Sometimes You Just Gotta Try

Max is not afraid to “ask” for things. In fact, this morning he has begged to go outside, then back inside, then back outside, then back inside, and so on and so on.

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Max begs for attention from anyone who is nearby and just as that person has finished attending to Max, he goes to someone else. Max asks for food and treats, especially if it seems I am taking too long to offer it. And, though he doesn’t ask for them, he often just takes toys, especially if they belong to another dog.

He does not overthink trying to get things. It seems that he truly lives by the motto, you don’t know until you try.

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I, on the other hand, am overly cautious. I try to think of every possible outcome before I ask for or try anything. And it can be a little paralyzing. Sometimes the moment of opportunity passes while I am just thinking and sometimes I pass by the opportunity because I am still not quite sure where it will take me.

I think part of my hesitancy is that I’m never sure if an option is ideal. I want to make sure it is the best possible thing to do before doing it. In addition, I am sometimes afraid to fail. I am afraid that if I ask for something, it won’t be offered and that if I try something it will crash and burn. And so I look and wait for the perfect opportunity.

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Such a disposition toward trying would not be bad if there was an overabundance of perfect opportunities. But that does not seem to be the case. And so Max is teaching me the value of asking or trying. There are many times that Max does not get what he wanted, and he deals with it. But many more times he does succeed because he is persistent and he takes as many shots as are offered to him.

Max has taught me that while there is not an overabundance of perfect opportunities, there is an abundance of opportunities. And he has taught me to be more aware of those opportunities and to jump in when they are presented.

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But there are also many times that Max does not try to do something which he is very capable of doing. Often I open the door for him to go outside and he doesn’t budge. But then when I go outside too, he is quick to jump on the opportunity. There are also times where I throw a toy to him, but he does nothing with it until I join him on the floor to play.

Max does not try to do things when he knows that it will leave me behind. Max values our relationship enough that maintaining it is more important than the opportunity itself.

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And so Max has taught me that sometimes I shouldn’t ask or try, especially when I know it will not benefit the people around me. He has taught me to allow what I believe is most valuable to guide what options I take. This helps me push past looking only for the perfect options, but also to be guided by more than mere thrill or self-interest. Moreover, Max has taught me that opportunities are best understood as means to connect with the people around me. While there are many times I should jump in and try, sometimes I gotta hold back so that I follow paths that are not just self-serving, but rather those that enhance community and connections with those around me.

So thank you Max for teaching me that sometimes I just gotta try. Thank you for teaching me to jump in when I am unreasonably cautious, but also to make sure I am guided by seeking ways to connect with others.

Dreams Do Come True

Max has a habit of falling on his back when I bend down to pet him. Sometimes, it happens even before I touch his head. He falls over and rolls around so that his belly is easy to scratch.

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And because I’m a sucker, I usually give in and give him a belly rub.

Max has modest dreams – getting the occasional treat, having a fun run every now and then, and, most prominently, getting as many belly rubs as possible.

Even though these dreams are modest, Max has taught me how to make them come true. He does not just sit around waiting for the belly rubs to come to him. Rather, he creates opportunities and takes advantage of the best times to flop on his back.

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I, on the other hand, too often sit around hoping my dreams will magically come true. Or, I wait for just the perfect opportunities. And so I wait and wait and wait, and those dreams get polished and fine tuned, but do not become a reality.

To be honest, though, Max’s dreams do not always come true. He flops down for a belly rub a lot, and he only gets the desired results about half the time (that’s actually also his posture when he knows he did something bad). But the fact that he fails about as much as he succeeds does not deter him. He knows that his dream of constant belly rubs is worth the failures, and he is sure not to miss any opportunities.

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Max has taught me that if the dream really is worth it, I just have to go for it. I have to trust that even if I am not fully prepared, even if it doesn’t work out sometimes, or even if it takes a few tries, that I have to flop over and go for it. And he has taught me that if I never try, those dreams will certainly fade away unfulfilled.

Max has also taught me that striving after dreams is a vulnerable thing to do. In rolling over and exposing his belly, Max puts himself in a very vulnerable position. And though following my own dreams does not always leave me physically vulnerable, it is usually a scary thing, because something I really care about is on the line. And in sharing my dreams in order to try to make them a reality, I have to share a deep, meaningful part of myself with the world.

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Despite the possibility of failure and the vulnerability inherent in following dreams, Max has taught me that they do come true when my effort and the right circumstances align. And even if they don’t always make it, it is worth trying.

