I don’t invest a lot in entertainment. I don’t have cable. I don’t have an active Netflix account. I rarely go to movies. It’s not that I’m opposed to these things; I actually really enjoy a good movie or TV series when one happens to come along. I don’t invest in them because both money and time are limited resources. If I had regular access to these outlets, I would use them. A lot. I wouldn’t invest that time reading and writing; things I also enjoy but from which I am too easily distracted.
The one exception that I maintain every month is my Spotify account. (This isn’t an advertisement for Spotify though if they wanted to credit me a month or two, I wouldn’t argue.) However, the access to music on demand is like a drug to me. I just finished a six-hour road trip with a custom soundtrack that ranged from Jim Croce to Joseph, John Denver to Billy Joel and Journey.
As I looked at my list of favorite artists and albums, I made a comment to myself,
“All my favs have the letter “J” in them.”
Of course, it isn’t true. Rich Mullins. Survivor. Don Mclean. Gordon Lightfoot. All of them made the playlist of the road trip without any need for a “J” to usher them in. But the “J” spot in my alphabetical list is rather long, which could lead one to believe that having a “J” somewhere in the name is a criterion for being among my favorites.
This reminded me of another recent epiphany. I had just met someone new. She had beautiful hair color, gentle, piercing eyes, and a deep kind soul. She also had a long nose, was missing front teeth where she had tried to chew through the chains that kept her locked up most of her early life, and walked around on four legs. This sweet rescue dog and I found ourselves sitting together on a couch.
She started with her back to me and as I scratched her hind quarters and connected with her, she eventually turned and lay her head in my lap, letting me rub her ears and head. She became so comfortable she was nearly asleep with her head resting heavily on my leg. I was keenly aware of the trust she was putting in me; even though we had just met and despite her long history of abuse and mistreatment at the hands of various strangers. It felt good to be trusted, even – perhaps especially – by an animal.
Suddenly, without warning, she popped up out of my lap and moved across the room to a safe spot behind her mama’s feet. Her mama (of the two legged variety) and I had been engaged in deep conversation and the move brought me out of my head and into the moment. I immediately began a narrative in my mind; trying to explain why I had suddenly been rejected by my new friend. Had I rubbed a bad nerve? Was I too focused on the conversation and not on her? Had I said something that triggered a memory that made her feel unsafe?
As that narrative began to take shape, I heard these words from the across the way,
“Did that garbage truck scare you?”
Now even more aware of my surrounding environment, I heard the garbage truck picking up a dumpster outside the window. Within a few moments the truck and completed its task and moved on. My furry little friend, feeling safe again, came back to her spot next to me on the couch as if nothing had happened.
In the week since then, I have become very aware of the number of times I use one single variable to create an entire narrative about my life. I had felt a deep sense of rejection when the dog walked away from me, all based on an unchecked belief that her leaving was my fault, a result of my actions, and intended to send me a message: you are no longer good enough for me. The truth, the wider reality, was only seen when I allowed more variables into the picture.
Life is too short for assumptions, specifically those that sell ourselves short of the peace and joy we desire.
I think this morning I might even listen to some music with a “K”. Kansas, perhaps?
Carry on, my wayward son. Carry on.
Postscript: As I wrote the initial draft of this post, I intentionally masked the actual setting where I met the dog. On rereading it, I thought there might be value in disclosing the fact that she is a therapy dog and her “mama” my therapist (see also “counselor”). In my ongoing journey to reconnect with emotions and embrace life more fully (see also the previous 200+ blog posts), the work that is done in therapy is invaluable to me.
Please don’t ever struggle alone against all that life throws at you. Our minds are complex and getting some help sorting them out is not weak, it’s wise. If you need help finding a good therapist near you, send me a message. I would be honored to walk through that search with you.
And on another note, the dog in the picture is not the dog from the story. That’s me and Chief, my parent’s dog, about a year and a half ago.
That event was my first experience with an animal in therapy. It won’t be my last.