If we all have Buddha Nature, what’s the rush?
That’s a question I struggle with these days. What faster progress do I think I need to make? By now, shouldn’t I be more peaceful and less identified with the “causes and conditions” which make up the self I see in the mirror? My uncertainty still brings discomfort. Not knowing feels bad. And I could do with some assurance that it’s okay to be on the way, my way, at my pace.
At this point, I find myself to be a slow-learner, fumbling through written instructions, and unskillful being told what to do, even when I've agreed. I struggle to remember to what I have commited. It’s even an effort to schedule these commitments into the calendar on my smart phone. I’ve come face to face with the unpleasant truth that making and keeping whole-hearted commitments isn’t what I am good at.
Furthermore, I’m finding it hard to confess that I often don’t understand what I am being told. Perhaps, I strive for a “wise elder façade.” Sometimes I fantasize holding up my hand and asking a teacher: “Say it some other way so I will understand." Of course this is out of the question, until I decide to try it.
Even as I look at being a good practitioner, I see how important it is to set boundaries, to value my own beliefs and opinions, and to comfortably stand up for my values without getting defensive. I want something other than anger to empower me. Because knowing or telling my truth is hard, I often feel small or false.
Surely, I am not so different from many who end up facing a wall in a zendo. I, too, like those others, turned to the study and practice of Buddhism because of suffering. Often overwhelmed with emotional pain and frequently immobilized by trauma, I turned to gentle dharma talks and embraced the idea of treating myself with compassion.
So with all the positives of meditation irrefutable, I sit. And having heard it said that the self which result from causes and conditions – such as parents who suffered and could not give love – is not reality, I long to discover my Buddha nature, to embrace compassion, sympathetic joy, loving kindness and equanimity. And until someone wiser than I am tells me: “Alison, you can only do it your way” I will say so to myself and perhaps begin to end my suffering. Then I can work harder to end all suffering, the real work of this personal struggle. And because I have Buddha Nature, there is no rush.
Taken in Halifax, NS / meddygarnet
At almost 6 a.m. it’s still dark in the Safeway parking lot when I drive past the store’s lit windows. Some market decorators have launched red and pink valentine balloons and streamers; though it’s gaudy, it’s beautiful. A vivid reminder of the upcoming Valentine’s Day for which I have no plans.
Emails for restaurants still taking reservations remain unopened. I am ambivalent about asking to celebrate with my once-lover or trying to spend time with the dear friend who is busy making valentine sugar cookies for her bakery business and who hasn’t a lot of time because she now works two jobs.
Because at the moment we are passing a store full of red hearts and pink streamers and I am cradling Foxibeau the dog in the crook of my arm, I think of gifting him a pink squeaky heart-shaped toy. A present to the dog may be this year’s show of love to another.
This is not to say love isn’t in my heart. It is and not just because store decorations have given me the seasonal go-ahead. The love I call love feels quiet and tentative as if exuberant, joyous declarations might summon a loud “Shut up!” And I really don’t want to hear anyone, especially myself, say something dismissive like: “You love a dog?” As if this means I’m lacking. Or “You love yourself? Shouldn’t you be beyond self-centered by now?” Perhaps alluding to the Bodhisattva vow to save all beings.
If loving myself means I invest energy and money to regulate my nervous system and to plow through parts and pieces of this self I find problematic, then yes, that could be called self-centered. Yet calling it so would be a mistake. Smoothing out and soothing frees up energy to direct toward being present and perhaps even temporarily “saving” a few beings whose lives intersect mine.
Love of the self feels more like appreciating an ally than treating myself like an object in search of approval. This love feels like a best friend, like a pink angora sweater worn with a tuck-in peter pan collar identical to the one my best friend is wearing.
It feels like the plump tufted brown pillow my therapist placed beneath my feet before she guided my imagining to experience being swooped up out of the reach of a barbed-wire swirl of self-criticism by a large monkey lest I be overwhelmed. This protective mother monkey swings my six-year-old self high among tree branches. Once out of harm’s reach, the large monkey cuddles and soothes until my curiosity sends me scampering to the ground amid a swarm of playful baby monkeys who groom and play with each other and with me. I let their brown softness and the feel of the pillow remind me of Foxibeau, who runs into my mind to join in as I rest in the comfort of safety from my critical, suffering self.
