serving them affords us the chance to relinquish control to a greater good. We can feel empowered about that.
Despite recent setbacks, uncertainty, and looming homelessness, I am undeterred. My resolve holds. More determined than ever to wear the boots of an awakened woman, I trust I am on the right path even though my lists remain incomplete and my future, from this vantage point, looks bleak. I choose to trust my mother has not abandoned me – that she will return. J And on the rare occasion when I am called on to take care of the child, it is as a student. She and her reluctant sidekick teach me a great deal more than I can offer them.
Today I wish you all love – from the bottom of my heart. I wish you a hand to hold, a laugh to hear, and a spark of sunshine on a cloudy day.