Familiar

ani-not-pleased

Ani is not happy with me. Not only did I let her guests escape again… and not only did I manage to get her in the bathtub (though this time, I did have help) … No, she is sulking because I am busy and she knows it. She has been my familiar spirit for a very long time now and reads me like a book.

Since the birth of the Silent Eye, Ani has accepted that the sofa is now hers alone most of the time. To begin with, I believe she thought she had won some sort of victory and ousted me from my place. Then she realised that I seldom curl up there with her on an evening any more. In fact, the only time I tend to sit on the sofa is when it is Ani-time. This is no fun as, from her perspective, the whole point of a human having a sofa is for a dog to invade it.

So she no longer waits for cuddles on the sofa, but is frequently found occupying the computer chair… quite often at the same time as me. This is not entirely comfortable for either of us as, in spite of what she may say, she is not a small dog. She has moved her snoozing position from the sofa to beneath my desk and reminds me of her needs with a constant stream of tennis balls.

Her focus is tight… she wants my attention. It is an education in itself to observe the observer, and she scrutinises my every move, reading my motives from the pattern of behaviour. She knows, for example, the difference between cheese as a treat and cheese as a bribe. While she will come running for the treat, there is no way a whole chunk of Camembert would bring her in if she has seen any of the signs that tell her I have to go out… or that the bath I have just prepared is for her. Her combination of focus and awareness is effective, but it highlights my own behaviour as much as hers.

Am I so predictable? The patterns of behaviour built into the day pass largely unnoticed. Ani sees, because she is wholly aware of me and I am brought to notice those patterns through her eyes. We fill the hours with small habits we barely see. How much of our lives are lost to the repetition of a mindless pattern?

Why do we do it? We waste so much of our short lives clinging to mechanical patterns we have built up instead of embracing the moment we live in. There is far more joy in rolling spontaneously on the floor with an equally daft dog than there is in watching the clock and the deadline and tapping away feverishly because one should. And that joy is infectious. When I throw habit out of the window, Ani laughs with me.

ani (8)

We cling to the old, familiar ways, because they are known, safe and secure. We build them around us like a series of shells, like the Russian nesting dolls, with the small solid one buried deep inside, protected from anything unusual. It is a safety mechanism. The familiar is comforting, even when it is negative or damaging. We know it, we know how to react to it. Stepping away from that familiarity, crossing the boundaries of the unknown into virgin territory takes effort and courage. Our comfort zone is left behind and we have to wake up and act instead of sinking back into the cushions of conformity, of what we feel is expected of us.

Think of any moment of pure joy in your life and you will find it probably held an element of the unexpected, the unforeseen… the unpredictable. Whether in the event itself or the way you experienced it. That safety barrier of the usual comes off and reveals another layer of self within.

Like the nesting dolls, we all have shells around us, each with their own set of habits pertinent to that shell and its function. The mother, the wife, the daughter and the businesswoman may all be the same person, they look alike, but they move differently in their respective worlds and within them, they are reliable… predictable.

Yet at the centre of each of us is our own observer, the solid core of self, the inner being of which all others are but partial shadows. It tends to be buried beneath so many layers that we do not see it very often. But we feel its eyes upon us sometimes. And when we do, we can see the layers of accumulated habit that sit between our daily lives and the real life within.

Like Ani, those inner eyes reflect something back at us that cannot be ignored. Like Ani, they hold the promise of joy if we have the courage to release the old and embrace the adventure of discovering the new. So, if you will excuse me, I am going for a walk with my dog.

ani walk june 017

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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66 Responses to Familiar

  1. Yep – the devil we know. Tink will come over and knock my track ball arm, insisting that I take a play break – many times a day. He cannot be bought off with food either – not even some of his favs placate him for longer than it takes to wolf it down. He also whines when he thinks we need to shut it down and go to BED (and he has an amazing sense of time which I lack entirely).

    Thank God! If not for him, I might easily become a human DOing.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jenanita01 says:

    I have recently reached the time when I needed to start scaling down my activities, for the benefit of my health, you understand. I have no four-legged pal to remind me to take a break, but if I did, he would probably have made me do it sooner…

    Like

  3. Denis1950 says:

    Beautifully written Sue with much advice from Ani. Dogs have an ability to understand their people so well they can predict any plans, actions, thoughts, motives and anything else before those people actually conceive whatever it is. I speak from much experience Sue. I also detect Ani is asking for more of your attention or shared time. Charlie travelled with me wherever, whenever, but became more demanding with age. Perhaps Ani is now entering her next life stage, the ” I need more contact time with her” stage ?

