This is my dog, Addie.
She’s too smart for her (and occasionally my) own good, sweet, a little neurotic, and obviously very cute — more than once strangers driving through the neighborhood where we are walking have pulled over and rolled down the window to ask what kind of dog she is (an Australian Shepherd-Labradoodle, thanks for checking.) Side note: unless absolutely necessary, please try to avoid slowing wayyyyy down to talk to a woman walking her dog alone.
And I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but this dog really likes me. She sleeps at my feet and occasionally across my stomach and chest making it impossible to do anything but pet her. She waits in the same spot for me to say goodbye every morning, and then watches me walk to my car through the window. When I come home her head appears at that same window where it stays until she has to run for the door so she can meet me there as I open it. My dog likes to be around me, and she expects very little.
This isn’t to say that I neglect my dog. I give her attention (really, so much attention), feed her, take her to the vet, and buy her many toys at deep discount from Marshalls. But it is uncomplicated and without performance.
I’m a people-pleaser, and I can be a perfectionist. This means I’ve historically spent a lot of time trying to earn people’s approval, and yes, love. It is a lot of trying to be the most, best everything so that people won’t leave me, and it can be a breathless, distrustful, high-stakes way to live.
The other day I was experiencing the fairly-regular burst of gratitude at how cool it is to have a dog, to have my dog, when it occurred to me that there are people who also love me that way, but obviously with human-levels of intelligence and ability to take care of themselves.
There will always be people in my life with whom my relationship is transactional, and that’s okay. It’s a bad idea to be be vulnerable with and trust every person, but I think it’s also a bad idea to be vulnerable with and trust none.
I don’t need to be adored by all, but there are people who have proven to me that I can trust them to actually love me: my parents, my siblings, the friends who are patient enough to reassure me that this is the case. That if I treat them well, if I am kind and thoughtful and maybe buy them the occasional toy at Marshall’s, we’re cool, and I don’t always have to be waiting for the slip-up that wrecks it all or trying to achieve new levels of entertainment. And I trust that they know me well enough to know that any comparisons to my dog are the highest compliment.
I am starting to trust that maybe love can be unconditional. Maybe there are people who don’t love me because of what I know or can make or can say. Maybe the moments when I stop performing are not mistakes.
And I hope that in return I can loyally cheerlead and comfort and get all excited when they walk into the room.