Reflections on Life's Journeys & Joys, Books & Other Blessings

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Doggie Desire

I had a dream last night about a dog—just a nice vignette of me playing with what in the dream was my pet dog—except when she turned into a chicken, though I treasured her even then. 

Transmogrification aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about dogs recently.  I want one very much, but currently am living in an apartment whose landlord forbids pets.  I’ve reached out to try and change his mind but there’s been no response. 

My last dog, Gavin, was a sweet mutt—perhaps part Cataloula leopard dog and part Corgyi--I had for a year or so before having to give him back to the rescue league where I got him.  He was just too much for me, a working dog, which I didn’t know when I rescued him, and in insatiable need of attention and especially activity.  Five hundred dollars of training didn’t do the trick, nor did the vigorous extra walking he got from kind neighbors who loved him as much as I did but ultimately didn’t think they could take him on full time, either.  He was a love, whose nightly habit was to get in bed and walk all over me on the comforter kissing me before bouncing back off the bed to sleep on the floor at my side.  Yes, I know this could be interpreted as his thinking he was the alpha, but I had done my best to prove otherwise, honestly I had.

Before Gavin, there was the best, sweetest dog in the world, Molly, a Yellow Lab who my son and I had for eight wonderful years. She was eight years old when we got her from a close friend of mine who was going to live overseas.  Giving us both much joy and unlike her successor causing no damage to our home, she was my constant companion as I worked from home all day and she nursed my son through his parents’ divorce.  Molly passed at 16 in my arms with my friend (who I jokingly refer to as her birth mom) and my mother at my side as I read a Navajo poem over her in the sunny front hall of my home as the vet put her to sleep, my son having come home from school at lunchtime to say goodbye to his beloved pet.

Since Gavin, for a long time I was afraid to get another dog, afraid I might have another adoption failure.  But I love dogs and have had one since I was a child, so inevitably the desire to rescue again grew and grew.  There was also that embarrassing word we don’t like to talk about in public—loneliness. A dog is a pretty terrific cure for lack of companionship in one’s home and there is nothing like their unconditional love.  I moved a few years ago to an apartment building where no neighbors happen to have dogs, either, so I can’t get my doggie love outside my door as I used to be able to in my old townhouse by the lake. 

I bared my soul in an email to my landlord about my loneliness and how a dog would greatly improve my quality of life.  I promised I wouldn’t get a puppy (thus reducing the likelihood of youthful exuberance leading to damage) but rather at least a three- or four-year old, and that I’d get a small dog and was willing to pay a pet deposit.   I’m pretty surprised I haven’t gotten some kind of a response yet, even after reaching out again.  So I wait with unfulfilled doggie desire, for a wet nose to nuzzle me, for soulful eyes to watch my every move, for slurpy doggie kisses and a canine to pet and walk and feed to share my love back.  Dogs really are a girl’s best friend and I hope I can have one again soon.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014


“As I get older I try to love the uncertainties more than I do the certainties.” 

(Sue Monk Kidd) 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Adventures in Online Dating: A Rant

I’ve recently reentered the world of online dating (after about a 10 year absence), and having not made it past the initial message stage, am again skeptical this will work for me.  Am I too fussy? Maybe.  Ten years ago I wasn’t getting any messages, now I’m getting lots but they’re not “quality” ones. 

First of all, many of the guys don’t even bother to write a profile of themselves but just put “send a message” in that space.  Who am I sending a message to and why would I do so just on the basis of a photo (if indeed they’ve included that)? Besides the missing profile, all the info you get is a half dozen questions (do you like to cook? read? go to theater?), only maybe answered, which while interesting do not constitute a way to learn about someone’s character or personality. 

Most of the messages I’ve gotten from remotely interesting men are just that—remote.  Iowa, California, Michigan, Indiana. My profile says I specifically am looking for someone in my area. They often urge me not to be put off by the long distance, that they’ll move for love, but I just can’t see putting the effort in on these. I have a friend who found a true love online, but he’s several states away so they’ve decided to keep an open relationship, and she’s still dating online to find more geographically desirable partners. 

She, some 10 years younger than I, is having a whole different experience online dating than I am, by the way.  Her latest message came from a 19-year old who complimented her on not looking as old as she is.  She’s getting guys with professions like exotic dancer and librarian (the latter’s the one I was jealous of, though she sure enjoyed the former, too), while I’m getting, well, guys with professions like dump truck driver.  Fortunately said driver was also out of state so I could rationalize I wasn’t engaging with him because of that.  One dating site also thought I’d be a good match for a cross dresser; but I got no message from him, sparing me thinking of a response.   

Based on my non-online dating experience in the years since I’ve divorced, I’m also looking for a man who doesn’t have young children, especially if they live with him. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids.  But children should be the number one priority of a single dad and if they’re not, I can’t respect him.  And if they are, he doesn’t have enough time and space in his life for me or is looking for a second mommy for them, and I’m done with that period in my life.  So bring on the men with 20+ year olds making their way in the world, or older kids who’ve made them a grandparent, but I’m gun shy on dads with younger children.

