Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (ver. 2)

Back at Christmas, Max got a new lightsaber toy. Although he was very excited about it, he clearly did not know how to use it. You’re going to cut your tongue out if you don’t hold it by the handle, you crazy dog!

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Well, either he did not know how to use it, or he has some impressive, impenetrable force chew skills that he was showing off.

He continued not to know how to actually use the toy, forcing me to take it from him and show him the right way to hold it. I did this over and over again and even when he would get it right for a little bit, it did not last long.

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I soon realized that not only did he not understand how to properly use this toy as an entertaining prop, but also he had a much more sinister ploy in mind.

Max became completely consumed by the dark side. Maybe he was already far gone, but he demonstrated his sith tendencies as he began to shred the amazing toy. At first I tried to stop the destruction, but as it went on day after day, I resigned myself to sadness. I convinced myself that Max would never have the patience to learn a choreographed lightsaber fight with me, but also that he did not really appreciate the toy as he should.

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The unraveling started out fairly slow, and then it eventually went beyond hope.

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And yet, while I mourned the loss of this cool toy, Max taught me something important about having such “nice things.”

Max taught me that while I may have really good, cool ideas about how something should go – like a lightsaber toting dog, I by no means have the only good idea. In fact, my idea may completely miss the mark. Whereas I wanted the lightsaber to be a funny, entertaining prop, Max realized it for what it really is – a dog toy. And Max used this dog toy as he saw fit.

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Max taught me that sometimes I need to let go of my ideas so that things can happen the way they should. If I had insisted on the lightsaber being a pristine prop, Max would not have enjoyed it nearly as much and it would have failed as a dog toy (though, I also wouldn’t have to pick up as many little blue strings every week). He taught me that maybe a dog knows how to use a dog toy better than a human does.

And he’s taught me to be more aware of this concept in other areas of my life. I so often want to step in and make things go a certain way in work and other parts of life. And sometimes that is my role or responsibility. But sometimes I’m just trying to make nice things out of dog toys. Sometimes I am exerting undue influence on something completely outside of my expertise or interest (aka white male syndrome).

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Max is a dog who knows best how to enjoy his own toys, and life is better when I celebrate that instead of trying to continually force him to adhere to certain expectations. Max taught me that maybe we can’t have nice things, but maybe we can have more trust and freedom and joy.

So thank you Max for teaching me that sometimes we can’t have nice things, and maybe that’s ok. Thank you for teaching me that my way and understanding of things is not the only way and is often not the best. And of course, may the force be with you, even on the fifth!

Canine Diem

Max and I have been stuck at home more often than normal this week on account of the ice and snow. And since Max is sadly not very snuggly, we’ve had to find some other activities to occupy our time.

Thankfully, Max loves the snow. He gets so excited to get out and run around on it that he often pulls me slip-sliding along behind him.

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And because there are few other people or cars out, we are usually able to go to an open space where I let him off his leash so that he can really have fun.

In these moments Max demonstrates what it means to make the most of an opportunity. He seizes the moment and has as much fun as he possibly can. He doesn’t get let off leash much because of where we live, so he goes all out when he does get to run free.

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And in doing so, Max has taught me the importance of making the most of any opportunity, even if it is a cold, snowy, wet one. I enjoy the snow too, but it is easy to get bummed about missed opportunities of seeing friends because of things outside of my control. Then there’s Max, frolicking and having a grand time in circumstances that are literally causing a mess, and I am caught up in his joy.

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But I also realize that Max is not just seizing moments when big important things are at stake. These are everyday things of running around and enjoying his life. Granted he doesn’t get off leash much outside, but his joy and dedication to making the most of any situation is consistently evident.

Max has taught me to see each moment as an opportunity to experience life in a joyfully free manner, whether that is running crazily through snow, resting warm at home, or just breathing in the fresh air of any given day. He has taught me to seize the moment – both those big important ones that change my life, but also the little ones that impact me in a more mundane way.

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And he has shown me that in seizing each of these everyday moments I create a life of fullness in which joy and meaning are realized regularly. In sun, snow, busyness, or stillness there is a moment to be seized.

So thank you Max for teaching me to appreciate every moment and to make the most of them. And thank you for teaching me not to wait for the perfect weather or circumstances to look for and create meaning in my life.

Bath Time

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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.