(My original intent was to only use short words of wisdom in this section but this novella is written so perfectly and has meanings which I intend to get around to someday for myself that I just want to keep it close by and to share.)
Lessons Learned From Merlin
Written December 23, 2003
By: Diane Armitage
For the last hour, I’ve been scuffling about my kitchen in my oversized UGG slippers (it’s not a hazard as long as I don’t try the stairs), whipping up a sugar cookie recipe that requires a full pound of Crisco, and wondering how in the world I’m going to write this year’s Christmas novella.
For those of you who’ve been the recipient of said novella for the last – uh – 18 years or so, I’m well aware that last year’s Armitage family Christmas letter was conspicuously missing. I just can’t possibly let you down again, heaven forbid, but HOW do I explain this year’s proceedings?
I’m going to start with an event that occurred today. It’s not meant to be morbid and it IS directly connected to one of the more memorable events of my year, so kindly bear with me.
Today, Merlin came home to me by way of a UPS truck. If you haven’t heard already, my beloved, forever shedding Great Pyrenees partner in crime these last 11 years passed on to another form of life on December 8th. He died because half of his heart had given out, proving my suspicions from his puppyhood that he, like the Whoville Grinch, had a heart that was simply several sizes too big.
After I kissed his nose for the last time, I arranged to have his ashes delivered to me, which was supposed to take a day or two at most. Instead, they called me yesterday (14 days later) to tell me they’d accidentally tried to deliver him to another family and that he was still on the UPS truck, on his way to me this time. Today, true to form, a sweating UPS truck driver sprinted to my door with Merlin solidly lodged under his arm.
As I carried Merlin (in his new state) upstairs, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Nothing in the entire world caused greater gnashing-of-teeth for Merlin than the UPS truck and its attached men in brown. It was the only single thing that taunted him into trampling down fences and sprinting for blocks down rush-hour traffic streets. and here’s how he ended up, lodged in the bowels of the evil incarnate monster itself (AND during the holiday season to boot) in herkyjerky, stop-and-go fashion for two full weeks.
That, my friend, is Karma. Take it from Merlin: If you’re chasing after anything in life with some level of misdirected anger, that very thing will likely get the better of you in the end.
That being said, I’ll give Merlin credit for helping me maintain misdirected anger over the last 11 years – even this last year. Merlin was a high-spirited, conniving creature who liked to skitter around on his tippy-toes and create instant wainscotting in every home by sliding drooly, dirty tennis balls along the wall. But he’d also follow me from room to room when he knew I was upset until I’d finally flump down and throw my arms around him. He loved me unconditionally with great warmth and a giving soul that knew no other way to be. And that was a lesson I did, indeed, learn from Merlin.
This last year didn’t start well. As the New Year began, I found myself struggling with a business I didn’t really like, and paying rent I didn’t really want to pay anymore. So, ’round about March, Merlin and I had a talk and decided to stop with the misdirected anger and start creating a better story.
And so we did. As I say in all the stuff I write, “If you don’t like the situation you’re in, recognize you created it and fix it.” It was time to take my own medicine. Mer and I drove all around the town of Laguna in my little convertible until we found our new home. With the move made in March to a lovely place just a block from the beach, I then tackled the not liking-my-business issue with grim determination. Fact is, if you’re not doing what you love to do every day, you’re cheating yourself. I knew there were too many good and exciting people out there to work with and as I focused on THIS fact, those very people started coming in the door.
It wasn’t until July that I got up the nerve to e-mail the one person I wanted to work with most – my most favorite past client. This client and I have tried and failed at working together twice before, and hitting that initial “SEND” button this time around wasn’t easy. Ten minutes later, however, we were on our way to working together again and now we’re back on track and working quite harmoniously. I delight in what I do every day for this man’s company. It’s not easy and it’s got its tenuous, warbly-chin, pounding headache moments. But, I delight in it. Pure and simple as that. It’s supposed to be that simple, I believe.
On a connected note – I’ve also “happened” upon a couple solid web programming teams, both of which are quite capable of handling all my client urgencies. What I find most amazing about these web teams is that I was very solidly prepared to NOT like working with them after all the experiences I’d had through the years with not-so-great programming teams. But, again, it’s all about focusing on what I want to expand, not on what I don’t want to expand. Fortunately, somewhere along the way, I also realized that chasing programmers down rush-hour streets while barking my fool head off was only going to succeed in getting ME killed – yet another lesson I learned from Merlin, who always and eventually gave up the chase with a shrug.
On the opposite end of the work spectrum, I somehow ended up in an outrigger canoe club on the wild ocean this summer. How a landlocked Denver girl ever found her way to jumping in and out of a Hawaiian-style 6-man canoe is something I still can’t quite fathom myself, much less explain to anyone else. My friend, Deb, a fellow spin-class victim, made me promise to try it and, after my first grudging day, I was hooked. Line and sinker, I might add.
What I thought would be something kind of friendly and social and interactive. like a bowling league on Monday nights. turned out to be a highly competitive 7-month season that entailed a minimum of 15-hours of weekly practice and full days of racing just about every weekend. I was the “stroker” – the Seat #1 gal – for my novice team and we happily and surprisingly won more than we lost. In August, we were imported into the “big girls’ boats” – the gals who’d been paddling for years. In our last race of the season, we paddled 31 miles to Catalina Island in about 4 hours.
Aside from this odd sport opening up a host of uncommon injuries and new battle scars, the sport also opened up a whole new community of fun, athletic people to me – people from all walks of life who never would have crossed my path otherwise. This, coupled with my ever-lasting and loving friends in Denver and around the continent, my burgeoning group of wonderful friends from spin class, and my growing community of buddies and neighbors in this small town of Laguna Beach has made for a most enjoyable and busy year. I can’t say I remember enjoying myself so much – ever.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve’s Eve with Merlin perched on my lap. (This must be nirvana for Merlin – he is, at last, a lap dog.) And his lessons are here in my head:
. If you chase after something in anger, it will find a way to bite you back.
. Be sure to follow your closest friends from room to room when you know they’re upset.
. Give generously of your warmth and soul. You’ve got more where that came from.
. Be the first to press the “SEND” button when you haven’t talked to someone in a while.
. If you’re trying to chase something off because it seems like a threat to you, it might be better to stop, shrug and give it up.
. Delight in your days. It’s supposed to be that simple.
. And lastly, never lose sight of your family and friends. They’re the home you want to return to, even if the only way to get there is by UPS truck.