While I was growing up in a rural mid-Michigan town, we owned a dog who embodied boundless energy. Annie was her name. She was a beautiful English setter. Translation: She could not wait to run wild.
As soon as I let her out of her hay-filled pen in the barn, she took off like a rocket. Literally. Annie was a white blur careening around our square acre of apple and cherry trees. She ran like the wind; no, she ran like a hurricane.
Never have you seen such joy in the mere act of running.
After running many laps around in the property in her whirlwind of ecstasy, Annie would come in the house, where she would proceed to run around again. I mean, it was so much fun, how could she not? The house was just another steeplechase to her, with furniture providing interesting obstacles to dodge.
Finally she would come to a halt, claiming some few square feet of rug on which to lie for the next hour or two. There she would watch us for awhile, alert to any new chance of burning off energy that might arise. Finding none, she fell asleep, often twitching and whimpering at some inner dream of running around an endless acreage of fruit trees, squirrels and furniture.
Sounds like my typical day.
Often I find I do not fully relax until forced to do so by sheer exhaustion. If I run around long enough out there in the great wide world, doing doing doing until I can do no more, I finally come inside, plop down in the recliner and read (or, in that magic time of year, watch the Tigers). What else can you do when you have run yourself ragged?
Even then, my thoughts continue to tug. They yank and yank on me as if Annie were on the far end of a leash. Come on, come on! she tugs. There’s more stuff to do out here! Don’t you see that other dog down the street? We’ve got to go check this out!
Alas, it seems there is always more to do. Always something else tugging at my attention, beckoning me to see something else or at least think something new. A new way to solve a problem. Another aspect I had not considered. Another opportunity to do things in a better way so that I can then really relax.
Generally speaking, this leash-tugging thing is an illusion.
Sometimes it’s true that if I get up and do something else, I will solve a problem in a way that allows me to then really relax. As Sir Paul put it, it’s me fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering where it will go.
But usually not. Usually it’s just doing one thing more, to be followed by yet more ideas as to how I could have done that better, or how I could now do something else better.
If I think of my life as a river, it’s just me swimming harder with the current. And the point of that is? I maybe move downstream at a somewhat faster pace. But I would get there anyway if I just let the river carry me.
It’s like rushing from one stoplight to the next. You’re in a hurry so you gun it, hoping to beat the next light. But nope, there you are, idling for one minute, and next to you is the guy you thought you’d left in your tracks. He got there just like you did but at half the speed.
I once had a powerful dream about a river. People were carrying baskets to it. My dad was one of them. The details are fuzzy at this point because this dream was many years ago. But at some point my dad and these other people were putting baskets in the river. In the basket that dad put in the river was me, as a child.
It makes so much more sense to submit to the flow of the river rather than obey the tug of the leash. Dear Annie, bless her heart that has long since stopped beating, she had no patience. She just had to run around, see what’s out there. Burned off enough of her boundless energy to finally come to rest for awhile, only to dream of running around some more.
That’s the way an English setter should be. Annie was being true to her nature.
But it’s not such a great way for people to be. Enough of those tearing-around days and I am utterly exhausted. Yet still the leash tugs at me. There must be something else to do, something more to think about.
Of course there is. There always is. But there’s no need to chase after it. The river will carry me there soon enough.