I feel love as I listen to a story a friend tells about her habitual morning walk around Stowe Lake before sunrise. She recounts recognizing a homeless man bedded down at the boathouse and calling to him: Eddie, are you okay and warm enough? He assures her: Doin’ just fine, thanks. Then he says no to the money she offers him to buy a warm jacket. Resuming her walk, she and the other morning joggers hear Eddie’s voice yell out her name. I love you, Valerie, he yells. If you ever aren’t married, I’ll marry you!! She yells back her no thanks she’s going solo, as other joggers, older Asians, not understanding his outcries rush to her to be reassured she is safe.
This feeling I call love is gently laced with humor; it is love that giggles at the raspy sound of a growing growl in a little dog’s throat. It’s hard not to smile. Hard not to laugh although shushing is surely required.
It is a gift to myself of comfort and forgiving. In my mind-heart I hold the image of a loving presence fierce to protect the child in me from the pain still aching to be healed. And this love’s authority commands in her kindest voice that “Shut up” be vanished from the heart’s vocabulary. With love and gratitude, I wish those who read here: a happy Valentine’s Day.
Logo / AlBakker
“Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional.” When the weight-loss leader spoke those words during the meetings I attended to lose 30-plus pounds, I didn’t know how profound were her words. That was more than 10 years ago, long before I meditated or heard the dharma. She explained that from a Buddhist perspective, restricting food intake, cutting out night time binge eating or doing three days of exercise could be painful, but complaining and deluding ourselves into thinking pounds would melt away if we just sat in a chair at meetings would cause us to suffer. In other words, we had some control over suffering.
Buddhists consider suffering a fact of life. Indeed, it is the Buddha’s First Noble Truth. According to Buddhist Studies for Secondary Students
: “There are four unavoidable physical sufferings; birth, old age, sickness and death. There are also three forms of mental suffering; separation from the people we love; contact with people we dislike and frustration of desires. Happiness is real and comes in many ways, but happiness does not last forever and does not stop suffering. Buddhists believe that the way to end suffering is to first accept the fact that suffering is actually a fact of life.”
That word “suffering” doesn’t quite explain this concept central to the dharma and to meditation practice. I have read that the Pali word Dukkha
usually translated as suffering can also be thought of in terms of something being “intolerable,” “unsustainable,” “difficult to endure,” and can also be “imperfect,” “unsatisfying,” or “incapable of providing perfect happiness.” When my Soto Zen teacher speaks about the First Noble Truth, she uses the term “dis-ease” to describe this human condition called suffering. Any of these words would describe quite a few aspects of my daily life.
Even seemingly insignificant moments show me how quickly I cause myself to suffer. A recent though temporary onslaught of disappointment, impatience, annoyance, futility, anger and mild self-loathing got triggered by my thwarted attempt to sign into my Starbuck’s account so as to register for 20 bonus stars by mid-February. Without my Starbuck’s password at the ready, I chose my Facebook sign-in option. The password to that account was also not in the forefront of my thoughts, ergo I could not sign up for all those bonus stars. As those feelings short-circuited my ability to be mindful of or kind to any other person, additional suffering ensued.
Suddenly from my throat issued a caterwauling of “me-ows.” Why is this happening to me. Ow! I’m frustrated, suffused with anger. Shortly after dealing with frustration and disappointment, I began to blame those corporate somebodies who sent emails addressed specifically to me. Clearly, form letters don’t care that I start each day buying a double-short soy latte and have for years, and that I buy Abe his oatmeal – I would want this predictability and generosity to count for something. Just this past week, before 6 a.m., I made an emergency run to a nearby Starbucks because my Starbuck’s location was out of oatmeal, caramel, skinny vanilla syrup, and compost bags. So why do I not have uncomplicated access to my account based on good karma?
