Thursday, 12 June 2014

Life Lived with Brio

Okay, so you’re probably getting tired of hearing about my dog. But really, he takes up so much of my life, and I’m sure my kids (who take up most of the rest of it) wouldn’t like me to write about them, so you’re stuck with hearing about the dog. It's that or the garden, and right now the garden is drowning in rain, so dog it is.
Brio's name was suggested by Son Number Two. It's Italian and means "zest for life, energy, enthusiasm." Son Number Two had no idea how prophetic he was being when he suggested that name. But I'm finding Brio's name providential on an unexpected level.
I've written before about how Brio has taught me something about being Zen and in the moment. That experience caused me to make one of my new year’s resolutions be to watch for opportunities for Brio to teach me. There’s a lot I can learn from him, beyond the obvious things most puppies teach you: patience, endurance, discipline, the benefits of daily exercise… But he can also teach me sheer exuberance in living.
Brio doesn’t do things by halves. When he’s happy, he’s deliriously joyous, his whole body wriggling with excitement, and he greets you at the door after work as if you’re just returning from a year away in Africa. He radiates love. When he knows he has done something wrong, he slinks to the floor with his ears drooping backward as if you’ve just whipped him with barbed chains, even though you haven’t even raised your voice. When he plays, he throws himself into it with no reservations, leaping into the air to catch the ball, and skidding to such abrupt halts that he sometimes literally turns somersaults. Even as a puppy he showed no fear, hurtling himself with abandon from couch to coffee table and invariably crashing and tumbling to the floor. I'm amazed he never broke a rib. When he relaxes, he is boneless, spread in deep contentment over the cushion like a pool of amber syrup. When I rub his tummy, he squirms and twists into impossible shapes with a big grin on his face and his tongue dangling clownishly out the side of his mouth, the caricature of tickle. If he could giggle, he would. I think God did dogs a disservice in withholding laughter from them, but Brio certainly tries to laugh anyway. And when Brio is feeling tender, he presses himself against your legs and gazes up at you in adoration and you are caught in those laser-beam eyes, and you feel like the best-loved and most worthy human on the planet.

I need to be more like my dog. How often do I hold myself back from fully experiencing the moment because of self-consciousness? How often do I talk myself out of intense feeling because of fear? Why do I tell myself the joy can't last so it's better not to get too into it? Am I the only person who does this? I think a part of me is afraid to love too much because someday I know I will be disappointed or bereft. But isn't that all the more reason to sink myself into the joy of now? To savour it while I've got it? Yes, I will undoubtedly experience loss down the road. But will holding back now make the loss any less deep later? Isn't it better to fully experience the love now, suck up every drop of it I can while I have the chance, and deal with the loss when it comes? Otherwise the whole journey is about loss, anticipated or real, and I will have missed out on what joy I could have had. I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I have loved fully and well, lived deeply, experienced intensely, and expanded my heart.

I think this is what Brio can teach me.

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