Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
Dogs don’t have identity crises
Unless I’m misinterpreting the whimpers in her sleep, Honey doesn’t worry about her identity.
She doesn’t lie awake at night wondering to herself, “If I’m really a Golden Retriever, why don’t I like to swim?” Or ask herself if she should enjoy fetching more than she does.
Not everything about Honey fits the image people have of a Golden Retriever. But she doesn’t care. Honey is who she is.
Gee, I don’t feel old and fat
I didn’t participate in sports in school. My family wasn’t very outdoorsy. I was no one’s idea of an athlete.
In college, I had to be able to run 1 1/2 miles within a certain time to get an “A.” I hated running so much that my friends took it as their mission to keep me company on a run while I whined the entire time.
Until one day I went running on my own. The sky cracked with thunder and lightning. It was dark. And the rain fell in sheets.
I felt better running that night than I ever did with the company of an encouraging friend. Something about the added difficulty made it especially exhilerating.
Over the years, I tried more athletic and outdoorsy activities. I came to enjoy camping and hiking. We bought kayaks and I paddled mine home from the sale on a lake covered with white caps. I’ve enjoyed bicycling and now that I have no car, it is my primary form of transportation.
I’ve swum more than a mile in open water and have considered entering our local triathlon. I used to run every day of the year, rain or shine.
And this year I learned to sail.
I feel like a fit and healthy person. I never get sick.
But then I look in the mirror or see a picture of myself and I wonder where that young, fit person I identify with is hiding. Because the image I see bears no resemblance to the way I feel.
What’s worse? Judging yourself or being judged?
Sometimes I find it hard to do the things I enjoy because I’m afraid of being judged by other people.
When I ran, I used to do it at 5:00 a.m. when the streets were empty. If I could have gotten up at 4:00 a.m., I would have.
I feel bad every time I read another article about how fat people are costing the country millions in lost wages and health care costs. This despite the fact that I never get sick and haven’t spent a penny of health insurance on myself while watching my skinny co-workers get treated for inner ear infections, flu, high blood pressure, and assorted other ailments.
I’m trying to force myself to accept my identity as a fit and healthy person more than the image I see in a picture or mirror. But it’s very, very hard.
Ignoring the image; embracing the identity
I could refuse to ever have my picture taken or remove every mirror from the house. But then I’m just shocked when I sit in a restaurant with mirrored walls or have to use a store dressing room.
So I guess the only answer is to learn to ignore the image I see and embrace the identity I hold in my heart. And keep biking and swimming and kayaking no matter how I look doing it.
Maybe, like Honey, I’m really a Golden Retriever, deep down. Even if I don’t always look like one. Or, as in Honey’s case, don’t always act like one.