My prefrontal cortex gets it that Starbuck emails are unrelated to my comings and goings in one neighborhood in one city in its vast and impersonal universe, although the emails are addressed to “Alison.” To be of no consequence in the on-line world, no matter how personal sounding the emails, shouldn’t matter. And in any brain function save the reptilian brain, suffering wouldn’t happen. But that familiar childhood need to matter stored in the old brain still triggers me.
Rather than react to an impersonal, all-too-human glitch, I might have paused to remember the words of my weight loss leader: “Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional.” I could have taken three deep breaths, let go of thoughts and grasping. I could have looked at the branches of winter trees and sidestepped suffering altogether. However, in the larger picture, compassion allows me to feel gratitude to the Starbuck muckymucks for reminding me that insidious old patterns of wanting to be special needn't be a source of suffering.
Sewing a rakusu
In my meditation practice, I am surprised to find myself preparing to participate in the ceremony of Jukai, receiving the Precepts. The ceremony is part of the training lay people who are serious students undergo to show that they understand what it means to live by precepts, which are not commandments, but filters Buddhists use to evaluate and shape how they will live on the Bodhisattva path.
A part of the ceremony will be getting a special name from my teacher. I have already begun to imagine what she might choose to call me. It could be a beautiful name like “well grounded cloud dweller” which does sound paradoxical and probably won’t be the name sewn into the underside of my rakusu, the blue bib-like covering I will begin to craft myself as I prepare to take the precepts. It’s possible, considering my homemaking skills that sewing my rakusu, even with help of sewing teachers may take years. My friend Kate who is a fine seamstress can only help me with five percent of the sewing. Without a doubt, the better stitches will be Kate’s. But I digress.
I have read that the name I will be given can be either a label that influences how others see me, or a kind of goal or motivation. Back in 2005 while I was doing Pathways, a program in Dallas, Texas, I was given the name “Porcupine” and had to earn back my own name. More recently I temporarily acquired a name the evening my teacher Lien, fellow student Sam, and I went to Japantown to pick up items Sam and I would need for one-day sittings and longer extended stays, should we agree to undertake them.
After I had parked my small car, a man driving a Toyota stationwagon pulled up beside me as I momentarily paused outside my car. He asked me if I would mind moving forward or backward to accommodate his large car. I swear I didn’t say aloud, “Yes, I do mind,” but that became my name for the next several minutes as I reseated myself and backed up the car. “You have a lovely voice,” the inconveniencing man commented once the mission was accomplished. His compliment clearly meant he heard, “Of course, I don’t mind. We are all one just in separate cars and mine is small while yours is big.”
Yet Sam, the other student, is certain he heard me say, “Yes, I do mind.” Bundled into the back seat, he could have been mistaken. Nevertheless the name I had for the evening was “Yes-I-do Mind” which I chose to understand as “Yes- I-will Mind,” a name indicating my willingness to be inconvenienced and to accommodate all beings, cheerfully and not.
I have never really appreciated having names pinned on me and I didn’t that evening. Even a positive appellation like “writer” hasn’t made me glow. Yet as my practice passes from what Sam calls “Zen light” to what I feel is “Full On” Soto Zen, I will accept any name my teacher pins on me and know that she has my growth and understanding of the dharma at heart. I will remind her as we get closer to the ceremony of Jukai that the name “Reluctant Dragon” is already taken.
Resolutions / safr
Enough time has passed since the noisy arrival of 2014 to put me safely out of range for resolving to improve in the upcoming year. However, I have one “must do” in 2014. It’s about Foxibeau. He found the celebratory bomb blasts in Western Addition so traumatic that the little low-to-the-ground reddish mutt still sees any darkness as a signal for alarm. Here it is almost mid-January and he is still reluctant to take those important morning and evening strolls around the neighborhood. Tugging and coercion aren’t working. Friends suggest food bribes and that’s an option should he continue to balk.
Expecting that there will be a Fourth of July, I resolve to start The Fox on homeopathic remedies or tranquilizers, so celebrations become less traumatic. If, in 2015 I am invited to a party and the city plans to make extra noise, I won’t have to leave early to race home and spoon the dog. Apart from regulating the dog’s nervous system, I face the New Year with no plans to bloom a whole new garden of good habits in 21 days.
