Boomer: Big Dog On Campus

 

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She made the students look up from their phones and smile at her.

I’d be walking the South Hall Mall and hear an ear-deafening screech from a student, far off in the distance, who had spied her. “Cor-geeeeee!!!!”

Students would mob her like a celebrity. And, like the complete diva she was, she’d sit for their pets dutifully, even stoically, but be relieved when it was over and she could continue her walk.

During many long slogs up Cardiac, zooming cars, with students dangling out the windows, would go by yelling, “I love your dog!!”

She was sparkly. She trotted along briskly, looking happy. People always said it: “She looks so happy!  As if happiness was something very rare to see.

Once, a student wearing pajama bottoms, flops, and a baggy hoodie crouched down and petted her for an unusually long time. When he stood up, he said, “I’ve been struggling. I needed to pet an animal today. Thank you.”

This is the power of a dog. They’re real, non-judgmental, and adoring. When we’re around them we feel more relaxed because we feel accepted unconditionally. And loved unconditionally, despite, and maybe even because of, our character flaws and neuroses.

G wants to get a rescue dog now, and I do too in a lot of ways. But I wonder if I walked a mixed breed dog around town, I’d  get the kind of attention that Boomer drew just because she was that breed, with its distinctive short legs, long body and big ears.

When you have a distinctive breed of dog, people remark on it, ask you about it if they’ve never seen one before.

People come up and talk to you who ordinarily might not. They might be secret fans of the breed. They might have had one themselves at one point, and will want you to know about it, as a point of connection with you: We, the corgi lovers.

So, I don’t know what to do about the next dog. There was something really fun about having a corgi. She elevated my social status. Somehow Boomer made me special because I walked her.

Boomer made me visible.

Now when I walk on campus for exercise, nobody looks up from their phones. Nobody makes eye contact. Nobody says hello. Or just smiles.

But when I had Boomer, they’d shoot her a little smile, or ask to pet her, and I could pretend, just for a moment that I, too, was included in that exchange. That I was seen.

RIP Boomer. You were magic.  

Reconciliation after a long estrangement

One of the things on my “Things I Love” list are movies that end with reconciliations after long estrangements.

I feel like I am living one of those movies now. I have been holding a grudge towards a person in my town for a long time, and only recently, thanks in part to Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and to the power of metta meditation, and to this person’s generosity of spirit, have I been able to soften my heart and just let all the armoring and hate in my heart go.

Tonight I had such a deeply satisfying conversation with my old “grudge buddy” that all vestiges of this old hurt is now totally gone.

It feels good.

I probably should say more about this, go into it more deeply and philosophically, and maybe I will at some later date, but tonight it is late and I am tired and just need to sleep.

Namaste, friends.

A Sunday Brunch Meditation

Over gluten-free waffles, green juice and coffee Misty, Vince and I talked about role models, and how if it weren’t for our friends’ families, we would never have imagined that parents could be nice to one another, and to their children.

So if you have a half-way decent family situation, you should open your home to your children’s friends. You should let them see how you operate.

If I had not seen my friends’ parents, I would have never believed that it was possible to live in a calm, sane, rational, loving  environment, and I learned this morning that I’m not the only one.

Misty, too, studied the families of her friends, just like I did.

Vince said that the people he hangs around with now  are astounded that he cooks.

He is baffled by this.

I said, “Nobody cooks anymore, let alone buff, single, 32 year-old personal trainers. So that’s why you need to continue to invite people over for waffles.”

(A lame bid to be asked over for waffles again.)

We are all watching each other. That’s why we read blogs, and FaceBook and are entranced by “Reality TV.” I used to love to walk around my neighborhood at night and look into the lit homes that hadn’t closed their curtains yet.

I saw Mr. Ross reading the newspaper. (Nobody read in my house.)

I heard Mrs. Lynn crashing around in her kitchen. (I grew up eating TV dinners.)

My friend Glenn had to come home and practice the piano for an hour every day before he was allowed to go out and shoot baskets in the driveway. (I didn’t take lessons of any kind.)

Joanne Harrigan had a strict curfew on weekends. (My mother always got home way after me on weekends no matter how late I stayed out.)

I took a lot of comfort from these families.

I wanted my friends’ lives.

