Monday, May 21, 2018

Unconditional Love

I've always said that I prefer dogs to cats because dogs show their owners constant, unconditional love. When you get home, dogs are waiting at the door, ready to throw themselves at you. Cats, on the other hand, hide away in whatever nook or cranny they can find, and only seek out attention when you're busy with something else.

It wasn't until I adopted a dog, however, that I realized how terrifying unconditional love can be.

My initial assessment was more true than I realized; Okie does give me total, adoring, unconditional love, no matter what. I brought her home from the shelter one day and she was in love. Period.

And now there's this little, semi-helpless creature depending on me at all times. She loves me when I'm frustrated, or when I'm ignoring her because I'm trying to finish something. She loves me when I don't let her chase squirrels.

It makes me feel inadequate. Don't get me wrong--I freaking love my dog. I am convinced that she is the cutest creature ever to grace the planet. And I know that I completely lucked out in terms of shelter dogs, too. She's trusting, she hardly ever chews anything she's not supposed to, and she has never once had an accident inside.

But I feel inadequate because I'm afraid that I don't love her as much as she loves me. I wouldn't die without her, obviously. And sometimes I get so exasperated that she barks at the door when she hears the neighbors. I realize that this is completely normal dog behavior, but I'm afraid she's going to get us evicted. Completely normal dog behavior doesn't always work when you're living in a third floor walk-up. In those moments, though, I'm always more frustrated with myself, that I can't train her not to bark no matter what technique I try.

I feel like I don't deserve her unconditional love, that I'm not worthy of it. I worry that I'm not a good enough dog-mom, that she needs more from me than I can give. (Not that I wouldn't try to give it, just that I wouldn't have the physical/temporal/emotional capacity.)

Yes, I realize that this is the most "me" thing ever. I am well aware that I have major guilt issues.

But I also think that these particular feelings may be so strong because society doesn't do a good job letting people express stress about pets? Just like human babies, they're supposed to be little bundles of joy. And I knew that taking care of Okie would be hard work, but the hard work isn't what I expected. It's not really all that hard to take her outside when she needs to go, or to feed her. But it is hard to take my laundry down to the basement knowing that she might knock down the kitchen gate trying to get to me, and writing is hard when she interrupts me seven times to bark at the neighbors and I have to direct her away from the door over and over again.

It's hard knowing that she wants and/or needs my constant attention, and I can only give her a percentage. I wish I had a roommate or a live-in partner to pick up the inevitable slack.

Don't worry--I'm not even remotely considering giving her up. For me that's a barely forgivable offense. Pets are family, and should only be returned to a shelter under the direst of circumstances. And overall things are great. She is, as I often tell her, my love-bucket. (I have no idea where this nickname came from.)

But hey, pets are stressful. Are your pets stressful? Why don't we ever talk about how stressful our pets are? Why don't we ever talk about how unconditional love is so sublime?

Monday, May 7, 2018

A God Thing

This weekend my sister Molly and I had what we dubbed a Cultured Weekend of Theater (CWOT).

On Friday night we went to see Future Echoes at The Den Theatre, directed by none other than BFFL Meg McGrath. Meg made sure to seat us in the "scary seats," so that bloodied, wheezing actors slithered over our feet to crawl onto the stage. Delightful.

If you want to see an ambitious play, Future Echoes is for you. Everything about it is formidable, from the physics-heavy script to the open set design. Bring your brains along--you'll have to do a lot of thinking. Also, you may very well get stage blood on you! I recommend it.

On Saturday we went to a matinee of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera, and HOLY MOLY did it blow my mind. I would honestly rank it in the top 10 productions I've ever seen in my life. The set design was really cool--the orchestra was sitting in two different places on the stage, one half atop a platform and one half tucked into the trees (yeah, there were trees), so the conductor had to lead the musicians via video screens attached to the balcony. The performers were phenomenal--I can't get their voices out of my head. The guy who played Jesus actually got a standing ovation in the middle of the show for "Gethsemane" because it was that good. And they made some bizarre directorial choices that I loved. Herod especially was brilliant--the actor played him as a demented, violent (but fabulous!) drag queen in a diaper. Sort of like Caligula on steroids? But he somehow made that ridiculous song scary, which was a first for me.

The whole production was a much darker interpretation of the musical than I normally see, but I loved it. It's in Chicago until May 20th, so if you get the chance, you should go, despite the cost. Totally worth it. In the meantime, I'll be searching desperately for a cast recording.

During intermission I was talking with Molly about my second novel (it's still in the very early stages--don't get too excited). Though it's completely different from my first, the plot still involves religion to an extent. Molly said people were going to think that I had a "God thing."

But I do have a God thing, even though I'm not involved with organized religion at all anymore. There are two obvious reasons for this:
  • Residual effects from years of Catholic schooling
  • I'm agnostic, not atheist 
More than that, though, I simply think the concept of faith is interesting. People often make serious decisions based on no empirical evidence whatsoever--only the conviction that their beliefs are the correct beliefs. And it's not just traditionally religious people. Most people have faith in something intangible, even if it's not a god. That's why religion and God seem like universal themes to me, even if religion isn't universal. Faith is.