I don’t resolve to get back to regular Monday blog postings. I reason that if silence is truer to my real creative rhythms, I must trust the feeling of having nothing to say. There have been times in the past year when I kept silent about my struggles to be close to a son or two because no matter how important those struggles felt to me, sharing could feel to them like an invasion of privacy. All three sons are articulate and introspective; they could post their own mental formations if they wanted to.
Also not on a list of resolutions is taking time for thoughtful meal planning and perhaps actually measuring ingredients and spices rather than tossing something in a skillet with no concern even for expiration dates. Indeed, my oldest son has been posting on Facebook the exotic Indian dishes he creates almost daily, and I know he would gladly send me the recipes. He said he drove to Danbury, CT to a real Indian Grocery store and stocked up on all the basic ingredients he would need. I could go the whole route without leaving the neighborhood. There’s an Indian grocery near Safeway on Fillmore.
For the briefest of moments I almost resolved buying a bicycle to ride to Starbucks early in the morning. I could go slowly and Foxibeau could run along beside me. I let go of that notion despite my second son being a practically professional bicyclist, threading his way through the hills of Cebu, an island in the Philippines. It’s wearing the helmet that really tops off my reluctance. You see, avoiding hat-hair has long been a foible. And I would have to undo umpteen decades of foolish vanity in just 21 days to make it a habit. And then it might rain and I definitely could not let Foxibeau splash through puddles. Water knee-deep for me would drown the little critter.
Had I been resolving anything for the new year, I would have had a struggle with what to do about vanity. Once my vision improved through cataract surgery, wrinkles and discoloration hidden by optical occlusions surprised me. I beheld my aged face. And equanimity in the face of it did not surface. It’s a good thing I resolved nothing because at the first promise that two weeks of applying a product would ameliorate a lifetime of surprise, sadness or concern, I bought products.
In summation: I did not resolve to post regularly as I had done for more than two years. I did not vow to read recipes nor to discard expired spices. I did not promise to purchase a bicycle or a two-wheeler of any kind. I laid down no strictures against covering dark spots, no matter how ineffectively. But I did resolve to administer to Foxibeau homeopathics or tranquilizers at the end of June, midway through December and right away if the Niners make it to the Super Bowl.
Danny and Foxibeau / Alison R.
On the day after Christmas, on any day, feeling part of an “us” is a gift to me. Such a gift awaits me each morning at Starbucks when I sit at the table with the same three people and feel connected and part of an unusual “us.” As loudspeaker music reggaes or carols through the room, I experience well-being. My stress gets managed, and my negative emotions disappear. For the time I am there, I successfully cope with life as did ancestors throughout the ages, although they did it without double short soy lattes. A gift, indeed.
What is it about the three of them and me that works so well? Perhaps it is just the passing of time and the regularity of our early morning encounters that accounts for the trust we have in each other’s good will. Our generosity to each other is more than my buying Abe his oatmeal or sausage and cheese sandwich.
And at least a year before I thought to say, “I’m equanimous,” I accepted the hassle that often accompanies being with the elderly and hard of hearing. Although I am the second oldest, I am not hearing impaired. Two of the men are and they don’t wear hearing aids, so many misinterpretations at our table try to pass for information. Sometimes, I take it upon myself to re-speak the words that didn’t make it safely from the speaker’s mouth to the hearer’s ear. My role can be peacemaker.
Believe me, these friends of mine are not old darlings going gently into that good night. Danny is quick tempered, volatile and certain. Once, he insisted despite all arguments to the contrary that when the clock changes, it springs back and falls forward. Clearly, tolerance has to be part of our generosity and mutual respect. While Danny’s moods are unpredictable, Doug’s responses are predictable. To Danny’s volatility he usually asks the question: “Did you take your medication today?”
