another chance

graffiti on a concrete, outdoor staircase: at the front of each step is painted the word Try, so it rises up as you climb: Try, Try, Try, Try, Try...This isn’t like that. This might have similar features as that, might look familiar, might hold its head about the same way, but it’s different. It’s right now. It’s new.

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Good morning — this is a new-schedule day. Up for morning pages, then short dog walk, now blog, then feed dog, then get ready for work: all by 7:15 am. I am ready and not ready to go.

This is supposed to be serious blog time: but there’s a puppy at my feet, pulling at a rope bone, cuddling it with both paws, serious, yes. She is learning about the sliding glass door. Sometimes it’s open, sometimes the glass is in her way, sometimes the screen door; she knows this because either she can move right through the doorway or something bonks her head. When you’re teaching a puppy about new things, it’s not good to laugh. Yesterday, when she wanted to go out on the deck with hew new Kong, she approached the door gingerly, stopped, waited, then put one paw out in front of her, scooping at the air, looking to make sure the way was clear. So smart.

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I am thinking a lot about second and third chances, about doing it over and over.

Do you know this book: Another Chance to Get It Right, by Andrew Vachss?

I’ve written a lot, mostly in my journals, and a little bit here on the blog, about my first dog, Katja. I got her as a young teenager, in jr high, I think, a puppy we rescued from outside the pound in Omaha; we were there to find a cat for my sister. The people outside the pound had their puppies in a box, didn’t want to take them inside and release them to the pound, which only gave the animals about a week to be adopted before they were put down. The people wanted their puppies to go home with someone. The dogs were small and black, lab-husky mixes. She lept up to me and I fell desperately in love with her. She was the dog I had hoped for for my whole life. We came home with both a kitten and puppy that day. I can’t write much about Katja right now — I cry too much. She was my closest companion during the years at the house in Omaha, with my mother’s second husband; he had to shut her out of the room a lot, because she was protective of me She died when I was a sophomore in college. I’ll write the story someday.

The second dog I lived with was my ex’s, Tor — he was still young when I moved in with her, just a few years after my own dog had died, and I was still aching and not ready to let a dog back into my heart yet. He and I had a very hard time, maybe a little jealous of each other, maybe a lot. He looked like my first dog, and then didn’t at all, too. But he was generous, like her, and loving, gentle, loud, and kept on wanting to be with me, coming to me, even when I was mean, frustrated, snappish, overwhelmed, impatient, not a good dog mom. We found our way, and loved each other.

That’s the most beautiful and sometimes the hardest thing for me about dogs: how they love me anyway, even when I am most certain that I don’t deserve it. Dogs don’t understand that I don’t deserve it. They understand differently. This is part of what aches about allowing a new pup into my life: she will love me anyway. And I get another chance to show up all the way into that love, to meet it and respect it and be kind and gentle and patient and strong. I am not the same person I was as a teenager, trying to train a dog with no skills or modeling. And yet, I am the same person: terribly in love with dogs, wanting to do right by this one. And maybe I can do right by this one.

And so I’m thinking about regrets, about feeling the guilt and moving forward anyway, about trying again as self care, about moving through the self-recrimination, the self-blame, -shame, and-guilt, and trying again. That’s resilience, I think.

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If you’re working with a character, do they have something that they feel regret about, and want to try and do over? What would that look like? If that’s true for you, and you want to take 10 or 20 minutes today, you might write a little bit of the old story, how it feels in your body now, where you hold it, and what the do-over might look like: not about going back in time, but doing something else now. What about giving yourself, your character giving themselves, that chance?

Thanks thanks thanks.

6 responses to “another chance

  1. Pingback: on (not) getting messy « writing ourselves whole