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This Too Shall Pass

My grandmother, Jewel, had the best sayings.  Some were borrowed: timeless phrases repeated for thousands of years, passed from generation to generation as the great, yet simple, lessons of life; and some were her own “Jewels” of wisdom.  I have these  indexed in my memories for easy access when I need direction.  They are stored among the many great pieces of advice given to me by family and friends in my 42 years here.

“This too shall pass” has been credited to King Solomon, as well as to a midieval Persian Sufi poet.  In both legends, a great king is humbled by these words, after asking for a ring with an inscription that can both make happy men sad, and make sad men happy. 

 The point is, all conditions, like all material things, are temporary. 

Four little words; but they have brought me comfort, and I know others who have made it through because of these words as well.  Why is it the simplest words tend to be the most profound?

For anyone who needs reminding this week, as I did: “This too shall pass.”

Interview with a Pit Bull

Today’s post is courtesy of Zeke, the world’s coolest pit bull.  A dog of few words, I asked Zeke if he would be willing to share his feelings upon learning that Michael Vick had recently suffered a nasty blow to the head during Sunday night’s Eagles/Falcons game, a hit that resulted in a concussion for Vick, and had him spitting blood from biting his own tongue.  Zeke paused reflectively, looked up at me with those big, soft, wise brown eyes, and said,

“Hmmm.  Karma.”

Gotta love dog logic.

Where are Michael Vick’s dogs now?

The late summer heat has soon worked its magic on the cotton bolls, and what was lush green just 3 short weeks ago is now speckled with color.

Some of the bolls have begun to open now…

…and a few others are already “cotton angels”……as the journey from plant to product continues.  It’s hard to imagine that in just a few more days, the entire field will be sparkling white, as the relief of fall gently lands in The South.  I can’t wait!!!

Let me first qualify this post by stating that I would never be arrogant enough to compare anything I do with Mother Teresa.  I may be crazy, but I’m not completely impaired…yet 🙂

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I rescue dogs from situations of abandonment, neglect, and abuse.  Dogs, dogs, dogs.  After my full-time job ends, rescue is what I do with every spare moment, dime, thought and ounce of energy.  Rescuing dogs (and cats) is my “thing”, as my mother put it last week, when we were once again arguing about the toll rescue is taking on my life.  “I thought surely Walt’s health problems and your own would be a sign it’s time to slow down.”  Or as my dad said, “Why don’t you back off that rescue “thing” and let Walt have a normal life?  It’s killing y’all with all this stress.”   The “thing” is, they’re right.

The last several months have been hell.  I found myself in a very tearful place yesterday where the only emotion I could feel was failure: failure as a wife, employee, rescuer, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend.   The logical part of me knows this is temporary, a symptom of worse-than-usual burnout, yet my heart knows there is truth to it, and that something has to change.  The rescue that has always brought me joy and fed my soul now brings a sense of begrudging obligation, and I have found myself starting to resent anyone I know that is perky, happy, or lives with any degree of normalcy.  

In a nutshell, I’m freaking tired of being punished for doing good.

I once read that Mother Teresa, in sharp contrast to the tireless humanitarian she was painted to be, suffered severe bouts of depression; dark nights of the soul in which she found herself not only separated from God, but doubted His existence entirely because of the endless suffering she witnessed.  Since then, I have read a lot about her, hoping to glean insights into how she kept going, and where she found motivation to continue.  Mother Teresa said, in the context of feeding the poor, “I always fill my own bowl first.”  She was also quoted as saying, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.  What we need is to love without getting tired.” 

So yeah, she “got it” that you put yourself first, or you can’t help anybody else.  What Mother Teresa DIDN’T elaborate on is the HOW.  

So I have three questions for anyone who is up for a little deep thinking, questions for which I have sought answers for years and still not discovered a solution that works for me:

1.  How do you say NO when you know nobody else will do something but you?  Or that somebody else WILL do it, but you’ll be guilt-ridden and might as well do it yourself? 

2. Are we really obligated to give back here in our brief time on earth?  To what extent?  Why are those who work to end suffering punished and robbed of happiness, while those who call it a day after the 9 – 5 and family drama, those folks seem to have some pleasure in life?  Are we supposed to live in hell here, hoping for some relief  in the hereafter?

3. How do you REALLY find balance in life?  If you DO feel obligated to give back, and every day brings a request to which you CAN’T say NO without GUILT – where’s the balance?

Before it’s cotton…

After a couple of excrutiatingly hot Southern days, sprinkled with a few summer storms, everything looks particularly green on the farm.  I noticed the cotton field behind the house sparkling with blooms, and grabbed the camera for the first time in a while. 

Many folks only see cotton once it’s cotton; but for a couple of days each August, you can walk through the field and see every phase of the process before it’s cotton, simultaneously…each step every bit as lovely as the full cotton bolls will be come October.

First, there is the bud of the blossom…

which will bloom into an etherial white flower.

The petals will soon become tinged with pink…

before turning almost purple…

…and then shriveling away…

…to reaveal the cotton boll.