Abe is the oldest. He walks with a cane because of diabetes. He can’t use sugar, and doesn’t drink coffee. He is well known in the Western Addition/Fillmore community for his strong convictions about Obama, the military, drug use, mistreatment of the poor, and with whom he will and won’t communicate. For a long time, I was one of those people to whom Abe would not speak. That changed, but we never allude to those earlier, unkinder times. Now we are tight. Some mornings, it is just Abe and Alison at a table. If I am not there, I hear he has asked about me, and I am always told whether or not he has been in.
Perhaps my part in our foursome is to be a willing ear, as Danny talks prodigiously about his life from childhood through yesterday. For Doug, I can give advice, explain form letters when asked, and interpret newspaper headlines that seem problematic on first reading. For Abe, I am a source of updates on motion pictures I have seen, the buyer of breakfast and a reliable presence, expressing concern for his physical wellbeing and interested in his daily plans.
Clearly we four have become attuned to each other, and we give each other a daily dose of feeling recognized, seen and understood. On Christmas, the day after – on any day, that is one big life-enhancing gift.
Foxibeau gets a cold weather gift.
No religion anchors this holiday for me. I am on my own to make the best of these weeks of stress justified by a birth story. Clearly, no Holy Baby’s B-day can account for snowflakes on light poles or beribboned tree trunks. If I feel pressured to run up my credit cards, it will be because others set more store by the holidays, particularly children.
As for everyone or anyone else, including my grown sons, I may send cards. I don’t usually even do that whereas many friends from my past still do keep me in the loop with their lettery updates.
If I were a writer of lettery updates, I would talk about my dog, Foxibeau, how my cataract surgeries proved successful despite one black eye that resulted, the doctor said, from hitting a blood vessel during the numbing process. I would complain about the long time it is taking to get a dental implant and how annoying it is to see the glistening expanse of white teeth smiling at me from billboards and in commercials selling everywhere.
I would brag that so far I have ignored holiday sales pitches from the likes of Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Eddie Bauer, etc. but did fall into the “Yap” at Ghirardelli Square and purchase an expensive cold weather coat for Foxibeau, the dog I mentioned was mine. I would write that I could not resist the look of my small animal in a form fitting pleather and faux fur wrap. Most of my friends will remember the look of Marlon Brando in the 1953 movie The Wild One as he dismounted his Harley Davidson to wreak havoc in his sullen sexy way.
Of course, I had no intention to spend big bucks for a dog’s outfit, but when this cold snap hit, I saw my neighbor walking his dog, Cooper, who looked cute in an orange coat with Velcro straps. He told me he bought it at Yap. I was thus motivated to outfit Foxibeau, although intending to buy at the low end of the price range. It proved impossible once the salesman fastened the twin Velcro straps under my dog’s throat and belly, securing my creature into what did look like fur-lined black leather. He showed me how easy it would be to lift the dog by the strap on the back of the coat. Moreover the coat had a pocket on the back for added elegance. The salesman attached our red leash and walked the dog a step or two. I am sure the admiration I saw gleaming on the ruddy cheeks of strangers seeing us pass was more than mere imagining.
Perhaps so much background information will not interest the recipients of my lettery update, but those who knew me will remember how much I reveled in detail and will recall that I was one of the few who did not skip over scene setting or lists while reading a book.
My lettery update might give the impression that my life has not been interesting, as I have only a trip to Cuba more than a year ago to mention, and no other forays into unexplored countries. I would say that the most compelling explorations this past year have been into my personal trauma vortex and in investigating the missing early matrix that keeps me seeking safety rather than rushing off to airports to be landed in unexplored tourist meccas. I might say I meditate, a disciplined method of letting be with equanimity and curiosity.
Above all, I would want my lettery update to be succinct, snappy and written in short sentences. And I would conclude it with a wish for all beings, the ones I know and care for as well as those yet unmet, to live with happiness, peace, and safety, to be filled with loving kindness and to be held in loving kindness. And that would do it for this holiday season.
If you intended to send a card or buy a gift for me or anyone else, don’t let me dissuade you. I trust we will all do the best we can.
