She walked in, nose high in the air, all attitude. The way she lifted her chest and cocked her head and the pace at which she took the stairs, two at a time, showed a zest for life that made me remember the abandon that I sometimes feel when I forget myself and my oh-so-adult-life and lay down in the grass, sun on my face. Those are the times that I envy the creatures that still have their long wagging tails.
She’s now standing in front of us in the doorway. Wag, wag. Looks deep into our eyes. Wag, wag, wag. Offers her nose and her left ear, wag, wag. And slowly we creep towards her. Wag, wag. Introductions are made and it doesn’t take long at all, she accepts a few treats, and propels herself into her new environment…full of exploration and curiosity. Up the stairs to the TV room, over to sniff the crack of the closed door that is barricading two rather put-out house cats, down the stairs to the workout room in the basement, back up to the kitchen full of yummy left-over smells from breakfast, a detour to the sliding doors and finally back to the front hall where her security stands in the form of one loving woman who rescued her.
The rambunctious nature of a puppy overwhelms. I watch amazed.
Noelle only has 3 legs.
But that is not what amazes me.
Noelle doesn’t seem to know she only has 3 legs.
No excuses, no fears of being different, no trying to live up to “normal”, no story about how she is overcoming, no affirmations worked on in therapy, no great explanation. It is not the thing that she leads with. She is a dog. And she is quite sure that there is a treat to be found in this new house she has been brought to explore.
To be sure, there is some vulnerability and some hesitation. As a puppy she was terribly abused, so badly her rescuers needed to amputate her leg, so she is a little cautious around men…but her tail gives a low, carpet-thumping-wag as my husband Gerry, ever so gently, gives her ear a warm tug. Wag, thump, thump.
We are a part of her rehabilitation, a way to socialize her as she gets ready for finding her “forever” home. She has, quite naturally, bonded with her rescuer, and now needs to experience other humans as loving and kind. She needs to learn that raised hands hold balls and treats not threats and harm.
Her journey has been long and poignant. But what is most amazing as I watch her nudge my leg in search of another treat, is there is no shame in that little 3 legged body. NO SHAME.
Huh. Imagine that.
Humans, as I know them, come in for leadership coaching to live into their potential while simultaneously trying to camouflage their sense of shame for who they are. At the moment of stepping into possibility, they confront the deep agony of fearing what other people think, of needing to conform, to be just ever-so-slightly on the unique side of normal. But never, never outside the lines. There seems to be a constant comparison to others, to what they can/cannot, should/should not do.
I see it everywhere and feel it often. The girlfriend who will not go out without mascara, the compassionate manager who fears his people skills will make him look foolish to his boss, the mother who can’t admit she lost her temper at her toddler, the consultant who can’t believe they misread the proposal due date, my own hot flash of tears when last year’s size no longer fits. That painful feeling of humiliation caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. (Thanks Brene Brown for that definition). It is pervasive, and because it is so isolating to experience, we are overcome by simply resolving to never be vulnerable.
And yet, this creature is teaching me, that it is all made up. Her hang-ups are not about shame. She does not fear being judged. She does not shrink back and apologize for her needs, or for being different or for the fact that I feel awkward, pitying, challenged by the callousness of my own race as I watch her hop along. She allows herself to gracefully and ever so gently step into vulnerability – to dare to trust again, to be curious, to experience joy. She bounds into the moment without any stories of imperfection or of needing to justify who she is.
Wag, wag, wag. Because I am human and I do need the crutch of mantras and affirmations this is my new one “wag, wag, wag”. Let me stand in the midst of my own vulnerabilities and flirtations with shame over “foolish behaviour” and remember that I don’t need to lead with it. I too can be unapologetic in my being.
Wag, wag, wag.