Let me tell you what I need

I would love to have someone take care of me for a day.

Do we spend our lives yearning for our parents?
Seeking the safe nest?
I’m 28. Is it selfish to want to be taken care of?
Just a little bit, just sometimes?
Just when you’ve had 3 horrible days and you’re alone and you almost cried at work and you finally come home feeling OK but meanwhile your dog has eaten your beautiful black leather shoe?

I’m a grown up now, I have to do this myself.

But
A warm dinner (roasted chicken and green beans?) and a cool glass of milk. Set it out on the table for me.
A warm bed to crawl into. Tuck me in and sit on the edge of my bed, rubbing my back gently.
Hug me so tight
The other stuff will still be there but it can go away because we’re squeezing the whole world.

Is it wrong to need some nurturing? Is it really so bad?
Must I add guilt to the list of inadequacies that’s causing my thirst for coddling in the first place?
Let’s snap the vicious cycle
You take care of me, and let it bring you joy
I promise I will return the favor.

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Opie the foster

It was just another day. Concrete below me, bars surrounding. A cacophony of barks assaulting my ears so hard I had to respond. I waited for the man to arrive. He’d clean my mess out of my cell. The kibble scramble would come next. Yes, food. Finally. There was nothing else to wiggle about. My days were punctuated only by the occasional appearance of the man’s face and the diurnal delivery of dry food.

The day wasn’t a hot day, not yet anyway. I breathed comfortably with just my nose, which felt good. I hadn’t been sleeping well because it felt like soup at night, and I had to keep my mouth open all the time, and mosquitoes and flies pestered my peace. At least it was quieter at night, unless a fox came up and set everyone on edge.

I had been there for 2 months, or forever. I hadn’t met all of the other dogs in the kennel yet, and I probably wouldn’t. They came and went, some back to their owners, some to an unknown place. All I knew is that sometimes a cell went quiet and I stopped hearing a familiar bark in the chorus. It made me uneasy.

I knew a few, though: Marty the beagle, Joe the pitbull mix, Mel the shepherd/lab. Mostly black dogs or furry matted ones. Occasionally there was a crisp boxer or a sharp, clean dachsund, but it wasn’t real because their owners would come back for them in a week after their vacation. Usually.

There was the man. He was friendly and I liked him, I wished he could have spent more time with me. He set down my bowl of food. I inhaled my cup and a half of kibble. The best part of my day, gone in 10 seconds. I sat back and panted, feeling my stomach expand, fresh energy coursing through me. It would have been marvelous to jump out of my cell and gallop the yard; I could see the grass and longed to till it with my paws. Instead I waited to feel sleepy enough to lie down.

Hours passed, and I waited for my next bowl of kibble to arrive. I had to poop, so I pooped. Whatever. I returned to the front door bars where I spent most days pressing myself eagerly, hopefully.

The hot July sun finally started to lower; I knew because the bar shadows got longer. Earlier it had rained and thundered and that was very scary. I had wanted to cuddle up against someone, but there was no one except walls and bars, so I went to the corner but that’s where I pooped last, but then it boomed again and I got scared so I curled up with my poop. I didn’t care if I was dirty anymore. It didn’t matter.

The man appeared, earlier than usual and without food. Odd. I cowered in confusion, but he made some friendly noises and guided me from my cell into his office. I hadn’t been in there since I first arrived! It smelled ripe and marvelous. I started exploring and forgot my apprehension.

A car door slammed, which usually means someone coming or going. I jolted out of my sniff trance, and remembered when it was me, and how I had been so scared. If it was a newcomer, I would make this dog feel welcome. Was that why the man had brought me out here? To welcome a new dog?

A girl’s head appeared at the door and she looked kind. Her hair was the color of my ears, so I liked her. She came in and crouched down to me so I didn’t have to jump up to smell her breath. I appreciated her consideration, even if I really do like to jump up and stretch out my long body on people. Her face twisted a little bit, just for a second – I surmised it was the face she made when there were marvelous smells.

She and the man talked and I wiggled back and forth between them. This situation was so strange and exciting that I peed! Suddenly there was a strange band around my neck and a long string attached to it that she held the other end of. It was weird to feel attached to her, and I didn’t like it when we got too far apart because it pulled tightly around my neck and I felt like I was choking. I tried to stay close enough so that this didn’t happen, but I didn’t always know where she was going and sometimes she didn’t go where I needed her to go, which was always wherever the next new smell was.

The man crouched down and whispered kind things into my big, long ear and then quietly dropped his head to get back to work, to go give Joe, Marty, Mel, and the others their evening meal. I tried to follow him, because I knew him and I knew he would feed me. But I was attached to the girl now, and she was taking me out front where there was a car! So I followed happily.

