Adventures

Lately, Max has been very eager to go on new adventures. I have to be careful when opening the back door, because he has developed a habit of sneaking out past me, sprinting to the car, and then sitting behind the car expecting to go somewhere with me.

Even when I am on my way somewhere else, he will persistently sit behind the car so that I cannot get out of the driveway. He seems committed to keeping me home or going with me. (It’s cute until he lays down and literally has to be dragged back in the house…)

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While Max has always liked going new places, he has not always like the car. It still takes me by surprise when he is ready to jump in the back even before I open the door. Moreover, many of the trips he actually gets to take are not that rewarding, often ending either at the vet or with a bath.

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And yet last week Max got a true adventure. We loaded up and went out to a fun 3k walk with dogs and humans on the other side of town. Max was thrilled to step out of the car onto new ground, to walk across sidewalks with new smells, and to gaze out at the city from a new angle.

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The adventure was hot and an unnecessary hassle, but Max taught me how exciting and important it is to get out of our little corner of the world and experience something new. Where we live now, it is easy to walk just about anywhere we need to go. Such proximity is wonderful and I love the sense of groundedness I feel being so physically close to the neighborhood. But the major downside to this arrangement is that we can get more secluded from all that is going on just a couple miles away.

And so Max has taught me to wait eagerly for opportunities and to take the initiative to experience a different corner of the world. Even when it is not convenient, Max has taught me the value of interacting with people I normally wouldn’t in a neighborhood I sometimes forget is close by.

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Max has reminded me of the importance of stretching out to new neighborhoods with an attitude of openness and excitement to learn something new from them. It is easy to get into a trap of only going to new places in order to find a quick spectacle to cherish. And yet, I don’t think that is what Max is doing. Max gets excited about such adventures because of the natural beauty of diversity. He has taught me to go into these adventures intentionally breathing in the fullness of the place and allowing it to impact me for the better. It’s a skill to develop, but one we are starting to practice more.

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Max has taught me the value of breaking routine and breaking through unintentional boundaries to get a fresh perspective on myself and the world around me. He has taught me that while the fenced-in backyard is safe and provides its own sense of value, it doesn’t fulfill that part of us that needs connection with other places and people.

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And ultimately Max has taught me that such new adventures require running out the door with hopeful excitement, interrupting the normal flow of my life, and being open to taking in all the new things I can learn from being in a new place.

So, thank you Max for being so eager to go on new adventures. Thank you for pulling me out of the routine of my life and teaching me to be open to all the new experiences around us. I hope that our adventures allow us to authentically grow and connect with the world and with one another, and that there is no shortage of them.

Pulling Against

Max is stubborn, but so am I. Lately I have noticed how much strain we put on each other during walks. Max frequently likes to dart off to explore a scent or sight and I have to pull hard against the leash to reel him back.

It’s not that I always want him to stay on the path; I understand a desire to explore new things even if it takes you off the path. But I just do not want him darting off wildly. And I don’t want him pulling me along as he darts off. I like my course and I like my control.

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But he lurches off, I hold tight, and when the short leash reaches its length we both feel the harsh jarring of the impact of the force. And my shoulder has really taken a beating.

Somehow, Max and I have a hard time walking together.

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Nevertheless, it seems easier to carry on as we have been even though it causes both of us (I presume) some pain. We don’t have to consider each other too much, but rather just do our own thing. We don’t have to take the time to think about what the other wants to do, we can stay in our own respective worlds.

But that leash connects us whether we want it to or not.

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Max has taught me that we too often pull against each other – especially those we don’t understand well. It is hard to step in the other person’s shoes (especially when they have none) and think about how they experience the journey. So we go our own way, mindless of those to whom we are inherently connected.

And through the struggle against this connection, Max has taught me that it really does hurt every party when we refuse to walk together.

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So, what do we do, I think as I continue to drag Max along the path. There has to be some better way of walking alongside each other. Perhaps it involves stopping on the way and getting to know each other and our differences. Perhaps it involves allowing a longer leash of freedom to be different from one another and to be perfectly fine with going down the same path in very different ways. Perhaps it means taking a chance and following the other instead of insisting on staying my own comfortable course.

Regardless, there has to be a way to see and experience that connection between myself and others as a benefit, as something that allows us to encounter the path in more meaningful ways, rather than something to struggle against.

So thank you Max for teaching me that working toward a way to walk together is much better than continually straining against each other. It may be hard and uncomfortable, but you have taught me that it is worth it so that we might live more peacefully connected to one another.

Experience

I almost get the bends thinking about it, but Max just heard N Sync for the first time. 

Something that added such meaningful spice to my life, that really did shape me (for better or worse), was not even a thing to him until now.

And I hate to admit this even more, but he taught me that one can have a meaningful life and not experience N Sync. Or BSB. Or any celebrity from any millennium. 

