A few of my friends have been telling me, “You should write a book!” One of them, Cheryl, even suggested a title – “Life Lessons From Frank”. That’s given me a lot to think about over the last week. (No, not the idea of writing a book … quite honestly, I’m amazed that there are people even following this blog and can’t imagine an editor thinking anything I share as being ink-worthy.) :o)
I’ve not looked at my relationship with Frank in terms of anything other than “companion”. He looks out for me and I look out for him. But the more I thought about Cheryl’s suggestion, the more I realized that yes, there is quite a lot that I could learn from ole’ Frank. And as I’ve pondered that idea over the past week, here’s what I’ve come up with – the top 10 things I’ve learned (or could learn) from Frank, the wonder beagle. And in honor of the whole Star Wars thing, I looked at it as if Frank was channeling the wise Jedi Grand Master – Yoda. After all, I think they are about the same size:
1. To what each day brings, look forward you must – In the 1 1/2 years we’ve been together, Frank has never arisen with anything but a smile on his face. He enthusiastically looks forward to each and ever day. He approaches life as something to be enjoyed and doesn’t worry about what may or may not happen.
2. With gusto, lead life – all you have to do is watch him eat. He puts his all into it. When eating, he’s pushing that nose into his food, not caring what’s falling out of the bowl (that’s to be cleaned up afterwards). There’s nothing dainty about Frank, nor does he even care about that. When he plays, he plays hard. When he’s happy, his tail is wagging a mile a minute. There is nothing halfway about how he approaches his life.
3. Better than a nap on a dreary day, there is nothing – Frank doesn’t fret if it’s cloudy or cold. It’s not a time for moping or being upset because he had made other plans or things didn’t turn out the way he had hoped they would. Instead, he decides that if he has to stay indoors, he might as well do what he does best. Sleep! Frank knows how to make lemonade out of lemons! Of course, #3 is a perfect lead-in to lesson #4 …
4. Better than a nap on a sunny day, there is nothing either – Life isn’t always about trying to fill up your moments with activity. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just stop and do nothing. Sleep might not be the best (or only) option, granted. But taking time to relax and reinvigorate your soul is something we don’t do as much as we should. I know I sure didn’t do enough of it when I was pursuing a career.
5. Strangers, without apprehension you should meet – Frank sees every new person (or dog for that matter) as a potential new friend! He doesn’t judge. He isn’t wary about skin color, ethnicity, political beliefs, size or appearance, or any of that stuff that we humans tend to do at the first instance of meeting someone new. The world would be a better place if we all weren’t so judgmental. I have to say that I am grateful we humans have graduated from sniffing crotches to shaking hands, though!
6. A short memory, must you have – Frank is scared to death of thunderstorms. He’s under the cot (or whatever else is handy) at the first rumble and doesn’t come out until 20 minutes after it ends. I mean, he is terrified! But once it’s over, does he spend any more time agonizing over how horrible the experience was? Does he let a memory of thunder affect him the next morning … “Yeah, today could be a good day – but that was a pretty nasty storm yesterday. What if we have another one today?” IF THERE WERE ANY LESSON I could learn from Frank, this would be the one that I think is most important for me.
7. Grudges, hold you not – there have been times when I’ve hurt Frank’s feelings. Just a few moments ago, he wouldn’t stop jumping up on a woman and I had to pull him on his leash and scold him a bit to get him to stop. Just like other times when I’ve had to discipline him, he doesn’t let that color how he deals with me. It’s something that happens in the moment and he doesn’t withhold his love … or think that I don’t love him … simply because of a minor disagreement.
8. A sense of humor, important it is very – Frank has an incredible personality and I know he appreciates humor. The other morning, he woke me up early. I crawled out of bed, thinking he might need water, or have to go out. Literally, I crawled across the tent floor and over to his water dish, only to find it half full “Frank, you’ve got water. Do you have to go out? Frank? Frank!” I turned around to find him up on the bed in the EXACT place that I was occupying only moments before … his head on the pillow and his body fully stretched out down the warm flannel of the sleeping bag. “You little bastard! You just wanted MY spot?,” I exclaimed. He had has back to me. Wouldn’t turn around to even look at me … but his tail was wagging a mile a minute, laughing at how he had tricked the human! The more I play scolded him, the harder that tail wagged until he finally turned his head up and looked at me with a big grin on his face! The next morning, he tried to do the same thing and I said to him, “No way am I falling for THAT trick again!” He looked at me with that same grin, thought about it for a moment, and then crawled into the sleeping bag right next to me and laid by my side. There are so many ways he expresses humor and I absolutely love that about him.
9. Okay, everything will be … trust – Frank isn’t worried about anything. Granted, he probably knows that he’s got me to take care of him, but again, he doesn’t worry about whether I’m going to leave, or what might happen down the road. He doesn’t care that we’re in a tent or that we don’t have a lot of material possessions. Life couldn’t be better as far as Frank’s concerned. He lives it fully and always in the moment.
10. Love, unconditionally, and show it you must – I can’t tell you the number of times that Frank’s reached out to help me. There were days back in Charleston … hell there have even been a few days on our journey … where my anxiety has reared up. The dissociation episodes got to the point where they happened daily last fall and winter. I’d sit in the recliner and just “lose time”. My mind would get so overwhelmed that it would just shut down and if Frank hadn’t been there, I’d have lost hours before coming to my senses. When those times happened, he’d be right there, forcing me to snap out of it. There have been occasions on this trip when he’ll sense an anxiety attack coming. The next thing I know, he’s at my feet with a worried look on his face, putting his front feet in my lap asking to be picked up. And once he’s up on my lap, he’s licking my face or nuzzling up against me. Once the anxiety starts to lessen, he’ll ease himself down against my shoulder and just sit there, content to be sharing space together. Again, the world would be a much better place if, when we saw someone in pain, or anxiety, or depression, we took concrete steps to “help”.
So those are the top 10 life lessons I think we could learn from how Frank goes about his life. I think he’s a pretty good teacher … I just need to work on being a better student! Overall, I think Yoda would be proud of Frank’s mastery of the force as he knows it, inability to wield a light saber ignored for the moment.
On a separate note, I am very happy … and quite grateful … to say that this is the first Christmas season in memory that I have not felt an overwhelming sense of dread arising out of the season. No anxiety. No overriding depression. We’re just sitting here in south Texas, appreciative of the fact that we don’t have to deal with snow. We don’t have to deal with crowds of people in the stores (not that I ever really did much holiday shopping … whatever presents I couldn’t buy online were picked up in a 3-4 hour shopping sprees). No worry about whether you’re showing enough love if you don’t spend your last cent on the perfect gift.
But it’s more than that. So much more than that. Aside from just now, writing this blog, I’ve not wasted a bit of time reflecting on all the dreadful Christmas experiences of my youth or the alcohol-induced rages I had to endure. I’m not dreading what the future has in store. I’m worried about it (I’d be lying if I said otherwise), but I’m not DREADING it. And that’s a big difference for me. In the past, I couldn’t escape the dread, no matter what I tried to do! Hell, I’m not even dwelling on the fact that I’m alone! I’m not … I’ve got a pretty good teacher, companion and best little buddy alongside, who’s sharing a peaceful, reflective holiday season with me.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, or whatever else floats your boat. Festivus for the rest of you – let the airing of grievances commence! :o)
May you all be filled with blessings as we enter the new year.