One of my goals this (school) year is to find a few new teachers. Part of this goal, I’m already realizing, is to acknowledge the teachers in my life. They are everywhere.
And unexpected. I took my dog Moxie on her first post-vacation walk this morning. We chose our usual route around Anderson Park. Apparently I was planning for us to spend our usual amount of time on this usual walk. Even though I didn’t have anywhere to be, I noticed a frustrated feeling rising in me when Moxie put on the breaks . . . after our first three steps.
She sat and sniffed and sniffed some more and I was pulling and she was pulling and the walk was going terribly for both of us. But then I started following her nose with my eyes and my brain started following my eyes and her nose with questions. What was she sniffing? Did different nose crinkles mean different things? What made her tail wag? As usual, curiosity was the right salve for what ailed me, and in turn, for the ways I ailed the world.
Moxie wanted to re-smell everything, every square foot of park. She wanted to explore new plantings (that I would have missed) and plop her whole body onto her favorite patches of thick grass (that I hadn’t noticed). She wanted to chase slices of light and shadow (that I would have missed). She wanted to say hello to old dog friends (that I would have hustled past). She wanted to put the squirrels and the birds (that I would have missed) on notice. “I’m back,” she wanted to proclaim — slowly and with relish.
I wanted to get home. Wanted to clean out my overflowing inbox. Weed the garden beds. Clean the garage. Tie up some boxes for recycling. Pay some bills. File a box of papers near my desk. Replenish the refrigerator.
All these tasks were necessary and practical, sure. But all these tasks were leading me back to the old me. They would have me locked into my old habits in no time. Did I really need to check my inbox ten times before lunch? Were there any bills I could renegotiate or even eliminate by cancelling certain services? Would I receive and collect less paper if I digitized some transactions? Did I need the same — or as much — food in the refrigerator? After a substantial break, I want to re-choose my habits. I want to be intentional as I restart the school year. I want, both literally and figuratively, to unsubscribe from a lot of the old channels and inputs and only resubscribe to what adds value and joy. Moxie, one of my new (or rather, newly acknowledged) teachers, helped me to slow down enough to see all these angles.
A few others, too…
Good teachers are existential breaking system. They say, “let’s try it this new way.”
To be committed to learning is to be committed to seeing the world in a different way, to diverge from the usual in service or search of positive change.
Frustration is a strong signal that a teacher has arrived.
After a break, sniff around a bit before you get started again.
You think you’re the one walking the dog, and the dog’s okay with that. It helps her to teach you what you need to learn.