The Gospel According to Tandy: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dog
Lesson Seven: You are not Driving
During my late teens and through my early- to mid-twenties, I had a recurring dream of driving a car from the passenger seat. Sometimes the car was going down a freeway, other times it was traveling in the pedestrian-filled neighborhood I grew up in. Sometimes I reached over the center consul to steer, often times I was in the backseat struggling to reach the brake before I careened into an innocent bystander.
Regardless of the details, the gist was always the same: Despite my best efforts, I was not in control.
This is a nightmare for me, a Leslie Knope-esque, Type A, uber-responsible, list making, control freak. (And that’s putting it nicely.) I have always had a colorcoded system for my day planner and a thorough, if not optimistic, idea of how to reach my life’s goals.
When these plans were altered in any way, I developed systems of dealing with the unwelcomed stress: I cleaned my apartment, baked, or worked out. Simple as pie. (Or should I say: 4 cups of flour, 1 3/4 cups of shortening, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 egg?)
The _____ may have halted my plans for ______, but don’t worry, I’ve run 6 miles, scrubbed a toilet, and baked 5 dozen cookies. Everything is fine. Control of life has been regained. Right? Right….
Tandy, like her human mother in many ways, does not like being out of the driver’s seat.
No, seriously, she likes to sit in the driver’s seat. And not move. For a long time.
Whenever we go on a road trip, whether it’s to the vet (whom she loves) or to New York to visit her uncles (whom she loves), Tandy will hop into the car, promptly remove herself from the backseat, and place herself firmly in front of the wheel.
Despite my protestations, despite me physically pushing her to the comfortable and spacious backbench, Tandy often refuses to move from her place of control. Her eyes shift sideways to look at me, as if saying, “If I’m going to die in this car, I want to do it by my own paw and not yours.”
“C’mon, honey. Look how much room there is to relax back there. I’ll even roll the window down so you can stick your nose out. Please? Please?”
After several minutes of reasoning with my dog (any dog owner knows this happens), Tandy will huffingly vacate the driver’s seat, but not before glaring at me as if to say, “Alright, but so help me God, if you get us into an accident…”
She’s irritable as we begin our journey. She looks out the window and pants nervously. She stands up, circles, lays down, sits up, stands up, circles, lays down, and sits up again. Every change in speed or direction brings a new huff, a new annoyance. But slowly, ever so cautiously, she lies down, closes her eyes, and trusts.
It has not been easy for me to accept that I am merely a passenger in my own life. I plan, goddamnit. I make lists. I have binders with tabs. How could something possibly go wrong that I didn’t plan for?
But it has and it will again.
Despite all of my checks and balances, all of my passion for regulation, jobs have fallen through. Friendships have wavered. Bodies have developed illness, weakness. Loved ones died. Relationships ended or never began. In spite of my best efforts for perfection, life happened and no amount of baking or scouring would be able to fix it.
And yet, as all of these things happen, new opportunities have arisen. Friendships have come back. Startingling alliances have emerged. Unpredictable ways have been uncovered. Health has been regained. Strength has been found in the unlikeliest of places.
No matter how earthshattering the chaos had seemed at first, a path forward has always been presented to me. Always. And a cake never had to be baked or a dishwasher emptied to discover it.
Which leads me to the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn…
I am not in control. Something else is. And though I try to fight it, though I struggle to reach for that wheel, that brake, that gear shift, the more I live life, the more I realize that I am securely in the passenger seat, with something else driving the car.
I happen to believe it’s God, the benevolent and all-loving (not some fire-and-brimstone bashing deity). Some may believe it’s karma or Allah or energy or something else.
I’m not really here to argue the details.
I’m only here to suggest that it is not our job to steer the car. We can give it suggestions of where we’d like to go, (Actually, I think the driver demands it of us) but our suggestions can’t steer us clear of trouble. We can’t avoid suffering along the way, because whether we like it or not, we’re not driving.
It’s not our responsibility.
Take it from someone who feels that she needs to solve everyone’s battles, this isn’t easy to say. It’s even harder to accept, but I firmly believe it’s not for us to know what’s down the road. It’s our job to accept life as it comes. It’s our responsibility to have faith; to believe that we’ll know what to do when tragedy strikes. It’s our job to trust that our driver has our best interests at heart. And, I’m beginning to believe, it’s also our responsibility to roll down the window, stick our head into the breeze, and simply enjoy the ride.
For more lessons from Tandy, click: