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The Ninja And The Warrior

In this photo, my dog, Margaux, (pictured with my son), is the warrior.  In this photo, my son, the ninja, is also the warrior.  Beyond the frame of this photo, my husband, my daughter, my other dog, Claude, are, and I am, the warrior.  In life, we are all the warrior.

Looking at this photo, I am reminded of the journey each member of my family has taken since my children arrived.  This basket of togetherness pictured, which brings tears of joy to my eyes, was not always as it appears.

When my children were born, my fantasy of the many ways in which my human children and my fur-covered children would benefit each others’ life shattered, but not without heavy self-blame and ever-present feelings of failure.

Instead of happily frolicking with my dogs through the dew-covered grass, playing fetch for hours at a stretch, as I had envisioned, my children were rough with my dogs.  As much as I intervened, corrected, led by example, and dedicated myself to what I thought was family harmony, my kids acted from different intentions.  My dogs, in turn, upon sensing my children’s presence, tucked their tails for protection and left the room.  This broke my heart, and I blamed myself.

Then it got worse.  Our family embarked upon an extremely tumultuous and stressful time in our lives – due in part to new jobs, necessitating additional travel – and, as things seemed to further fall apart, my feelings of failure mounted and my anxiety surged.  This directly affected my relationship with each member of my family, especially so, my dogs.  I wasn’t able to give them the intense care I desired, which resulted in extreme feelings of guilt.  As my emotional well-being spiraled what felt like uncontrollably and incessantly downward, so, too, did the well-being of my family.

My children cried more, I began yelling a lot, and my dogs began barking with greater volume and more frequency.  Complaints from a neighbor came successively and less gently with each delivery.  I saw my dogs, my family, the adversity of my new neighbor, all to be markings of my personal failure.  I resolved that by removing some of the evidence, I would be more accepted; by myself and by others.

With great heartbreak I decided to contact the former owner of the then-7-year-old Margaux and ask her former caretaker that she take back Margaux.  I hated myself for holding the thought of my actions, let alone taking action.  Margaux was my first daughter and one of my deepest loves.  As arrangements were made, I crumbled.  I knew it was not what I truly wanted or needed.

I stepped out of the plans, and, for the first time since the birth of my two children, fell down, into myself, and felt the intense and undeniable pain of my existence.  It was then that I started meditating.

It is most impossible to note all of the ways in which Buddhist meditation, and my meditation community, have bettered my life.  But I’m happy to spend each day of the rest of my days trying, and trying to let it do so further.  Of the many impactful teachings shared with me, the wisdom that things are not always as we perceive, has changed my life.  In accepting this wisdom, I became more able to accept myself, my family, my life, and see how each yearned for my compassion.  As I opened to this ever-challenging and ever-important practice, not only did my body and heart soften, the dynamics of our household shifted.

Instead of viewing Margaux as I had, I now view her as a warrior: regardless of what comes her way, she stays true to her heart and to those around her.  I, and we, love you, Margaux. And we work each day to follow in your paw prints.

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