The Devils You Know … how to face reunions
When I head out to a dog park, I have a lot of agendas. First, I just want to feel the freedom of running around an open area without a leash. But then I like to seek out the good smells, and see if any people have dropped anything tasty to eat that no dog has snatched up yet (I know, the odds of this happening are virtually impossible, but we pooches are eternal hopers!). And then, my favorite part, I check out the dogs.
Just like you, we pups greet each other by expressing curiosity. You humans might ask, “How are you?” when you meet, while we inquire, “What have you been doing?” And my favorite, “What have you been eating?!” And as you know, we do this by sniffing each other’s butts. Something most of you humans find funny, and kind of ridiculous. But it works!
It’s great to know where someone’s been, what they’ve been up to, how they’ve been feeling, and yes, whether or not they got to snack on any hamburgers. And our noses are our most sensitive sensers, so that’s the best way for us to find out.
And while it’s fun to do this with new acquaintances, “Wow, that Samoyed over there had some curry!” what means the most is when I find a friend, a pup I already knew, and can find out what’s new with them. It just means more to me.
Now is this because that dog I knew is better than another dog? Not necessarily. It is nice that I know I can trust them (or that I can’t! Ever heard that old line about “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?” It’s kind of good to know which dogs are likely to bite if you get too playful!), and might have a sense of how they like to play. But it’s more than that; I just like finding out about the pooches I know. It’s exciting to me, to learn about what adventures they’ve had, what about them is the same, and what’s changed.
I find that humans are the same way. If you walk into a party, and the room is full of strangers, but you see one friend, you’re almost certain to head straight to the one you know. It’s comfortable, and easier than trying to start a conversation with someone new. But also, you’re likely to have a deeper experience. Think about it, if you meet someone new, you’re going to have pretty shallow chit-chat as you size up what they’re like. Whereas you could walk up to that old friend and instantly start talking about how each of you felt about the news about your mutual acquaintance, or what happened at your school. The exchange isn’t exactly better, but it’s usually more.
What fascinates me about this is that you humans are so often frightened to meet up with your old cronies – especially when it comes to Reunions. Whether it’s of family, or people they went to school with years ago, people seem to worry that they’re going to be judged or disliked. “Oh, I don’t want to go, my mean cousin will be there,” or “I’ve put on twenty pounds and don’t want them to see me like this.” While the funny thing is that, since everyone there feels the same, most likely everyone else is worried about themselves, and no one is judging the person who’s worrying so much.
But it’s actually even more ironic. I see humans meet up with people they knew years ago, when they were growing up, who they were never close to – but they’re THRILLED to see each other. Why? Because they shared experiences. They are so happy to re-join someone who knew the world they knew, who lived in that reality. Who cares that you weren’t super-close? What matters is that both of you were there.
Then this can get kind of funny too, when people who simply couldn’t stand each other meet up at these things. The bully who pulled your underwear up in front of your crush, or the nerd who aced every test and so kept your grades lower than you wanted, or the cheat who dishonestly beat you out for the basketball team. You’d think you’d hate these people for life, but instead, you see them, and your heart just expands! You actually feel love for that person! How in the world can that happen?!
Well, I’d argue, it’s what I was saying about sniffing under tails. That person might have been a weenie when they were younger, and they might still be a weenie (most likely they are!), but you still feel affection for them, because of that background you shared.
So my advice is, when that family reunion invitation shows up, or when the time for that get-together of your classmates rolls around, don’t look for an excuse to skip it. Head on in – even though you’re all loaded up with failures and extra weight and all that. Magic can happen, and often does.
Which leads me to an especially crazy thought. As I’ve just described, it’s really exciting to meet up with dogs I know. But I get excited by pooches all the time anyway. When I’m in the back seat of Handsome’s car, and we drive past humans, I might look at them, but it doesn’t affect me much. But when I see a dog, I freak out; my heart rate kicks up, I start barking (usually right in Handsome’s ear – he doesn’t care for that much), and I lose all sense of propriety. Because I see that dog as “one of us.”
And, as I described above, you humans get excited about seeing the people you know, even if you’d thought you wouldn’t. For the same reason.
Now, I want you to try to picture something. What if you tried to have a little bit of what I have when we drive?
Imagine if every person you met, for the rest of your life (or at least for today), you looked at as someone you share something with. Imagine you could have that heart-growth with a stranger, because you both are on that same piece of Earth at that same moment, or because you both were babies once, or because you both are humans who have loved, have cried, have laughed so hard you peed, and have lost someone you’ll never get over.
Now, imagine that there’s something about that person you hate. Maybe you’re on the opposite sides of a bad conflict. Maybe your ancestors and theirs did horrible things to each other – or maybe it was just one of yours doing horrible things to the other’s. Maybe you passionately disagree about what your country’s leaders should be doing. Maybe that other person has said horrible things about your race or your religion or your rights.
And yet… it’s still true. You share much, much more than you differ. And maybe, if you can look at that person with some interest, some excitement, some love about that, it’ll inspire them to see you that way too. Just a little.
And maybe then, the whole world will be just a little bit more like a family, or a party, or a Reunion.
Think about that word: Reunion. Becoming one, again. It’s a pretty beautiful concept.
Or better yet, maybe if you humans can do this, you’ll become more like a… Dog Park! And believe me, there’s NOWHERE more fun than that! What a future you could have!
Anyway, it’s just an idea.