2 Lessons From Minjay: A Post-Election Special Edition

mornings-with-minjay
Always a smile on Minjay’s face.

A lot of people, all across the political spectrum, are left wondering how to act, feel, and move on from a divisive, bitter election. As I often do in times of challenge, I turn to Minjay for lessons on how to be a good human. Here are two things I’ve learned from him so far that I think apply especially to this week, and to how we can move forward.

Love everyone and everything. Say hi to everyone. Assume they’re the best. Try. But retreat quickly if they’re mean and stay away.

There isn’t a dog or human that we come into contact with on walks or at the park that Minjay doesn’t want to say hi to, play with, and get to know. Minjay will even try to play with dogs who have snapped at him before. He’ll give them a chance, every time, though a bit more cautiously than usual, and if they snap again he just walks away, still happy and wagging his tail.

It is so clear how he assumes that everyone is awesome, everyone is fun, everyone is kind and worth saying hello to. As I’ve watched him over the past four years on daily walks, it’s opened me up to become more friendly and more open to others.

He’s also helped me deal with people who aren’t particularly nice– You always try to say hello and engage, and if they’re mean, you simply walk away without giving it another thought. Which leads me to the next lesson…

My writing partner, always extra happy when we're sitting outside.
My writing partner, always extra happy when we’re sitting outside.

Don’t let anyone affect or change your character.

We were at an outdoor picnic-style event last summer with friends, and in our group there was another dog. The poor pup was a rescue and still getting used to other dogs and noisy outdoor settings. Minjay, every-friendly, wiggled up to the dog to try and play. He rolled around on the grass, smiling, clearly loving our summer night outside. The other dog was barking non-stop, right in Minjay’s face, but that didn’t deter him from having a great time.

I think on some level he knew that the dog wouldn’t hurt him, and he was not about to let anyone ruin his fun or change his mood. I was stunned– even though I’d seen his happy disposition in action a thousand times before, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised— at how he stretched out on our blanket, a huge-happy-dog smile across his face, tail wagging, completely ignoring the other dog’s barks (again, it was right in his face, practically touching him. This wasn’t barking from far away). I made a huge mental note to myself that evening: No matter how someone else is acting, you don’t let them alter who you are and your mood, or ruin a great time for you.

I saw a post by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert on Instagram yesterday that reminded me of this very note I had made to myself a few months ago:

elizabeth-gilbert-instagram

And finally, I’ll end this post with a great video that is a good reminder of how much we can find in common with people we disagree with, especially when it comes to dogs:

 

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Evening Walks With Minjay

Winter days are just so short. Actually, my sister would tell me that’s inaccurate. “Days are the same duration of time, there are no short or long days,” she has said to me several times. And she’s right, of course.

Over the last few weeks, evening walks with Minjay have turned around my idea of winter days.

Ever since the beginning of November, it’s been painful to sit at my desk and watch the beautiful sunset colors in the distance through a window, if I tilt my head in a certain way. It was more than just getting a glimpse of what I’m missing out on. What really bothered me was the feeling that my entire day was being spent at work. Where’s the balance in that?

(Shouldn’t winter work days be reset anyway, from 8 to 4, so people can leave in daylight? This goes to a bigger conversation currently being catapulted by women like Anne-Marie Slaughter and Kim Azzarelli about how ridiculous certain workday and workplace practices are when you really think about them.)

In the past, during winter days, I would customarily get home and collapse indoors, and that usually involved the TV. I love a good TV show, don’t get me wrong, but it would take up an entire evening. It would be either that, or doing more work at home. This winter, due to my schedule, I’ve had to give Minjay a long walk every evening as soon as I get home.

At first, I would just slug through the walks, but then the fresh air and crisp night smells got to me. Slowly, I began to embrace them. I got an idea. For months and months, I had wanted to listen to a few podcasts I’d heard of. It’s one of those thing we put off for no good reason, usually using the excuse of not having enough time. So I spent less than 5 minutes one night downloading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, Gretchen Rubin’s Happier, and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk. I started with Magic Lessons, and after a couple of evenings walks listening to them, I couldn’t wait to get home for my new routine. It became my “Podcast Time.” Instead of a chore, those thirty-minute walks became free time I could do something I had perviously felt I didn’t have enough time for. Thanks to Minjay, instead of the normal winter blues and restlessness, nighttime walks became a special treat.

Slowly, they began to expand. Some nights I’d listen up on favorite albums I missed. Or we’d walk to nearby shops instead of sticking to the same few blocks. A frequent stop has become Barnes & Noble, which I love even more now because they let Minjay in with me. There we roam around. I browse new books (Minjay seems to love the smell) and get inspired. Last night while there, I found this great journal by Knock Knock, which made me pause and think about how we could each see every day, choosing to see the good or the bad. Just like we could choose to approach something as a chore, or make the most of it and turn it into time we look forward to. (Yes, I am a stubborn, eternal optimist).

Knock Knock Journal Optimist

The back of the journal even has clear instructions:

Record your observations about the world and its bright side. Watch, document, and report. 

This brought to mind the idea that people find what they look for.

On the way back home from Barnes & Noble, I did indeed find what I looked for: an exceptionally beautiful night. The stars were so clear. I just didn’t want to go back inside. I was inspired to go up to the building’s communal roof deck with Minjay and just sit for 20 minutes on the dewey couch with my head back, staring straight up at the sky, listening to music. Yes it was cold. Yes it was even a bit uncomfortable. But it was so peaceful. I felt so happy to be breaking out of routine, to be out in nature staring at the night sky, and getting out of the usual rush, rush, rush of weekdays.

While I sat on the wet couch looking up, ‘Tripping Billies’ by Dave Mathews Band came on Pandora randomly. The chorus ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry…” was the perfect soundtrack for stargazing.

I began to wonder why I didn’t do that every single night, even if just for 5 minutes. All it takes is walking up the stairs. In my three years in this building, I’ve done that just twice.

The thing is, we have to remind ourselves, actively, not to get stuck in our ruts, and to make the most of every day–even if it’s dark outside.

No matter how busy we are, is it really impossible to find 5 minutes every night after all is done, (or even 20 minutes if possible) to step out for a walk around the block and look up at the stars?