I walked into my house and sensed disaster…again. Opening the front door, I was met with shredded napkins and a trail of rice leading up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, my old dog, Diego, lay motionless except for his eyes. He glanced at me with sad, sick eyes and although he…again…destroyed our kitchen garbage, I did not have the heart to even raise my voice to him. He must have eaten sufficient garbage scraps to self-impose his own punishment. He eyes said that he had. Recognizing this, I muttered some profanity and went about the task of cleaning up his mess…again.
I have done this many times. I used to blame Diego for his lack of self-control. Now, I mostly blame myself. Cleaning the kitchen on this morning, I recall tossing some left-over taco meat on top of the three-quarters full garbage and thinking, “I’d better dump that or Diego will have a field day.” Alas, I forgot and a field day was had.
Diego and I both paid the price for my oversight. He was sick and I was scraping refried beans off my kitchen floor.
In the past, I might have dispensed some swift and uncomfortable “justice” upon Diego. I don’t anymore. I understand that a dog is going to be a dog. No purposeful logic inspires his dumpster diving. He is afflicted with instincts beyond his control. It is here where Diego and I (and maybe all of us) can find some common ground.
Reading a book the other evening, a particularly impactful line slapped me in the face:
“People don’t change,” she said. ”They grow into what they’ve always been. They just stop pretending, that’s all.” This line is from my favorite author, James Lee Burke’s, new novel, The Jealous Kind.
I felt the slap, because the idea of “change” represents hope to me. And these words diminished this hope.
I read and re-read and shared these words with a couple of buddies. Their responses were similar, yet different. One replied with “Ugh…” with almost the “that’s what I was afraid of” tone. The other was “Ugh”ish, but with a “so what?”-we’re still ok tone. I understood both interpretations.
My first instinct, like many folks I suspect, is to steer towards the self-critical path; to identify more closely to the negative than the positive. And, as much as this is true, so is the fact that after I stew on these things for a while, I tend to reverse my position. After some searching, I find and remove the eggshell from my omelet and enjoy the meal.
These words, like all well-written words, challenge the reader to explore; to taste the words and roll them around the mouth and mind, and find the different flavors.
The hope I thought I lost was found in a new flavor I discovered in these words. “Growing into” what we’ve always been spun towards the positive. We ARE good, too. We’re kind and powerful and beautiful. Becoming more of these things is an inspiring idea. We don’t need to change. We just need to truly “be” what we already are.
Stopping “pretending” gives us permission to express these things. For all the ways we limit our expression- fear, doubt, insecurities, etc.-, understanding that we’re not going to change, and we don’t really need to, opens the door to the somewhat liberating idea that we’re already ok. We have nothing to fear or prove. We’re built and we’re good and we can freely deliver on the promise of us.
So, my damn dog will be a damn dog and I will be whatever I am. He will make messes and I will make messes. We will also enjoy sitting on the deck watching the sun set over the water and know that being what we are is a fine thing to be. We don’t need to change a damn thing…all of us are good…
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). He also runs the new Waterland Arcade, located at 22306 Marine View Drive South. Dave extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave needs more friends – find him on Facebook here.