Sometimes, I can’t help but think that my dogs are the perfect metaphor for life. They have everything they want – shelter, food, toys, people to cuddle them, and yet the rustle of the wind distracts them and sets them to barking and running back and forth to the window or door. When they are inside, they long to be outside, and when they’re out, they seem to have FOMO and wonder what could possibly be happening inside. They’re maddening and sweet, and while I can’t imagine how lonely life would be without them, I do sometimes think about how easily distracted they are and how many of their behaviors are dictated by jealousy of one another.
Humans are like that too, aren’t we? I remember a time when I lived in a house on a hill that had a view of the interstate on an opposite hillside. Sometimes at night, I’d find myself sitting on the stone patio in the chilly night air, too restless to sleep and wondering where all of the car lights were traveling. I was safe at home and ready to crawl into a comfortable bed, yet I found myself longing for the transience of the road, the taste of greasy interstate diners or fast food joints, and that strange combination of weariness and exhilaration that seem to only occur when you’re on the road. Sometimes I still feel that way when I pass by an interstate entrance. What is it that makes us always want more? Are we never really happy with the present and the gift it is to us? Are we hard-wired to always seek something newer, better, faster, or more exotic to complete us and make us happy?
When I was in fifth grade, my family moved from an apartment into our first home. It meant a change of schools for my brother and me, and though we finally each had our own bedroom after too many years of sharing one, neither of us really wanted to move. My dad’s mother, the grandmother who was all about appearances, decided she would decorate my bedroom, which had two windows. Grandma chose a magical peppermint pink color with gingham bedspead and curtains that matched, and furniture that my mother had painted and ‘antiqued,’ which was all the rage in those days, so that it matched the color of the room and the curtains and the frilly pillow shams perfectly.
When the finished room was revealed to me, I was beyond excited, even though it definitely reflected a style that was not totally my own. I remember saying that the only thing I needed to do was add a few stuffed animals, and it would be the most heavenly place on the planet. At the time, I thought that was a compliment and the highest praise, but my father was so very upset with me that he called me selfish and told me that I was the most ungrateful child on the planet. I felt terrible, and something about that moment changed my perception of the room – my room, forever. It never really felt like mine, and it was only a few years later when my brother moved into the basement where teenage boys always wanted their bedrooms to be, and I offered to take the smaller bedroom just because I wanted a fresh start and something that didn’t remind me of what a selfish brat I surely was.
We’re all restless, I think, and there is a part of each of us that wants what we don’t have. The old Jokes by Cracky book that was in my Grandpa Dwyer’s bathroom had a rhyme that said, “As a rule, man is a fool. When it is hot, he wants it cool. When it is cool, he wants it hot. He always wants it what it’s not.” I think about that sometimes when I’m feeling restless because there are days when, even though I am in this heavenly place where the birds singing in the mountain laurel is my morning soundtrack, I think I’m a lot like my dog. A little piece of me is longing for the serenity and blandness of my small home in Florida, where the house is always clean because I’m usually the only one there.
And even though I had a beautiful kitchen in which to make fresh scones this morning, a piece of me longs for the taste of truck stop tea in the morning and that greasy breakfast that I know is going to give me a stomach ache in a couple of hours. I wonder if that’s human nature – and dog nature, too? We always want what we haven’t got, and even when we have everything we could possibly need or want, are we doomed to always want just a little more? Are we ever really, completely satisfied? I’m only asking for my dog’s sake. (wink)