Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Over-the-Shoulder Living

I love my dog. Never thought I'd utter that sentence, but it's true. She is a wacky, loving, quirky little package of wonder.

But taking Piper for a walk will definitely test the love limits.

Picture this. We head out of the apartment, Piper in my arms because she is too afraid to walk across the slippery floor from the elevator to the sidewalk. Once outside, I begin the pre-walk peptalk. Something like, "It's going to be so much fun! Doesn't it feel great out here? Isn't the fresh air nice? Look at all the doggies, walking so nicely! Walking is fun! Are you ready? Let's go! Let's walk!"

I put Piper down, and bam. Little furry butt hits the sidewalk. Black eyes stare up at me as if to say, "You really think it's going to be that easy? I may be small, but you are waaaay underestimating my stubbornness."

I try to be nice, encourage in my high-pitched, I'm-your-biggest-fan voice, but I always resort to the leash yank, which sort of drags the 5 pound body into movement, lest the toenails become permanently lodged into the concrete. 

We're on the move now, but the Piper-scan instantly kicks in. Eyes darting, back and forth, up and down, all around, checking for foreign objects. Traffic cone ahead, begin to veer left. Dog-walker coming around the corner...pack of 5. Most are small; dart to side of building and all should be well. Crossing street now-watch for manholes. Overly friendly lady with Great Dane ahead...honking taxi to the right...out-of-control kid on scooter...danger, danger! Abort mission! Jump up on human leg before untimely death occurs!

But Piper's greatest defense mechanism, without question, is the good ol' over-the-shoulder glance, every 4 or 5 steps. I'm not sure what she is afraid might be following her, but one thing's for sure-if it is following her, she will see it. Because she does NOT forget to look back, often.

They say that dogs and their humans begin to resemble each other after awhile. While I do not have jet-black eyes or snow-white hair (yet), I am afraid I look an awful lot like Piper when it comes to walking through life. Always watching for ways to self-protect, dodge the scary stuff, and my over-the-shoulder glances are so frequent, sometimes I wonder if I'm walking backward instead of forward.

My thought process usually goes something like, "If I hadn't decided to _______ then ___________ would never have happened. And if ___________ never had happened, then ____________ would never have been hurt by ____________ and _____________ might have had a chance to _____________. How did I end up here?"

Fill in the blanks...opportunities passed by, choices made, words I shouldn't have spoken, even more words that shouldn't have been left unsaid...these are a few of the subtitles that run like a ticker tape on my mental screen.

I remember a story from the Bible, about a woman that turned into a pillar of salt because she didn't obey when told not to look back at the city behind her. I realize this may be sacrilegious, but I would have filled the Morton's container long before I ever got past the front gate. No wonder that story gave me nightmares as a kid.

Here's the thing I'm learning...we were given memory for a reason. Probably for many reasons. We can't outrun them, we can't alter them, and we certainly can't make them disappear. As the incredible Brennan Manning says, "My experience has shown me that I all too often tend to deny that which lies behind, but as I still believe, that which is denied cannot be healed."

So, as with every decision we make in life, we have a choice. We can look behind and crane our necks and spend our days second-guessing every single second of our existence. We can beat our fists and wonder why and become as neurotic as my anxiety-ridden puppy.

Or...we can choose to look ahead. To walk with confidence, knowing that each tick of the clock is a second chance to do life differently, better. To hear the voice of the past as a gentle guide, not as a condemning torturer.

I recently bought a little statue of a frog. I keep it on my nightstand, to remind me of a beautiful froggy fact...apparently, frogs can only look forward. I'm sure they can hop around to turn the other direction if needed, but I guess those thick little necks don't allow for much head rotation. I can learn a thing or two from this bumpy, croaky little creature.

Off to take Piper for a walk. If you see me teaching her to hop and say "ribbit," you'll know why.


  1. Sloan, I have so enjoyed reading all your blogs. I am in awe of your witty, heart-touching, and insightful thoughts. I think you should nurture this talent and write Christian inspirational books for women and families. You truly have the heart and talent. (I am you father-in-law's "precious" cousin -- Delores' sister -- and right now am truly "looking back" with regret that I have never had the chance to meet you, Cameron and the girls. Maybe I'll look for a frog to put on my nightstand. All my love, Kay Cobb

  2. You were on my heart today so I came to your blog. Re-read this one. I love reading your posts! God truly is using you to speak to others. This really spoke to me tonight. Thank you for putting your thoughts down to share with us. Love you!