On this particular day, the non-cultivated part of the farm also proved to be quite photogenic.  Passion flowers abound, and will soon produce sweet fruit.  The old-timers refer to this as wild cotton, and although they consider it a pesky weed, I’m fascinated by the fact that it grows wild around the cotton fields of Tennessee.

Polk Salad (pronounced “poke sallet”), a potentially poisonous Southern delicacy made famous by Elvis, grows here

entwined with a lovely wild variety of trumpet vine.  If you need a little dose of soul today, I highly recommend you watch this video and learn the story of Polk Salad Annie from The King himself.

What a week!

Think I should run away as fast as I can?

Hit the open road?

Maybe I’ll stay in town, but wear a clever disguise…

…and hope there are enough hugs…

…and laughter…

…and planking

…and bar-b-que

…and libations…

…to make it all better.

Most of you who read this blog are used to happy, perky content, where even the occasional sadness is spun with meaning, the painful is given hope.  That’s one of the reasons I created this blog, to stay positive amidst the negativeWarning:  This is not one of those posts.  Warning II:  This is raw, but this is ME – and some of you might not think as highly of me after reading this.

This morning, as I was getting dressed for my “day job”, I was planning a happy post in my head (which I’ll create another time) called “The Faces of Rescue.”  I was going to work hard on it tonight and include some photos from Saturday’s work day at two of the sanctuaries, as well as some other pictures I had of our dogs, cats, and the people who care for them.  It had been an exhausting and emotional weekend for a variety of reasons; but it had also been a productive weekend, sprinkled with a few good moments and some happy personal news to be shared later.  So after a semi-decent sleep, I woke to a fresh Monday morning and vowed to leave any negativity of the weekend in the past. 

Oh, what a few hours of Monday can do to a girl.

I took a first step and realized I’d pulled the daylights out of a couple of muscles – that’s ok, I’m thankful to have my arms and legs, blessed to walk.  En route to work, the insignia blew off the hood of my car, hitting my windshield before disappearing  –  no biggie – I’m lucky to drive a nice car, and at least the hood didn’t blow off.    The first voicemail of the day is “I hate to bother you, but I found this abandoned puppy, can you take it?” – I’ll deal with it, it’s what I do in my “spare time”; at least it’s a puppy and not a 7 year-old heartworm-positive, starving, aggressive pit bull, which is the usual call.   “Don’t forget, you owe $1,260 Tuesday…” – I don’t get paid til Thursday, but I’ll figure it out, at least I do get paid Thursday.  Work started out in an uproar – that’s ok, I’m blessed to have a job, and I’ve had much worse mornings than this.  I took a break to check my personal email, and received a barrage of criticism and problems with my rescue – that’s alright, I’ve been ripped to shreds and laden with guilt before, and have survived thus far.

Then, I somehow received this, on my work email, where I have such items blocked:

In case you can’t read the smaller print, it says, “Our lab HoneyBear has chewed through our air conditioning line for the second time and my husband has lost patience with her and is taking her to the Memphis Animal Shelter on June 27 unless she can find another home before then.” It goes on to describe what sounds like a fantastic 1 year-old lab, then says, “I would be so grateful if someone would come get HoneyBear so she doesn’t have to go to the shelter.”

She would be “so grateful”…indeed.  Memphis Animal “Shelter” is a high-kill rabies control facility.  It’s the pound.  In the Grand Ole South, dogs are killed in all the pounds when they fill to capacity, in most cases every few days.  Those of you outside West Tennessee may not be aware of this, but I guarantee you this family knows it.  In case anyone panics like I did, this notice was originally sent June 21, and HoneyBear has since been adopted into a loving home.  Why this came to me with “June 27” clearly at the top, and I didn’t receive a follow-up about the adoption, is beyond me.  Maybe it’s the gods’ way of telling me to give it up and stop being so damnedchipper today. Well, it worked.

So let me share a part of my real self and tell you how I feel about this family (whose name and email address I cropped off the notice after much deliberation).  This family, who is sitting somewhere smug today, thinking what a great thing they did by their horrible dog – why, after all, they went to all the trouble of calling a dog rescue to help find their dog a new home, sent pictures, and gave the rescue 6 whole days to help before killing the dog! 

The woman in the picture, happily holding her trusting dog who has no idea he’s about to be sent to death?  I’d like to take her naturally curly hair with the lovely white flower, and smash her face into the pavement.  I’d like to bring the husband to my house, ignore him until he’s so bored he chews my air conditioner wires in half, then take him to our local pound for a 3-day stay followed by what they lovingly call euthanasia.  I’d like to take their poor son and teach him what it means to have compassion, responsibility, and heart, which are hopefully lessons he’ll somehow learn on his own, because he won’t be getting them from these idiots.  Will I act on any of this? Sadly, no, I’d go to jail. 

Want to unsubscribe to Putting on the Dog?  Feel free.  Because from time to time, honesty ain’t pretty.