Interruption

Max tends to be a bit of an interruption in my life.

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For instance, when I sit down in the evening to watch TV or read, he often starts pleading to go outside and I have to pause what I am doing to open the door for him. Or, when I lay on the couch for a few minutes after a busy day, he quickly comes to try to play (for some reason he is never content just to join me). Even as I write this entry, he is letting me know he wants to go outside and then come back inside and then receive some attention.

As frustrating as these little interruptions are, I really can’t blame Max for them, because he doesn’t understand what I am doing, and if I were him, I’d probably do the same.

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But Max provides an even bigger, more consistent level of interruption in my life. I have to be sure to structure my day around feeding and walking him at appropriate times. Such structure means that I cannot stay at work or stay out with friends super late without having taken care of Max.

If I do have a lot of plans all day, I have to interrupt those plans at least for a little while to make sure Max is cared for. I have to interrupt the flow of my (often over-busy) life to do the simple work of feeding, walking, and spending time with Max.

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Sometimes, this interrupted living is very hard. I can get immersed in what I am doing, or exciting opportunities can pop up unexpectedly. But then I have to be mindful of how long I will be gone and sometimes have to turn things down.

But, the more I live a life interrupted by Max, the more I see the value in it. Interruptions are not inherently bad, especially interruptions of love and care.

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Max has taught me, through his interruptions, that life is more than being consumed by a busy schedule. Life is more than going from one exciting thing to the next. Life is also about having that busyness interrupted for moments of sharing love and caring for another being.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have an incredibly busy life. And I even find quite a bit of value in all the things I rush around doing. But Max has taught me that the interruptions are valuable too. He has taught me to pay closer attention to the people and things that derail me and cause me to invest my attention in a different way. He has taught me to be more intentional about being present in those interruptions and allowing them to be moments when I really connect with others.

Max has taught me to view interruptions not as detractors from full life, but rather as meaningful additions to full life.

So, thank you Max for interrupting me (though I am not always thankful in the moment). Thank you for helping me experience the value of interrupting my busy day to share quality time with those whom I can love and for whom I can care.

 

P.S. This is one of those lessons I have learned in various ways from various people the past couple of weeks. So, I also give credit to my boss and coworkers and all the people in my life who interrupt me in helpful ways and teach me the value of attending to interruptions.

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Friends Are Jewels

The past several months, Max and I have gone on occasional outings to see friends. We don’t get out much together, so I’ve been trying to make more time for little adventures and for him to meet my friends.

The first time we headed out to the Big D with plans just for him. He’d been to Dallas once, but this trip was different. I had done my research and had several dog friendly parks we could go to and even a dog friendly coffee shop.

I was excited. And once I told him and started getting things ready, so was he.

So off we went. We had an exciting time and though I think he prefers the country, he fit in pretty nicely.

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Then, plans started going awry. The park was fun, but we stayed a little too long with consequences.  The dog-friendly coffee shop I was so excited to try wound up closing earlier than I expected and we got there just in time to watch them start to close down. 

My planning continued to fail me and I couldn’t come up with another inside, dog friendly place at which to grab some food and drink. 

I started stressing out, and still being a new dog owner at this time began worrying about what to do with Max.  Then I finally really paid attention to him.

Sitting in the cold with plans in shambles didn’t really rock him at all.  He was still having the time of his life – seeing new sights, smelling new smells, and above all spending time with new friends.

In that moment, he taught me something valuable.  As important as plans are to making an outing run smoothly, the plans themselves don’t make anything fantastic. Only the people one is with and the shared experiences can do that.

We did not make many specific plans the next major trip we took to see friends. We went and played lots of games outside and enjoyed the company of good people.  And it was wonderful.

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Max would have been as happy spending all day in a plain room with loving friends as he would traveling through any of the most well constructed dog parks in the world. Because what really matters is the loving community with which one is surrounded.

So thank you Max, for teaching me that friends are jewels, and much more precious than the setting in which they are cast.  Thank you for teaching me that despite our good or bad plans, we can always enjoy the company that surrounds us.

Patient Presence

I’ve often wondered what makes dogs seem so happy.

At least some dogs.

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But Max is overwhelmingly happy looking. So, I asked him why.

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And he actually answered, though it took me a little while to understand his answer.

He lay down on the couch with a toy in his mouth and stared at me.  (Sometimes the most revealing answers are not statements at all.)

So, I thought about what in Max’s life is so different from mine that joy always prevails over despair or worry or anger?  What does he do that I do not?

I am a dreamer, so I make lots of plans. I understand many of those plans will never come to fruition, but I still expect most of them to happen, whether in my job or personal life. But many times it feels more like a fight to get things going.  I plan and plan and plan and then fight to get the plans working and then wear myself out and get frustrated when things don’t work out.

So, Max, what am I doing wrong?

I saw in that moment of lying and waiting a disposition that naturally allows for more joy and less frustration.  Max is present in a way that I have not been.  He looks for opportunities to emerge and enjoys them when they happen.  He may still expect certain things, like evening walks, dinner, and loving affection, but he waits patiently for those opportunities and then takes advantage of them.

He has a patient presence that allows him to perceive opportunities.

That is what I have been lacking.  That is what all my unswerving planning has blinded me from.

So, it’s not about lowering or annihilating expectations.  It’s not about ceasing to plan things – that still has to happen.  But it is about allowing room to observe, to be aware of the opportunities already going on, to lift my eyes up from carving my plans in stone to see which mountain I am walking up, to see the beautiful world of possibilities around me, to be present.

Thank you Max, for teaching me to be patiently present.