Personal Essay: The Princess and the Toddler

I am sitting for a friend’s dog this month.  And not just any dog.  She is a lumbering Labrador who must be related to Marley in a former life.  In just a few short days, she has scratched the paint off the wall, eaten two pillows and a chair, spilt coffee on the new carpet with her hyperactive tail, bloodied my daughter’s knee in what turned out to be a horse-pull rather than a “walk” and managed to piss off the neighbors with her pillaging of their cat’s food.  It is going to be one long month.

And then there is her desire to be friends with the pug – my aging, sophisticated princess who spawns proudly her Chinese royal descent. The pug would rather this guest just go back to wherever it is she came from. I mean really … who the hell is this stranger to get my Mama’s attention, run circles around me (only stopping to smell you-know-what), drink my water bowl dry when she is not slobbering from the toilet bowl, jump over me as if I am some hurdle or for that matter, just bulldoze me flat as if I don’t even exist? Pu-lease. Give her some Adderall for that ADD and send her to her crate. I have a nap to take.

Yes, it will be one long month as we try to forage family togetherness out of utter chaos. One long month of seeking a semblance of harmony between the princess and the toddler. The lab says, “Come play with me!” and the pug says, “Why are you bothering me?” The lab says, “Woo! We are free! Let’s run around the neighborhood and make Mom chase us!” and the pug responds, “I don’t do running. We have done our business and it’s time to go back inside now.” The pug says wisely, “Listen up, Newbie. I know the ropes around here. You’d be smart to pay attention” but the lab says, “To hell with that. Let’s see how many rules we can break!” The pug says, “I know the schedule” but the lab says, “What schedule? I am on vacation!” The lab says, “I am going to keep provoking you till you lighten up and have some fun with me.” And finally, the pug hits the limit of her patience. She now reaches for ugly and becomes very non-relational. She goes Upper-Right (see prior article on “The Four Corners of the Relationship Grid”) and loses it, snapping at the poor innocent giant who is standing in dismay as if to say, “What did I do? I just wanted you to play with me.” And on it goes in hopelessness that the discord will ever be resolved.

Thank God, for me and the pug, it is only a month and not a lifetime. But what a minute … damn, I forgot. I think it is a lifetime. I got some form of that toddler and that princess battling it out in me. Freud even named them – the Id and the Superego. The spontaneous, vital child trying to co-exist with the internalized punitive, stuffy parent. The messy, to-hell-with-it rule breaker alongside the grandiose, know-it-all. The live in the moment free part with that suppressed fear of judgment part. The instinctive cauldron full of seething excitement trying to co-exist with the learned inner judge who holds the standard with a commanding presence.

The princess and the toddler – think Felix and Oscar of TV’s “The Odd Couple” – all impersonated in parts of my very own personality. In some days and some moments, it is the critical me front and center, standing in my ideals, prohibiting any coloring outside the lines. And in other days and other moments, I am caution-to-the-wind, indulging my primary process, swirling in the chaos, enjoying the wind in my hair. I really can’t imagine one energy without the other. It would be either all drama or all doldrums and I dare not exist only in the extremes. Yes, I want it all. Both the free spirit of the lab and the wise experience of the pug. And whichever part shows up in the moment, I want to embrace all of her. For, I am learning that I can trust my inner wisdom – that she’s got my back, that she will enliven the part of me that is most needed to meet the present in its fullness.

When the month comes to a close and the loveable lab departs, I think I will have a mixture of feelings. On one hand, I will be relieved in that my home will return to the calm it once was. That being said, the pug and I might get a little bored. We might need to find a way to add a little spice to our lives, even though I highly doubt that it will be in the form of chewing a piece of furniture.

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