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.
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.