Everything I learned about being responsible and caring and intellectual, I learned from the parents of my friends.

So if you are sane, and loving, and rational, invite a kid over for waffles. It could change everything.

Week 1 Gratitudes

Time for some appreciation and gratitude.

This is the end of  Week 1 of my new intention to write every day, Monday through Friday, on The Project.

First, I appreciate G. For everything, but especially for understanding why I am squirreled up in my room so much, and for making the elixir (we are doing a liver and gall bladder cleanse that involves juicing limes and mixing that lime juice with olive oil and chugging it.) And for making dinner, and for asking, with love, how it’s going each evening, and listening to my blather.

Next, Jennifer, my friend and Naturopath who understands that my eczemic ears are one thing, but that it’s actually my inability to finish stuff that’s the real itch.

And to Dani Shapiro for writing Still Writing which I am finding incredibly supportive and inspiring at the moment. I am so grateful to writers who write about their process: Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Virginia Woolf, to name a few. Thank god for them. For without them I wouldn’t be able to brazen this out. I’d feel too weird, too lonely, too guilty. They write stories and novels, yes, but they also take time to write about what it’s like to wake up in the morning and embark upon the endless sea, and have to build your boat, too.

Those are the people who supported me through Week 1. A deep bow of gratitude to all of them.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I have given myself the weekends off. Time to focus on other things.

Feeling the Tribe

I still don’t live with my tribe.

And although this is hard for me, lately I’ve heard a lot of people from many different places say the exact same thing. Even people who live in notoriously cool places.

I heard a podcast this week in which a pretty famous writer said that even thought he lives in Austin, TX, which is a pretty  artsy place, most of the people he feels closest to live elsewhere, and he connects with them online.

It seems obvious that a yoga teacher living in Mansfield, PA, population 3600, might not be living with her tribe, but a writer in Austin,?

So maybe I shouldn’t think it’s so depressing to be living in a place with no grocery store, or art, or activism, or people with any obsessive passions whatsoever.

Maybe I just need to “Suck it up, Sally” and get used to ordering my organic food online (or drive to another state to get it) and get my art fix from reading about it on the internet, and console myself with written accounts of people living with passionate intensity.

Maybe this is what most people do. Maybe this is just normal and I should quit whining, thinking I am the only one.

Today I went to Ithaca. The last time I was there was in January for my Winterlude.  Ithaca is where I feel a strong tribal affiliation. The people are engaged and bright and interesting, because most of them are invested in some kind of project. And when I have even the briefest of conversations with anyone, and they sketch out their lives for me,  it always makes me feel amped and inspired.

But my biggest inspiration in Ithaca is Zee.

Today she gave a benefit reading at the Tompkins County Public Library, and since Sandy so generously subbed for me, I was able to attend.  The reading was stellar, but what was even better was the vibe of love for Zee in that room. She has built a particular tribe around writing, and the love of books, and reading, and creativity.

About 50 of us smiled and laughed as she told stories  (half fictional/half autobiographical) of a spunky, sassy girl negotiating the confusing, and often absurd world of family and friends.

When it was finished we gave her a standing ovation. The whole day warmed my heart. And the icing on the cake was that it was even a warm day: in the 60s and sunny!

It was so sweet, and so comforting to walk the .streets of Ithaca and feel a part of Zee’s tribe.

Thinking back on Elizabeth Gilbert’s post yesterday, I want to remember that even though some tribes are toxic and you have to abandon them, the power of true and deep belonging is as rare as it is transformative. And I felt that spark of transformation today.

Thanks, Zee.

Thanks, Ithaca.

Namaste.

 

 

 

The Way I Wish To Be Seen

Today after yoga was over and most people had gone, Vince, my trainer, stopped by to say hi and to give me a letter. As it turned out I had a card for him, too. It had the Rilke quote on it about living the questions.

He sat down in the Poang chair and read his card, which didn’t take long because, what I am going to add to Rilke, right?

But his letter took me a while to read. It was on a piece of notebook paper, ripped out. It was a gratitude/reflection letter in which he expressed how much he values our friendship. It was eloquent, as well as heart-felt.

I don’t think we can ever know how we show up to other people. I don’t think we can see ourselves as others see us, as much as we would like to.

