Think of a road map as a tool to get you from Point A to Point B. When you are driving, you watch for road signs to help you figure out if you’re going in the right direction. Kind of like a highway sign on which a black arrow points in the opposite direction of where you are going.
Sometimes, in order to go forwards, you have to back up.
How does that work?
Sometimes, in order to figure out what you want to do next, you have to inventory what’s already happened to find out what you’ve learned. In other words, you look back — you RETURN to what you remember and tease the meaning from it.
When I started this blog, I made a conscious decision to RETURN to what I’d learned about all of the dogs that I’d shared my life with. I decided that the intangible “things” I’d learned from these dogs were worth mining for life lessons that might catch the attention of someone who was where I was almost 20 years ago.
Twenty years ago I was 37 years old, my son was five years old, and I’d been married for only 9 years. That’s if I’ve done the math right.
The first dog that my husband and I had together was a black Great Dane that we named Diamond because of the white splotch on his chest that was shaped like a diamond.
We had learned about this breed by spending time with Flicka. Flicka was a Harlequin dane. She’d been raised on a farm before coming to live with a guy who lived in the downstairs apartment. I lived up in the garret apartment – a romantic description for “attic.”
Flicka didn’t get a LOT of exercise because her owner worked long hours and didn’t seem to understand that exercise for a dog was more than opening the back door at night to let her outside so that she could roam freely until morning.
My not-yet husband and I started taking Flicka out for long walks along the Erie Canal and to some of the larger parks. We’d run her with another dog – a Britney Spaniel named Nathan. Nathan and his owner lived in the second floor apartment in the house where Flicka lived on the first floor with her owner and I lived up in the attic.
Neither dog got enough daily exercise.
What I remember when I sift through these memories, is the first time that Flicka’s energy changed — when her trot felt more joyous than mundane. We were walking on the path that runs alongside of the Erie Canal. One moment, the dogs were next to us – moving along willingly but sluggishly. As if they were thinking, “What’s the point here?”
And, in an almost imperceptible moment, the air around us shifted. It felt electric. Flicka lifted her noble head as she began looking around, sniffing the air, and increasing her pace. She settled in, got comfortable with moving faster and took us farther down the path than we’d initially planned to go.
Flicka moved like a jogger just finding that “runner’s high” — that inner space where your brain might scream I can’t do this but your body kicks in and says, yes you can. You push through the first exhaustion to a more intense stamina and you run like the very wind.
She woke up. It was like watching her have one of those light bulb moments of awareness. Muscle memory was firing off endorphins inside her and she RETURNED to her own place of recognition. She’d been here before — running for the sheer pleasure of it — but it had been a long time.
Imagine your own inner space where what you value and work for is so intricately woven into your core that it is like muscle memory. Think of your muscle memory as the compass that keeps you focused on what’s important to you. And, when life catches you up and forces you to change your route, remember to look for your own road signs to help you RETURN to the path you lost sight of.
POSTSCRIPT: this post is the first in a month long series featured on the Blog Her web site. If you’d like to be a part of a blogging community that will support and celebrate your writing efforts and, at least for the month of September, help you to keep up the discipline of daily writing, please consider joining us.