The Gospel According to Tandy: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dog
Lesson Nine: Choose Love
The morning after the election, I cried in the shower. I cried so hard while I was driving, that I had to pull off the road until I could see again. After the gynecologist finished her exam, I cried as she patted my arm. When my advisor moved to hug me, I cried and yelled at him to stop. When my students looked at me with disbelief, anger, and pain, I cried. And when the cast of the show I was directing asked me how they would fare in this new world and how they could possibly continue to tell their story, I cried.
My mother had been furious. My best friend couldn’t leave her bed. My brother felt so helpless that he decided to donate his day’s wages to a women’s shelter.
I saw faces of distrust, numbed looks of shock, angry and aggressive posts of retaliation and a need for justice. I heard questions or “How?” and “What now?” Fingers pointed at socioeconomic statues and betrayals of demographics. Accusations and blame.
But more than anything that I heard or saw on that day, more than anything else that others said they felt, the strongest emotion was the weight of fear resting in the gullets of all those that surrounded me.
Like all the others, I too was afraid.
I didn’t know if the health care that helped ease the chronic pain I had been suffering would be taken from me. If the marriage between my best friend and his husband would be annulled. If the violence against black men and women would continue and, worse yet, strengthen. I feared that women would have to resort to back alleys and coat hangers and that the epidemic of rape culture would multiply. I was afraid that our country would prove a bigger target for the hatred and fear bubbling in the world and that those who once sought refuge in this country would be turned away to an even grimmer and unknowable future.
But what is more: I feared that I could do nothing. I could not know what was to happen, could not prevent hurt from coming to those I love. I couldn’t protect myself or the friends and family who could be adversely effected, much less the unknowable social and ethnic groups I wished to empower.
My vote, my voice, the one way I am to make a difference in this country, felt insignificant. I told my students that it had mattered, that despite the outcome, their civic participation meant something. But my words were hollow. At that crucial moment when you could feel historians in the future pausing with their fingers over the keyboards in order to record this monumental turn of events, I felt crippled. Would history capture the resistance or would the country be painted with one, thick, coarse-haired brush? Would my voice and the voice of so many others be silenced for good?
When I came home that evening, my mother was already in bed. I moved slowly towards the living room where Tandy had disappeared to find the bone she was working on.
If you’ve read past Tandy Lessons, you’ll know that Tandy is obsessed with her rawhide bones. She adores showing them off to guests of the house and can often be found tossing them about a room for her own amusement. She carries them to bed with her and, if Willy were to steal one, her bone (or the lack thereof) could launch her into a depression worthy of Sylvia Plath.
I crumpled onto the floor, exhausted from an already long day made longer by the emotion and watched as Tandy paraded from room to room with a large, white bone. For what seemed like the hundredth time, I began to cry.
I cried silently into my hands, elbows on my knees, face shielded from the world. I felt Tandy brush up against me, heard her snorts through the bone in her mouth, felt her tail whipping my face. I continued to cry until I felt her hot breath on my hands and her wet nose drawing polka dots on my knuckles.
I dropped my hands to look at her. She stood within inches of my face, her eyes bright, tail wagging, and the bone clutched in a smiling mouth. She moved forward, pushing the bone and a cold nose near my lips. I pushed her away, but she returned, pressing her face against mine and, again, pushing the bone near my mouth. I pushed her away, but she came back, this time touching the bone to my face and releasing it from her jaws so that it fell into my lap. I picked it up and handed it back to her, only to be met again with the bone being forced nearly into my mouth.
I held the bone on either end, near my face, and felt her release it, sitting back and watching me hold her most prized possession. It was then that I realized she was not playing or trying to get me to roughhouse; Tandy was trying to comfort me by giving me the one thing that she loves most in the world.
I don’t know what the next four years will hold anymore than I know what today will bring, but I do know this: if we approach each and everyday with the same selfless care and consideration that Tandy showed me, we will make it. And what’s more, is that we will thrive.
Love is more powerful than fear, hate, or ignorance, but Love is a choice to be made every moment. Hatred and fear may be easier, but Love is where we can gain back our voice. Love is where we have power to affect change. Love is how we can fight.
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