Autumn Leaf / Wona Kellie
Time to pick up where I left off on my Top Ten Big Ideas. Of course, ten understates the number of wise ideas others are compiling for my benefit. And my previous big ideas now seem smaller than when they landed with their pleasurable thuds whereas now’s new ideas seem glorious.
7. Start where I left off. A good idea because completing the promised list sets a good example for future lists and/or projects.
8. This Big Idea is powerful. The idea is to look at everything as an experiment. An experiment can never fail; it can only yield new information. This idea is worth putting into practice for me with an act as simple as drawing. I have said repeatedly, to the point of believing it, that I can’t draw. By chance I found a book on the shelf called Drawing with Children. Why not draw with myself because I am sure I shut down around childhood. Someone must have said my rendering of a happy family didn’t measure up and that may have been enough. So far I have drawn a teapot flanked by a tall vase with flowers and three stacking bowls, the top one holding utensils with decorative handles. The drawing is small and in pencil, but there it is! Who said I couldn’t draw! Didn’t draw is different from couldn’t.
9. Big Idea: Giving and being given are inseparable. In the past, my first response was to any offer was to refuse whatever it was. This is not to say I now expect to be given gifts, effusively complimented or loved. Nor is reciprocity the issue here. I am thinking more about what it’s like to experience being valued by another —accepting with a big-hearted “Yes” and “Thank You” compliments – as well as feeling that I am worth the love being given. Perhaps part of this the Big Idea is learning to consign my habit of non-acceptance to the past by speaking about it in past tense language. And this could work with almost any strong habits rooted in the past. I could then open to enriching experiences with no past hooks.
10. In concluding this pre-Thanksgiving list of Big Ideas, I want to credit the web site en*theos for the plethora of lists cascading into my inbox on a daily basis. I might be annoyed except I chose to receive them, and I have enjoyed being told how to behave and what to believe. I especially appreciate being reminded that it is a good idea to replace pleasing with serving. So this is Big Idea #10.
Like many of my women friends, I was rewarded for docility and niceness, for keeping out of the way and not disturbing grownups. Internalized, this became a way of constantly taking care of others whether they knew it or not. The dreaded flip side was the weariness that set in from not taking care of myself and the anger that resulted. The idea of not trying to please, but instead to reach into the heart of compassion I am nurturing and serve others feels profound. Perhaps I will do as I did before but with a deeper intention, one that goes to the heart of who another being is – someone as spectacular and special as I am.
With Thanksgiving days away, I send heartfelt gratitude to the Zen priest in charge of my meditation practice, to the vulnerable and dear therapist who has become a valued guide, to the Buddhist who teaches Somatic Experiencing and said the “trauma” word, to my community at the Unitarian Church as I fumble my way back into the fold, to the East Bay Meditation Center for its diversity-embracing practices, and to Kate whose friendship and level perspective have altered my life. Gassho! (Palms together in front of heart and bow.)
Big Idea #3 / Alison R.
Lot’s of email reaches me wherin the senders hope to make a better person of me. And I appreciate their interest. They urge me to enroll in a course, purchase an audiobook, phone in to a national conference to be broadcast in two weeks or buy transcripts of their thoughts either in pamphlet form or to be delivered PDF to my inbox.
I appreciate their input, particularly for the accompanying compilations of Big Ideas. These ideas come in easy-to-read lists and generally provoke one of two responses in me. They either pump me up as I realize how many of the 10 items listed I have already mastered, such as “cultivating a relationship with nature,” or “celebrating time with a loved one.” Since adding Foxibeau to the household, this second item is really easy and the multiple walks around the neighborhood at all hours have increased the likelihood of the former. Every tree has become a thing of beauty, each weed clump, piles of sere brown leaves heaped against chain link fences – all beautiful.
On the other hand, such a list of Big Ideas can add to my intimations of inadequacy. Taking pride in mastering two out of ten leaves me open to a letdown. What about the other eight? I have clearly failed to immerse myself in contentment and undoubtedly forgotten to do something fun each day. I am hesitant to catagorize cataract surgery and dental implant post-op visits as “fun.”
