Wednesday, October 31, 2018

With Eagle's Claws

Seen in Brooklyn

I saw Anne Lamott speak recently. I always tread a line with her. I love her writing and I take great comfort in a lot of the strategies she espouses, especially the ones from her experience with addiction recovery. I struggle with the amount of talk about Jesus.

To be fair, I don't disagree with or even dislike the vast majority of what she says about her religious practices. A lot of it is interwoven with the recovery strategies that I'm so drawn to. I'm on alert, though. "Is this going to cross my line?" "What about this?" "Where's my line again?" "I thought you knew!" "I'm not sure. I thought you knew!"

Being alert to someone's work can't be all bad, though, can it?

I was, fortunately, alert to an longtime friend's work recently. It was Kath's last year as the creator and organizer of The Great Pupkin. When she started it was just 10 or 20 families and their dogs walking in a small, weird parade around the park during the Halloween festivities organized by the Parks Department. This year, the 20th, there were over 100 participants and around 3,000 viewers. It's huge.

Leo, Kath, & Justine post-show
I've been teaching dog classes the last few years on the Saturdays before Halloween and haven't been able to even attend the Pupkin so I decided to take the day off from teaching in order to volunteer for Kath's last year as the fearless leader of this wacky, wonderful gathering. She gave me a plumb spot on the stage helping to usher contestants off in a timely manner. It's pretty amazing to be up there in front of 3,000 people and some folks need a little help being demagnetized from the thrill. I dressed in as much bright clothing as I could and was as happy and funny as I could be and I got to meet every single ding dang contestant. It's a job I wish I'd been doing for 20 years of this thing and Kath even mentioned to me afterwards that she wished they'd had an exit wrangler all this time. Turns out even after 20 years you learn something new every time you do something like this.

I'm reading the book Ann Lamott was in my neighborhood to promote, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Between the talk and the book there are many little tidbits I want to share with the world. So many that I'm really better off just sharing the book. It's a good book. I think you'd like it. Yes, even if you don't like that sort of thing.

The morsel that she shared in the talk that I cannot get out of my head is something that she and a friend, I think, often say, "Everything we've ever let go of has claw marks on it."


Do you need a minute to think on that?

Go ahead and take it, it's worth it.

Gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn't it?

Available where books are sold.
I needed a minute when I heard it and now I can't stop hearing it and seeing the way she made a fully taloned gesture down toward the edge of the stage as she said it so you could really sense the value scraping itself out of her rigid grip and falling, exhausted, to the ground.

I've long been honest about the fact that letting go isn't my strong suit. It felt nice to have solidarity with Lamott and her friend about that. It was a revelation to me for someone to clarify that we don't have to let go of something easily for it to count as a successful letting go. We just have to let go. Which reminds me of a thing that my friend's dad always said after he'd attended a wedding.

"How was the wedding?"

"It was successful."

If the point was to get married then there's only one little thing that has to happen for it to count as a success!

Perhaps you've gleaned that I'm in the process of figuring out how to let some things go. They are, of course, not any things that I can talk about in public yet so no details will be forthcoming. But I needed to write down something about the process and I needed someone to read that information.

Thank you for reading.

We had a nor-easter deal a glancing blow to Brooklyn on Saturday so all the park Halloween festivities had to be moved to Sunday. We still got enormous turnout. It meant that I had to run right after the awarding of prizes at the Pupkin and head over to Sean Casey Animal Rescue's Howl-o-ween event where I was helping my PumpkinPups colleagues with our table there. I had asked The PP folks if they could do the set up without me and explained that it felt important to me to close the loop on my Pupkin experience. I might wind up back there as a spectator or volunteer but it may be a while. As I'm sure you all know, building a business is no joke and that's where much of my focus lies. It won't be the same without Kath, either. It'll be great, I'm sure, but different.

It's a quick 20 minute train ride from one place to the other. The G Train wasn't crowded. I had a book in my bag and a podcast loaded up on my phone but I didn't turn to either of them. I looked out the window and thought my thoughts like an A. A. Milne character.
The Honorable RBG

I'd had a great time at the Pupkin and getting to meet every contestant was an extra special treat. I was excited to go to Howl-o-ween, too. I couldn't wait to hear what my friends had seen before I got there and who they'd talked to and see what they needed next.

I was letting go but because I had something to move toward it was less like scratching something bloody and more like opening my reluctant paws and letting it fly away.

In the immortal words of T.S. Eliot

"And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching."

And that, too, is true. So on we go...