Present Tense

What dogs are for….

ember stretch

My husband and I have been having a discussion about whether or not to get another dog.  Okay, it’s a disagreement.  He says no, while I say yes.  We have been having this argument for about 24 years now, through various dogs.

So, last week, he said to me, “Explain to me why you want another dog.”  I hemmed and hawed and threw out some inarticulate dribble about ‘feelings’ and ‘joy’ and ‘can’t really explain’.  Not an effective answer.  Very unsatisfying for both of us.  So, the next day, I sat at my computer and composed this note to him.

You asked me why I want another dog.  That is a valid question that prompted me to put into words, what our past, present and future dogs mean to me.

I love them for their unique personalities, quirks and qualities.  Like people, they each bring something to my life.  They force us to realize that all creatures have a perspective and have needs and desires.  I love that.

Skelo was loyal and responsible and completely committed to you.  He was the grown-up dog, who kept the other dogs in line.  He tolerated very little nonsense from the others.

Kodiak was a clown, with a sensitive side.  He loved people and beer and crashing the neighbors’ poker parties.  He accepted the younger, more obnoxious dogs with a sense of humor and tolerance.

Feta was a rock star; she had to be the center of attention and had to win every competition.  She could be hard-assed and aggressive, but was nurturing and sweet if you were sick or helpless.  I still miss her smart-assiness every day.

Samson was…Samson.  Dopey and distracted but very loving and sweet.

Chili was complex and smart as a whip; she was moody and beautiful.  She was my soulmate, who gazed into my eyes and trusted me implicitly.  She had a dry, but well-developed sense of humor and she liked to watch dog shows with me on TV.  I looked forward to waking up and seeing her sweet face, every single day of her life.

Junior is sweet and forgiving, with the soul of a poet.  You can see in his eyes that he just wants to be loved and praised.  He is a lover, not a fighter and he loves you the most.  And he can run in the tightest, fastest circles that I’ve ever seen.

All of them have brought such joy and love and humor into our lives.  Just like people.  Their spirits are as important to me as the human spirits in my life. Maybe more so.

They love us fully and boundlessly.   They don’t expect perfection or make me feel guilty or judge me for my screw ups or lack of grace.  They don’t care if my radio ratings are good or bad and they don’t hold grudges.  They are far nobler than many humans I’ve known.

They eat with gusto and allow me to put coats and life vests on them.  They sing along with your saxophone and dig big holes in the yard. They charm our visitors and share our love of beets, sweet potatoes,  popcorn and sports.  They accept our quirks.

We are a family and since neither one of us have a huge tribe of human friends in our lives, I feel like our dogs are my tribe.  I need them in order to survive and to thrive.  I realize that you may not see it the way that I do, but a life without dogs is just too hard for me and I’m grateful that you allow them into our lives.

Our new puppy is another spirit that will touch us in her way.  Sweetness, light, humor and playfulness emanate from her.  She will fit in nicely and maybe even kill a mouse or two. She will bring love to our little familyand she will come when we call her.  I guarantee it.

So, there it is.  Thank you for your patience with me.  You too, are full of light, humor and forgiveness; those qualities are of the highest value in our tribe.


December 14, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

We’re all gonna die…

There are times in life, when a corner is turned.  Sometimes, we are completely unconscious of it happening.  We aren’t even aware of that right angle that we just traversed.  Other times, you feel it; you recognize that a little flag of triumph was raised in your conscious or sub-conscious mind to announce your progress.

I’ve turned a corner.  It’s a corner that is the size of a very large racetrack, as it’s taken me a few years to get around it.

I used to be suspicious when life was good.  One of those, “Things are going so well, that I just KNOW it can’t last” kind of people. When life was glorious, I tiptoed around just waiting for the big, old thud of that other shoe as it hit the floor.

Well, that was my corner and it’s behind me.  I’m happy with my life and the dread is gone.  Vanished.  Well, not really vanished; its been a process and I’m so glad that I took the first step on that journey a few years ago.

There isn’t enough time and space here to outline everything that I did to get to this place, but it’s pretty well documented in each and every post on this blog.

What I’ve accepted and even embraced, is the reality that bad stuff happens.  Always.  If our lives are going swimmingly and perfectly, bad stuff will occur.  If our lives are already in the crapper, more bad stuff is in the offing.  That’s just the way it goes.  Might as well accept it and not let it ruin all of the beautiful times that in my experience, FAR outweigh the bad.

I also began to recognize what’s bad and what’s merely inconvenient or annoying.  We tend to categorize fairly minor bumps as bad, when they’re really not.  It’s a matter of degrees.  Begin to honestly categorize things on a scale of 1-10 and you’ll start to see that disasters are often not all that disastrous.

