Today is our buddy’s 9th birthday. I can’t believe the little man is 9 already. He came to us when he was just 6 weeks old. He was very young, very feisty, curious, strong willed, and very loving. Not much about him has changed since then. He’s brought so much joy to us, so much laughter and love. He’s the best dog thief you’ve ever seen, a total rascal, tenacious, and can be out and out stubborn. As we like to say he is the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde of dogs. So loving and affectionate one minute, guarding his bully, or a kleenex he stole, with ferocity the next.
I didn’t know I could love a dog this much. It slays me every day, the love I have for him. I think that love is only bested by the love he has for me.
Nine years. Wow. Happy birthday little man. Here’s to many more adventures together.
“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”
Music articulates life in a way nothing else can. Emotion, feeling, grace, anger, desperation, agreement, honesty, truth, beauty, joy, hope, distress, and on and on and on. Feelings too numerous to list. There is music everywhere, a rhythm to the world, underneath the noise of everyday life. There’s even music in that noise, if you quiet your heart enough to hear it. We are a part of it, our souls singing their own songs. Artists articulate it for us, but we have our own as well. I can feel the essence of things in a beat or a phrase of music. Our hearts beat, our heads sometimes pound, our feet tap to the sounds of windshield wipers. Hearing that ever-present music connects us. Music lets us know we aren’t alone. It helps us to know we are connected to the whole of the world.
“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.” ― Audrey Hepburn
Soaking up moments, trying to absorb details as they happen, connects us with what’s happening now. Not just seeing, but feeling what’s going on right where we are, deepens our connection to the moments we have, and helps us to have a greater experience. Skimming over the details, failing to absorb what’s going on right where we are, lessens our connection, distances us from the moment.
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee
A simple life, living with less, craving less, adds so much richness to our lives. Not being concerned with having stuff, things, collecting, lessens the burdens of life and frees us up to concentrate on the things that really matter… family, friends, being right where we are. Things weigh us down, more than we think they do. When we begin to let some of those things go, we feel lighter, unchained somehow. It opens space in our lives.
“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ― Virginia Woolf,
Coffee is essential to good living. For me anyway. I think everyone has that thing, small, but decadent. Mine is coffee. I look forward to it in the morning. I’ve spent many an hour over a cup of coffee hashing out the ups and downs of life. The smell of it brewing, the taste of a good cup. Nectar of the gods for me. We should all find simple pleasure is simple things. One of those things for me is enjoying a great cup of coffee.
“It’s so large”
“It’s the world dear, did you think it’d be small?”
― C.S. Lewis,
We are small in a larger world. It helps to remember this when our problems seem insurmountable, our sadness overwhelming. Going out in nature, climbing up a hill and looking out over an endless vista, putting your feet in the sand and watching the crashing of wave after wave, gazing up to the clouds to see them moving. These things remind us how small we are. Even sitting in a traffic jam and noticing all the other people also sitting there, wondering where they’re going, what their day is like, where they all might be trying to get to. We are so many times overburdened by our own thoughts, our own perspective, our own small lives. The world is a vast place, enormous, and if we can keep some thought of that in mind, we can see how whatever is plaguing us at the moment is pliable, changeable, and in the grander scheme, small.
“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.”
― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan
I’m 50 now. The big 5-0. It doesn’t freak me out, worry me, or make me feel like I’m old and getting older (though I am). It has however made me reflect a bit on the life I’ve lived. There are things I thought were important when I was younger, when I was more self-conscious and filled with angst. Very dramatic. I wrote a lot then. Prose, poetry (some OK, mostly not), letters I never sent, some I did. Now, at 50, I’m much more certain of myself, much more comfortable in my skin, not as self-conscious. I’ve grown. Most of us do.
Through the course of this time I’ve spent reflecting lately I’ve made a mental list of the things I think are important in life. Obviously the people in our lives are the most important, but this list of things/ideals are what I believe make a life more fulfilled, the things that can actually make a life extraordinary. I strive to put them into practice every day. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. But life is in the trying, and I try.
In honor of my turning the big 5-0 I’m going to throw the list out to the universe, as a gesture of good will and safe keeping.
