"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

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Monday, November 23, 2015

What I Learned the Week I Owned a Dog

I owned a dog for one week. She was a beautiful purebred Siberian Husky. Her name was Francesca, and we called her Frankie. We adopted her from a carefully researched breeder and we waited months before she was old enough to come home.

We heard a podcast called, Legendary. We fell in love with the 06 Female gray wolf. I wanted one of my own. I was obsessed with her. I couldn't stop listening to the story of this amazing, powerful, clevel, intelligent, warrior. I  loved her before I even met her. It was the most brilliant story I have ever heard.

My younger son has always wanted a dog and I found myself at a point in my life where I finally felt capable of taking it on such a major commitment. My son did the research on breeds, made a formal presentation to me, and even responded to an RFP I wrote for a sole-source contract for a new dog-owner. I couldn't have made it harder. He couldn't have wanted it more.

We brought Frankie, our 06 Female, home on Sunday, November 15.  She fit right in. We walked for hours each day, she ran laps throughout our neighborhood outpacing every dog. No one could touch her. She slept in her crate, and rested next to me (in her playpen) during the day while I worked. On day three I started itching, and by day five I couldn't stop. My head, my legs, my chest ... so much itching. I've never owned a dog, never knew I'd be allergic.

We had to return Frankie to the farm where she was born the following weekend. I cried the whole way. When we arrived, and it was time for her to get out of the car, she just looked at me and put her head on my lap (more itching, more love).  I like to think she didn't want to leave me. I know that I didn't want to leave her. And that's how it came to pass that I had a dog for a week and it taught me this.

The heart is built to love. It's amazing how much love a heart can hold. For a child, for a friend, for a spouse, and even for a silly dog you've only known for a week. And a heart can break. Because it's the only way to release all the love it holds inside when things don't turn out as planned. And, as I'm trying to tell my son who sits crying on my couch, broken-hearted over his all-too-short love affair with his dog, a heart can heal. It takes time. But a  heart can heal. The fissures and the scars that grow during the healing process will forever hold all of his sweet memories along with all of the hope and plans he once held for him and our beautiful Frankie.

There's hope, and there's love, and there's loss.  There's moving on into a future that looks different than the one we had planned. I have done it many times. The pain will lessen. Tomorrow becomes bearable. Because the heart is built to love.

Monday, June 15, 2015


I've always associated imagination with mental wandering that results in bursts of artistry and creativity. I'm changing my mind. There's a different version of imagination that has undone me. It's not poetic or artistic or even remotely beautiful. Instead, it's the destructive version of imagination that no one discusses. This is the dirty little secret about imagination.

If you haven't yet, I encourage you to listen to Kathryn Schulz's TedTalk, "Don't Regret Regret".  In it, she has this to say about imagination, and it's been haunting me for months.

"It (regret) requires, first of all, agency -- we had to make a decision in the first place. And second of all, it requires imagination. We need to be able to imagine going back and making a different choice, and then we need to be able to kind of spool this imaginary record forward and imagine how things would be playing out in our present."

Through endless studies of human behavior we know that human beings act and feel in accordance with what they believe. But a belief is really nothing more than something we imagine to be true.  We act and feel, not according to how things really are, but according to the image our minds hold of how things are. Everything is imagination!

When we talk about a failure of imagination, we are referring to things that the mind couldn't predict, or a future the brain couldn't conjure, or a reality that humans couldn't anticipate.  But the real failure of imagination is the way it distracts us from how things really are (or were), how it distorts how much agency we truly had, the regret it generates over the choices we've made, and the way it perverts the consequences of those choices into things that we imagine could have been, should have been, would have been different ... better .... if only .... if only we had no imagination

I'm thinking about long distance running. I'm exhausted, but it's only mile 12, or 14, or 16 or 22. I'll never finish if I give in to the fatigue. So, where do I put the tired? I have to imagine it isn't there.  I have to put it aside so that I can accomplish something better, and bigger, than my fatigue.  Regret is like that. Where do you put it? How do you put it aside so you can accomplish something better? You imagine it away.

My imagination is alive and well.  It feasts on my memory, and my moments of weakness, and my mistakes, and my constant wishing for a life without blemishes.  And that's why I instantly fell in love with Kathryn Schulz's TedTalk. Because, "Here's the thing, if we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them."

I can imagine this kind of life.  A life in which, "Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better."

I can throw the full force of my imagination behind betterment-via-regret. Counting Crows said it best, "Regret is a carousel ride."

Time to get off.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Be Light

There has been a shift.  How things were is no longer how they are.  I don't know when it happened, but I know that it did. Maybe it's happened to you?

You awake and realize that you are changed; you are changed in your relationship to the people and the things around you, in your acceptance of the past, in your appreciation of the current conditions of your life, and the inevitable and brilliant truth of your future.  You are no longer at war with yourself.  And for a moment, you wonder, "How did the battle end? Is this defeat or is it victory?"

You know that it has ended because you are lighter. 

The Art of Living, Epitecus said, "Everything has two handles: one by which it can be carried and one by which it can't."  Could it be that you switched handles and started carrying smartly, ending the struggle?

Could it be that you realized that the burden weighing on you wasn't yours to carry so you gave it back to its rightful owner, releasing yourself of undue and irreconcilable responsibility?

Or, as in my case, could it be that you realized that sometimes you have to put things down, simply for the reason that they are heavy?

Ask yourself, "What else can I stop carrying?" Put it down and be light.