The Wrong-Turn Lizard …how to live life in the moment…
Just today, just a few minutes ago, my human friend Handsome went outside his house, to check if the mail had arrived. I walked out with him, as I usually do. And as we were walking back in, a very small lizard stepped inside, through the doorway. Handsome pulled me back and held the door open, to encourage the little creature to go outside. But, frightened by the two of us, it instead ran behind some heavy boxes in a closet. So there was no way for Handsome to get the lizard to come out and through the door – moving the boxes would just scare it further in.
Now I don’t know a whole lot about lizards. I don’t know what species this one is, or how long they usually live.
But I am sure that this was the most interesting event yet in this little creature’s new life.
Anyway, now, Handsome’s got the door open, in hopes it figures out to go back outdoors. But it might stay hidden, and lose its life back there. Or one of us might find this little beastie crawling over our face one night as we sleep! There’s no way of knowing.
But this does make me think about these events that change our lives. Suddenly, out of nowhere, everything shifts. If that lizard had just run out the door instead of into the closet, the whole incident would have been just a mildly interesting moment for it. Instead, this might well determine its entire future.
Sometimes we get those events in predictable ways: you’re born, you start school, you leave home, you start a job, you marry. Or in my case, I got bought at the dog pound… and that’s about it.
But I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who’s not had other life-changing moments, ones they didn’t expect. As big as a horrible accident that severs a limb (and unlike lizards’, ours don’t grow back!), or the sudden loss of a loved one. Or the good kind – being picked as a random winner, receiving a wonderful gift, or getting struck by the lightning that is love at first sight.
And then, there are also the little ones. Whether bad (failing a test at school you hadn’t realized was today; getting sick right before a date you’re excited about), or good (meeting a friend when you didn’t expect to; switching on a TV and seeing what becomes your favorite movie ever).
And then there are the super-tiny ones. “I didn’t think the sunset would be so beautiful tonight.” “I didn’t expect this much traffic.” “I thought I’d like that soup more than I did.”
The truth is, life is so full of surprises, you might argue that life is only a collection of them. At least if you look at it the right way.
You do know that one day, you won’t breathe anymore, right? So what if you let yourself be pleasantly surprised every time you take a breath. Any time you wake up. Any time you hear the sound of someone you love.
One thing we dogs are WAY better at than you people is living in this mindset of gratitude. When you come home to us at the end of a nothing-special average boring day, we are THRILLED to see you. When you feed us the same food we’ve gotten every night, we jump around and dance for it. And when you pull out that leash… watch out world!
You see, because our brains are smaller than yours, we can’t have the sorts of conceptions you can about time and plans. When you leave in the morning, you’re gone, and we don’t know where you are or if you’re ever coming home. So we get sad and worried over things you never would, but we also leap into joy so much more than you.
Now here’s the giant truth – your next breath is every bit as important to the rest of your life as that lizard’s choice to run behind those boxes was to its. Your next meal could be good, nasty, incredible, or poisonous. The next person you meet could become the love of your life, your best friend forever… or your murderer. You have no idea.
So while I do hope the little reptile (or are they amphibians, I can never remember) has managed to sneak out the doorway without my seeing it, and will live a full, happy life (which will include getting chased by me another day), I also want to give you this gift, of surprise. Of seeing every moment as new, frightening, invigorating, exciting, and magical.
If you can look at your experiences, while you’re living them, in that way, your life will be fuller and far more beautiful. It won’t be easy – it requires bravery and a willingness to feel failure often – something a lot of people will try to talk you out of. But it means you will feel every moment fully, and experience a level of gratitude few people achieve.
Or, I guess, you could sit behind a box, in a dark closet, waiting to starve.
But unlike any of the “surprises” I’ve listed, that would be purely a choice. Your choice.
And last I looked, you guys were supposed to be … let’s see … how much smarter than a lizard?!