Cut the Crap

Max poops a lot. I mean, I guess we all do, but since I am witness to almost all his poops it seems like more than necessary.

And not only am I present for them, but I also have to deal with them. Since I live in an apartment, I cannot just let him out back. I have to pick up every one of Max’s poops.

And Max poops a lot.

There is nothing dignified about this process. I have tried my hardest to think of ways to make it sexy, and this is the best I’ve got:

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Nevermind the fact that I am dealing with dog poop, but I also often fumble around trying to open the little bag, have to bend down to the ground while an eager dog is ready to move on to the next exciting thing and tries to pull me over, and then find a way to tie up the little bag without getting a whiff of what’s inside or making a mess.

And then I usually have to carry it quite a distance because Max always seems to find the one spot of ground that is furthest from any other trashcan.

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It’s hard work having opposable thumbs and caring about the cleanliness of a neighborhood.

And while I am often not grateful for having to participate in this process, there is something unbelievably humbling about picking up another being’s poop.

I have learned that sometimes my role in life is to clean up after people. It is an expression of loving service to clean up other people’s crap (literally or figuratively). And while it is by no means a fun or glamorous job, it keeps my ego from getting too big.

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Plus, I have realized in cleaning up Max’s waste that there are many wonderful, humble people that come along behind me and clean up my crap – those people who walk around in the background of my life tying up loose ends, dealing with my emotional or physical messes, and those who make my world a nicer, cleaner, better place to live.

I don’t mean to imply that there is value in debasing oneself or that some people deserve nothing better than to clean up the waste of others. But I do know that I have found it incredibly valuable to perform the humiliating act of cleaning up after Max.

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It has taught me that I am not the center of the world. It has taught me that I am not so important as to be exempt from certain less desirable duties.

But most importantly, it has taught me the value of humble service. It has taught me that I can show love by giving of myself to perform the most menial tasks for others. It has taught me that I can cut the crap of self-importance, while remaining confident in my self-worth as one who can serve others humbly.

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So thank you Max for teaching me that I am no better than one who picks up your poop, but that I don’t have to be ashamed about it. And thank you for teaching me that I can show heartfelt love through the humble service of such acts.

In the Way

Max always seems to find the one place where he will be most in the way. He especially employs this practice when I am cooking. My kitchen is pretty small so laying anywhere in there is more or less in the way, but he seems to find the exact spot where I need to stand.

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Similarly, Max often lays down right in front of the sink of my bathroom so that I either have to shoo him away or lean way over him when I need to brush my teeth.

And even when I am trying to let him out on my balcony, he just doesn’t seem to understand that I actually have to get past him to open the door. Instead of letting me through, he shuffles around always stepping right in front of me.

His getting in the way is frustrating and sometimes even dangerous. Yesterday I accidentally kicked him in the head because I did not know he had lain down behind me while I was cooking.

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But he’s not the only one to get in my way. I drive around a lot and there are countless drivers who get in my way. There are people who write things and do things that seem to me to be getting in the way of more important things.

It’s a busy world and everybody is just getting in each other’s way.

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But Max has taught me to take a step back from myself and try to better understand why others are in my way.

In doing so, I realize that Max has some decent reasons for laying and walking where he does. The kitchen and the bathroom both have cool tile, and he gets hot very easily. And I know that he is just very excited to go out and can’t understand the mechanics of opening the door. So, I can’t blame him for finding a cool place to lay or for being excited.

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Max has taught me to be more humble and to put myself in his and other people’s shoes (or paws). He has taught me that my plan and way of understanding the world is not the only one, nor probably the best or most comprehensible one.

He has taught me that maybe others aren’t just out to frustrate and annoy me. Maybe they have a good reason for thinking and acting as they do. And maybe I’m stumbling around in their way unknowingly too.

Max has taught me that sharing this world with others will involved some clashing and some getting in each other’s ways, but that instead of crashing together like two determined, unswerving drivers we can instead clang together like wind chimes, making more harmonious noises.

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I will probably still be frustrated when Max lays right in my way or when drivers keep me from making that turn I need to take, but Max has taught me to take a step out of my own limited perspective and try to understand how others are not necessarily intentionally in my way.

So, thank you Max for opening my eyes to consider why other people seem to be in my way, and for helping me learn that there are often good reasons. Thank you for trying my patience so that I may eventually grow to have a little more. And thank you for keeping me humble and open to the perspectives of others.

Companion – a hopeful post

It’s been a rough week with too many tragedies on every level – local, national, worldwide.

And again I find it hard not to despair. I find it hard to hold on to any hope that life and peace and joy will win out in the day to day workings of the world.

Then I come home and am greeted by the embodiment of life and peace and joy. Max is with me and comforts me.

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He doesn’t say anything to me or do anything for me. He is just present, and that does more for my consolation than anything else.

I tend to prefer to be alone, especially when dealing with difficult things. In fact, it was a little over a year ago when I was especially depressed and sought the solace of solitude. While there was some healing in that solitude, I found it all too easy to be sucked back into the despair that things would never get better, that joy had been defeated.

Then, while crumpled on the ground in my room, Max came barging in. He sat with me. He probably tried to sit on me too, but at least he was near. That’s all he did and somehow it began to break my tight grip on my despair. His presence did not bring me to a joyful state, but it gave me something else to hold onto.

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Rather than my own self-loathing and confusion, I was able to take hold of another and to know that he is there with me, no matter what.

Rather than fix my problems (something he clearly couldn’t do, not because he is a dog, but rather because no one could), he gave me hope. He gave me assurance that whatever the situation, there are others who walk beside me, through the pain and into renewal.

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I wish I wasn’t reminded of this time in my life so often, but I am ever grateful for Max’s presence at that time. And I am grateful that he taught me this important way hope is manifest in our difficult lives and tragic world.

Max taught me that healing starts with cleaning the dirt out of the wound, not with stitching it up. He taught me that hope is not a realization of fullness of joy, but rather a letting go of despair.

And Max taught me to be with others. In these tragic times my soul will not be easily or quickly repaired, but by encountering the loving presence of others it will be cleansed of the filth that infects it with despondent anguish. My soul is embraced by the presence of communal love and support and thus does not fall to pieces.

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Max’s companionship gives me the strength and courage to stand and face the pain and sadness and not be pulled under by it. Max taught me that neither I nor anyone is alone in this.

So thank you Max for being a loving companion, especially in the difficult times in this life. Thank you for showing me that hope is no less than a warm, fuzzy hug.