The time I got it wrong

I hate to be wrong. As much as I love to be right (who doesn’t?), I hate to be wrong even more. I have lots of reasons for this, but since they revolve around my self-psychoanalysis, I’ll spare you the details. Just know that I viscerally hate to be wrong.

Imagine, then, the internal turmoil that enveloped me the day I realized that sometimes it’s actually BETTER to be wrong. Or the days I have to remind myself of that lesson.

Wait, what?

Yeah, I have a hard time with that, too. But seriously, there are many times when being wrong is better than being right.

Take COVID, for example. I wear a mask, not because I “live in fear” (some anti-masker accused me of that the other day) or because an oppressive government forced me to do it, but because I believe it offers some protection to me and those around me. I believe we need to take reasonable precautions to slow the spread of the disease. I believe that NOT wearing one puts people at unnecessary risk. Sometimes when I see people gathering in large groups, defiant of scientific advice, I think, they’ll see. The virus is going to catch up to them. Except, I really don’t want anyone to get sick.

When a close friend of mine told me her daughter was getting married–straight out of high school–I found it difficult to feel celebratory. Marriage is hard enough! Young marriages are doomed to fail! Why doesn’t she wait at least till she’s legal to drink the champagne at her wedding?! I had a lot of thoughts like this, until one day I realized, what are you hoping for, T? That you’ll be proven right? That means the marriage will fail. No way did I want my friend’s daughter to suffer the pain of divorce.

My dog has been limping around since March. I’ve taken him to the vet so many times, it’s not worth counting. He’s a gentle giant with a heavy dose of stoicism, so the animal care staff mostly thought I was being overprotective. He’s getting older; this is to be expected, especially in these large breeds. He probably just has arthritis. Many months and some expensive xrays later, we learned my best boy has two torn cruciate ligaments, the canine equivalent of the human ACL. Yup, one in each back leg. My poor boy is now looking at two tough surgeries and recovery. As much as I want my boy to be zooming around the house, a tiny bit of my perversely vindicated self wants to scream I TOLD YOU SO to the vet.

Anyway, this has been a hard lesson for me to learn–and re-learn. I feel like a failure when I’m wrong. I like being the person who got it right, not the one who suffers defeat.

But sometimes I need to remember that the real victory is in the outcome itself, not the position I took. It’s when people stay healthy, when marriage works, when your dog is okay after all, when the result is something GOOD. Especially in those times–and probably in many others, as well–I need to remember that rightness and righteousness are not the same.

Breakfast blues

IMG_5767I had to take my eight-month-old puppy to the vet for a surgical procedure recently (nothing serious, you know the one). And while I knew it would all work out in the end, the most difficult part was not being able to feed him breakfast–or anything else, for that matter.

Just as with people, dogs have to fast before surgery. No food or treats after 8pm–water only. No come-upstairs-with-me-it’s-time-to-go-to-bed treats. No 6am bowl of kibble. No get-in-the-kennel-while-I-take-the-kids-to-school treats. He was as confused as I was heartbroken for him, softie that I am.

What really struck me in all this is what Wallace did about it. Normally when we get up in the morning, I let Wallace outside to drain. He takes care of the minimal amount of business he can get away with, then comes back inside to chow down. As soon as he’s finished eating, he swipes his paw at the door, signaling that he’s ready to go back outside and finish his business.

Except this time when I let him back inside after the first round, I didn’t feed him. We played instead, but his attention span was short and he kept looking toward the container where I store his food.

I’m pretty sure he thought I was off my rocker and just forgot. So Mr. K9 Smartypants decided to take me through the motions again, hoping I’d remember. He headed back to the door. As soon as I let him out, he squirted a tree then turned around and came back. He went straight from the door to the food container, where he got nothing but an “I’m sorry, buddy” from me.

So back to the door he went. This time when I let him out, he took a few steps onto the patio, all the while looking back over his shoulder at me. “Pay attention, Mom. This is how it’s supposed to go.” He didn’t even bother to squeeze out a dribble; he just made a loop back to the door, maintaining eye contact with me the whole time.

I felt so bad for my furry baby.

Wallace thought that if he just kept following the steps that had always worked for him before, they would work for him again. He didn’t realize that something had changed and the old routine wouldn’t help him anymore. (At least not on surgery day.)

Then I wondered how many times I’ve done that very same thing. How many times have I gone through the same motions, plugged the same numbers, reacted the same way, expecting something to change? If I just keep doing this, eventually it will work. Um, probably not, TD. If it didn’t work the first 600 times, chances are that it’s not going to magically kick in on attempt #601–at least not without changing something.

Wallace is pretty teachable. After a couple more failed attempts to convince me to feed him, he found his favorite chew toy and curled up for a little self-soothing. Too bad we humans don’t learn as fast.