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on taking care of what's already there



Last night I had a dream that I found two small chihuahuas at the grocery store and begged my husband to let us bring them home. I promised him that it would only be temporary and that I would find them homes.


I woke up to our actual dog curled up tightly against my side. This only happens for part of the year. She's an inordinately fluffy dog with an undercoat that insulates her far more than is necessary for our muggy summers. During the worst of it, she sleeps under the bed on the bare floor where the rug ends. Every year, I look forward to when she finally cools off enough to join us on the bed.


I'm become even more grateful for the experience since April 2020, when our other dog passed away. A small chihuahua with no undercoat, he always loved being on the bed, or snuggled on your lap, or swaddled in a blanket. I never had to wait until the winter to have his company.


I have been perusing small dog rescue sites with more frequency in the past few months. I miss our little guy, and the way he was bonded to me. But despite my longing for another dog, being smitten with so many pups, and feeling a responsibility to rescue one when I know so many dogs have such difficult lives, I keep coming back to the fact that our remaining dog just seems happier to be a solo one. She gets more attention, she travels more, she isn't pestered by anyone. She's rather independent and seeks attention from us on her own terms - most often when we are eating - but she likes to remain in our orbit. I don't know what having another dog around would do, but I don't think I am willing to disturb our old lady pup to find out. So I may dream of more pups running around in our household, she is here, and she is who we need to prioritize and care for.


This is a thought particular to the dog situation, but I have also been thinking about where else this idea applies. I am often seeking for something new, wanting to flee to a different situation, introduce new complications into my life because I am frustrated by certain parts of it (namely, my professional life). For example, my ukulele has been sitting undisturbed in a corner of the living room, and yet my brain keeps needling me with the thought that I should really get a keyboard and write songs. But if I sit back and think for a few minutes, I am reminded that I need to take care of what is already here - my current goals and responsibilities. I have dreams beyond publishing a book, but if I further divide my time into also trying to a) learn to play the keyboard and b) attempt to write songs, I will accomplish none of those things. By throwing other aims into the ring, without considering how they will affect my ability to achieve my first set of goals, I am just sabotaging myself.


By introducing a million new goals, I am also giving myself myriad new ways to fail. Not only am I an unpublished author, but I can't play the ukulele and I'm not a brilliant keyboard player/songwriter! My brain could do so much catastrophizing with that particular line of thinking.


Instead, I am trying to take a page from the compassion I offer my dog in prioritizing her need to be an only dog. Instead of seeing myself as boring and one track, I am reframing it as being compassionate to my current life goals by offering my undivided attention (at least as undivided as any attention can be when you are attempting to balance your life with the demands of a job) to those before jumping on to the next thing.


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