Dogs are so terribly consistent. Every morning I take Gigi out to pee (and do the other business), and every morning at 8:35, she does. It’s incredible. Then we jog to the church on Fairfield and run up the steps where I give her a cookie, (only after she sits). We look out a while before running down the grass where she leaps around and rolls a little, until I lead her down to the sidewalk. Then we finish jogging home.
There are mornings I wish we would stay inside and sit on the couch until 9, when I’d need to get ready to go to work. But I know it’s better to get up, and get outside. The sun is nice to see. Nice to feel. I like running past the same houses. I like running to the church, and seeing Gigi begin to speed her pace, as we near it. I like watching her romp down the grass. I’ve found so much pleasure in her pleasure. I’m starting to see her personality.
This past weekend we drove two hours west to Tyler, Texas, where my sister has family on her husband’s side. They had a backyard that was entirely enclosed and when I let Gigi off her leash, she ran. Agh! She RAN! I located a tennis ball sitting in the grass and began to toss it back and forth. We got to the point where she was so tired that after a while she didn’t jump up when another new person came to the back door to meet her. (Gigi likes to jump).
This girl has style. And energy. My brother-in-law said that “maybe she should be one of those dock-jumpers.” The kind you see on television leaping off of docks to reach for some ball or bit of rope. Gigi has the leap in her. She could do it, he said.
“I bet she could,” I nodded. “You’re right.”
Anyway, well, it is good to live with another creature. Gigi’s no human, I grant that, but I’m learning who she is, and she is most definitely learning me. Does she read my moods? I’d bet money on it. Does she know when I’m sad? Definitely. Does she know when I’m about to leave her? YES. Her head goes down and her tail sinks low. What is my cue? Repetitive kisses on the nose, rubbing my hand around her straight-up ears, and her chin. That’s the signal of departure.
Love upon departure. It’s really pretty typical, isn’t it? When we leave those we’d rather not leave? It’s then that we give them our most ardent signs of affection?
But no. I’m petting Gigi all of the time. Giving her rubs in the early morning, in the quiet of the evening after we’ve both eaten our separate dinners. Is it easier for humans to love animals? Maybe it’s their undying adoration, their faithfulness, attentiveness, their obvious signs of gratitude—their tails, wagging--that makes me, us(?) so quick to love them. Is it because they love us? (I'll leave that question, and its implications, open-ended. . . ).
But. Change directions. Let's think more about personalities. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about personalities. Yes, I’ve been learning about Gigi’s, but I’ve also been learning about my own. After completing The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Personal Discovery, I began to see that maybe my Enneagram “number” was not what I thought it was. (For multiple years I’ve thought I was a 9, a Peacemaker. Now I believe I’m a 4, “The Romantic,” OR, “The Individualist.”)
The two books I’ve been reading this past week, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and The Seven Storey Mountain, both reveal characters with clear, consistent personalities. I mean to say: they’re specific. Their personalities are expressed so well (and so strongly) that you may not ever forget them.
In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen is the overly small, literally thin-skinned friend of the protagonist. (The protagonist, a Wheelwright Boy in Gravesend, New Hampshire, during the middle of the 20th century, is quite a memorable character himself, but because the story is told from his viewpoint the reader is constantly looking OUT at the world, and, therefore, at Owen Meany). And Owen is unforgettable. When he speaks, he seems almost to be yelling—to make up for his size, perhaps? All of his dialogue is given in ALL CAPS, ALWAYS. He is terribly outspoken. Bold. Willing to say what he’s thinking.
Thomas Merton, the author of The Seven Storey Mountain, is quite a character, as well. He tells his own story of moving to France, then England, traveling to the United States, back to England and then again back to the States. He’s all over the place, physically and emotionally. He’s honest, sometimes brutally. Personally, from what I’ve read so far, I’m learning that he is a person who needs to rebel in order to know the difference between bad and good. Having grown up relatively familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition, he was aware of spirituality’s effect on some of his family members, but he was never forced, consistently encouraged, or guided to remain in that spiritual direction. So he learned about himself, about the world and about God, by living through his own experiences—seeing things on his own, messing up on his own, succeeding on his own. He was an individual. (He was also, if you care about the Enneagram, a 4!).
Characters. Owen Meany, Thomas Merton. Myself. Gigi. I’m thrilled to be living in a day and age when self-expression is welcomed, encouraged and very possible. I’m even more thrilled to be reading books that show me distinct, memorable characters.
What I take stock in now and what I want to remember for this next week, however, is that I am reflective, no matter my personality, of a Creator. I was made in an image—with a brain, an intellect, emotions, feelings, the ability to create beauty and live in a way that lifts other people up. That’s my purpose, to reflect the Creator, to enliven others toward God. Toward gratitude.
I’m grateful to be alive. In Shreveport. In anyplace. I don't run up the steps to the church every day just because the church is sitting there. I run up the steps because somehow, I feel like I'm running toward God. The church is just a building, I know; God is not contained within it. God is everywhere. But I'm thankful for the solid reminder. For the physical, stalwart symbol of faith that has remained over the years--has been there even longer than me. And I like to look out, especially with Gigi, on a world, on a street, that doesn't seem to see me, that doesn't notice where I'm sitting. I can reflect, can think, can enjoy Gigi's, and God's presence, but still be in the world.
Gigi doesn't know it's a church. But she knows she gets a cookie there! And she loves running down its hill. I'd like to think that I too am capable of expressing So Much Joy. I'm enjoying expressing it here, on this website. For you. Whoever you are.
Be blessed. Live fully. Life joyfully.