A need I never recognized


Friend of mine came to visit a few months ago. Regular visitor to the web site… family if I’m disclosing the truth, and more than that if the whole truth be told. And as we walked around the house, he looked at me, motioned toward the back door, and he asked if I still go out every night.

(At this point I need to send you over to another essay -- “Snow in the moonlight” -- which explains my nightly walks in the backyard. And the answer to his question was yes… I was still going outside when he asked, and I still do today. We’ve repainted the entire house over the past few months, and cleaned virtually every corner. Except one. I don’t know if Terry’s noticed it. I don’t see it every day. But in our living room, on the cabinet for the television, there is a glass door… with a couple of spots on it. Someday I’ll break out some cleaner and a few paper towels and do a thorough job in the living room. For now, when I move just right and catch a glimpse at a certain angle, it brings a smile to my day.)

Over recent weeks though, I’ve come to realize something else. Something so evident that many people will nod in understanding. These crazy, unpredictable, loveable goofballs brought sanity to my life. They gave me purpose, often when I needed it the most.

The past few years… particularly the last two… have been mindnumbing with challenges for Terry and I. Details are unimportant for the purposes of this particular rambling of thought. Suffice to say that none of them involved Terry and I as a couple.

I would swear… figuratively, not literally… that I have heard walls talking as they closed in around me. I’d tell you I’ve been haunted in my dreams, but all too often dreams don’t arrive in restless sleep or sleepless nights.

Such challenges so often leads to what I’ll call a loss of contact. Allow me to try an explanation…

Have you ever walked up a flight of stairs without really looking, and when you reached the top you actually believed there was one more step involved? You raised one foot in the air, the other leg lifting you up through in motion for that climb of a few inches, and when you lowered the foot expecting to strike a raised stair you stumbled and swirled and moved into nothingness and, hopefully, caught yourself before falling.

You lost contact.

In life, as pressures mount and chaos spins, we all lose contact. It’s not a bad thing. Losing contact every so often is honestly a good thing. But in those bad times, the loss becomes almost a set of handcuffs and restraints. You lose focus… you lose direction… you find it hard to begin a project or to concentrate on it, and… for some… even the smallest of challenges can become virtually impossible to address.

My dogs were always there to help me navigate those steps… with those moments of lost contact.

Because in the morning, whether I wanted to or not… whether I felt like it or not… whether I had the time or not… they needed to go out, they needed to be fed, they needed me. Regardless of what was keeping me awake throughout the night… no matter what work was challenging me because I couldn’t focus on any of it… they needed me.

I couldn’t lose myself… couldn’t lose contact… because there were things that had to be done. There were things that couldn’t be put off.

I’ve heard a wide variety of versions, and yet the basic expression is the same… a journey has to have a first step. They were always there to help me get moving. And one project down… then two items crossed of the to-do list of the day… they had me on the right path with momentum behind me.

Each day, they make me smile, they make me cry, and they keep me in contact with the important things.

As I spend some time finishing each day, saying goodnight and tucking them in, I’ve had the chance to think about why it feels so important (and so right) to be outside each and every evening. I’m not certain I’ve found any one complete answer. Several ideas have crept into my mind, and most of them seem close to capturing the emotions. Running through every possible idea is something I find funny, silly, amazing and true… it turns out I need them every bit as much as they need me.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com