Roommate Problems

Max and I have been roommates for a little over two years now, and overall it is wonderful. He’s been there when I’m lonely or when I need to run ideas by someone and he’s shared in my many exciting moments.

But, as with any roommate, there have been some problems…

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He uses the bathroom for hours on end with no explanation.

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But he doesn’t have great hygiene practices.

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He eats up all the food and never goes to the store when we run out.

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And then he stays in the kitchen for hours on end with no explanation (and without cooking anything).

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He has this weird thing about feng shui and thinks he’s some kind of avant garde decorator.

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But he doesn’t clean up his toys.

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And he doesn’t clean up after his “experiments.”

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He borrows my shoes without asking.

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He’s very particular about visitors.

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And he’s always taking all the blankets.

But I’m sure I do many things that are confusing or irritate him too. And at the end of the day, I will gladly put up with his weird quirks to be his roommate, if he will do the same for me.

So, thank you Max for being my roommate. And thank you for proving to me that we probably do need some sort of chore chart…

Drool

Dogs rule, but Max sure does drool.

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I noticed him drooling more than normal the past couple times I’ve taken him to a new dog park. There are many dogs there and I guess all the new smells and sights make him excited. The past two times we have gone he has walked around and played a bit, and then he looked up at me and had two long strands of drool hanging off his mouth.

He also drools at meals times. When he sees me grab his bowl to fill it up, he follows me. And as I walk back across the kitchen to give him the food, my feet often find every little spot of drool he has left across the floor.

It is pretty gross, whether I am looking at it or inadvertently cleaning it up with my feet.

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But Max doesn’t care, because it’s just a part of who he is. And it is just an expression of his happiness. He has the freedom to be happy and excited and let it show in whatever ways it naturally comes out.

I, on the other hand, am very bad at expressing my emotions. I spent a long time trying to be as stoic as I could and that is now my natural reaction to both happy, exciting things and sad, depressing things.

Being stoic in this way is not always bad, but it does inhibit how I can relate to others in those extremely happy or sad times. And it makes it much harder for me to convey how and when I am passionate about something.

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But Max has taught me to ease up on the reigns of controlling those emotions a little. He has taught me that it is good and natural to express myself, even if that leads to a nasty drool puddle.

He has taught me not to worry about whether I look a little strange, but rather to allow myself to be invested in situations and to know that however I react is a worthwhile part of me.

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And he has taught me to look at other people’s drool puddles in a more compassionate way. Everyone has natural reactions to emotionally powerful events, and instead of being confused by those reactions or being bothered by them, I can now focus more on celebrating or mourning with those people.

So thank you Max for teaching me that sometimes you just gotta drool. Sometimes you just gotta let loose and be excited, even it if means you look funny. And thank you for teaching me that your drool is not meant to offend, but rather to convey your deeply felt emotions.

In Sync

Max and I have been a little out of sync lately. I have been tired when he is ready to play and I’m ready to go outside when he is content to lay around.

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I think this mismatch is in part due to me changing my work schedule and being gone at different times than I have been in the past. This small element of change unknowingly had an impact even on my time with Max, and I learned that getting out of sync could happen very subtly and quickly. The cause went unnoticed for a while as I was just frustrated that Max kept bothering me when I didn’t want to be bothered.

For instance, I would come home very tired and try to lay on my couch for a little bit to rest my head. But Max, already past ready to go out, would have none of it and breathed right in my face and paced and whined and then came back to breathe right in my face and try to play.

And then Max started waking me up earlier in the morning (something he thankfully hasn’t done much before).

I could tell something wasn’t working, and my initial reaction was – Max why are you so bothersome today?

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But I eventually realized it was not Max’s fault. It was the subtle change in circumstance that led us to be out of sync with one another. And I learned that instead of blaming Max, I should focus on how to get us back in sync.

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And Max has taught me that getting in sync with another will probably not just magically happen. No matter how intensely two people adhere to different rhythms, they will always be different until one changes to match the other or both change to a new one.

So, to get back in sync requires some self-sacrifice and intentionality in understanding the other person. It requires a change in my lifestyle and openness to another.

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To get back in sync with Max I have had to endure my tiredness just a little longer so that we can get closer to the same rhythm of activity and rest. And this isn’t necessarily a one-time thing. Being in sync requires consistent attention and readiness to change when we inevitably get out of sync again.

So thank you Max for teaching me to consider why I am really out of sync with others. Thank you for teaching me to be more lovingly adaptable and give of myself to get back in sync rather than expect others to join my rhythm.

Imitation

Max and I like to wrestle every now and then. He’s a wily opponent, and although I always win, he’s got a couple tricks up his sleeve and sometimes surprises me.

When we were wrestling more frequently I realized that he is a quick learner. Because I am a human, I wrestle very differently than a dog would. I don’t use my mouth or teeth much and I rely on my arms and hands a lot more. And as time went on, I began noticing that Max used his legs and paws more often. He would try to pin my arms or body with his legs and would sometimes even act like he was swatting at me.

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Sure, I’m probably romanticizing what Max was doing in thinking he was learning a human style of wrestling, but I do think to some degree he was imitating me.

Because he also seems to imitate me in several other ways.

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Max, like any dog (or really any being with whom someone is in close contact), is a keen observer. He knows when it is time to go outside or to eat. He knows when I am getting ready for bed. In these patterns, Max imitates my rhythm of life.

Max imitates my excitement and curiosity, whether on walks or in the apartment. He imitates my cautiousness in some new situations. I even think Max imitates my friendliness when around other people. (Though he does not imitate my timidity in most social interactions).

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Maybe this is just Max being sympathetic in the way dogs are, but through it, he has taught me that the way I live is noticeable. To some degree, the other people in my life, especially younger people, are picking up on how I act, and in some cases imitating me.

If Max is reflecting even a small part of what I do, then others, who actually understand what I am doing, are likely to reflect even more. Thus, Max has taught me that what I say and do impact far more than just myself or even him. And my bad habits are just as noticeable as my good habits.

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And he has also taught me that I am most likely imitating several other people. Though the development of this imitation can often be unconscious, Max has taught me to examine my actions more closely in order to find out where they are coming from and to make sure that what I am imitating is actually worthwhile.

But ultimately, Max has taught me to be more aware of the example I set, because my crafty opponent might copy my super secret wrestling moves.

So thank you Max for teaching me that any part of my life can be observed and imitated. Thank you for teaching me to be more mindful of my example. And thank you for letting me win our wrestling matches.