I got a little carried away when I actually sat down to make the list (which is in no particular order by the way, just written as it came to me) so I’ve decided I will post it in parts.
Welcome to part 1….
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa
Compassion is paramount to living a fulling life, without it we are acting alone in the world, separate from our fellow humans. We cannot pretend to know another persons story, or how they came to feel and think as they do, but we can honor them as human beings and wish the best for them. We can be open to the fact that they have had different experiences than our own, not expecting them to then act and think as we do. Compassion fills our hearts with love instead of animosity, it elevates us.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama
Kindness is the most important tenet, to me. Above all things. It’s so important to me that I have the above quote about kindness on every email I send out – you might have gotten one. Kindness is always possible. We have to be kind to others, and to ourselves. I’ve learned a little kindness takes us everywhere we want to go. It soothes souls, can make a persons day, and costs us nothing. A smile, a kind word, a thank you, a simple acknowledgement of someone all work toward the common good, and good in ourselves. It is beyond valuable, beyond priceless. Kindness is key.
“Tears are words that need to be written.” ― Paulo Coelho
Sadness happens to everyone in life, let yourself be sad when you are, but don’t live there, wallowing in it. It’s a tough balance, but necessary. You honor the feelings by letting yourself feel them. You don’t let it take control of your life by remembering that there is more to life than just the thing that’s created your feeling of sadness.
Inhabiting yourself – feel your body, know your mind, feel your presence. Things will happen to us in life. Things we cannot control. Things terrible and strange and lovely and warm and awful and on and on. We get through it. We get through it best when we know ourselves, when we feel our own presence and our own power. That knowing helps us to understand that life will happen, but we can bear it, we can step through it. We can move beyond whatever it is that’s happened and into something new, something that could be wonderful in its own way.
“Beauty doesn’t have to be about anything. What’s a vase about? What’s a sunset or a flower about? What, for that matter, is Mozart’s Twenty-third Piano Concerto about?”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
Beauty is everywhere, if you look for it. Noticing the wind moving the trees, the sun glinting through a fence, the way the dogs have that little walk they have, a phrase, a painting, a blade of grass, my honey breaking into song, in light and love and kindness. Beauty is everywhere. We choose to see it, or not. Life is so much better if you look for it.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville
Connectedness Connection is everything. We are not islands unto ourselves. Our actions effect those around us, just as the actions of others affects us. It’s so important to remember that our ideas and ideals are ours and to dwell in the knowledge that other people, other creatures, have their own ideas, wants, needs. What we do, every day; the words we use when speaking to others, the actions we take in kindness, to our fellows and to our planet, all ripple out. One kindness generates another, one word of anger generates more anger, one positive thought spills out to create more positivity in the world, a negative thought spreads negativity. Everything we do has a consequence for others in small, and sometimes not so small, ways. Everything is connected.
“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.”
― Raymond Carver,
Anxiety. I have it. Everyone experiences it. It’s not always rational, but it’s a natural part of living, of caring about people, caring about the world, caring about yourself. There is no getting rid of it entirely. The question is, does the anxiety control you, or do you remember to breathe, look it in the face, and try to keep stepping forward. Sometimes I succeed in that. Sometimes I don’t. That’s OK too. We can all wish for a little less anxiety in life, but we have to be careful the wishing doesn’t just lead to more anxiety. Acceptance, stepping into and through it, instead of constantly denying and fighting against it, helps. We have to remember to breathe.
“No one needed to say it, but the room overflowed with that sort of blessing. The combination of loss and abundance. The abundance that has no guilt. The loss that has no fix. The simple tiredness that is not weary. The hope not built on blindness.”
― Aimee Bender,
Temperament and trying to keep oneself on an even keel is important. The energy we give out to the world matters. Not that we should live for others, we shouldn’t, but it’s important to be aware of our impact on others. That we do have an impact. It’s not easy when you’re in a bad mood, but it’s so important to try to be your better self, to try to remember not to inflict that mood on everyone around you. Conversely it’s important to remember that if someone you meet in your day is in a bad space, they may have had a terrible day, or be battling demons you don’t know or understand.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert,
Fear, or the lack of it, is one of those constants in life. We are afraid of what is happening, or what could happen, or what did happen. Fear eats at us and taunts us and reminds us that we have a lot in life we don’t want to lose. Fear is. I love the line in the quote above about letting it pass through. That rings true to me. We have to face the things we’re afraid of, as best we can, and then let that fear pass through us. We have to let ourselves look at what we fear, look it in the eye. Only then do we begin to take the reins back from it. We can never live entirely without fear. We love, we dream, we hope, and so, we fear. It is a part of living. A part of caring. But we can try to keep it from taking control of us, we can try to be its master, instead of letting it be the master of us.
