With Christmas and the end of the year right around the corner, I, like many others, am taking a moment (a pause, if you will) to reflect on this year, 2020. For most of this year, I have had the good fortune to be able to work from home. And, while I’m not sure that I would want to be permanently working from home, I am grateful for many of the “perks” that have come with it, including: no commute, adopting a work wardrobe of mostly athleisure, and being able to spend time with my dog, Odi. 

In pre-pandemic times and when I was working in an office, Odi would spend his weekdays at a doggie daycare. That all changed when I started working from home; me at home meant that Odi was also at home. In fact, we are rarely apart except for when I’m out getting groceries or taking out the garbage. Recipe for future separation anxiety? I hope not! Odi and I spend so much time together now that he is officially on my top 5 list of people (okay, beings) who influence me. If you’re not familiar with that concept, it comes from the motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, who said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Basically, Rohn argues that the people you spend the most time with shape who you are. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.

Okay, so if you have met Odi, you will know that he is an 8-year-old work in progress. He is mostly trained, mostly comes when I call him, and he sometimes eats poop. Gross Odi. Gr-Odi. Ha! Despite those imperfections, I love him so much. That said, there is definite irony in the fact that I have included him on the aforementioned list. So what lessons have I learned from Odi during these COVID times?

The power of joy. It has been hard to find the joy in 2020, but not for Odi. He feels it and he shows it through and through. Nowhere is this more evident than when we are at the dog park playing fetch. When we’re there, Odi doesn’t half-ass it; he goes for his ball with maximum effort. Every. Single. Time. And once he’s located or caught his ball, he’ll follow that up with a few victory laps, weaving in and out of all of the other people and dogs in the park, before returning with it. Sometimes when he comes back, he high fives my hand with his nose. Other times, he is already running off in anticipation of the next throw. When I see all of this, I can’t not smile. When other people see this, they can’t not smile. Odi reminds us that pure joy exists and that we can all find it in the simplest of things, like hanging out in a local dog park.

There is possibility in the simplicity of sameness. In 2020, every day has mostly felt the same as the last. Sometimes the sameness has felt tedious and boring, sometimes it reminds me of the people and activities that I am missing, and mostly, it has meant that the onus really is on me to decide how to fill my days. When I look at life through Odi’s eyes, I realize that every day (not just in COVID times) for him is always exactly the same. And guess what? He LOVES it! Every day, Odi knows that he is going to have breakfast, do some business, go for a big run at the park, sleep (a LOT), get some belly rubs, do some more business, have dinner, and then sleep again. It doesn’t matter that every day is the same day. In Odi’s eyes, every day is the best new day of his life. When I think about approaching life like this, it reminds me to be grateful…grateful for my health, for Fin, for my family and friends, for my home, and for the ability to work from said home. This sameness has also created the space for me to do some new things this year like starting my own business, learning to knit, and writing. I’m grateful for what has become possible by sitting still and paws-ing in this sameness.

Boundaries are important. 2020 has been a constant reminder about the importance of setting boundaries. Whether it has been physical distancing, saying no to in-person meet-ups (before the current restrictions), or knowing when your work day started and ended, we were all put into situations where we had to be clear about our boundaries. I am well-acquainted with the importance of boundaries because Odi has no boundaries. If it were up to Odi, he would be on the couch, on our bed, under the covers, on every video call, and eating our food. I learned early on with Odi that boundaries were not always fun, but completely necessary. They ensured that we could go out in public in a socially acceptable way, ensured a healthy dog-owner relationship, and saved me from feeling continually frustrated.  

Sometimes things happen that are out of our control. This has been a constant reminder in 2020. I have often felt like the events of 2020 have happened to me. I hate feeling that way and I will generally do whatever I can to regain a sense of control and balance in my life. I regain my sense of control by thinking things through (sometimes for longer than necessary), talking out loud (thanks Fin, Tara, Sarah, Jane, and Shauna for your listening ways), going for walks, and more recently, through knitting. Sometimes though, I wish that I could just flip a switch and forget about things or accept them more readily. That’s what Odi does. The other day, his most favourite ball bounced from the grass, onto the seawall, through the railing, and into False Creek. Odi was crushed. He ran to the railing and stuck his head through, hopeful that he could get his ball back. I was freaking out because I thought that he was going to jump over the railing to rescue his ball. But then we left the park and literally within minutes, Odi had accepted the situation and forgot all about his ball.

Thanks Odi for these important reminders and for always loving me unconditionally.

Who has influenced you in 2020? Who or what reminds you of the joy in your life? 

Happy holidays!