To Be Seen

Whenever I walk in my front door, Max patiently waits until I acknowledge him. Sometimes, this takes a while, because I enjoy making as few trips from my car as possible (two trips is too many), so I tend to load myself down and have something hanging from every appendage. He will often sit right in front of the door, leaving just enough room for me to come in, but positioned to where I have to notice him. Then, he just turns his head around as I put everything where it belongs and waits for me to come back to greet him.

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At first, I thought he did this as a way of guilting me for being gone so much. (That probably says more about me than him). Maybe he is a little sad to have been left alone all day, but I think there is something even more fundamentally important that he is conveying.

I think all Max really wants is to be seen, to be noticed.

Max experiences something that I think so many of us also experience – the desire to be seen. We all long to know that our often dreary lives have value and that others see that value. We find profound hope in not being overlooked or ignored.

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Being seen is often quite literal, especially for Max. He thrives on the attention I can give him and once I give him some of that attention, he is overjoyed. In that moment of being seen, Max knows he is cared for and loved. He knows that he is important and valued.

Max has taught me that being seen in this way is a powerful expression of loving care. He has taught me that so many people also long to be seen in this way. He has taught me there is power in really looking into another person’s eyes, giving them our attention, and, in doing so, assuring them that they are important and valuable.

Max has taught me that to really see others in this way is a wonderful, free gift we can always give. And it is a gift we can give to stranger and friend alike.

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That moment of greeting after coming into my house after work does not tend to last long. Granted, there are years of love and care that are the foundation of that moment between Max and me, but it really only takes about a minute. I get down on Max’s level, look right at him, and greet him with kind words and a head scratch. And then Max’s desire to be seen is fulfilled.

And I really don’t think I have to change much when I interact with humans in this way (except maybe losing the head scratch).

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Max has also taught me that the desire to be seen is insatiable. He craves it everyday. And I reckon we all have a consistent desire to be seen and valued. I don’t know why – maybe it’s the self-doubt that plagues our minds, maybe it’s because we are social creatures and this is the best starting point for connection to others, maybe it’s because in so many other ways we hear messages that we are not valued, or maybe it’s because it is nice and we know deep in our being that to see others and to be seen is just a better way to live.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that seeing and being seen is something that must be nurtured consistently. Max has taught me that it is something I should practice daily.

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And because it must be done over and over, it is easy to forget, or to think that I have checked that off my to do list. And so, Max has taught me to be a little more diligent in seeing him and others. I can be bad at that because I easily get lost in my own little world, but I hope on my good days, I can offer Max and all others I cross paths with this simple expression of care and value.

(as close as I could get to the original Hendrix version)

So thank you Max for teaching me the importance of being seen and valued. Thank you for teaching me to be more attentive, especially to those who feel overlooked. And of course, thank you for paying attention to me and showing that you too see and care for me.

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Perspective

A couple weeks ago Max and I went for an afternoon walk. I noticed the dark clouds gathering in the distance, but thought if we went immediately we could make it. As we walked I noticed more and more the rain and lightening in the distance. I grew worried and picked up the pace.

Meanwhile, Max was just dallying along doing his normal thing. He was smelling all the grass and trying to spend as much time outside as he could. He couldn’t see what I could and therefore had no threat of danger.

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Granted, it wouldn’t hurt either of us to get wet, but I’d rather not be walking a dog in a thunderstorm.

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Several weeks before that rainy day we were walking after the sun had set. I couldn’t see much of anything but suddenly Max stopped and became very alert. He had heard or smelled or in some way spotted a rabbit. He perceived what I could not.

Actually that has happened several times since, even in the daylight. I never notice the rabbits until he points them out to me. Similarly, we were walking rather late a couple of nights when he became alert after spotting a coyote not far away that I would not have noticed and toward which we were walking.

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Max perceives many smells and sounds that I would not notice if he were not with me.  And I spot things he would not otherwise. I do not always hear other dogs or people walking up near us and Max helps me get out of the way in time. Max never really pays attention to cars when we cross streets and depends on my sight and knowledge of the cars to get around safely.

Thus, Max has taught me the importance of differing perspectives. He has taught me that I am unaware of much of the world around me merely because of my situation in life. Yet, if I attend to others who have different perspectives from my own, my eyes and ears are opened to the incredibly complex, comprehensive beauty and needs of the world.

So thank you Max for teaching me about my limited perspective and for providing me with a fresh point of view. Thank you for being eyes and ears and a nose where mine do not extend. And thank you for teaching me to attend more to the other perspectives all around me.