She opened a door and it smelled interesting in there so I jumped inside. That must have been the right thing to do, because she shut the door behind me and got in through another door. Soon we were moving down a bumpy road and it felt wild and strange to be in motion but not moving my legs. It had also become comfortable and breezy, even though before I got into the car the day was hot and still. I loved having a wide vista of all we passed, farms and mountains and animals and new buildings and even a sleek man on a bicycle.

After the initial thrill of the ride wore off, I started to feel a little nervous again. Where were we going? What would happen when she let me out of the car? Would it be like the place I was before, where there were so many trapped dogs like me? Or worse, would it be like the place before that, where the two bad people locked me outside without food and didn’t care if I died? We passed another farm, and I fantasized she was taking me to a huge field to run through and chase rabbits and squirrels. My heart leapt even though I was only using my imagination.

The girl talked friendly to me while she steered, and that was nice, but I still didn’t know her. Finally we slowed down in a place where there were more houses than grass. She opened the car door and I bounced out hesitantly. Asphalt. My field dream vanished and I was just scared: this place reminded me of the first bad place and I looked for the chain I would be tied to.

But then something weird happened: she went up to one of the doors, opened it, and let me inside! Tentatively, I followed her into her den. It smelled wonderful – animals lived in here! A surge of joy flooded me, from the tip of my velvet ear to the length of my tail, because maybe I would be able to stay here, too. What must have been a cat (I’d never seen a real one before) sauntered past, and I tried to get to know her but she hated me right away.

As I explored this strange new interior, the girl set out a bowl of food and water for me. I couldn’t believe it. The man must have told her what to do, because she knew exactly what I like. Kibble and fresh, cool water! After dinner she led me outside again and we tried not to choke me. When I peed and pooped on the grass she danced so extra friendly and even gave me a treat. I liked that.

Back inside, we played catch with a tennis ball and I even found a bone in a corner. It smelled like another dog, but I didn’t see anyone else there to claim it so it was mine. I loved to carry it around and chew on it, it tasted so good.

That first night, the girl took me outside another six times, which was really nice because there were a LOT of interesting smells to pursue. I sensed there were more dogs behind the other doors.

Later, when the girl was putting dishes away, I had to pee again and tried to get her attention so she could throw me another party and treat me. She didn’t notice, which was unfortunate, but I went anyway and felt better. When she finished in the kitchen, I was excited because maybe when she saw the proud puddle I had left in the hallway she would give me another treat? I watched her expectantly, keeping my long body still except for my thumping tail.

But when she saw my work, she didn’t react the way she had before. Her face turned to stone and she just cleaned it up with paper and spray and ignored me. I didn’t understand why she did that, and I didn’t like it as much as the party.

It got dark outside, I could see through the window. The girl started to act sleepy, and I waited for her to take me outside or back past the farms to the cell with the man.

She had something else in mind. With banana treats and a toy, she lured me into an impossibly small cage. I went nose first like a dummy, looking for the treat, and she tucked my long butt in behind me and shut the door! I whimpered with incredulity and turned around to get out of the cramped quarters, but couldn’t because there was no exit. This was way smaller than my other cell, nowhere to poop even, if I needed to.

As I made my case more insistently to be released, she stoically put a blanket over my cage and turned off the light. What had I done wrong? Why had she stuck me in here?

Before she went upstairs and turned out the light, she stuck her hand in and stroked my head softly. It felt really nice, and friendly. Maybe she wasn’t mad at me after all.

I still wanted out, but when I saw her climb the stairs I felt those chances receding along with her. I cried half-heartedly for another 15 minutes, hoping she’d respond, but she didn’t.

Once I stopped feeling upset about being in there, I discovered it was actually rather comfortable. Just the right size for me to curl up and sleep, like I used to do in the corner of my cell. It was dark out and I liked to sleep around this time anyway, plus it had been a big day. I curled up and rested my heavy head on my paws. I was not sure when I would have to leave again, but I felt happy to be in this nice house with a girl who fed me and stroked my head and said friendly things. Even though it was very quiet without the other dogs, I drifted off to sleep easily feeling safe, full, and comfortable.

Opie the foster basset

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Nature vs. nothing

Energetic storms rolled through with what epic gloriosity the likes of which such stale, desert concretescape had never seen. Hail smashed onto the pavement and fat raindrops gathered into puddles, moving with the purpose of a river and pooling around sleepy gutters suddenly called to function.

