Max got a bath yesterday, and it was long overdue. He was very smelly and my hands would get dirty after petting his fur.
Max does not like baths. In fact, he does not like water much at all. He’s just weird that way.
So, it was a struggle to get him in the bath. We’ve done it just enough that he knew it was coming and refused to come into the bathroom. Then, when I came over to him he went limp. I’ll at least give him credit for being smart enough to know how to make the process the most difficult.
But once I finally carried him into the tub, he gave in and was very compliant. Granted he wanted to be done about halfway through and I had to bar his escape, but he seemed to know there was no use fighting anymore.
In all this Max taught me that it is much easier to let ourselves live with our filth than to find ways to cleanse ourselves from it.
This filth is a mixture of the things I’ve done wrong and the extensive wrong in the world which effects me everyday. Just as Max’s dirtiness comes from his own decision to roll around in the dirt and from the rain that falls on him or the dirt that is kicked up when he walks, so I experience dirt that is both within and beyond my control.
And sometimes I even go to great lengths to hold onto that filth. I convince myself that that filth is a true part of me and that my life is incomplete without it. Or I think that it is mine to bear – that I brought it into the world and it is my responsibility to take care of it.
But I still know it is filth and that it can be harmful to my own health and others’.
While Max helped me realize that it is much easier to hold onto this filth than to be cleaned, he also taught me a couple of important things about getting clean.
First, it involves paying attention to friends and people around you who see the filth and destruction and tell you (hopefully lovingly) that you need to do something.
Next, it involves a letting go. If Max had kept jumping out of the tub, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything – he had to let go and accept that he could be cleaned. He had to turn toward the good and healthy things that would replace the dirty unhealthiness.
He also taught me that baths are needed regularly. I don’t think he or I really want to get dirty, but it happens and therefore we have to let go and turn toward cleanliness again and again.
Finally, when Max was done with the bath he was full of life and energy. That energy showed me that there is something about shedding the dirtiness that makes me feel more whole and rejuvenated. There is freedom in letting go of the destructive habits, the negative thoughts about self and others, the evil and hate from the world that seeps in and begins to direct thinking and action, the things we are ashamed of that paralyze us against acting in better ways.
So thank you Max for finally giving in to the bath. And thank you for teaching me more about my reluctance to be cleaned and the rejuvenating newness that comes from letting go of the dirt that builds up in my life.