Sunday, June 6, 2010


Brace yourself Blog Friends, because this may not be pretty. Is it related to dogs? Isn't everything?!

Dear Husband would sometimes like to send Halo off to live on a deserted island, and that is understandable because like a geeky, pimpled, teenage hacker, she prefers to use her brilliance towards evil and chaos at times. Indeed, instead of working towards world peace she is more apt to find the one piece of hard candy Dear Husband left in an accessible bag (no comment) -- after taking out all other contents, of course. Her misdeeds are legendary - let's just leave it at that.

But Halo has taught me something really, really important -- a lesson that has broad application -- and that is the importance of accepting a dog (person) for who and what s/he is.

Like all of us, Halo is a combination of excellence and REALLY?! (as in, "did you REALLY just do that?!"). For a while I tried to change her but she was persistent in her schooling of me and I finally saw the light -- Halo is Halo and that is not going to change. If she did, she wouldn't be Halo, would she?

And so rather than make her change to fit me, I not only accepted Halo but I embraced her Halo-ness. That means I have childproof locks on cabinets, put up with crazed barking on road trips when I dare to step away from the car, and when I leave the house, she is confined to the bedroom to keep her from doing who-knows-what (she can open the frig in the Utah house -- enough said). And it means I have a dog that got a utility leg her first time in the ring without having practiced anywhere but home -- seriously -- who does that?! Answer: Halo.

So what is the take home message here?? That Halo is a pain in the backside? No, she is not -- she is Halo -- and the lesson is that dogs and people deserve to be loved and honored and respected for exactly who and what they are. And if we cannot do that, then we need to leave their lives -- plain and simple.

Bear with me -- this is all related...

I am one of those people who likes religion and even church. I do not talk about it much because I hate the stereotypes that follow but yes, I like church, religion, spirituality, and that kind of stuff. But I am having a real hard time lately with the whole church thing and it is related to what I said about Halo.

Recently one of my very good friends came out to me -- not as in came out as a debutante but rather shared that she is in love with a woman. This news -- and our discussion -- shook me, but not in the way you might imagine -- and yes, this is related to Halo and religion.

What struck me was how this wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman had for years felt that she could not be who she was -- that if she were true to herself she would not be loved, honored, or respected. I have thought about the men she tried to love and make happy, and I have thought about the sorrow and pain of trying so hard to be someone different than you really are -- and truly my heart has felt broken for her, and for all the others who try so hard to be someone else.

And that has caused me to be mad at religion because most of them seem to forget that whole greatest commandment thing -- you know, the love your neighbor one? I am pretty sure it was not love the neighbors you approve of, the ones who are like you, and certainly only love your heterosexual neighbors. No, I am pretty sure that was not the intention of the greatest commandment -- I think Jesus was a bit more inclusive.

I know the rhetoric -- love the sinner, hate the sin -- but I am sorry, condemning people as sinners for who and what they are is not loving in any way, shape, or form. And I am thinking that maybe it is God's job to decide about sins anyway -- I feel lucky if I remember to take out the garbage let alone try to separate everyone into sheep and goat categories.

Moving on -- so, Halo reminds me to love the person (well, dog in her case -- or more accurately in more ways than one -- the bitch) that is in front of me, not the one I want to create. And my friend's experience -- and others like her that I love -- remind me of the deep pain we inflict when we insist on trying to change people and/or force them to conform. And I am not sure right now where religion fits in -- I am currently on strike and mowing my lawn, training dogs, and riding my bike instead of going to church.

But then I realized something more -- and this is personal -- and universal -- and that is that all of us are pressured to be what we are not, and I am really annoyed about this!!

Doesn't it get really old trying to conform to what others want? And how confusing because everyone wants something different. And who died and left those people in charge of changing us anyway?!

I could write a book on all the ways people have tried to change me, and all the "error messages" I have received -- I bet you can also. They are so painful and they make us not trust ourselves -- at least that is what happens to me. And those "error messages" also convey to us that we are not okay the way we are, and so they hurt and make us tentative.

Let's see -- someone once told me I was too intense, and I certainly have gotten flack and consequences for being very direct and honest with how I feel. I have been criticized for being too forceful in trying to get my way, and too free with my thoughts and opinions. Whatever. Okay -- age and experience has definitely taught me some diplomacy but really -- isn't that really all about other people and their discomfort?

It seems to me that if people have a tough time with anger or other honest, strong emotions -- well, whose problem is that? And gosh -- I should apologize for having a forceful, intense personality? I am thinking that was the same personality that allowed a high school dropout teenage mom to get a Ph.D. from Berkeley so don't hold your breath for the apology or change.

I like approval as much as anyone but it really gets both old and confusing trying to be what other people want, and so I will forgo approval in exchange for authenticity -- and I think you should also. I care a lot about other people, but doesn't it seem like those worth caring about should honor, respect, and love who and what we are?

Yes, I know there is balance -- we need to be flexible and get along and all that -- but really, isn't that sometimes just used to control us?

And so we have to learn to distinguish helpful feedback from someone who is trying to control his/her own discomfort by controlling us, and we have to find people who will help us be more of what we are -- not less. And perhaps most important -- we have to work harder at being true to who we are -- and embracing that truth in others so that they will not spend years hiding, hating, and feeling shame.

I know Halo is not perfect, and I know it is not normal to have a dog who was opening drawers just because she could at four months old -- but Halo is Halo, and I love that. I am not going to be disappointed because she sometimes prefers to be a hacker to a Nobel Peace prize winner -- rather I am happy to love her for who and what she is, and guess what? She does the same back to me.

People are harder -- probably because they are not as cute and fuzzy, and they can talk, which is a problem -- but we have to make the same effort, and stop trying to make people feel badly for being who and what they are. And we have to start with ourselves -- and that means you have to strip away the layers like the skin on an onion and answer that question my dad asked me so long ago: who were you before you were socialized?

Let's get busy...

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