Lessons From A Dog

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Writing might be the perfect profession for my personality. It’s maybe even a little too good.

I’ve stated more than once in this blog that, as writers, we tend to be our own harshest critics. In hindsight, nothing is ever perfect. At least that’s how it is with me.

If a panel of experts in journalism (sports or otherwise), creative writing, analytical writing, blogging, poetry, etc. were to pour over everything I’ve ever written – from notes to junior high love interests, to college papers, to stories, blogs and columns – and chose the five best pieces, it would probably be a fairly decent collection. (At least I’d like to think so.) Still, it wouldn’t be perfect.

I’d read through those pieces with a critically discerning eye and find something in all of them to pick apart. Perhaps I’d use a different word here, more elegant phrasing there, add or subtract facts or ideas. But in all of them, there would be something.

I know that makes me sound like an obsessive perfectionist; aggressively ‘Type A’ at the least. I really don’t think I fit into either of those categories, though. I don’t think I’m typically critical of other people or the things I read and watch made by folks who aren’t me. It’s just me.

This occasionally bleeds into my day-to-day life. Usually it’s harmless. I think of a good point or a funny quip I could have made during a previous discussion; but I just store it away and think, “I’ll use it if the topic comes up again.” I certainly don’t beat myself up over it.

But, in truth, that’s sort of where the slope gets a bit more slippery. That point is the “if the topic comes up again” portion of the above thought. The reason that part makes things muddier is that I not only scrutinize myself over things that happened in the past, but also those that haven’t even happened yet. (A lot of times, they never will.)

When I think about the future – though I do fancy myself a bit of an optimist – there are times I worry; not so much about if this or that will happen, but how I would react or respond if this or that happens. It’s at that point when I begin to look inward and that harsh critic in me comes out. I know none of this is particularly healthy, though I don’t think it’s a necessarily uncommon problem.

But every so often, something happens out of nowhere that pulls me back to the present; out of the jungle of my own mind. That happened this morning, and I have Homer to thank for it.

I was desperately trying to come up with a topic for this blog. I had a few ideas, but nothing with which I was really satisfied. With each topic, I began writing it in my head and each time I’d stop myself, thinking it wasn’t very good. It was bothering me a lot and, instinctively, those critical thoughts came creeping in.

Homer was outside, standing in the back yard just a few feet out from the door. I stepped outside to give him a couple pats when he suddenly jerked up. His nose went to the ground and his ears perked up in curiosity. That’s when I saw a grasshopper scuttle across the ground just a few inches in front of his nose.

I watched as he intently followed it, occasionally batting at it playfully with one of his front paws. The grasshopper would leap a few feet away and Homer would jog behind to resume his investigation of the strange creature. The whole scene was quite comical and actually made me laugh out loud. It pulled me out of my own mind and allowed me to just enjoy a simple moment.

That’s when I realized Homer had the right idea. He didn’t care that he looked silly. He didn’t care what the grasshopper or I thought of him. All he knew was that right there, in that moment, he was chasing a little bouncy thing around the yard; and he seemed to be enjoying himself. The whole scene – as small and short as it was – instantly put me in a better mood.

Living in the moment is something I believe is a fairly universal problem for people. There’s always something that happened or is coming up to weigh on our minds and, if you’re like me, bring out the nasty critic. Next time I catch myself ruminating over what was or may be, I’m going to think of Homer and that grasshopper. In the grand scheme of things, who cares if I look silly?

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