“I want us to lead with love and consciousness instead of fear. Without that, we will eventually end up right back where we started.”–Tai Jimenez
“Excuse me,” says Mr. Octopus. “You can’t just go around quoting yourself.”
“Back off, octopod! I’m pissed!”
“Well, now, simmer down. Have a cup of tea. What’s all the botherrr?”
“I am mad mad mad! Not only am I mad at a particular situation that’s got me riled up, I’m mad at myself for being mad! I’m mad at myself for being afraid and reacting out of fear. Here I sit in my well-heated house, with my clean clothes and my handsome fiance and my well-fed belly–”
“Speaking of bellies, what’s for lunch?”
“–judging the world, judging people in places like Egypt and Libya for their violence, judging our government’s violence from afar. Feeling all superior and New England-y about my peaceful heart, why can’t we all just get along, etc., when I just saw the depth of the capacity for violence right here inside myself! I am no better than a hysterical, violent mob!”
“Oh, you spirrritual types, always feeling superior just because you can see auras, or whateverrr.”
“You are right. I am an arrogant, vindictive, violent bitch!”
“Calm down, Cat Woman. Let’s pause.”
“Ok. You’re right. Time out.”
“Feel betterrr?” asks Mr. Octopus, gently tickling my neck with a pointed tentacle.
“Yes. Thank you.”
It’s happened twice now. I’ve opened the front door to take Mr. Chulo out for a walk when the new-to-the-neighborhood pit-bull from across the street has lunged at him with an intent to kill. The owner, distracted while talking on her cell phone, restrains her dog with the leash mere inches away from Chulo’s throat. It takes the owner several minutes to subdue her dog.
I wait awhile. I take Chulo to the park. Several hours later, I see her and Cujo on the street again. I politely, or so I think, ask her to muzzle her dog but she senses my thinly veiled fear and accusation. Her posture becomes defensive. She admits that her dog is “not good around other dogs” but refuses to muzzle her. I try to point out that I’m sure she’s a lovely dog, hee-hee, but it is a law that pits must be muzzled and leashed when they are in public in Boston. Before I can get the words out, she walks away from me.
I am mad, but I walk away too. As I depart the scene, however, I envision myself snatching her by her glossy, blow-dried hair and smashing her face through the nearest windshield. (I am mad at her, not the dog). I want to leave steaming bags of poo on her front porch. I want to leave hate mail. I even envision her dog biting me and sending me to the hospital so that she, the owner, will feel remorse and see the error of her ways. I am propped up in my hospital bed being interviewed on the evening news. Pictures of my guilty, stupid neighbor are plastered all around Fort Hill, including the post office. People bring me cakes and flowers. I am a victim. A hero. The end.
Until about 2 am when I wake up, replaying the entire incident over and over again in my head. Mr. Chulo is curled up in the bed beside me, dreaming. I think about how much I love him, how much we’d suffer if he was hurt, and the imagined violence starts all over again. I tell her that she is a coward for hiding behind her dog and why doesn’t she leave the dog in the house so we can fight it out in the street. I think, proudly, I am in shape. I do yoga! I’ll kick her ass! My thoughts repeat, remix, like a dj spinning records: do not, I said do not, do do do do do do not, fuck-with-my-dog, my dog, my dog dog dog, you hog hog hog.
Exhausted, I try another approach. I try to see her compassionately. I try to imagine all of the perfectly valid reasons she is an irresponsible pit-bull owner: she feels overly vulnerable while walking alone because she was kidnapped as a child…in the woods…by a band of gypsies…and repeatedly beaten. Or she had a pit-bull as a child, who saved her poor, blind, asthmatic mother from drowning, and has had a soft spot for them ever since. Or she suffers from seizures that the dog can sniff out and predict in time for her to stuff a spoon in her mouth so that she doesn’t choke to death, and she’s spent so much time in bed, warding off seizures with her well-bitten spoon, that she hasn’t had time to socialize her dog.
But this tactic is getting me nowhere. I actually feel worse for the transparency of my so-called compassionate imaginings, which are really just more violence. And I am especially hard on myself because I do believe thoughts are things. Shame on me.
In the morning, I file a complaint with animal control, for what it’s worth. But the bigger question remains: how do I live in peace with someone who has different values from me, or at the very least, has a different perspective?
How do I/we live in peace? How do I find peace in my own heart? How do I/we lead with love instead of fear? Sure, it’s easy to preach about a war-torn country thousands of miles away. Not so easy when the fear is in you.
So, I did something radical. I sat on the couch, in a sort of meditation. I sat with my fear and my anger, which is a form of fear. I didn’t push it away. I just sat with it like it was the only thing in the world. Being present with it made it a little less potent.
I relaxed a little. I slept through the night. I looked out the windows both ways before I left the house to walk Chulo the next day. My boyfriend told me later that he saw our neighbor and that she looked nervous and cautious walking her dog. I realized she was probably just as shook up as I was. That even when we make mistakes, we hate to be confronted by them through a fearful, angry other, no matter how carefully, politely, that anger is masked. It usually takes a moment, after the heat of the confrontation to admit the part you’ve played.
And suddenly, just like that, I felt compassion.
“Congrrratulations Mahatma,” says Mr. Octopus.
“Yeah, well, maybe it’s not THE world peace, but it’s my world peace, with a little m, and that’s a start.”