I’m also not interested in guys whose profiles are full of spelling and grammar errors. (E.g., they “do not take things for granite”…)  I’m looking for someone who’s my intellectual equal, and his being articulate is a turn-on.  Plus I think half of those butchered entries aren’t because the guys can’t really spell or write but because they’re too lazy to do anything but throw down a stream of consciousness rant without going back and, oh, I don’t know, putting the apostrophes in contractions.

To be fair, if I were a certain kind of woman I’d be a better match for some guys the site has offered up as matches.  “Outdoorsy” is the key word, and the tell tale signs are photos hiking cross country, white water rafting, rock climbing, and other nature-based pursuits.  Sorry, but my idea of camping is staying at a nice motel and while I enjoy walking, it’s not with a backpack across rocky terrain.  Guys seem to be able to tell this from my profile so none have sent me messages yet asking me to go paragliding. 

What does this leave me with?  I want a compassionate, intelligent, articulate man with a good sense of humor, and good chemistry.  I’m not asking too much, am I?  This online dating may still not be for me, but I’ll keep trying for at least a while.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Today's Gem of Grace in the Gray Areas

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.”

             David Whyte (from the poem Sweet Darkness)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good Enough

There’s a great big old gray area between knowing it to be true that right here, right now, right as you are, you are enough, and the inner yearning to be better, to be more content, to connect more with others, to give more, to connect more with the divine. 

There is being enough vs. being more.  Yearning to get to that place in our hearts where our interior and exterior lives align.  Yearning to be a better person.  Yearning to find your right work.  Yearning to find a partner in life, a soul mate.  Yearning to receive more love and give more love.

I am in my heart someone who knows I am good enough.  If you are very lucky, you have family, a very good friend, a mate, a coach, a therapist who has taught you that you are good enough. You don’t have to wait to be enough ‘til you are thinner, ‘til you volunteer more, ‘til you spend more quality time with children or spouse or friends, ‘til you lose all your fear.  You don’t have to wait to be enough to have a better job, to have a boyfriend, to have a bigger apartment.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t want more or better?  Well, no.  We have to live in that gray area.  We have to prioritize what’s really important. At either end of the spectrum we are enough, and while we sort out how to navigate the gray area of want and betterment in the middle we are enough, too.  This flies in the face of Buddhist teachings that any striving (with the possible exception of being a better meditator) is inherently wrong or foolish, but this is a case of a black and white approach I just don’t buy into. 

I think it flies in the face of human nature to be 100% content all the time; there’s just too much going on out there in the world, too much change, always room for improvement, particularly in our relationships with our fellow human beings, whether close or strangers.  And that’s fine, as long as we don’t let that gap between who we are now and what we might be better at define us, and remember that with or without being better, we are worthwhile human beings, parents, children—we are enough.  We need to love ourselves now, not later.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Feeding Hope

For all of us
May we not be separated.
            Margaret J. Wheatley, Turning to One Another:
Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately--trying to maintain it in myself, trying to share it with others.  I have a lot of friends and family going through a lot of bad stuff lately, health-wise, job-wise, family-wise. A lot of loss. And then there’s the situation in the world, such suffering.  I’ve decided that in the face of worry, uncertainty, rapid change, impatience. and anxiety, in the face of war and hunger and illness and injustice, we have to feed ourselves hope.  The media won’t do it for us.  We have to read uplifting stories; we have to be raised by the beauty of music and art, marvel at the timeless mysteries of nature. We need to come together in community, in our churches, temples, and mosques around a sermon, or as neighbors around a block party barbecue or a book club pick, as volunteers to help others less fortunate, as women in a living room support group.  We must create and nurture hope. 

In their book Putting Hope to Work, Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry define hope as “an orientation to a positive future that engages our heads, hearts and hands.”  Hope, then, must move us, must change our minds, must spur us to action.  We need to live out of faith in, not fear of, one another. It’s why in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, we can’t throw up our hands, can’t become so cynical we cease to strive for change or turn against one another.  It’s why we each have to do what works for us to look forward to getting up every day, whether it’s meditation or medication or massage or a book of affirmations or a religious text. 

It’s why some of us go to house concerts to listen to folk music (which always reminds me of its noble past in change movements), it’s why we become involved in political campaigns, it’s why we recycle and switch to non-toxic cleaning products, it’s why we sponsor friends and family in walks for a cure. It’s why we donate money when a natural disaster occurs halfway around the world or a few states away, it’s why we donate blood now and organs when we die, it’s why we look forward to being grandparents. 

It is also critically important that we instill hope and faith in our children, whether they are first graders learning about global warming or college students facing the first election in which they can vote.  Maybe, just maybe, they hold the keys to solving some of our worst problems.  But first, we must give them hope.  Jane Goodall is just one of many people doing that, effecting change with a program called Roots & Shoots. It stresses that one person can make a difference and offers youth hands-on opportunities to demonstrate care and concern for the environment, animals, and the local community, as well as linking them nationwide and internationally with other like-minded youth.

