Photo credit: Wendi Kelly; Maggie
My beloved Maggie, my Duck Tolling Retriever has obviously NOT been keeping up with the daily news.
She remains blissfully unaware of the winter storms, the struggling economy, the lackluster Real Estate market, rising gas prices or demise of Wisconsin’s unions.
She does occasionally cock her pretty little head from side to side if conversations begin to take on a worried tone and will be happy to come up to you and lick all of your troubles away and remind you that there is still plenty of fun to be had out here.
Anyone want to play ball or wrestle with a filthy stuffed animal?
She will be happy to frolic and run with you, jump over mountains of snow or play in the mud, show you her outstanding collection of stuffed animals that she proudly carries all over the house and if you are interested, will engage in a playful game of tug-of-war.
She is much more interested in the idea that company will come and visit, that the birds will stop by the bird feeders in the garden and that her primary job of keeping rabbits and squirrels out of the vegetable garden is well done.
Maggie is happy every single day. Blissfully, joyfully, simplistically grateful for a bowl of food, children to play with and the honor of being by my side. (Exciting, I know.)
She doesn’t seem to yearn or strive for the things that wait off in the distance, tempting and taunting the rest of us. She has everything she needs.
She has love. She has family. She has food. She gets to work some every day and play some every day. And she gets to take a nap whenever she wants one.
Simple? For a dog maybe. For us? That elusive balance between work some, play some and be happy every day seems a lot harder. It IS harder, but it can be done- at least on a reasonable level. I’m not suggesting that you run out and grab a filthy stuffed animal of your very own, but there are a few life/work balance lessons we can copy from Maggie.
Living the Life of Maggie
Take Time for Play Every Day. Maggie is very clear about the importance of playtime in a dog’s life. After all, if life isn’t fun, what good is it? She doesn’t wait around for anyone else to initiate playtime, she grabs her toys and starts playing. And if you don’t get the hint, you are very likely to find a toy dropped in your unsuspecting lap to help you with your ignorance. Life is meant to be enjoyed. And she is here to help you do just that. How often do we wait for someone else to invite us to have fun instead of grabbing our own toys and getting things started? Make play a daily priority and don’t wait for others to give you permission.
When its time to work…Focus. Maggie is very clear about her job responsibilities. Her self-declared positions in the world are to guard the backyard from rabbits and squirrels and to take care of our kids in some Lassie-style fashion like a mother hen. (She hasn’t seemed to notice they are almost grown up.) When she is guarding the kids or the yard from evil, she is ON DUTY. Nothing can distract her from her task. She will sit in the same spot in the backyard forever, her watchful, serious little face moving silently back and forth across the yard for any slight sign of perceived furry danger. She is on task, clear about her mission, never multi-tasking, and never distracted. Those critters never stand a chance.
Love Unconditionally and Forgive Instantly. Maggie has a gorgeous, beautiful tail that fans out like a bouquet of feathers. Sadly, it spreads out on the floor sometimes behind her and is stepped on or tripped over when she lies sprawled out all over the place. Her wounded, pitiful yelp is heart breaking. But before you can even bend over to apologize, she is wagging her tail, licking you to tell you it’s okay and not to worry about it. She doesn’t want you to feel bad. Her love is big enough to cover all injuries and her forgiveness in lightning fast. She doesn’t hold grudges or remember wrongdoings. She doesn’t bring up past grievances or hold them against you for leverage or extra dog food. It’s instantly gone, she is back to loving, and being happy again.
Work a Little, Play a Little, Eat a Little, Rest a Little. Rinse. Repeat. Maggie seems to have this balance pattern down to a science. Her philosophy seems to be work for a while, then get up and play for just a little bit to rest the brain, then drop down on the floor and take an immediate nap. She doesn’t work eight to ten long stressful hours in a row or wear out her body with hard stretches of rough play. She doesn’t binge eat or scarf down her bowl of food, (unlike a different dog in our house…) and she doesn’t sleep the entire day or night away. She does however have a funny little habit of wanting to go to bed early at night and will stare at us impatiently at ten o’clock with a very clear expression that says if we had any sense at all we would be heading to bed for some beauty sleep. When we ignore her, she goes off to bed anyway, clearly the most sensible creature in the household.
Worry isn’t a Word. Maggie doesn’t worry about the future. It isn’t a concept or word she can understand. It wouldn’t do her any good even if she could, because it has no purpose in her life. Maggie lives only in the moment. She lives on purpose, completely focused, full-on energy, full of love, life and passion and then…when she needs a break, she takes it. She doesn’t worry about it, wonder what anyone will think, pile up any to do lists, any shoulds or guilt trips, Maggie just DOES. Whatever needs to be done- right then and there.
If Only Life Were as Easy as a Dog’s Life…
But of course, it isn’t. Still, we can take the lessons learned from Maggie and apply them to our very human lives-even if it can only be done in bits and pieces. We might not be able to drop down on the floor at work and take a nap after play time, but we can take five minute stretch breaks or rest our brains with something fun, or get a little laughter snuck somewhere into the course of the day.
We might not be able to turn off the worry spigot cold turkey but could we squeeze in little non-worry moments and just play, perhaps focus on the simple, wonderful things that life is still offering in the middle of the daily storm? Can we find the fun? Do we remember to look? Do we even know where our toys are?
Can we schedule in time for a nap or time for tea or time for meditation? Could we let go of the multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time?
Do we love unconditionally?
How fast is our forgiveness trigger? As fast as a dog’s?
I’ve learned a lot from Maggie. But it takes a lot of practice to be a good dog.
I’m still working on it.