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.

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Teach a Young Dog Old, Good Tricks

Max is not an old dog. And I am not trying to teach him any new tricks right now (though I bet he could handle a few when he’s five or ten years older). But at the start of this new year, Max has taught me that a young dog can relearn good, previously known habits.

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For Max, this has meant re-learning little things I have let slip over the past couple of years. For instance, Max knows how to stay right beside me and not roam aimlessly as we walk around the neighborhood. Though I’ve never been good at enforcing that skill, I realized it might be a good idea when he almost walked right in front of a bicycler on a shared trail the other day. So now, Max is relearning the habit of walking right by my side – and he’s actually doing a very good job of it (most of the time)!

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In this process, Max has taught me that I don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel every year in trying to learn and do new things. I certainly enjoy learning new tricks and developing new habits, and often find value in that process. But sometimes, I just need to revisit old, good habits that I have let fall by the wayside.

Max has taught me that it is easy to let little things slip. It is easy to keep sacrificing that time of rest and rejuvenation until I don’t even remember it being a part of my day or week. It is easy to lose touch with old friends after forgetting to communicate for several months. It is easy to stop exercising during a busy season and then find out that the busy season is all seasons. It is easy to forget to be thankful for the little things and to take relationships for granted.

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And Max has taught me that it is not always easy to pick back up old, good habits. In some cases it takes just as long to relearn them as it does to learn a new habit. Max has taught me that it takes consistency and intentionality. Every time we go out now, I have to be focused on re-teaching him to walk in the right way.

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Nevertheless, Max has taught me that it is worthwhile for me to reexamine my life and see what good habits have been neglected. He has taught me that instead of piling on a bunch of new resolutions, maybe I should try to really ingrain those good habits that were forsaken. Sure there are also current habits I should lose and new habits worth learning, but for at least a little while I can focus on digging back up those treasures I lost along the way.

So, thank you Max, for teaching me that though it may take a lot of time and effort, it can be powerful and meaningful to reexamine my life and recapture some of my old, good habits. And thank you for working hard to reinstate some of your good behavior.

The Unknown

A couple of weeks ago, when Max and I were walking through the snow, we came across something new to Max. Two snowmen sat happily right by the sidewalk. Max had no clue what to make of them. First he backed away a little while intently staring at them, then he stood in eager expectation. Eventually, he crept close to them, sniffing in overdrive.

He stood there sniffing the tree branch arm for a while before I started to pull him away. Yet, even as he was being dragged off, I could tell he was still very curious. He had not yet figured out what that new creation was and wanted to investigate more.

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During the rest of our walks that week, Max continued to slow down and stare at the snowmen whenever we passed by. He still did not know what to make of them, but he had a determined, cautious curiosity.

Max has acted the same way before when we walked close by some cows. One day the cows had come right next to the fence and Max could see and probably smell them. New sights and smells captured his attention and he paused, waiting to gain some better understanding of what the thing was.

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So, I began to notice a pattern in how Max approaches the unknown. He slows down, but I don’t think it is because he is scared. Rather, he gives it solemn attention and tries to glean as much as he can about that unknown thing. Then he slowly approaches, cautiously finding out more and more about it.

This approach is quite different from what is often my reaction. Granted the unknowns I face are a little different from snowmen and cows. The unknowns in my life are far more often the next step in the future of my career or personal life, the uncertainty of whether something I’ve planned will succeed, or a new development that I haven’t had to work through before.

I am the opposite of reckless, so sometimes when I am faced with these unknowns I freeze. Not Max’s attentive pause in which he tries to figure out the situation, but a full on freeze where I either try to ignore the new thing or become immediately overwhelmed with not knowing where to begin.

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Whenever I finally get unfrozen, I don’t approach the unknown until I have it all figured out. I don’t have Max’s courage to ease into it, and since I can’t figure it all out if I don’t approach, I sometimes stay stuck.

Whereas Max stays calm and approaches with a healthy curiosity, I sometimes get anxious and treat the unknown as some opposing force or task to be conquered or overcome. Rather than treating it as an opportunity for me to grow and learn, I treat it as a test of my worth or an obstacle to full living.

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But Max has taught me to approach the unknown things in my life in a healthier way. He has shown me the value of treating these situations cautiously, but also eagerly. He has taught me to embrace the unknown as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than become anxious and fearful.

Max has taught me that even when I have no clue what to make of something, I should neither run away from it nor be overwhelmed by it. Rather, I should take the little steps necessary for getting to know it so that I may enhance my understanding by embracing another part of this complex, interesting, sometimes weird, sometimes cool, sometimes hard, sometimes awe-inspiring life.

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So thank you Max for teaching me how better to approach the unknowns in my life. Thank you for your cautious courage and eager curiosity that inspire and challenge me.