The rabbit darts across the path, a streak of gray, practically right under her nose.
She lunges to follow but the leash ends right then and the tension snaps her into a stumble-roll-stand maneuver that shakes the scent from her nose.
We continue walking, rabbit behind us and maybe forgotten.
Moments later a patch of grass distracts her and she stops. What stood here? Peed here? Where is it now? She roots with her nose while I continue walking, pace unbroken. The leash unravels until it pulls taut and she gets the message that I'm not going to stop. She trots ahead again as far as the leash will let her, adjusting her pace to match mine.
Our dog lives a purpose driven life – she exists to walk and she spends her days hoping for, begging for, and anticipating her next walk. If she could talk, I think she'd ask to go without the leash, though – Can I run ahead, Mom? Please? I'll be good! I won't get lost! I'll stay close! Puuhhleeaaaase? As much as I know she'd love to run free, it would only take one squirrel before she'd dart off: out of sight, out of reach, and out of our lives.
And though the leash is what holds her back, keeps her from chasing all of her dreams, it is the object of all her desires. She checks on her leash multiple times a day, verifying that it's still on the hook but hoping that it's in someone's hand. When someone does take it down, she runs in circles, whining and yipping in excitement. The leash limits her, but it lets her out of the house.
I'm going to be honest here – some days, I feel tied up and held back, too. Like there are rabbits darting under my nose but I can't chase them. Stifled. Stymied. Stuck. And in my least shining moments, I wax ungrateful and start blaming this life.
The kids woke up too early and interrupted my yoga time. The baby wouldn't go to bed last night and I had to start work when my eyes were ready to close. Multiple midnight wakings left me too tired to write. Tantrums and talking back tied up my muse and sapped her into silence. I want to run and bike but the time just isn't there. This life is too busy, too loud, too chaotic. If only kids would sleep a little later and a little better, if only we had a little more money and I could work a little less, if only we lived a little closer to family and I could rely on their help to create a little structured writing time, if only if only if only…just a little different…just a little…
But I know a different lake always looks bluer from afar – altered circumstances would be far from freeing. There's a leash in everyone's life. We're held back by money and health and a million other things. [Right?]
And you must know I love my life. I love my kids. Deeply. Even if sometimes they feel like a leash. [And maybe, sometimes, you feel this way about your life, too?]
So lately, I'm practicing that stumble-roll-stand maneuver I learned from the dog: when I bolt after something but reality jerks me back, when I stop to sniff something really interesting but the day drags me ever forward, I'm working to shake it off and adjust my pace and my expectations. And I'm working to honor my limits as the actual vehicles of my freedom – without the kids, I'm not sure I would have ever needed the quiet space in my life for yoga. Without a 9-5 job and career goals to pursue, I don't think I would have started searching for my voice and my identity through writing.
I belong here. In this life. I am linked body and soul to all my limits and freedoms. I can either embrace everything and run excited circles around every piece of it, or I can pull so hard against it all that I break in half. The choice is mine. Every day.