Good Monday morning to you! Right now, I’m in my living room, and just to my left, at my feet, is a 5-month old, hound-lab-mutt mix puppy called Sophie. We found her in the animal shelter up in Mendocino County (a great road trip for us, a less fun road trip for her) on Friday and brought her home to live with us on Saturday — today is our second full day together, this new pack of ours, momma & poppa & Sophie Star. She curls up into a small ball when she’s sleeping, then stretches out wide and long, and is a fireball of energy when she’s awake. She’s quick, smart, and has been making this huge change very easy on us.
What do I want to tell you? I’m exhausted from not sleeping, really, for two nights — there’s a new life in the house, one I’m responsible for now. What sounds will she make? How will she take to her crate? Will she let me know if she needs something? This morning she let me get up and do my morning pages before I opened her kennel and we went out for our walk, just as the sun was about to lighten the sky. It’s 6:42 now — I stayed in bed as long as I could, and got up at 4:23, listened to some tail-thumping coming from the crate, but no whining. We are learning how to be with each other, how to flow with each other’s movements, how to accommodate each other’s needs. Yesterday we went on 5 walks together — in the past, I could go days not taking one walk. The past is finished now. (That, of course, is a tautology, but still…)
And this is the other thing I want to talk about: how scared I am. Sometimes it’s terrifying to get what you want. I’ve been wanting this–a dog in my life, this addition to our home–for several years. It’s been an ache, a place of real sorrow: I’ve always been a dog girl, checked out dog books from the elementary school library and fantasized about the dogs I would have. It’s been 7 years since I last lived with a dog, and so bringing a dog into the family was something the Mr. and I have talked about and planned for. Once we decided it was time, we moved fast, maybe too fast, but we moved, and now here we are: transformed. Transformation means change, means what was has to end, means growth. And you know: with growth come pains.
What was a quiet, two-of-us house now has another life filling it, watching herself in the mirrors, watching and following us. She requires lots of attention, attention we used to give to other things. For awhile, we won’t be just running out to the farmer’s market, the movies, a friend’s nighttime party — at least, not together. Will we lose each other in this? What will happen to the family that was? How do I learn everything I need to know? What if I’m not a good dog-mom?
And so I’ve been feeling the fear, let it wash through me, paying attention, talking back to it: Just because you’re scared doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision, Jen. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. Trusting our instincts is hard work, ever, isn’t it? And then here, in the moments where it looks like maybe everything is going wrong, it’s so easy to listen to the counter-instinctual voices, the ‘editors,’ the saboteurs, who don’t want us to trust our instincts: they don’t want us to have to stretch or risk or be scared.
Here’s the metaphor, for me, to take out into the larger work of life practice: just because I’m scared doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Isn’t this an ongoing re-membering during the process of relearning to trust our own instincts and judgments? This is a radical self-care thing: listening, paying attention, choosing, and then walking through the internal fire in the aftermath, the firestorm of questioning, of blame, shame and guilt. Keep listening, paying attention, recalibrating, moving forward — that’s the work.
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Anyway, I guess there are a couple of prompts for today; give yourself 15 or 20 minutes, and write about (for you or your character):
1) The first days at home with an animal you loved (what experiences, what smells, what change?), and/or
2) the fear that can arise after you welcome into your life something you’ve been wanting, waiting and working for — what do those fear voices sound like? What do they say? How do you respond?
Thanks for your ferocity in the face of those self-doubts, and the many ways that ferocity manifests. Thanks for your presence. Thanks for your words.