From The Dialogues:
From The Dialogues:
My dog peed on my bed. Twice. Once was after our first vet visit. I didn’t immediately take her to pee. That’s obviously stressful for a dog. I take the blame. The second was tonight, after I returned from a therapy appointment. She waited to pee until I returned. Good doggy. I drove to Walgreens to buy nailclippers, before finding us a parking spot and carrying her to my bed. That’s when she peed.
Did she whimper at me just after I parked? Did she struggle when I carried her to the bed? Was she indicating her pee-ful-ness? In short, is it my fault?
It must be. Or, at least, my responsibility. When did she last pee? Around 7pm. It’s now 11. Is that too long? How long between pees? How does dog pee work? Halp me google: HOW WORK DOG PEE?
We haven’t established pee-based communication. I don’t have a solid read on her piddle-timing. I lack a feel for her whimpers.
Experts say to avoid punishing dogs. Reward desirable behaviors; punishments don’t help. I shall implement this. It’s nice to know the ethics and psychology align.
I would more effectively learn to take her outside if she rewarded me when I succeeded–via a treat of some kind, say–instead of punishing me–via bed pees–when I don’t.
(Post-script addendum: It’s now nearly 1am. I’m so glad to have a cuddlebuddy. All is forgiven. We’ll do better next time.)
There’s a Jewish summer camp for adults. That sounds so fun. I get a scholarship because I volunteer with a Jewish youth group. The scholarship required an application. One question asked about my favorite Jewish teaching. This is what I wrote:
As a child in Hebrew school, I was the troublemaker. The kid who wouldn’t sit still, whose desk was separated from others by a distance just longer than his arms. Only on one day did I stop making trouble:
I had been scooting around the classroom on my belly when my teacher scratched the side of his nose, our signal for “You’re goofing off, Julian. Stop it.” I ignored it. He signaled for a second time. I ignored it again, because “What’s he gonna do?” Then, he began the story of The Golden Calf. I stopped scooting. I knew this one was going to matter the moment he began. See, The Golden Calf is about worship. It’s about how easy it is to make things sacred. It goes something like this:
“Once upon a time God gave Laws. The first one was “I’m God and that’s it.” Then, Moses, God’s go-between leaves his people alone for TEN MINUTES and they make this statue of a cow, made out of gold. And they were dancing and praying, saying it was their God. Moses got pissed and smashed it.”
Now, why does this matter? What can you learn?
Making the self suffer is a cornerstone of many successful philosophies:
I was prompted to consider this strategy by Conan O’Brien on his podcast with Stephen Colbert. Both Catholics, they described intentionally putting themselves through strife. “I did hairshirt behavior,” Colbert says (34:37).
Conan (36:27): “This is pain… where any normal person would tell you, any therapist would say, ‘This suffering is unnecessary. You achieved nothing with this suffering.”… I put myself through a lot of torture. And here’s the crazy thing: what happens when you do that and then magical things start to happen for you? You can’t see me because it’s a podcast, but Stephen just pointed his finger at me as if to say, ‘You nailed it.’”
Stephen, a few lines later: “It works.”
Conan: “What I hate, I hate… I hate thait it fucking works.”
Stephen: “And the magical thinking magically thinks that magical thinking worked.”
Conan: “It’s the biggest fight I’ve had over the last five years with therapists and friends.” … “Therapists have said, ‘You don’t need the suffering.’ and I 80% believe them and I’m 20% like, ‘what the fuck do you know?'”
Is making yourself suffer a strategy for improving? Does it work? Comments greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Dad, for an incredible day. More connected with you than I’ve felt in memory. Your stories that weaved from place to place—about which I sometimes ask, “what was the point?”—today, the sharing was the point. Maybe that’s always true.
Am I focusing on the present because I’m having intensive surgery on Monday?
Right now, I’m afraid. Not of death, but life:
Death I can deal with. It’s failure that’s unacceptable.
I’m donating my tomorrow to high school kids. Teaching, mentoring, engrossed in giving.
When I could die at any moment, why do I hop stepping stones?
I didn’t think about any of that today. Just talked with you, Dad. And I loved it.
On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.”
I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.
I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.
I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.
 Self improvement.