What’s the Rush?

Max has become a big ol’ lazy bones. Most mornings and nights he is in no rush to do anything. There are still occasional moments when he is rearing to play or anxious for attention. And when he knows food or something new and exciting is at stake, relaxed Max goes out the window and the frantic rush takes over.

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But those frantic times are increasingly the exception. Maybe it is the reality of Max entering middle age, or maybe he just has a more laid back view of life.

Either way, it bothers me quite a bit, especially when I am in a rush. Most often, such frustration hits me on walks. I enjoy walking Max, but often I am fitting it in between getting home from work and going to another meeting or getting dinner ready or whatever else fills my evening time. The worst is when it is raining in the mornings and Max will not go out on his own, but I know he needs to go to the bathroom. On those mornings (and they are always the ones for which I am already running late), Max seems to take an extra long time deciding which identical spot of ground to pee on; in the rain; while I’m getting later and later.

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Max is simply not in a rush.

As frustrating as it sometimes can be, Max has taught me to reconsider whether that rushing around is really worth it.

Sure, there are things I can’t help but hurry to do, but perhaps I have given in a little too much to a rushed lifestyle.

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Recently, I spent half a year reading the James Joyce novel, Ulysses. Some of that was due to an overly busy schedule leaving little time for reading, but also the book itself is written in such a convoluted way that it forced me to slow way down. And that frustrated me. I have so many other books I want to read and that pace was not acceptable.

But now that I’ve finished, I see some of the same wisdom I have learned from Max – what was the rush? It is a fantastic read unlike anything I have read before, and in the moment I just wanted to get it done. But that wasn’t the point, and thankfully the writing itself forced me to slow down a bit.

Max, in his counter-cultural approach to life, has taught me to be more aware of how rushed I allow myself to get. As I busy around the house frantically doing stuff, I see him out of the corner of my eye, enjoying the beautiful sunny day or sprawled out on the nice, cool floor.

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To be fair, he has the luxury of no responsibilities, and I have the privilege of living a life in which I can afford taking breaks and slowing down a bit. But Max is teaching me a value of life that I see ignored and trampled upon around me, and which I myself am tempted to see as lazy or weak or trifling.

To slow down certainly means giving something up – a sense of efficiency or productivity, maybe even a bit of reputation or pride. But in observing Max closely, I see that his lack of rush is not all laziness or weakness. By not rushing, Max is much more present. He sees things going on that I wouldn’t see. He can much more easily adapt to anything new happening that either requires his attention or is merely something fun. And he certainly has less stress and worry.

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I know I will still be busy and that there will be plenty of times I have to rush around, and sometimes it might lead to something good. But Max has taught me that there is a difference between being busy and rushing around. Even the busyness can be approached in a more intentional and less rushed manner. In order to best navigate those busy (or still) times, he has taught me to question consistently, “What’s the rush?” And in doing so, he has taught me to seek the values of presence, appreciation, adaptation, and peace over only looking to the next thing, productivity, schedules, and non-stop-ness, so that maybe I can define not only my day, but also myself in a healthier, more wholesome way.

So thank you Max for being an easy-going presence in my life. Thank you for helping me question why I expect such a rushed life and showing me the true strength and value of a slower, more intentional approach.

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Cleavers

Max is a pretty hairy guy. He so graciously reminds me of that fact every spring and summer as he sheds his hair all over the house. And somehow, even after shedding so much hair, he has loads of it that stays with him.

At this point in the summer, I am much less bothered by the hair he sheds than I am by what happens with the hair he keeps. Because the weather is pretty nice, Max enjoys being outside in the yard, rolling around, and exploring any sights or smells of other squirrel or bird friends. As he does all of that, especially the rolling around, he tends to get matts in his fur.

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But those matts are not even the worst part. Also at this time of year in our yard, plants that I believe are called “cleavers” or galium aparine are growing like crazy. They grow up fast and spread like wildfire all along our fence, right where Max likes to sniff around.

And that would be just fine, except that these plants have little seeds with hooked hairs that tend to cleave to anything they touch, and Max has his significant furry coat. Even when I actually try to stay on top of things and pull up those plants, Max finds a way to rub up against them and get the seeds all throughout his coat.

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Even at that point, it would not be a problem if Max had opposable thumbs. But he does not. And his attempts to pull the seeds out with his teeth only makes things slobberier and more tangled.

The annual struggle with managing the plants and all the seeds in Max’s coat typically takes a good deal of time. But Max has taught me that it is necessary.

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Max has taught me that cleavers happen, the stuff he and I brush up against throughout the day sometimes sticks to us. And often what sticks to us is not all that helpful. It causes tangles and for Max those tangles quickly turn into matts of hair (often with one of those little seeds at the center) that grow more and more uncomfortable.

Max’s cleavers may be more visible, but he has taught me to be more aware of my own less visible ones. Those negative messages I scroll across on social media that do nothing but make me mad and spiteful, those messages I see and hear in other media that I am not working enough or successful enough, those fears and worries that spring up like weeds and cleave to me until I give into the ever increasing entanglement of self-doubt or anxiousness or despair.

Max has taught me that those cleavers can make a real mess and that they can spring up quickly just about anywhere. He has even taught me that often we may not be able to remove them easily by ourselves. But he has also taught me that they can be dealt with.

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Max helped me realize that the best solution to those cleavers is being around others who care enough to help brush them out. I am grateful that I can provide that for Max and that he continues to remind me of the importance of having a community that can help, even if all that community can do is sit with the tangled mess and slowly work those cleavers out.

But Max has also taught me that it doesn’t take any elaborate training to get them out. Since we all know what it is like to have those cleavers, we know how to sympathize and help. All I need is to bear witness to the tangles and then set aside some time to work through them. And that is exactly what a caring community can offer.

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At the end of the day, Max has taught me that even with the cleavers, the yard is still full of wonder and beauty. He certainly does not avoid going outside just so he doesn’t get the cleavers. In fact, I think he has the confidence to run and play out there in part because he knows he has a community here that will take care of him if he were to get too tangled. That trust provides him not only security and untangling help, but also the freedom to be himself fully. And through that, Max inspires me that if I have a community that can help me deal with the cleavers that may spring up all around, then it is still worth it to explore and roll around in the grass and venture out into wild places.

So thank you Max for teaching me not only about the reality of that which cleaves and leaves us all tangled, but more importantly about the value of community that can help with the untangling and provide the assurance for a life of freedom and adventure.