On Grace Therapy

Last night my eldest was working on her homework, tired and cranky after a grueling day at school.  Lanie came over and flopped near her and, of course as big dogs are want to do, sat on her homework.  Now in dog language that would mean, I am here for you and I am not asking for anything but for you to pet me so you can feel better.

Like the unpredictable Austin weather this winter, teenagers are cloudy, overcast and sometimes there is chance of pure sunlight.  Now I had tried that caring and nurturing “how was your day” stunt and was rejected completely. But the minute Lanie wandered over, my daughter softened.  She shakes her head and says “Lanie get off my homework.” and then stops and proceeds to hug her and play with her for a few minutes.  She nuzzles her face in her black and white fur looks up at me and says “Mama, how did we ever deserve a dog like Lanie.”

I don’t know the answer for that question.

To think that one non human being can change the lives of all in our family and a few in my neighborhood, without words, without obligation, without responsibility but through consistent presence and unflinching devotion.  To look into their eyes and see a reflection of your own perfection.

We grow up being told to become better at every step of the way.  Become a better child by doing blah blah blah.  Become a better student by studying blah blah blah.  Become a better parent, better employee, better boss, better spouse, better elder.  No matter the relationship, there is always something that can be done better.  The goal of being better is never met because apparently that happens only on the day you die.  Then miraculously many people gather at your funeral and say what a wonderful person you really were.  There are stories, there are incidents, there are anecdotes usually regaled with a whimsical smile or a sad tear or two.

But that is usually saved till you can no longer be present to hear it.

Not so with your dog.  When your dog sees you, there is complete acceptance and forgiveness.  To your dog, you are the most wonderful, beautiful, interesting person in the world.  You don’t age, you are not too fat, you are not too poor, you are not too stupid.  (more on this in 5 Lessons from Lanie)

I was touched by Anne Lamott’s eulogy on her beloved dog Sadie who dies after a prolonged illness “Having a good pet is the closest some of us ever come to knowing the direct love of a mother, or God.”

This is true.  Every other relationship but this one, can be marked or marred by love, tears and roller coaster rides.

I don’t know how we came to deserve a good dog like Lanie who chases rabbits, snores like an old man and hugs everyone.  How does she manage to go through her dog life living with her heart so wide open.

I don’t know whether at some point, someone above looked down below and said “Looks like they really need her since Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee have their own reality shows”

I can however, recognize the presence of Grace and I am grateful for the timing.

Yin Yang, Panda Dog
Yin Yang, Panda Dog

On Gratitude and Grace

The Tree of Life. Art courtesy Vladimir Kush

November last year was a little hard to put it mildly.  And as with life, before you could say “Jack Sparrow”, a year had turned.  Funny how when every year reaches October, I greet it with the same sense of fleeting nostalgia.  Like January is the dawn of the day and November is 11 pm at night.  It’s going…soon to be gone.  Till another dawn of the new year.

I also tend to panic in November.  I go back to resolutions some started bravely with much gusto and resolve.  Some complete.  Some left by the wayside to be picked up, dusted and relaunched again on January 1.  But just when November is ebbing, it brings out all the guns and firepower.  She unleashes a show stopper of a holiday.  The Thanksgiving weekend.  I must tell you, this is my favorite one among all.  From Diwali to Halloween to Christmas.  Nothing beats Thanksgiving in its utter simplicity of intent.

About gratitude and grace.  About our relationships.  About abundance that exists already.  Every roof over our head, every plate filled with food, every child healthy, every heart that is open.  It is also about the bounty around us.  All creatures great and small.  None less than the other.  None greater than another.  For each day that we greet, to be able to walk upon the sustaining earth, under an endless blue roof, wearing borrowed shoes, hoping to leave behind traces of existence.

Angeles Arrien, the wise woman, social anthropologist extraordinaire says “The word gratitude comes from the word “gratia” from which we get the word gift and grace.  What moments of grace have you experienced this year?  As Meister Eckhart says if the only word you say today is Thank You, it should be enough.”

Here’s to us.  In a world filled with uncertainties, I hope today we turn off the TV and shut out the news of fluctuating markets or failing economies, anger, greed and hatred.  Focus instead on the lessons of the past and the gifts of the present.

Gratitute and grace…it is about who we have in our lives, what we should be thankful for and why acknowledgment brings increase.

Happy Thanksgiving!