“Do you SEE yourself??!!

I think I have some idea how I appear to others, I think I know what my personality is like, but then I get a letter like this, and I think: Oh, this is very different from how I feel inside and how I think I present in the world. It is extremely flattering though, and I wish I could identify more with the person he is describing in this letter, because these are very admirable qualities, indeed.

Or, alternately, I do recognize a piece of my personality in what they are praising, but I don’t see it through their particular lens.

They see me as finished, accomplished in the things they are admiring—things like my self-discipline, or my serenity, or my ability to pay attention, yet, in truth, I am always working to cultivate these attributes.

For example, Vince said that he admires how I resource myself before I meet with people. He was referring to my need to allow time between appointments to eat.

On Tuesdays I have a 1 o’clock appointment and our session doesn’t  usually finish up until a little after noon. I am sensitive to the time on Tuesdays because I really do need to go home and eat before I meet my 1 o’clock client. If I don’t, I can’t be fully present for him because I am distracted by hunger.

The other thing he said about me is that I am quiet. This is something I continue to struggle with.  I don’t think I am quiet at all! But I am working on it. In particular, I am working on being more comfortable with silence, and letting  big gaps of silence grow in a conversation without immediately trying to fill them. I am trying to be patient with the  awkwardness of long conversational lulls.

We drove over to the Health food store in Wellsboro together last week, and since I really didn’t have anything to say, I just drove for quite a while.  He looked out the window and hummed along to the music.

Eventually conversation resumed, and when it did, I enjoyed it even more, since there had been that quiet gap before.

I do a lot of self-work: reading, meditating, taking notes, writing, doing yoga, staying conscious in relationships, and I must say it is gratifying when someone makes a remark that leads me to believe I might be making some progress.

And this is what happened today. Someone saw me the way I wish to be seen. It felt both exhilarating and humbling.

Namaste.

The Importance of Conversation and Connection

I am a shitty friend. I tend to neglect friendships by not keeping up, or arranging lunches or emailing regularly.

I don’t know why I do this, but I do.

When I was a kid, and people would compliment my mother on how good her children were, her stock response was, “They thrive on neglect.”

I don’t know about the “thrive” part, but she was certainly honest about the neglect.

I am always amazed and deeply grateful that the people in my life who I consider friends, who I value as friends, who nourish me and comfort me and make me laugh, who touch my heart and enrich my life beyond measure still want to talk to me, and see me, and seek me out, and hang with me even though I neglect them.

I want to tell them I’m sorry. I want to repent my shitty friend ways. I want them to know how much I appreciate their generosity in the face of my stinginess. I want them to believe that I love them even though lots of times they don’t really feel it due to the way I act, or don’t act, in feeding the friendship.

I am grateful that they don’t die as friends a result of my neglect.

I just spent four and a half hours talking to a woman who only recently has become a friend. We met for dinner at the local brewpub at 6 pm and didn’t stop talking until 10:30 and we could have gone on way longer than that but I had to get home and post this blog before the clock struck midnight in order to preserve my streak.

The  conversation we had was a meditation, a sacrament. I felt heard and I heard. I felt seen and I saw. I felt understood and I understood in return. The food came, the food was taken away. The waitress brought the check and it was ignored. The intensity of the conversational energy was so intense that, even though I saw people I knew, they didn’t approach to say hello. (One of them slipped me a note on his way to the bathroom to say “hi,” that’s how intense the conversational vortex was.)

Towards the end of the night when the kitchen was closed, and the staff was cleaning up, and there were just a few people left, the intensity subsided enough that a waitress who I love dared to venture over timidly, and then my trainer paid a visit, but that happened way later. In the heaviest of the conversational force-field, there was no restaurant, no other people. There was just dialogue.

Sometimes I feel lonely in this town. Who am I kidding? MOST of the time I feel lonely and alienated here. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: this is not my tribe.

And while it is true that the dominant and ruling tribe here does not align with my values or my politics, there ARE people with whom I share a worldview and who I feel deeply connected to. These people save me. They save my sanity. They mitigate my loneliness. I would miss them if they moved and I couldn’t sit and have dinner with them and just talk for hours.

If they neglected me, I would not thrive.

I would wither.

Namaste, dear ones.