“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”
― Louis C.K.
Empathy is central to living a full life. Kindness, compassion, and love all come from a place of empathy. We don’t have to know or have lived someone else’s circumstances to ache for them or to hope for them. We tend to live in our own little worlds, sure of our ideas and opinions, secure in the thought that what we think, the way we think, is the right way. Sometimes we even believe what we think is the only way. We’re wrong. We have no idea what another person’s experience is, where they came from, what they’ve seen, what they’ve lived through. To have true empathy is to say that you might not understand someone, but you want to nourish their souls anyway. It is to admit that you don’t know everything, and that you shouldn’t judge what you don’t understand. To empathize is to step outside of your own set of rules and to say that you feel for another human, regardless of the presumptions you have about them.
Today is our little mister’s 8th birthday. Currently he’s curled up in the chair in the corner of our living room sleeping. He’s as cute as he’s ever been. I love him so.
Our boy has brought so much joy, love, happiness, and adventure into our lives. He is very affectionate, mischievous, hellaciously smart, loving, loyal, protective, playful, and insistent. I say insistent because he pretty much demands attention when he wants it. Pet me, play with me, feed me, pet me, give me love, I love you, I love you, I love you, love me, pet me now. He has his annoying habits, of course, like stealing things. We have to be pretty vigilant about kleenex and food and items on our metro shelf he thinks he might want to eat. He steals from the shred bin in K’s office, off of tables, from inside backpacks he’s managed to unzip (an incident that led to a call to doggie poison control and a force feeding of hydrogen peroxide, which worked by the way). He’s ingenious, and that ingenuity can be frustrating, but it’s also admirable. He doesn’t give up. I think he does it sometimes just to see if he can. He’s tenacious.
Our little man can also be testy and nippy and down right semi-ferocious if the right opportunity presents itself. Like when he steals something really good then hunkers down, dens, to protect it. It’s not a time to reach in and try to get whatever it is from him. We’ve all been gnashed at and nipped, we’ve all been trained to know he means business. He can’t help it, he’s been this way since we brought him home all those years ago. We think it’s because we got him so young, and that he didn’t have as much training from his mama as he should have, which may or may not be the reason. It doesn’t really matter, it’s his way, his personality, and we know it. We’ve always said he’s Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Most of the time he’s the most loving, affectionate, cuddly dog you’ve ever met. He’s happiest getting pets and giving kisses. He wants to be touched all the time. This can also be annoying, but how can you resist that face? We can’t. We love him. And I love that about him. When Mr. Hyde comes out, well… we know that guy too. The one you don’t want to challenge. When he has something he’s protecting, or he doesn’t want to be picked up in a certain way, it’s best to leave him be. He lets you know that. You always know where you stand with him, and what he wants. He’s a passionate guy.
He’s been with us all but the first six weeks of his eight years. During that time he’s traveled with us on many of our adventures: enjoying romps in the sand and sun; games of fetch in creeks and streams; walks in so many different places on so many different paths; travels in the car; sleeps in tents and trailers and hotel rooms; playing chuck-it in fields and parks; and playing ball inside of hotel rooms and the houses of family and friends. He’s an excellent travel companion, a great little traveler. We say this about he and Riley every time we hit the road.
What can I say, we love him. I love him. I can’t believe, and I say this all the time about him, about both of our pups actually, how much I do love him. Life is so much richer with him in our lives. So much more joyous. There’s so much more laughter, love, fun, and cuddling because of him. I am constantly amazed by how much I do love him. What’s great is that he loves me, he loves us, right back.
Happy birthday to our beautiful, wonderful, fascinating, little mister. Life with him is truly sweet.