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      Ani is nevermore than a few feet from my side unless I go where she cannot, Denis. And I would take her if I could. Right now, she’s outside sunbathing in the chill spring sun… less than six feet away and checking on me every few minutes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Denis1950 says:

        Sounds like absolute 100% faithful devotion then Sue, she simply wants your total time maybe.
        We have had a lonely year since Charlie died and Ani’s antics keep me happy but there are 2 offers for us to consider now, a female pup as soon as possible currently at a destructive 12 weeks or a 2.5 year old girl with a strong independent mind in June.

        Like

        • Sue Vincent says:

          I can only imagine, Denis. I could not imagine being without Ani’s presence. It will be good to see you with a bew girl in your life, though it sounds as if either would be a challenge 🙂

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  4. This is one of the reasons I miss having a dog so much.

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  5. Eliza Waters says:

    A good Monday reminder! Step out and enjoy the unpredictable. 🙂

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  6. ksbeth says:

    so funny and true. my cat has learned my patterns and habits and is constantly using them against me to his own ends )

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  7. Mary Smith says:

    I loved this post. My sister has a six-month old labrador and I do a fair bit of puppy-sitting because of her shift work. I’ve been amazed how quickly Sula sussed me out. Like Ani, she is a tennis ball fiend and she throws it onto my lap when I’m sitting at my desk. If I really can’t be persuaded to play (not often) she takes the ball to the top of the stairs and drops it down, racing after it and bringing it back to the top to repeat. Of course, I stop to watch this clever pup at play – and she knows she’s got me. The words, “let me get my coat” have her bouncing with joy at the door before I’ve even got one arm into a sleeve.

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is amazing the small cues they pick up…and so quickly too. Ani knows we are going out before I get my coat or her leash… there must be something in my body language that tells her.

      Like

  8. bobcabkings says:

    Dogs do read us much better than we read ourselves. I think it is because they are not distracted by so many of the things with which we complicate our attention – just the basics. Ani surely is your familiar spirit.

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  9. Good post, Sue. Ani really knows your habits. 🙂 — Suzanne

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  10. Lessons from your familiar spirit…so glad you are paying attention. I miss my dog, need to fix that situation.

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  11. “Like nesting dolls” Great and accurate phrase.
    Had to laugh.” the whole point of a human having a sofa is for a dog to invade it.” And when the human here sits on it, The Paw reminds the human that the sofa is a the place for adoring companions – not gazing at silly screens or papers that fly off.
    Yes, time to walk the dog 9between rain drops) and enjoy the moment. Life is waiting out there

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  12. afairymind says:

    As I’m currently trying to break free of some comfortable, but not necessarily healthy, patterns, this was something I needed to read at this time. Unfortunately I don’t have a dog to help chivvy me out of mine! A wonderfully thought-provoking post, Sue. 🙂

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I recommend dogs… even the odd borrowed or walked one will do 😉 They always seem to know us better than we do ourselves .

      Like

      • afairymind says:

        I’ve always been scared of dogs (there were a couple of unpleasant incidents when I was a child) but I’ve recently been considering getting one. I’m hoping to move into a place of my own soon and I think a dog would be better company than a cat. Not to mention the added security a dog would give for a single woman living alone…

        Like

        • Sue Vincent says:

          I live alone… for the first time in my life… and having a dog, especially in a ground floor flat, makes all the difference to how I feel. See if you can have a chat with a local rescue and get to know some of the dogs, Louise. There will be the mad ones… but there are many, like my Ani, who just need someone to love.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. fransiweinstein says:

    She has such an expressive face. Thank heavens for our four-legged family members. We are lucky to have them in our lives.

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  14. Poor Ani. I so understand and forgive the chuckles from my end. She’s bored with you’re busy.
    I have two cats who vy for my attention, one more than the other. One curls up in my lap and the other on my shoulder. How am I supposed to type? How do I get anything done? 😀 😀 😀

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  15. Sageleaf says:

    You had me at that photo. Those expressive eyes! What a personality she has and it’s obvious she’s nudged her way into your heart. 🙂 Sweet post and here’s to having many more present moments of frolicking on the ground and rubbing furry bellies. 😀

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  16. Widdershins says:

    Ani and you rolling around on the floor being ‘daft’! 😀 … and you probably get more work done because of it. I do miss having a beastie companion. Coco the Community Cat visits as often as she can, so there’s that. 🙂

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  17. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful Ani. You better watch out Sue, it won’t be long and Ani may start typing at the keyboard, lol. What a great assistant she would be. 🙂 xo

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  18. davidjrogersftw says:

    Sue, lovely post–very meaningful to me who has walked dogs 30,000 times with great pleasure and fun. .

    Like

  19. Rae Longest says:

    This was a lovely post, some interesting thoughts, and I’m so glad I stopped and read it. It was well worth the investment of my valuable reading time. TY!

    Like

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