Friday, September 20, 2013

Dogs Never Lie

In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.
~ W.H. Auden

Madison would be freaking out right now if she were here to see this flood.  She would be tempted to get in the creek but she would hesitate; tuned into the water’s raging energy; connected to the heightened turmoil around her.  She was sensitive like that; dialed in before others even knew. 
Like the time she made a big fuss of dragging her blanket and pillow around to my side of the bed so she could sleep next to me.  I noticed the change right away, and I wondered out loud if perhaps I had cancer, or some terrible malaise, because I had heard about dogs that can sense these things.  A few days later I learned that I was pregnant.  She continued to drag her bed around to my side for weeks until one day she didn’t; and, again, I wondered out loud if everything was okay with the baby.  A few days later I miscarried.  She didn’t drag her bed around to my side after that, but she stayed close and loved me through my tears.
One time she charged to the edge of the yard and scared the dickens out of our neighbor.  She could be intimidating with her stocky frame—almost 100 pounds and mostly muscle—but Madison just wanted to say hello.  We knew her approach could use some work; still, she went too far that time and she knew better, so when her daddy scolded her bad choice she put herself in time-out; cowering on the little mat in front of the soaking tub in the master bath, shaking and shivering in her remorse.  She wanted to do right, she really wanted to do right, and it killed her to think that she had disappointed us.

But she could never really disappoint us, not for long anyway.  No matter the infraction, just one look at her cute little mug and soon we were laughing at her heartfelt expressions.  She could be a real drama queen sometimes.  Mostly, we just loved her and cherished every minute we shared. 
Before I came along she was her daddy’s best friend, but she welcomed me with loving paws and big wet kisses.  She even let me paint her toenails in my favorite shades –“Party-in-my-Cabana” pink for the summer and “Fa-La-La-Luscious” for the holidays.  From the way she watched me beautify, I imagined that she secretly wanted to join me in my primping.  And when she walked down the aisle as the honorary ring bearer for our New Year’s Eve nuptials, wearing a big red flower behind her ear, I couldn’t have loved her more if I had given birth to her myself.  I hope she knew that.

When she left her condo in the city for mountain dwelling, we teased that she was living the high life in her new retirement home.  More than bacon and eggs—more than anything—she loved being outdoors, and she moved freely between meditations in the sun, chasing sticks and mindless rambling by the creek.  Madison taught me so much about living, about the joy of routine and unconditional love, about seizing each moment and never being afraid to ask for what you want.   I envied her life.
Sometimes I still hear the tap of her nails on the hardwood floors and I turn to call her name.  Then I remember.  But like the whispering wind that moves the trees and urges the water downstream, we’ll carry her loving spirit in our hearts forever. 
Photos by Lori Kennedy Photography.  (c) 2012 Lori Kennedy.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Bright Side

Promise Yourself . . .

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.  

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. 

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, work only for the best and to expect only the best.  

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others are you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and to press on to the greater achievements of the future. 

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.  

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

~The Optimist Creed, Optimist International

I once quit the Optimist Club because it was too negative!

New to the Gulf Coast of Florida, I had looked for a good civic group to join that would be meaningful, engaging, and helpful in learning about my community while meeting like-minded others.  Hey, I’m an optimist, I thought; what better group to join than the Optimist Club!  Then one day, a few months in, the President of the chapter came up with this “brilliant” idea to increase membership:  we would take turns carrying around a brick until each member brought in at least one new member.  Now I’m sure this doesn’t represent all chapters of this wonderful club, but WOW!  What a heavy load!  I barely knew anyone in town—part of the reason I had joined the group in the first place—and after an unsuccessful attempt to get a waiver from this dismal approach, I quit.

Not entirely surprising because I tend to run from the negative, choosing instead those friends and associations that lift me up and inspire with positivity.  A bit of a dichotomy, really, when I consider the way that I have to approach my work as a lawyer—looking at the contract, deal or business strategy with a critical eye, which allows me to consider all potential outcomes—good and bad—and advise my clients of the consequences of their decisions.  Yet for much of my life, when making personal decisions, I brushed aside anything negative, focusing only on the great and wonderful outcomes that would surely follow my next great step.  This is a poor business plan and a terrible life strategy because when things run amok, as they sometimes do, instead of working out as I envision, I have a tough time adjusting to the reality.

I read somewhere that having an over-abundance of optimism in the “it-won’t-happen-to-me” sort of mindset can be detrimental to our sense of wellbeing, and as harmful to longevity as high blood pressure and cholesterol!  In fact, studies have shown that those who operate with extreme optimism experience more difficulty rebounding from set backs, which I have experienced first hand, because we get stuck on a mental track of “I can’t believe that happened to me!  Why me?”

So a little worry can be helpful when channeled into productive action, like having a Plan B or creating a Will or making peace with getting older while you’re still young, or allowing your thoughts to follow the chain of "what if" while maintaining faith that no matter what happens, you're going to be okay—all great building blocks for our peace of mind; and very different from dwelling in the negative, which we know causes excessive stress, impacts our health and affects our mind and spirit in often undesirable and unintended ways.     

What kind of bricks are you carrying?