Luckily, I can use Top 10 Big Ideas as a model for my own doings of the past week or so. Mine as follows:
1 Foxibeau becomes a service dog and can go to the movies with me thus leading me to choose shorter movies for the two of us. Big Idea: Two attention spans are better than one.
2 Foxibeau factors into my decision not to usher at four Nutcrackers this December because of the hour and a half pre-performance time required. This, of course, means no ushering during the opera season itself. Life-altering! Big Idea: Time increases in value.
3 I buy Billy Collin’s recently published poetry book, Aimless Love, and try out his voice which influences me to write a poem of aimless love to my therapist, but I don’t give it to her. Big Idea: Creativity without approval provides pleasure.
4 I recognize how furniture placement can increase comfort. I used to empower high school journalism students with instructions to move furniture when interviewing administrators. I am seeing the wisdom of attending to my own felt sense of empowerment and comfort. In the poem to my therapist, I put a blue chair into its own stanza. This was a chair I carried out of an adjoining room to facilitate my sense of presence during my session. The couch already in the room was just too slouchy and low. Big Idea: Make it happen rather than wait for someone to read your mind.
5 Connection to another is the best feeling in the world. I feel safe, loved and loving. Big Idea: Connecting with another is basic. Babies have to do it or else…. And it is never too late to have the experience.
6 Gratitude is good. And generosity is its outgrowth. Big Idea: Think of what peripheral people have added to your life and plan to gift them for the holidays. For me, these are mostly men I have met at Starbuck’s on Fillmore and O’Farrell. Some live in hotels, others are homeless. We have become companions. A Starbuck’s gift card is a no-brainer.
7 Stop now so the blog that follows can finish the list. Big Idea: Starting can be the hardest part.
Contemplative Mood / Alison R.
One thing being small has taught me – self- aggrandizing doesn’t work. No matter how loud a growl or high-pitched the yip, size still counts. That’s the message from the street.
So I have cultivated quiet qualities to get my needs met. Trust is one. There is something about the round brown quality of my quiet gaze, the confidence in her love I radiate when I tag after mom or leap into her lap and curl up, always at an angle so that when she looks down, she sees in my eyes the unwavering trust I feel in her willingness to respond to me.
But I do know how to cower and do it once my bark exceeds my growl and mom shoots a stern look at me and says “Foxie, no.” She says it several more times, racing after me as I lope toward the door. Her hand comes down on me, not hitting actually but with authority. That’s when I lie down and look way up, directly into her face. My tail goes down, my ears go flat. She knows she has me this time until next time.
Adopting postures which demonstrate trust is part of my arsenal of charm, as is exuberance. I show joy whenever I feel it. I leap and race around, landing on a toy to make it squawk. I shake the green fish or the foxieball – both can make noise if played with just so. It’s hard for mom not to find me adorable and that is a good thing – a survival skill actually.
I like toys though not as much as I like food. A good pull can separate me from my toys whereas I cannot be so easily parted from food, any food whether I find it on the street or I am given it at mealtime. I clamp my teeth hard and so far I have not bitten mom when she panics on our dark walks and tries to undo me from a French fry.
A third quality that makes me a spectacular pet is the affection I have no trouble showing. It is not an affectation at all. I feel genuine liking for mom and many of her friends, particularly the shorter ones. Size doesn’t matter when folks sit. The other day mom said I was a service dog and took me into a café where she gathers with women she likes and they liked me a lot. All of them have pets of their own. One held me on her lap and zipped me into her jacket. She was sitting next to mom so I made eye contact whenever I needed to be reassured that the lady’s zipper could come down as easily as it went up. Even an animal with great trust can have a wary moment.
Did you notice how I didn’t crow about being house broken? I came from Animal Care aware of where and when to sprinkle and spray. I have marked most every tree and pile of leaves on McAllister and Fulton from Franklin to Laguna. That’s probably how it is we make it safely up and down those streets at night. It pays to be a creature of habits. Fortunately, most of mine are good.
Thank you for reading my self-assessment. I hope you feel as upbeat about yourself as I do about myself. And I hope that you have qualities that attract the attention and affection you deserve. If not, mom says it’s never too late to accumulate.