I used to run with two standard poodles, one on my left, the other on my right.
I spent many months laboriously training them to know which side they belonged on when on-leash.
Today, nearly a year after “my” poodle died, I ran with his brother and my son. Tangentially, running strollers on gravel provide a LOT of resistance!
Negativity crept into my mind as the poodle began moving from side to side (at one point causing me to smash the front of the stroller against a concrete barricade). I thought, “why can’t I ever just train in PEACE?!” Why am I always carrying so much stuff… so much baggage? Why can’t I ever be rid of things that need me; people to take care of, mouths to feed?!
I’ve been really into ridding myself of baggage lately. Of breaking free.
Freedom has become an obsession of mine. But if you’re mom, a sense of freedom is nearly impossible to achieve.
My life has been a bit of a shit show. I’ve moved three times in less than two months and barely spent one month on the same pillow since 2014. I’ve necessarily begun to rid myself of “physical” baggage while also becoming intensely honed in on my need to rid myself of spiritual and emotional baggage, as well.
Moving from place to place has been at times glamorous; at various times I’ve had the chance to live in France, Hawaii, California, New Zealand, several cities in Colorado, and Texas. At times, however, it’s lonely. I’ll get into a groove with a friend or a tribe only to have them torn forcibly from my arms at a moment’s notice.
I found that mental clarity and conscience cleanliness became paramount to my stability. Sadly, as I moved and flitted about the country and world, many relationships suffered unnecessarily. Some even ended abruptly, shrouded in dark circumstances.
The baggage weighing down my soul became heavier and heavier with each crumbled relationship.
Over the past year or so, I’ve labored to make amends with everybody from a cleaning lady to whom I spoke rudely to my high school sweetheart with varying results.
In the cases during which these friends lovingly accepted my apologies (and in some cases even took me up on a coffee date!), I felt relief and immense gratitude to these people for the maturity in their hearts. In the cases wherein my former friend, roommate, etc. didn’t want to have anything to do with me, I mourned but respected them as much as the former. Truly, as a recovering people pleaser and now an authentic lover of people, it burdened my heart. But I respected these people’s freedom to guard their own hearts against any more pain.
So over the past year that I’ve labored to ask forgiveness to people I feel I’ve wronged, I’ve been simultaneously hyper-focused on how I treat people so that I won’t have to do this again. Honestly, it totally sucks to crawl back into somebody’s sphere with my tail between my legs. In the case of many “church” people with whom I had relationship problems, the shame and fear was overwhelming. A few of them have still yet to be contacted.
What does this all have to do with running with my poodle and my two year-old?
Well you see, there’s an old saying that says it’s better to ask permission than beg forgiveness.
I’ve taken it a step further to focus on how I treat people; knowing that if I snap at somebody or talk down to another, I’ll one day have the conviction (invariably) and the baggage that goes along with it. My motto has become: it’s best to treat people with love off the bat; even when I want to show my claws, because asking for forgiveness kinda sucks. And I’ll be damned if showing love, showing God’s love to people, hasn’t brought me infinitely closer to Him.
It’s taken years of concerted effort. Instead of snapping at my cleaning lady, I received a shocking message from my (new) one yesterday that said, “Stefani, I love you.” I love her, too. I chose to see her not as an employee, but a person. And what a shiny person she is! In fact, she has a stunning prophetic gift over her life that propelled me out of a deep depression I was in for a few weeks this winter.
I love my grocery store barista (she always makes over Hunter) and my asshole cousin, too. My love for these people doesn’t cause me to get stepped on or taken advantage of; but it allows me to brighten their lives as God wills and for me to receive love from them in return (not quite as much from the cousin).
When I had my son, I began practicing love on a new level. I woke up in the hospital the night he was born suddenly petrified that he wasn’t on my person, but in the bassinet next to my hospital bed. And I was overcome with a sense of compassion that every person I will meet from this day forward will no longer be a tool for me to use, but a beautiful soul who was and is somebody’s precious baby.
I once heard that some apparently memorable genius (honestly I think it was Einstein) say that if we all stopped to ponder the miracle of pregnancy and birth we’d be forever in awe, mouths agape.
When I feel myself getting irritated or annoyed with somebody, I stop and ponder that they were the equivalent of two infinitesimally small cells once, and now they’re here; in the flesh. It may be a particularly sinful bag of flesh; but a miracle who was chosen and loved by God nevertheless.
And I’m commanded to love them, too. I don’t always love like God but I’m damn well trying.
As I wrote this post tonight I took my Forgiveness Project a step further. I messaged my college best friend, my ex-husband and my high school sweetheart on Facebook. The distractions made finishing this post a considerable effort, but my heart feels so light right now. I feel closer to God’s love. I feel God surging through me.
I’m nearing the end of my list, now. I have been dying to write about this project for some time, but held myself accountable to a few more “forgive me”s before I could to it.
In the end, running with my wayward poodle and fussy son could have been a frustration. Or worse yet, a shallow experience provoking no real deep thoughts. However, leaning into the frustration of the (start of) the run caused me to go to deeper places in my heart than I could have imagined.
Leaning into the baggage caused me to ponder this forgiveness project and reflect on my ever-morphing personality and worldview.
In the end, the frustration with my poodle was the impetus for an outpouring of God’s love that filled my entire day.
For part two of my ruminations while running today, go here.
So. Much. Love.