Life is a Dog
I never intended to have this life, believe me—
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain.
It’s good if you can accept life—you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look
Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.
Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,
But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles,
Doesn’t particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.
Robert Bly (“The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog”)
I first wrote from this wonderful poem by Robert Bly in 2005. Nothing much has changed, except for my acceptance that life is a dog. Here's the deal: Life is its own boss. Life happens on its own terms, unfolds according to its own agenda. All our illusions of control are just that—illusions. We can either go with the flow, or spend our appointed days swimming against the tide. We may make scant progress, but the tide will always win. In the meantime, we cause ourselves great pain and distress trying to divert, or inhibit its movement.
What is more interesting, at least to me, is to watch where it's going, and to ponder how we got here from where we started. What series of steps, and missteps were taken to arrive at this place of Now. Since there is no reversing course, let's build a raft and hang on for the ride. From the advantage of hindsight, I can tell you that my life has rarely gone as I had planned. There have been a few brief moments when I got what I wanted, usually with disastrous consequences. There's an outside possibility that there is more wisdom to life than I possess inside this tiny head of mine. Perhaps, learning to trust is the key.
I'm not suggesting that we do nothing and see where that gets us. We must do what we can; we must take responsibility for ourselves and think deeply about the choices we make. But, there is great freedom in allowing our stars to steer themselves in the small galaxy of our lives. Letting go allows our vision to adjust when looking at the past, at the numerous twists and turns, blind alleys, the endless mazes. When we look back with acceptance, life looks less like a hot mess and more like a rich soup, made from a good broth, simple ingredients, and savory spices. We can look forward, knowing full well that all that now exists will change. Life will be what life will be. We can let the dog in when he shows up at the door, mangy and half-starved. We may never have seen him before, but we know he’s come home.
In the Spirit,