My 10-month-old puppy Solo is pure pup: energetic, impish, always looking to chew something he’s not meant to. He has a heaping basket full of toys that are all his, just waiting for him to romp around with, chew & chase. But he’s far more interested in eating toilet paper, gnawing on my new kitchen chairs and claiming baby toys as his own. Several weeks ago, much to my horror, he barfed up an entire pair of my underwear he must’ve eaten while I was showering. His taste buds are far from discriminating – I have to watch him like I would a toddler, because he’s eaten everything from a guest’s headbands to the brick on the fireplace.
Solo – even in all of his naughtiness – is a remarkable being. He rests his head atop my big belly, his head bobbing up and down when my daughter does her aquatic gymnastics within, and looks up at me with love in his eyes. He drapes his body across my belly, sighing softly with inner peace when he feels her moving. He follows me everywhere – my 4 legged shadow. He kisses my tears away, gets my lazy butt off the couch for twice-daily walks and makes me giggle every day. Watching him discover snow for the first time a few weeks ago was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
Pets are just like anyone else we have a relationship with – they teach us lessons, have soul agreements with us, and bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in us. When I welcomed Solo in to my life shortly after my dog Chester died, I knew my commitment to him was ’til death do us part. That’s a fact. A couple of weeks ago though, I thought that death was going to come prematurely for one of us, and I wasn’t sure which one of us it was. Told you – I have a flair for drama.
The Ugly Me
Moments after Solo had made me laugh a genuine belly laugh while watching his puppy antics in the newly laid snow, I decided that 15 minutes in the freezing cold at 5:30 in the morning was enough. I called for him to come back into the house with me. Defiantly, he ignored me. I called him once more. Again, my calling fell upon deaf ears. I did my usual “trick” to see if Solo could hear me and I dropped the big one: “Solo, come get your treat!“ His ears went back in recognition, but not even a treat was alluring enough to bring him in from the fun fluffy white stuff. I began to walk toward Solo to get him…and that’s when he took off. For the first time ever, my 4-legged shadow ran away from me.
It ain’t over ’til the fat lady runs
I quickened my pace to catch up with him. I wasn’t worried about him getting hit by a car at that hour in the morning, but I was freezing at this point. Not even my extra layer of pregnancy fat could keep me warm. He ran further, finding a parked car to hide under. He hunkered down there, playing in the snow while ignoring me. It took me damn near 5 minutes to coax him out, at which point I hastily picked him up, brought him into the house and bellowed, “GO LAY DOWN!” loud enough to wake the neighbors. I’m not a yeller. Ever. A newly terrified Solo ran to his bed to lay down while I ran to my computer to send a venting email to my best friend as steam escaped my ears – the only other person in my world who I knew was awake at that ungodly hour.
Revenge of the Puppy
Whilst I was typing my email, Solo was getting his revenge for me bringing him in from his Winter Wonderland – he was pooping on the rug in the bedroom in 3 separate piles. When I entered that room to discover his “gift” to me, I began to sob. It was just too much for this hormonal, exhausted pregnant woman to handle at 5:30 in the morning. I hollered at him some more, my face was probably almost purple from rage. That scared him enough to make him go lay in his crate.
I had to go to work 3 hours later and spent the rest of the day feeling horribly guilty for losing my temper on a puppy. I kept thinking:
“That just wasn’t me this morning.”
“I never do that.”
“It’s his fault he brought out the ugly in me.”
The purpose of my “confession” isn’t to seek outside forgiveness. It isn’t to hear a choir of others say, “I lose my temper on my dog sometimes, too!” Although that certainly wouldn’t hurt. It’s something more pressing – the lesson behind the event.
It’s about my own darkness. No matter how much I want to, I can’t pretend I don’t have not-so-nice qualities in me. Let’s face it: there is no positive without a negative. No beginning without an end. No yin without a yang. You can be good and ‘bad’. In fact, you are. We all are.
The Real Me
Although I’d love to believe that wasn’t “the real me” who lost it on Solo, it was. I love animals, children and (a lot of, but surely not all) people. I like to see myself as a good person, just as most of us do.
The truth is, everything we do is the real us. When someone shows a side of themselves you haven’t seen, it’s not that it wasn’t the REAL them. It’s just that we haven’t seen this side of them yet. Maybe they haven’t either. Believe it. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t try to fool others – everything you do is the “real” you.
Life Is In Shades Of Gray
Tibetan monks say, “Embrace your demons.”
In other words, you really need to sit with who you are – all of you – including the parts that you’d rather not look at. In order to be soulful and live a mindful life, you need to own up to all of you, even the ‘ugly’ parts.
Have you ever met someone who seemed totally fake because she was “on” and smiling all the time? It’s hard to trust someone who pretends to have it all and not have a single thing wrong with them, isn’t it? We know better, deep down inside. So why would you lie to yourself and say you don’t have a shadow side, too?
Us vs. Them
Ever had the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality? It’s easy to have:
I would never do that.
They’re so stupid/mean/cruel/unbelievable.
It’s me against the world. Everyone else is awful and the world has lost its damn mind and I’m the only sane one left.
Embracing the demons
Maybe if we begin to acknowledge all parts of us, we can practice compassion for the others – the “them” – more often. The more honest we are with ourselves about who we are in totality, the richer our lives will become. When we see that all of us can lose it sometimes, that all of us can do something ‘bad’, then we begin to have compassion for those who make mistakes. Forgiveness becomes as easy as having an extra scoop of ice cream. Sometimes.
Maybe with this acknowledgment of embracing our whole selves, we can choose compassion over and over again. We don’t heal and grow in a vacuüm, we grow, learn and heal in relationship and community. And to do that growing and learning, we need to accept all parts of everyone: ourselves and the ‘others’, too.
Me and Solo
Even though Solo has seen the ugly in me, he still loves me. Just as a true friend would. And don’t you love your true friends for all parts of them, not just the good parts? Love always wins. Find the courage and forgiveness in your heart to accept people for who they are – all parts. Be honest with yourself and others about who you are – even the things you deem ‘ugly’. Give it a try and see how much richer your life becomes, how strengthened your relationships become. I dare you.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think there is strength in vulnerability? Are you honest with yourself and others about all parts of you? How does that enrich your life?
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