Monday, February 27, 2012

My rescue habit: can I give it up for Lent… and beyond?

If rescuing her is wrong, do I want to be right?
For those of Greek Orthodox faith or inclinations, Lent begins today.

“It is a time of self-examination and preparation,” according to the Reverend Father George Mastrantonis, posting on a Greek Orthodox Diocese of America website, “and of taking an inventory of one's inner life.”

Traditionally, Lent is a time of fasting, of giving up foods containing animal products, and of learning to get along without something you thought was necessary.

As a vegan, I never eat animals or things that come from them, so I decided to find something else to shed during my Lenten “self-examination and preparation.”

The sacrifice

For Lent 2012, I hereby give up NOT writing.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m giving up the silly habit of not writing—writing being one of the things in the world I love best, and also being the only thing I’m halfway decent at doing, which, therefore, could be interpreted as being the thing I’m supposed to be doing, whether by divine decree or simply by virtue of how I'm wired.

What does all this have to do with dogs, who are presumably the focus of The Dozen Dog Diaries?

Dogs have kept me from writing. 

Kali soon after I found her, starving so that all her ribs and vertebrae showed, and limping
The urge to rescue grows

Sometimes dogs provoke me to write. In fact, every single day, the thought of everything that dogs and other nonhuman animals suffer in this world sets me ablaze with the need to learn and write about them and about those issues.  

But sometimes, when I come face to snout with dogs in trouble, efforts to get them out of trouble bite off sizeable chunks of my time, so that when all is said and done each day, I can barely keep my eyes open or even think straight enough to write.

Even worse, loving dogs and other animals as dearly as many of us do can grow like ivy, so that one day you’re no longer able stop at loving and saving dogs or cats or pigs or chickens or monkeys or mice or birds or bees or dolphins or sharks or sea anemones or banana slugs, but find yourself loving and saving members of the absolute last species with whom you ever expected to get yourself mixed up.

The ones who can be a massive, royal pain to love, not to mention to save.

The ones who can muck up your life a heck of a lot worse than all of the others piled together.

You know very well who I’m talking about. Chances are you’ve gotten mixed up with loving and saving a few of them yourself.

It might have been your boyfriend or girlfriend or sibling or parent or cousin or aunt or your schoolmate or just some sad shredded scrap of a person you met somewhere. You stitched them back together and stuffed them with your most tender love and care. Then maybe they got so full and feisty that they gave you the old heave-ho. (At which point you proudly dusted off your hands and happily waved adieu. Right? Let’s hope.)

Meanwhile, just like ivy can strangle a tree, a rescue habit can grab you by your empathetic little neck and refuse to let go.

Tree-choking ivy
Saving ourselves

As beautiful as ivies might be—and they all are, both literally and figuratively; what can be more beautiful, in theory, than the compulsion to help someone in need?—sometimes, in order to keep on breathing, we have to peel them off.

It’s painstaking work, ivies being the tenacious things they are. You might have to go leaf leaf by leaf, tendril by tendril. Get out an axe for the thicker stalks.

But can you hack them off without losing parts of yourself? Your loving and caring parts?

Lent is as good a time as any for giving this a try. It’s a time to test yourself, to improve, to purify, and to question habits that have become a part of you, for better or for worse.

Some parts of a rescue fetish are for the better. Other parts are for the worse.

Maybe that’s the trick here. To figure out which are the worse parts of a potentially self-destructive habit or predilection, prune them away, and leave the better parts to spread and flourish, stronger than ever.

Wish me luck. If I can manage to keep my Lenten vow, you’ll see more frequent posts here.

Most important, thanks for reading. If anything’s going to help me keep that vow, compulsive overhelper that I am, it’s the notion that others might face similar problems, and that my posts might be of use.

Candles in a church on the island of Paros

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1 comment:

  1. Guess we have to conclude that the answer to this question is... nope! Haha, may be for the better too :)