I’ve also learned to look around and see how other people are handling REALLY bad stuff.  Cancer, loss of a child/spouse or parent, a terrible accident, etc.  They keep going; pushing forward knowing it will be behind them at some point if they just keep getting up out of bed every morning.

Look, the truth is, we all die.  That’s it.  All of us.  Every single person reading these words has a finite amount of time.  I guess you could say that the ultimate ‘bad stuff’ that befalls us is death.  Ultimately, that is what we fear the most. It’s our most deep-seated fear and most other fears emanate from it.

We lose everything that is dear to us at some point, so when you accept that premise, the dread dissipates.  For some of you that is unacceptable and I understand that, but I won’t live that way.  Accepting death and impermanence has been very freeing for me.  It has, quite honestly, brought me to a place of joy.

Be well.  Be peaceful.  Accept what is.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Going home…

The new phase of my life is in play.  It’s been simmering, bubbling and percolating for over a year.  What began as a spiritual quest eventually morphed into a shift in my priorities, which then turned into assessing what I really want from the remainder of my life and how and where I want to live it.

My husband and I made that decision several months ago, but as with everything, it took time to unfold.  We had the vision, but had to lay the day to day groundwork in order for that vision to come to fruition.

It has.  We are moving to northern Michigan to the 10 acre farm that I bought on a whim over a year ago.  We are simplifying, downsizing, hippie-fying.  I am going home.

The process has been joyful and wrenching.  Exhilarating and terrifying.  Ying/yang. 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows.  Changes involve these kinds of feelings.  Heck, all of life is pleasure and pain.

Michigan is where I grew up  It’s where my 92 year-old parents still reside and our new home is within a day’s drive for most of my husband’s family.  It was time to re-establish our family ties geographically and emotionally.  We missed that closeness.

I’ve written about how I skated out the door at 19 for college and career and never looked back.  I had things to do.  Well, I did them and now it’s time to circle back.  I think that most of us never really get the native dirt out from under our nails.

It’s a great lesson for me to look back over the past few years and see where the turning points may have been.  The journey that began as a way to cope with my alcoholism has led me here.  When you take the time for some introspection and exploration, it’s amazing what you may find if you’re listening and seeing and feeling.  Try and be open to what bubbles up.

This blog has been an integral part of the process.  I look back on past posts and see the turning points; the signposts of what was to come.  Writing has been invaluable and your feedback and encouragement is greatly appreciated.

So, that is all for now.  More to come.  Probably very soon.  And I’m stoked.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 27 Comments

Ignore the speed bumps…

I’ve been going through a challenging time for the past couple of weeks, that admittedly has been completely self-imposed.  In all honesty, my life is working out in an almost magical way, but in order to get through this transition period, I’ve had to struggle with intense impatience and my overwhelming desire to make the rest of the world bend to my wishes and needs.  Just to clarify: that rarely happens, mostly because I expect perfection and the cosmos doesn’t dole that out to us.  Ever.

The ridiculous part is that everything IS working out just the way that I had planned.  It’s as if what I envisioned in my mind’s eye is following a script.  The annoying part of all this for me is that I have let some minor speed bumps take my attention away from the big picture that’s unfolding; a big picture that is seriously transformational in my life.

So, I’ve been trying to remind myself to be grateful.  Every day.  Stop creating pain and suffering where there IS none.  Stop focusing on the minor things that aren’t going the way I’d like them to,  while ignoring the huge positive forces that are in play.  Events and changes that I’ve dreamed of and planned for are unfolding and I can’t stop fretting over the minor details.

Until today.  I got a call from an old friend.  I had texted her earlier to check in on her daughter’s graduation plans.  She called to tell me that they had gone through a very rough week.  One of her daughter’s closest friend lost her father suddenly this past week.  He was strong and fit, but died suddenly while riding his bike.  So, she had spent a lot of time with her friend, helping her deal with this devastating loss.

Then, yesterday, she and a group of friends were celebrating the end of their high school careers with a party on the lake.  A bunch of happy seniors hanging out before they move on to the next phase of their lives and one of her friends drowned at the party.

That is tragedy.  That is pain.  That is suffering.  Imagine the emotions of kids who are in the midst of a time that is full of dreams, hopes, celebration and suddenly they lose a classmate and a classmate’s parent.  In one week.  That is some heavy duty stuff for one so young at a time that should be full of joy.

So, now, an immediate attitude adjustment for me.  A list of gratefuls is in order, here.  The speed bumps are ridiculously small and I feel foolish for even dwelling on them.

I’m sad for my friend’s smart, accomplished, beautiful daughter; I’m sad for everyone that is going through a truly trying time.  In Buddhism, we are told we will experience 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows in our lives.  No mention of 10,000 speed bumps.  I’m grateful for this clarity.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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