Cowboy was abandoned in a foreclosed home during the long, hot summer of 2012. No one found him until about 30 days after he had been left behind by his not so loving family. He weighed 3 pounds. All I can think is that there had to have been a water leak somewhere in that house that allowed him to stay hydrated and not die alone and sad.
Today Cowboy weighs a healthy 10 pounds. He lives in a loving home with playmates, regular meals, and a spot snuggled up at my feet each night.
Amazingly, he shows few ill effects from his abandonment. He still eats his food way too fast and sometimes gets choked up. He’s still cautious around strangers. For six weeks after I adopted him, he would pee all over the floor when I came home after having been gone a while — not surprising, since his experience was that people leave and never come back for you. He’s confident now that someone will always come back for him and doesn’t do the excitable wee-wee anymore.
Cowboy demonstrates an incredible level of resilience. He could have succumbed to death alone in that hot, abandoned house. He could have become a biter, fearful of all people. He could have become shy and fearful, afraid to trust again. But he’s not any of those things. He’s sweet. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s happy. He loves to play. And he loves to be loved on.
Cowboy hasn’t let his past define his future.
We should all be more like Cowboy. Life can leave us feeling like we got left behind in a hot, barren wasteland. But we should never let the past events in our lives determine our outlook for the future. We don’t need to spend our lives hesitant and fearful. We need to stand up, move forward, and live life to its fullest.
The following video shows Cowboy playing with his new BFF. This is a never-ending activity around Candy Land. Cowboy believes in going after the biggest, hairiest adversary he can find. How about you?
Every now and then, the Parade magazine that comes in my Sunday newspaper actually runs an article of value and interest. This week, a David Gergen interview with retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is worth reading. O’Connor is one of my idols – she inspires me to think more and do more. She is a woman worth emulating.
Gergen asks her about her experience in 1952 when, as a top law graduate from Stanford, she was unable to find a job. Why? It wasn’t because the economy was bad or she was shy or incompetent. It was because she was a woman. Stop and think about that for a moment. In 1952, no one would hire one of Stanford’s brightest prospects simply because she carried an XX pair of chromosomes. It’s a thought that makes me want to find every woman I know and shake her furiously while screaming, “Forget about what’s between your legs! It’s the gray matter between your ears that matters!” In order to jump-start her career, O’Connor ended up working without pay in the one firm that was willing to take her on.
O’Connor has had a remarkable life – not just a remarkable career. She succeeded as a lawyer, a judge, a wife, and a mother. She continues, at age 82, to succeed as a mentor and advocate for public life. At the end of the Parade interview she is quoted as saying, “I had a good life, and the reason it was a good life is because I stayed busy doing the things that mattered to me. If I stopped doing that, I think my whole life would disintegrate. I want to feel like, to the extent that I’m able to, I can still make a difference.”
When I’m done shaking the women around me I’m going to ask, “What matters to you? What are you doing to make a good life?” If any of them say they’re going to spend all their time popping babies out of their vaginas I’m going to shake them again. Any Ho can have a baby. What is she going to do with her brain? What is she going to do to make a difference in society? What, at age 82, is she going to say to her interviewer? Or, perhaps more appropriately, is she going to contribute anything to society that warrants an interview? What business matter, what civic cause, what social injustice is going to stir her passions?
Lives well-lived are not gender-dependent. O’Connor shows us that, despite the centuries-old XY Chromosome Conspiracy to keep women out of the public sphere (unless their bodies are on public display), women can make a difference.
How are you going to make a difference?
To learn more about Justice O’Connor, I recommend Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic. In addition, O’Connor has penned two autobiographical books worth reading: Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest and The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice.
Edited on 1/13/13 to add this excellent graphic from The Idealist on Facebook:
Yesterday, Parade Magazine published a piece called “America’s Bucket List 2011.” They said it was a list of “essential experiences every American should have.” I must be a good American because I’ve done all but four items on the list, but I probably won’t be adding those to my bucket list any time soon. The four I’ll skip are:
- #2 Watch a lawn mower race. I know people who go to lawn mower races. Does that count?
- #10 Volunteer to be a poll worker on election day. I won’t rule this one out forever. However, in my precinct the poll workers are all pushing 80 years old. I’ll wait another 25 or 30 years and then volunteer so I fit the demographic.
- #14 Learn the second verse of our national anthem. Why? My brain is tasked with keeping track of more vital information. I don’t need any trivia to keep track of.
- #26 Write a gratitude letter to a teacher. This one has value. Unfortunately, the only teacher I would have anything worthwhile to say to was my college adviser and speech professor who committed suicide a couple of years after I graduated. He showed me that I really could do what I wanted and that technology wasn’t all bad. I’ll have to sit and chat with him in another life.
To replace these four items, I’ll add four of my own:
- Live in the Florida Keys. It’s a beautiful place to vacation, but vacations are too short. Someday I want to send all my winter coats to the thrift shop and never buy another one. I want a wardrobe full of nothing by shorts, tank tops and flip flops. I may have been born in “Almost Heaven” West Virginia, but the Keys sound like heaven to me.
- Live “off the grid.” And I want to do it without moving to the middle of nowhere. Surely there are ways even city folks can transition from reliance on traditional utilities to more self-sufficient means? If I lived in the Keys I’d be able to cross home heating and cooling off the energy consumption list. Water and electricity would be the only needs to conquer.
- Learn Spanish. A useful skill whether living here in Oklahoma or in the Keys. Sorry, but I can’t get on the English-only bandwagon. Isn’t it odd that the U.S. is the only advanced nation whose educated classes don’t know how to speak another language? Yesterday, after the French Open, I listened as Roger Federer, a native German, addressed the crowd in perfect French; Rafael Nadal addressed the crowd in English and then in his native Spanish. American arrogance contributes to American ignorance. We shouldn’t wonder that our schools churn out a bunch of spoiled, half-literate young people.
- Win a ribbon at a county fair. I don’t know what category or what fair. But I think it would be a lot of fun!
Columbus set out to sail the ocean blue in 1492 and didn’t have a clue where he would end up. For all he knew he was going to fall off the edge of the earth or be swallowed by a sea monster. Instead, he landed in the Bahamas. Any cruise that lands in the Bahamas is a good thing.
The courage of Columbus and his crew on the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria got me thinking. How often is anyone today willing to embark on a venture where the end result is unknown? We spend a lot of time planning and plotting with a specific goal in mind. Somehow I think we’d be better off just to set sail and see where the journey takes us. Such an approach would completely redefine the concept of success — every outing would be a success. Plus you’d have the added bonus of allowing yourself to change course when needed, redefine the mission, take a detour, or even head back to port.
I’m looking around the land and I think we could all stand to be a bit more like Columbus — let’s set sail and see where the currents and our sails will take us.