The cars carrying the patrons of Big Box Retail sloshed and skidded through stop signs, still trying to get to Target, Wal-Mart and Kroger before turning back – no inclement weather could interrupt a consumer Sunday already underway. The lesson of the ensuing rash of traffic accidents was lost on them; the habit to spend money earned (or not) during the week and to accumulate more was deep and essential in their small, narrow worlds

The poor, pinched trees, planted by some inept developer hastening to manufacture landscape and ambience, buckled and smarted from the unfamiliar pelts of water. Attention from Mother Nature was as foreign to them as the watering vast plains of concrete was fruitless to her. The trees were strangled in ruffs of bark chips and had never known a breath of fresh air. It occurred to me that might be why I always feel short of breath here. There are too many of us, we inhabitors of suburban sprawl, for the oxygen available. A parking lot here feels more natural than a park. As the cars dimpled from hailstones and buckled under a suicidal tree, I felt keenly the incongruity of this use of the world.

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You do the best you can

“Ultimately, I believe, whether you choose one way or the other doesn’t matter. If you’re present when you make your decision, then you’ll be present in the next situation—and be ready to make choices as the need comes up. Of course, you always could have done things differently. But the ultimate importance is not what you do, it’s how you do it—the state of consciousness brought to the process, which hopefully will let you feel the aliveness of all your experiences.” -Eckhart Tolle (who looks like Yoda…appropriate resemblance?)

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Fomtoolery

I’m afraid of squandering the tools I have been given and earned by chasing “happiness” and still ending up unhappy.

Maybe the secret is that you are most likely to find happiness (however you define it) by putting those very tools to use. The tools and the happiness are both means to their own ends.

This idea could be thickheadedly obvious but, like a memorable nightmare, it felt powerful and sharp like a new blade when it bumbled into my thoughts and then sliced right through them.

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TKO

Today’s match-up in the internal ring:

The relief of leaving something behind dukes it out with the struggle of starting over.

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Creative Problem Solving: Figure out how to eat the cake

Here is a familiar exchange:

Me: Blah blah, here is my dilemma, what do you think?

Conversant: “Sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it, too.”

Um…duh?

If I give the impression that I am anything but human, who wants anything less than the most of the best I can possibly have, please allow me to hereby set the record straight: I want to have my cake. And eat it too.

Speaking of food, I love going out to eat. I admit I can be a bit scientific when it comes to ordering – I assay my own appetite and degustatory desires, considering the menu’s specialties, season, price-to-value ratio, and the rest of my party’s choices. All that, before landing on the correct beverage pairing. It’s not always easy, but it’s lovely when it works. It’s just that I don’t love when the person sitting next to me orders the exact same thing, I don’t love when the table orders 5 glasses of wine instead of a bottle, I don’t love finding out that the halibut was $2 more than advertised because if I’d wanted to spend $14 I would’ve had the tuna.

The way I engineer these things can be pretty obnoxious, and overthinking this kind of thing can ruin an otherwise simple pleasure. This rarely happens, but I feel a childlike glee when I simply want a slice of pizza. When at least one constant can be cemented down among a cloud of variables, it feels a lot better. Of the zillion restaurants we could go to tonight, we can narrow it down to five because I definitely want pizza.

I struggle with black and white – the world is most alive in gray. When I have a dilemma, I know that the best solution is not this OR that; it is one that incorporates the best part of this with the best part of that. When I find the solution, it’s always compromise among options. This is why even after I have the menu of choices before me, I spend some time considering and marinating and imagining. I may appear idle, but there are actually combinations and permutations firing off in my head, hunting for the right answer.

In my experience, the right answer reveals itself slowly, and then all of the sudden. It begins by nudging and shouldering the other options until EUREKA! I finally pay attention to it and acknowledge its superiority over other options.

Life does not often afford the time required to make decisions this way.  Sometimes, the waitress comes before I’m ready for her, and I just have to pick something on the fly. When this happens, I always feel a little bit anxious after ordering and may even try to change it. Sometimes you just don’t know you want something until its no longer an option. If I change it, sometimes I wish I hadn’t.

But it seems perfectly natural to want time to slow down if you could use more of it, or to want two seemingly mutually exclusive opportunities to be possible simultaneously. Of course I don’t want choosing Door A to mean that I will never, ever be able to open Door B.

So instead of, “Which?” isn’t the question better question, “How?” Instead of “Do I want what’s behind Door A or Door B?” why not, “How can I get what I need from behind Door A and Door B?” An imaginative approach to a dilemma can unglue useless assumptions, clarify wants and needs, and yield an altogether better choice than first imagined.

If I sound like I want it all, it’s because I do. The only way I can be sure not to have it all is to ignore even the possibility. This is why I like the gray area, where asking “How?” turns a clash into a collaboration. Even if the possibilities only start as hypothetical – well, how does anything real begin? That’s how bridges get built, right? From prototypes? Why not embrace solution prototypes? Non-physical solutions can follow the same process.

If you want to have your cake and not eat it, too…well, no problem. I’ll take your slice. And have mine, too.

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