So, thank you Max for encouraging me to follow my dreams, even when I am likely to fail. Thank you for teaching me that expressing vulnerability in following those dreams can be meaningful and powerful. And you are welcome for my role in helping to make your dreams come true!

Change

Max and I just moved to a new apartment. It has been a stressful process, but also an exciting one. And I learned that in many ways, Max does not deal well with change.

Max’s uneasiness was amplified because the moving process drug out over a couple of weeks. I slowly packed things up until there was one tiny maze through my apartment to get anywhere. Max could tell something was going on but he didn’t know what.

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I could see the anticipation turn quickly into anxiety as Max continued to live in an unresolved state. He did not know what was happening and was not getting any answers.

Max taught me that my own stress was centered in trying to live in that unresolved state. I wanted to move and get everything situated so that I could get on with things, but since my life couldn’t pause for that transition, I had to plow ahead bit by bit and deal with the piles of boxes.

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Max’s uncertainty persisted even when we finally made the move over. When I came back home from work the first day in the new place, he stuck to me like glue for most of the evening. The poor guy just couldn’t figure it all out and was trapped in a state of uncertainty and unfamiliarity.

But eventually he calmed down and he taught me several very important things about dealing with change and uncertainty.

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First, Max taught me that it is normal to feel uncomfortable with change. The stress and worry are natural because even the little changes can make a big impact. However, he also taught me that I need not stay in a perpetual state of stress. Change is exciting and can bring growth when it is encountered in certain ways.

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So, Max also taught me that the best way to move past the stress and worry is to find solace by seeking comfort in a friend. Max depended on my presence much more than normal to assure himself that things were going to be all right.

This lesson struck me because I think I often seek solace in trying to cling to whatever familiarity I had before a change. The times I’ve moved I have looked back from where I came and tried to be comforted by those memories rather than depending on a loved one to help me be more comfortable in the place I am now. But Max has taught me that the best way to deal with change is to face the unfamiliar head on accompanied by a friend on whom you can depend.

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FInally, Max taught me again to look at new opportunities as adventures to be explored. I know I have a heart set on adventure and exploration, as does Max, but we both were a little timid that first day after the move. It is scary going into a new place and being the stranger. But after the first day here, we decided to embrace the unknown with an attitude ready to learn more about it rather than fear it.

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While Max taught me that it is normal to be worried by change, he also taught me how to deal with it in a more hopeful and meaningful way.

So thank you Max for making this move with me and for teaching me how to deal with change. Thank you for being my companion and helping relieve some of my stress. And thank you for already embarking on an exciting new adventure with me.

FOMO

Max likes to be in the middle of everything going on.

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In fact, the only time I have seen him anxious are when he is in a place but cannot be involved in the main action.

For instance, about a year ago I took him with me to a day full of games with my friends, but I had to tie him up while playing. He barked the entire time and strained against the chain to be involved. He did not like missing out.

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Then, just yesterday, I took him to my mom’s house so he could play with her dog. We left them both in her big back yard to play and sat down to chat in the living room. Instead of playing, however, Max just sat at the window and stared at us.

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Max feared missing out on what we were doing.

And his fear of missing out kept him from actually engaging in the wonderfully fun setting he was in. He had a backyard full of toys and new smells to explore and another dog to play with. My mom even mentioned that one of the bones he likes was out in the yard, but he never found it because he stayed right by the window, wishing he was involved in a different setting.

He was stuck in a state of not getting to do what he feared missing and not taking advantage of the opportunity all around him.

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Max taught me that it is all too easy to be struck by a fear of missing out. And he taught me that it is not just a matter of longing for the greener grass. Rather it is a paralyzing state that both keeps one from noticing the good opportunities all around, and also makes one believe that some amount of worth or importance is tied to being involved in what other people are doing.

Max’s fear of missing out taught me that it is worthwhile to find ways to be fueled by an eagerness to engage the opportunities afforded me, rather than fear of what I may be missing. Both set my vision on new things and keep me in just enough discontent to yearn for new ways of interacting in the world. But whereas fear of missing out paralyzes me as I look toward those new opportunities, eagerness to engage my actual surroundings enables me to live and create and experience fulfillment.

Max has taught me that as I am afforded opportunities and different paths to take, I should live with the knowledge that I will miss out on some things. But he has also taught me that I should live with confidence that when I find myself in a certain situation, I can engage it with joyful eagerness and thus experience wonderful new things.

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So thank you Max for teaching me not to become paralyzed by a fear of missing out. Thank you for teaching me instead to look around and find the treasures in my own backyard.

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.

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.