When my dog Shadow was a baby she learned a trick. I usually keep a glass of water on my bedside table at night. She would crawl onto my chest and stare at it, growling, until I lifted it to her nose, tilted the glass and gave her a sip.
After enough times of this, even if there was no glass of water, her clamoring up to my chest, staring at the bedside table and growling meant: I’m thirsty, please give me some water.
In her mind, the bedside table is where the good water, that’s cold and comes in a glass, lives. She forged a connection between the two. And, from that connection, an expectation.
Humans are not all that different from poodles in this way ;)
One of the most common forms of heartbreak I bear witness to, in my own life and in my practice, is when we struggle to accept that the cupboard that “should” be full is empty. We keep going back, looking in the wrong places for what we need, and then blaming ourselves for the lack.
Shadow has me perfectly trained. She knows her persistent, grumpy growl and fluffy, furrowed brow will bait me into getting up and fetching her a glass of water, even though I keep a bowl of water on the floor by the closet for the other dogs and she’s perfectly capable of hopping off the bed to drink from it.
She knows if she complains long enough, I’ll break down and get her what she’s asking for.
But life is a less indulgent mama.
Life is not here to accommodate or spoil us. Life waits patiently for us, instead, to connect the dots, solve the riddles and change in the direction of our highest good. Life doesn’t get up and bring us the glass of water. It challenges us to get up and get it for ourselves.
We’re meant to try another cupboard when the one that should be fully stocked with goodies is empty. We’re not meant to slam our heads against the door for months or years at a time. We’re not meant to pathologize or create long, complicated stories about how unworthy we are or how unfixably broken.
The whole point, when stuck, is to figure out quickly how to set ourselves free. We engage with our predicaments only as long as is necessary to fully understand them. Then we push off from them, like the hard bottom of a swimming pool. We come back to the surface where we can breathe and take the next, best step.
When nothing is working it’s not because we’re bad or wrong or beyond help. It’s simply because we’re meant to try another way.
In the same way Shadow transcends language in order to communicate with me, I believe life is talking to us like this all the time. The question is: are we listening?
Hope this food for thoughts carries you into a powerful week ahead!