What’s the Rush?

Max has become a big ol’ lazy bones. Most mornings and nights he is in no rush to do anything. There are still occasional moments when he is rearing to play or anxious for attention. And when he knows food or something new and exciting is at stake, relaxed Max goes out the window and the frantic rush takes over.

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But those frantic times are increasingly the exception. Maybe it is the reality of Max entering middle age, or maybe he just has a more laid back view of life.

Either way, it bothers me quite a bit, especially when I am in a rush. Most often, such frustration hits me on walks. I enjoy walking Max, but often I am fitting it in between getting home from work and going to another meeting or getting dinner ready or whatever else fills my evening time. The worst is when it is raining in the mornings and Max will not go out on his own, but I know he needs to go to the bathroom. On those mornings (and they are always the ones for which I am already running late), Max seems to take an extra long time deciding which identical spot of ground to pee on; in the rain; while I’m getting later and later.

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Max is simply not in a rush.

As frustrating as it sometimes can be, Max has taught me to reconsider whether that rushing around is really worth it.

Sure, there are things I can’t help but hurry to do, but perhaps I have given in a little too much to a rushed lifestyle.

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Recently, I spent half a year reading the James Joyce novel, Ulysses. Some of that was due to an overly busy schedule leaving little time for reading, but also the book itself is written in such a convoluted way that it forced me to slow way down. And that frustrated me. I have so many other books I want to read and that pace was not acceptable.

But now that I’ve finished, I see some of the same wisdom I have learned from Max – what was the rush? It is a fantastic read unlike anything I have read before, and in the moment I just wanted to get it done. But that wasn’t the point, and thankfully the writing itself forced me to slow down a bit.

Max, in his counter-cultural approach to life, has taught me to be more aware of how rushed I allow myself to get. As I busy around the house frantically doing stuff, I see him out of the corner of my eye, enjoying the beautiful sunny day or sprawled out on the nice, cool floor.

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To be fair, he has the luxury of no responsibilities, and I have the privilege of living a life in which I can afford taking breaks and slowing down a bit. But Max is teaching me a value of life that I see ignored and trampled upon around me, and which I myself am tempted to see as lazy or weak or trifling.

To slow down certainly means giving something up – a sense of efficiency or productivity, maybe even a bit of reputation or pride. But in observing Max closely, I see that his lack of rush is not all laziness or weakness. By not rushing, Max is much more present. He sees things going on that I wouldn’t see. He can much more easily adapt to anything new happening that either requires his attention or is merely something fun. And he certainly has less stress and worry.

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I know I will still be busy and that there will be plenty of times I have to rush around, and sometimes it might lead to something good. But Max has taught me that there is a difference between being busy and rushing around. Even the busyness can be approached in a more intentional and less rushed manner. In order to best navigate those busy (or still) times, he has taught me to question consistently, “What’s the rush?” And in doing so, he has taught me to seek the values of presence, appreciation, adaptation, and peace over only looking to the next thing, productivity, schedules, and non-stop-ness, so that maybe I can define not only my day, but also myself in a healthier, more wholesome way.

So thank you Max for being an easy-going presence in my life. Thank you for helping me question why I expect such a rushed life and showing me the true strength and value of a slower, more intentional approach.

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Smelling roses

I use this title because the things Max actually stops to smell are not so pleasant and I don’t think I should follow my teacher in sniffing poop or dead animals. Maybe I just have a lot more to learn (finding some sort of beauty even in the nastiest of things? Embracing waste and death as a natural part of life? Finding a story plopped on top of every blade of grass? Or finding a little blade of grass growing through the plop plopped on top of it?), but I’ll focus on the act of stopping and smelling in general for now.

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When Max and I go on walks I try to cover as much ground as possible. Sometimes I go fast to get back and do things I need to get done.

Actually, make that a lot of times. Most times. Almost all the time.

Even at night, I feel the need to rush and get back to go to sleep so that I can get up on time (never happens, no matter how early I go to sleep) and get going for the next day.

But Max is in no rush. He is cooped up all day and those walks are all he has to get fresh air and enjoy nature. So he gets out and makes the most of it.

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In fact, I think he sometimes stops to sniff just to stay out longer. He can tell when I’m rushing back and wants to prolong his outside time as much as possible. And to be honest I don’t blame him. I love being outside too and prefer it to being inside just about all the time.

Max is quite infuriating when I am in the midst of my rushing. He’s just stubborn and strong enough to be able to stop over and over again before I can pull him on.

But my good ole teacher is just leading by example. Max challenges my pace of life by spending the time to smell things and really take it all in.

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When I do follow Max’s lead, I see the importance of stopping and smelling. On one level I mean just taking it all in, examining the beauty all around me, appreciating the wonders of creation.

I usually do that with my eyes. I see beauty easier than hearing it. I hear it better than tasting it. I taste it better than touch it. And I touch it better than smell it. That may be partly because I have a terrible nose and bad allergies. But there’s something about stopping and smelling that really makes me a part of what’s around me in a way the other senses cannot.

When I smell, something outside of me literally enters my body – something more tangible than waves of sound or rays of light. That can happen with taste too, if I swallow it, but smell necessitates me welcoming foreign particles into my body. In that way it is a very vulnerable activity. I open myself up to something outside of myself (and I don’t always know that it will be pleasant). I become closer to the world around me, literally.

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Max has thus taught me that stopping to smell the roses is more than just an activity to take me out of my crazy life and force me to experience the world around me. It is an act of becoming vulnerable and bringing that beautiful and stinky world into myself.

(Since there is apparently no clip of Gus using his super sniffer on the internet, I am forced to leave you with this instead…I apologize in advance.)

So thank you Max, for teaching me that it is worth it to stop and smell. Thank you for teaching me to open myself up in a basic rhythm of vulnerability (for this happens even when I breathe), and not to ignore the opportunity to unite with the beauty, and stink, around me.