I’m a very good girl. A people pleaser. A rule follower.
I always remember to say “please” and “thank you.” I clean up after myself and try not to impose on others. I always bring a hostess gift to a party.
Dogs Don’t Come With Instruction Books
When I adopted my first dogs, Agatha and Christie, I floundered as I tried to figure out a new set of “rules” that would work with these furry aliens who lived with me. I read books. I bought training aids.
But somewhere along the line, I figured out that I was in a relationship. Just learning the rules wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t fit “Tab B into Slot A” and get perfect dogs.
Because while dogs form the longest and closest partnership between humans and other animals, they are also forces of nature.
Most of the time they use their amazing resilience and adaptability to fit into our world. But, at the same time, they inhabit a world all their own. A world of scent. A world of body language. A world of physicality.
To have a relationship with my dog, I have to accept this different world even if I don’t always understand it. And I have to bow to it because I can’t change it. (If you’ve ever walked a Beagle, you know what it means to humble yourself before the mighty lure of a good scent. And you know you won’t be going anywhere until that scent is good and sniffed.)
Following Too Many Rules for Enlightenment Keeps You From Getting There
I suspect that to become a whole person, a generous person with a wide perspective, I need to be thrown into situations where I can’t just figure out the rules and obey them.
In that sense, dogs might be the training wheels to enlightenment. They aren’t subject to rules as I know them but they meet me more than half way.
Learning to Travel with the Wind
That’s not the case with the wind.
I can learn some rules that will help me as a sailor, that help me to understand how to respond to the wind. But I can’t learn any rules that will change the wind. Nothing in my control ever changes the wind.
Last week, we decided to sail to Kingston, Ontario to spend an evening. The wind decided differently. So, although we got to Kingston, it was by sail and motor. There was not enough wind to get us there before nightfall without the aid of an engine.
We anchored in a small bay off an island one night. All the “rules” say that when you anchor a boat, the bow will always point into the wind. Weather forecasts told us the wind would be coming from the South which meant our bow would be facing directly into shore. Except we kept getting puffs of wind and waves from the West and ended up parallel to the shore over and over again.
And although it can be frustrating when things don’t work as you planned, there’s not a d*mn thing you can do about it. That’s terribly freeing.
Rule followers, people pleasers, are always trying to control something. We figure that if we do the right things people will like us or we’ll avoid conflict or whatever.
But not everything is under our control. Dogs aren’t, not really. And neither are the wind or the waves.
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