I started noticing something recently: that when I compromise — when I relax the way I think something should be and truly open myself to the wisdom of the moment — something beautiful happens. Pretty much every time.
Case in point:
We adopted a street dog last fall. Her name is Mora and she is awesome. Recently, while out for a walk, another skin and bones homeless decided to try his luck on the reputably gullible neighborhood gringas, and man did he ever work it.
Not only was he young and handsome, but he trailed a gnarly dread of ropes (indicating his tethered past), he wore the grin of a lighthearted lad (indicating his utter doggedness) and he wove between our feet like a souvenir salesman (indicating his mentors). Estella was the first to notice his coughing.
“He’s choking, Mom!” She screamed, her face stricken with horror. Her sisters were on him like nightshift triage nurses.
“Here we go again,” I thought, plastering up my guard and busting out my well-practiced “not a chance” face.
“Just feel it, Mom, the rope is too tight! He seriously can’t breathe!” Estella was nearly in tears.
It was true — he was choking, his breath loud and labored.
I found a shop owner with scissors, freed the dog from its noose and tried not to make eye contact.
It was no use. I’m wired like a mother and that dog needed a meal.
When we brought him home, I was firm. “A bowl of food, a bowl of water and he’s out.” (There are countless street dogs here and I had no interest in running a canine collective). The girls readily agreed, though their faces sung of silent hopes.
Now, I’m really not the long-winded dog story type, but just hang with me, there’s a point in here. Besides, have you ever seen two non-human mammals fall in love? OMG.
Mora was a mess at first sight. Not the least bit subtle in their teenage lust (and food suddenly the last thing from the the starving lad’s mind), they romped and rolled and licked and frolicked for hours upon end, pausing only for the occasional rest in a lovers embrace.
A sucker for romance, I had waited too long. The negotiations began…
“But he is starving!”
“But we don’t need two dogs.”
“But our yard is huge!”
“But they’ll totally destroy it.”
“But they’re in love!”
“But they are DOGS.”
“But he needs a home!”
“But it can’t be HERE.”
In the interest of brevity, I’ll not divulge all the doggone details of the following month, just the fact that “Samson” belonged to the neighbors (who promptly tied him to a trailer on a one-foot rope when we let him go), that we had to see him this way every day in passing, that his owners revealed that they didn’t actually want him, that after two days or so of gnawing he would break free again, then come wait outside our gate for a glimpse of his sweetheart, and that my kids now thought me a heartless, no-good dog hater (even Hunter had been sold by Samson the Salesman).
So, kindhearted enough, I compromised — a little.
He could be our street dog. We would feed him outside the gate once a day (a common occurrence among compassionate, pet-maxed expats) and let him in to play on occasion.
I’m not sure who I thought I was kidding. Their dates turned into sleepovers, our gate was a double-sided torture device and smitten as Mora was, the ticks, fleas and musk of Samson’s dumpster diving day job were not exactly part of my love language.
Then one day, I felt it — the resistance in me. It was stubborn, it was rigid, it was ego. What was I resisting again? Did I actually mind having two dogs? Was this about dogs, or was this about……control?
I let it go, I let Samson in (for real), and I gotta say, he’s pretty rad. But the beauty unfolded over the next weeks as…
Estella fell in love.
Short on friends here, she now spends hour after hour after hilarious, giggling hour with her dogs. She feeds them as a voluntary chore, she checks them for ticks and fleas, she dances with them, teaches them manners and reprimands their roughhousing.
My feisty, headstrong tough-as-nails youngest has the softest, most compassionate place in her for these dogs, and will always remember having saved her Samson.
Something broke loose in me that day when I saw my unwillingness to compromise as the work of my unexplored thoughts. Once I noticed the beauty that came by letting go, I began to wonder, “what would happen if I allowed for more compromise in my everyday interactions?”
I soon found out.
My kids feel validated and honored.
My husband feels respected and important.
My load feels somehow lighter,
And my life more spontaneous and fun.
I started thinking back to all the ways I’d compromised in my life already and how those experiences, too, had served me and my loved ones well. Not compromising my values, per say, but the “truths” I had created in order to support my values:
Compromise freed me of dogmatic rigidity and allowed me to see the beauty in many different ways of raising children. Compromise allowed me to move abroad and live a longterm dream. Compromise helped me ditch perfectionism and enjoy my life again. Compromise allowed my eldest daughter to heal by moving away for a time.
In this light, compromise is clearly no sign of weakness, but of trust. Trust that when we take a little of ourselves out of the equation; when we acknowledge the limits of our singular perspectives, life steps up and fills the rest of the moment better than we could.
I’m not saying that there aren’t things we ought to hold onto for their legitimacy, their necessity or our sanity, nor that we should compromise the fundamental truths of our hearts, but that the very act of holding tight may not necessarily be born of “correctness”, but unevaluated fears, or something akin. Fear that it’s all going to fall apart. Fear that there won’t be enough, fear that another perspective might dissolve our pretense of certainty.
What I am saying is that each moment offers beauty, and that by softening ourselves and being open to it, we might actually notice.
Welcome home, Samson, you lucky dog.
Did I say shorter posts? I’ll have you know I’m a fan of the slow wean.