My life was recently turned upside down. It's not over yet. I feel that the Universe is still shaking the package that holds (and sometimes conceals) my true nature, tempting me to break down, sending the contents of my character flying everywhere. What are the contents of this figurative box though? Is my true nature like glass and is it just a matter of time before it shatters, leaving pieces of my broken self all over the place for my loved ones to pick up? God I hope not.
Perhaps I am like a giant cookie crumb. Even when I am nowhere near pretty enough to be put on display with the other pretty cookies, I can still provide a moment of joy to someone or some creature. At least to my pets.
Dogs certainly don't toss cookie crumbs out if they come upon one. So if my personality is like a box of cookies, even when I am broken the dogs will get it, they will accept me–use me for a moment or two. Much like my brothers' pooches that have used me as a sleeping companion or unceremoniously plopped their furry selves on my head the last week I have been visiting.
I am not keen on sleeping with dogs. I love to sleep with my cat but I am not a dog person. I have a dog back home but I do not find satisfaction in cooing at or cuddling with him or his canine counterparts, and definitely not by allowing them to come and steal affection from me and lick me if I have not requested their presence. Some people think this makes me cold and heartless. I think it makes me a good pack leader. Seriously.
For example, my dog (a German Shepherd) is a big old baby. Once he whined like he lost his face after he bumped his nose into my calves while trying to force his way back into the house after I told him to stay outside. This was during his puppy training. If I give him more than a passing glance now, he settles down and bows in submissive mode. I am okay with that.
Nemo knows I do not approve of him inspecting my food. Even if it's raw meat and I am preparing it in his presence I can tell him to get out of the kitchen firmly, but without yelling (I don't want him to only listen when I raise my voice) and he immediately complies. He makes a beeline for the small wood frame that ends the tiled area of the kitchen and seats his monstrous self just on the other side of it, on the carpeted family area, waiting to see if I will invite him back into the kitchen.
After a few minutes he saunters over to his crate in the front room, leans his big face on his paw and keeps his floppy right ear as erect as it is capable of being. The floppiness of his ear belies his keen attention to goings on. He keeps an eye out for Madam, Ms Kitty or Shalimar Fox, the feline who is his elder and more agile of the two of them, as cats typically are.
Madam used to provoke Nemo in his crate when he was a puppy. The crate door was closed and covered with a sheet to help him stay calm at night and not howl but she would put her paws underneath the sheet and wake him. Despite her mischievous ways he came to love his crate as his den. But he keeps an eye or ear out for her since she has earned his suspicions fair and square. He typically does not chase her, even when she provokes him (although when he has, I know he thought he went to Dog Amusement Heaven). The lack of chasing is no credit to Ms Kitty. Rather, it is courtesy of Leerburg.com, a web site on teaching dogs acceptable behaviors, like ignoring the urge to chase cats.
So if it is not clear to you yet that I don't enjoy extended cuddling with my large dog, I am even less tolerant of the presumptuous nature of little dogs–shitzus, poodles, anything small as a cat but needy as a big dog or worse. Sure my cat can come lie with me; that's her job. But the dogs, they can remain a comfortable, respectful distance from me. Especially while I sleep.
But yesterday during a cat nap I woke suddenly and noticed the closer-in-proximity-to-my-face-than-normal company of Ace (aka Ace Hole, a shitzu belonging to my brother and his girlfriend). I found his lack of concern about the world and others around him strangely soothing; I wanted some of that.
Before shooing him off I looked into his big old beady dark eyes, framed by the tear stained furriness of his little dog face and I had a moment. I empathized with him, with all dogs even–how their lives are full of uncertainty and how they look to their adopted human families to communicate to them that someone is in charge and everything will be okay. They accept this in lieu of being in charge. Most of them don't know how to be in charge. They just want to feel, in Cesar Milan's words, a calm assertive energy.
I get it. Much like the pooches, I feel a temporary (I hope), but all encompassing need for assurance. That our pending move will go smoothly. That I will be okay. That I won't get stuck too long too often behind a big mental block triggered by anxiety, that state of being that produces horrifically low levels of efficiency and decisiveness. That I will be able to provide calm assertive and joyful energy to the people who need me to. To my son, to my husband, to others in my family. To myself.
As I focus on finding that positive energy within, I realize that while uncertainties abound, there are things I am certain of. I will always love my son, my husband, my siblings. I will always love creating things, and will be relentless and incredibly patient in finding my creative energy even when it seems I have lost it for years. I will always be proud of the gifts I have been given by Providence or the Universe or God if you are religious. I am resilient, steadfast and genuine even when anxiety shakes me to the core. I will never, ever give up. I will always find other options.
Those are the certainties that matter. And they are constants. Where I live, how much money I make, what people think of me, I have limited control over those things. We all have limited control over them. But what I have control over is the ability to harness the power of the human spirit and ride whatever wave life sends my way.
Ace–the shitzu–and I have certain things in common. I am now more sympathetic to the four legged creatures who have become man's best friend. My life has been turned upside down too and it's frightening. I get it. We can cat nap together, Ace and I, pondering the terror of uncertainty and gathering our own ability to deal with it.
Then we can get up and face the day and make the most of it. For Ace it's simple; go look for treats, bask in the sun outside, on a good day when I am feeling needy presume to warm my feet as we nap in silence. (Ace is little. If you ever catch me allowing my German Shepherd to nap with me on the couch, call Cesar Milan immediately. Let him know the human pack leader needs to get her shit together, and Nemo my GSD needs to be rehabilitated.)
Because even though I can appreciate the similarities Ace and I face in life's ability to knock us around, this reflection has reinforced another life lesson: That no matter how weak and vulnerable we may feel, and how terrified of the uncertainty that is more evident some days than others, we must maintain control of our lives and our pooches, starting with ourselves. We must maintain calm assertiveness. I must maintain composure and suck it up, for myself and family. And if I am ever unsure of what type of energy I am projecting, all I need is a few minutes with the pets to give me a good reading of myself.
Experiencing, understanding, accepting and then facing the fear of the unknown, forging through discomfort through personal determination–I believe they are all qualities of a good pack leader. A good mother. A good wife. A strong person.
Even when I am without the resources to do anything else, even when my circumstances are significantly reduced, I can find it within myself to be a good mother, good wife, resilient person. And when I can do that, everything else will fall into place because the Universe craves balance. To me that means that where there are uncertainties, there are also certainties. It's the latter that I most focus on to get me through the former.