Inspiration for hope is all around us in past and present.  I was inspired by Nelson Mandela and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa after apartheid.  I find hope in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s consistent message of compassion and peace.  And like many of us, I have a well of hope in reserve from how I was raised, in my case with a mother who would regularly rush injured birds to the wildlife sanctuary and unquestioningly help friends or strangers in need.

There is also hope to be found in media, though sometimes one has to look hard.  The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley does research into the roots of human happiness and altruism, and explains how to turn that information into action. The Daily GOOD e-newsletter from greets me with hopeful news every day in my inbox. And I was filled with hope by Bill Clinton’s book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World ( by giving money, time, things and skills, even in what we consider small measure, and also gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings). 

We need to talk to one another about things that matter to us. We need to listen deeply to our friends but also to others we don’t call friends. Margaret Wheatley reminds us, “[I]f we meet, and when we listen, we reweave the world into wholeness.  And holiness.” We need to rise in grassroots action because every day around the world we can see that people coming together around something they care about can make a difference, whether it’s bringing down a wall, a repressive government, or a company acting in flagrant disregard of people and the environment.

We must turn toward all that can scare, anger, and render us impotent, and we must stare it down with love and compassion and community.  We must envelop it with hope. 

The book Putting Hope to Work relates this Native American parable.

"An old Cherokee Indian was teaching his grandchildren about life.  He said to them:

A fight is going on inside me.  It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.  One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, ego, and unfaithfulness.  The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, forgiveness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faithfulness.  This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too. 

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather,

Which wolf will win, grandfather?

The old Cherokee simply replied,

The one you feed."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Perfectly Good Enough Holidays

It’s that time again—time to acknowledge our ambivalent relationships with the holidays, a real mine field of gray areas.  We’re supposed to be merry, and embraced in the bosom of our families, and we’re supposed to make the dreams of those around us come true, and make memories to last a lifetime, and give everyone a seat at the Norman Rockwell table, and if we’re not Martha Stewart then by god she’d better be on hire for the season decorating the house and cooking the Christmas dinner.  Talk about pressure! No wonder many of us are harboring a barely hidden layer of dread below our Ho-Ho-Hos!

I know intellectually that I am not responsible for making the holidays perfect for my son and for my mother, who lives nearby, but darned if I don’t feel that responsibility at some gut level and get sucked in year after year.  I used to feel absolutely pulled in two directions with their visions for how we celebrate (do I cook, do we go out, how far do we go with the decorating, do we have a live tree or an artificial one).  I finally took charge and we developed a rhythm—Thanksgiving I bought the turkey out but cooked the sides homemade, and Christmas we picked a country and made a themed feast (this made it feel more fun for me and no one complained at the Italian baked ziti, antipasti and chicken parmesan, or the chateaubriand and buche de Noel. The hard clench of my insides eased a bit with the advent of having taken control of the holidays, but there was still a lingering sense of dread as they approached.  Sort of a forced march.

Things have changed now with my 25-year old son a burgeoning foodie who serves as head chef, with me very happy to be relegated to sous chef.  My mom helps with chopping veggies or chats in the living room with any other guests we may have and the pressure (from the pressure cooker that was once me) is off.  But there is still this free-floating anxiety that overtakes me at this time of year.  No, it’s not just Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the shorter days and lack of sun can take some of the wind out of my sails.  I’ve attributed it to a sense that my son didn’t feel like it was a real family, just the three of us, or that my mom always mourned the holidays of her married past and more that were meant to be.  But as I had a conversation about this with a close friend, I suddenly wondered, was it just about them or was it about me, too?  Was I feeling like three at the table instead of four didn’t equal a real family, or was I mourning not only the holidays of my married days (or more accurately, my vision of what they could have been) but those of my childhood, to which I attribute retroactively a Norman Rockwell-esque glow?

Whatever the reasons, I’m my own worst enemy, and I know I’m not the only one who falls into the trap of expectations and perfectionism at the holidays.  I need to re-read columns and blogs I’ve written over the years about kicking Martha to the curb, and needing to breathe, and gratitude.  Let’s make a pact to make perfectionism a four-letter word, and understand that expectations are the enemy of a good time.  Let’s accept our families, and ourselves, for who we are, and realize that being together—whether with the families we were born with or ones we’ve created for ourselves—is a gift not to be taken for granted.   That the relentless push of consumerism to do bigger and better with presents and house decorations is corporate America doing its job—but that doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.  And that the impulse for giving this time of year is the one we should be listening to, not the voice of impossible extravagance and the pretense that families—or we ourselves—are perfect.

Letting go, I’m hoping to put a little more jingle in my step this year, and if the halls don’t get decked, well, I still know which list Santa’s got me on.  It’s The Good Enough List, dwelling place of good enough moms and dads, good enough grandparents, and mischievous children, all of whose hearts are in the right place. 

Merry Christmas!