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True, these different influences on my life have value and I think it is good to go back and experience what was crazy sexy cool in generations past, but when it comes down to it I can have an equally meaningful life whether I experience them or not. At least Max was still supa dupa fly before listening.  

And this goes for all experiences. Life is more than just experiencing everything for its own sake. We don’t have to be experienced people to be fulfilled people, wise people, loving people. Building significant connections with others is not centered around sharing pop culture experiences until we are black and blue. 

Yes, I think everyone should that know I am beautiful, no matter what they say, but nevermind if you don’t. Max has taught me that we can still be friends, no strings attached. 

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But I think Max did enjoy what I made him listen to, even if he enjoyed it doggystyle, by subtly ignoring it.

And in enjoying the music, Max has also taught me that it is fun and meaningful to grace the lives of others with these songs and the memories they invoke. Maybe that is the important part of having these experiences with music or activities – that they provide an opportunity to share the joyful things in life with others. 

We are not better for having experienced them, we are better for growing closer to others while sharing that experience for the first time or, baby, one more time.

So thank you Max for listening to my 90s music experience. And thank you for teaching me that that experience will not necessarily make your or my life qualitatively better but that it can be a catalyst to deepening relationships, which is well worth it.

By the way, there are at least 12 album titles in this post, in case you didn’t notice.

Inviting

Max is always excited and ready for whatever comes next. He bolts down and up the stairs, eagerly anticipating going out or coming in – especially if he perceives we are going to do something special, like go for a ride in the car or eat dinner.

But lately I have noticed something else he consistently does when rushing to the next exciting thing. He stops and looks back at me.  I notice this most as we come back in from a walk. He runs up the stairs but then almost always stops on the last step and looks back, making sure I am coming along too.

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Even if it only lasts a split second

Even if it only lasts a split second

I interpret this action to mean that he really wants to share with me whatever experience is awaiting us at the top of the stairs.  I guess it could also be that he realizes he cannot get his own food, but I like to think he’s just being a good friend.

I know dogs are social by nature, so this is not unique to Max, but I have still learned a significant lesson from Max’s behavior.  Max has taught me to turn around and invite others to join me.

I enjoy doing things alone, and being in large social settings exhausts me. But with Max’s reminder I see the value in community, the value in inviting others to join me in fun adventures or meaningful work.

Such an inviting attitude makes the activity much more enjoyable and meaningful by means of creating new memories that many can share. But it also changes me for the better. It makes me more welcoming and caring, more attentive to others around me.  It breaks me out of self-absorption and attunes my eyes and heart to the others with whom I share my life.

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Yes, there are times when I need to go lay out on the balcony alone, but when an opportunity arises to invite other along in my life, Max has taught me that I need not pass that by.

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Not only does Max exhibit an attitude of excitement, but he also proves that such excitement is heightened when others are invited along.  He is not merely ready for whatever comes next, he is ready for others to join him in whatever comes next.

So thank you Max, for inviting me to join you in your life’s adventure. And thank you for teaching me to cultivate an inviting attitude and welcoming presence in my own life.

Signs of Love

I tell Max “I love you” every night.

I do it because it is true. But also because I believe there is a mysterious, miraculous power contained in and conveyed by those words – I love you. I truly believe the very act of sincerely saying that changes our world, our lives, our reality. Something is tangibly different about life after those words are spoken in any setting.

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Nevertheless, those words don’t really mean anything to Max. He simply doesn’t understand that abstract phrase. Sure, I think Max understands to some extent the intonation I use in the phrase and can thus read a good deal about what is going on when I tell him that. But at the end of the day, the words themselves mean nothing to him.

And the fact that he doesn’t understand makes me frustrated, because I want him to know that I do love him.

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Of course, he doesn’t understand most of what I say…

So, I have had to find other ways to convey that message. And Max has taught me that while speaking love is important, doing love is really what any relationship, especially a close friendship, is all about.

Max has taught me that love is not merely something we say or hear or know, but rather something we experience. And experiencing involves doing, sharing, and all the little (and big) things that add up to constitute this thing we call living.

Max has taught me that love is when I take the time to play with him midday, when I take him out for a walk and let him sniff around for a really long time or run around with him, when I guide him away from busy streets and other harmful areas, when I kneel down on the floor to give him a really good belly rub after he has collapsed in anticipation of it, when I dry him off after getting really wet, when I just sit with him after a long lonely day of being apart.

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What strikes me most about all these expressions of love is that (along with being actions) they involve me meeting Max where he is – coming down to his level – and sharing life with him.

They may not always result in comfort or warm, fuzzy emotional resolution, but they create a space in which we experience a unity that encompasses the joys and pains of life.

Love is thus not a cognitive belief; rather, it is a felt reality. It is not something said or done at a single point in time, rather it is something continually explored and experienced as we live into it more and more.

So thank you Max, for loving me and teaching me that love is the dynamic, life-altering, often difficult reality through which we experience one another.