autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

The Boxer

every now and then, i receive a gift from the universe that so completely comforts and nourishes that i am boggled for it.

today, i decided to reach out to someone i have watched struggle for some months now… they are, at best, a stranger to me in this moment, for all i have repeatedly invited them to move closer and share.

it has been something of a pensive thing, for it is only lately that i have begun to learn the quiet and patient approach to these things. it is only lately that i really begin to see clearly that, for whatever reason and regardless my wishes otherwise, often i seem to overwhelm people. or intimidate them. neither are wanted here, but it seems to happen with such regularity that i often despair of it.

(mind you, i am loathe to say it at all, finding it sounds arrogant and prideful. however, time demonstrates it is neither, and these words are not as much my own as the aggregate of things others tell me, both in this moment as in many previous ones. i finally accept it for what it is, on all levels.)

having waited some weeks for this person to move closer, i finally decided today to reach out to them more fully… and hope they would not find it hurtful or overwhelming. i was humbled and thankful to receive in response a lengthy letter that pointed to many things, but among which the following was said:

I have avoided actually contacting you in any way because I fear change and I know that if I do come into intimate contact with you, I will change. It will be for the better, because that is the only kind of change I can see you creating, but it’s still change and regardless of the kind, I still fear it.

it is the very first time i have ever had anyone actually, frankly and honestly admit such a thing, even as it is something i have felt many times, from many people.

one of my friends has, for long and long, attempted to ‘make me’ accept that people do receive long-term good from knowing me. that they have seen this change in people who are in contact with me, and that it is my efforts that lend to such ends.

i have always found that a prideful perspective and so, have often shunned it. but perhaps it is not prideful to acknowledge something that is so easily evidenced. is it possible to find my own comfort in this without being proud? perhaps. perhaps.

the good feeling i receive to read such words, or to have my friend pushing at me to ‘take credit’ isn’t me lifting myself up to say ‘oh, look what *I* can do’… rather, it is a soft feeling of thankfulness that others benefit.

it helps me to know i can be effective in these ways. it is balm to long-standing wounds of neglect, abandonment, and abuse to see and hear and know that i am not a hurtful and cutting person. it is just enough to keep me committed to striving to such ends, even in the face of knowing that i will ever and always be left behind.

one of the most poignant things in it is the manner in which people leave… it torments the tender edges of the wound of neglect and abandonment, but i try to understand. it is not ‘me’ they are leaving, not really, because they take a part of me with them.

sometimes i do not think others understand this. no matter outcome, no matter time, no matter circumstance or distance, though they go, they are never really gone, because i hold in me that which is them… and they carry in them that which is me. but i admit, the ache of it is regular and often deeply painful.

i suppose i am just enough of an idealist to be able to see, to conceptualize that it could be different. and to wish that it were different. but human enough still to somehow wind up snarling it with my own persistence, and then, cradle these precious pieces and rock with an ache i lack any way to remedy.

i do not know if this person will do more than make this one reply. i am hesitant to reach again, lest i manage only to drive them further away. i am reminded of my work with the adopt-a-pet team. i always wound up working with the abused animals. they would respond to me when no one else could get through to them.

there was one dog i remember in particular. a four year old boxer. he didn’t even have a name. they just called him ‘the boxer’. he would always huddle in the corner of his crate and at any touch, regardless how gentle, howl and cry as if his life were being ripped from him with rusty pliers. his eyes were… i cannot even describe the things i could see in his eyes.

i spent three months with the boxer. sitting by his crate, the door open, just talking. i told him about my childhood. i told him about my dreams. i told him about stupid, silly things that only had as much meaning as that they were words given in soothing tone. i never reached for him. but i was very aware of how any movement i made resulted in his flinching. it broke my heart to see him so fearful and eager to expect pain.

the people of the adoption group laughed at me. they had long ago given up on him and in truth, not only didn’t try to get him adopted, but had made something of a mascot of hopelessness out of him. it made me angry when i thought about it. still does, really. mostly because i remember all the times and people who were more than willing to give up on me, did so with enthusiasm, glee even. smirking to tell me all the ways i wasn’t good enough, or why i would fail. not all wounds are given by fists.

i remember the day the boxer first made contact with me. i had watched him squirm closer over the hours of the day and all but snarling myself at anyone who got within range of our area. it was a painful waiting… every motion or sound of those encroachments sending him back to his fearful corner. eventually, the adoption folks got the message… my temper is a frightening thing. *chuckle*

his first contact was a tentative lick of my left pinky finger. i didn’t move. i didn’t change the pitch or inflection of my voice. i continued talking… rambling really… by this time, reduced to merely describing the people who were bustling around, and talking about the things i could see in their eyes, or their body language.

he squirmed closer and set his head upon my left knee, having to push my arm out of the way and squirm under it to do so. he lay there quietly. he was trembling. i remember feeling a soft awe at how much courage it took for him to do such a thing. i had read the reports and i knew how they had found him and what condition he was in when they did.

i didn’t touch him for hours. just let him lay there and feel the warmth of contact. let him be, and was there, ‘being’ with him until the trembling stopped. when i did finally reach to touch him, it was the with lightest possible pressure i could manage… barely skimming his coat… he jumped, but not up… one, great convulsive start… and set to trembling again. but he stayed. and i continued as i was… voice unchanging and tender touch for a time… letting him know it was safe.

i made them leave us there overnight. i didn’t go home. i spent that night reminding the boxer of closeness and care. i fell asleep propped in the corner of the wall and his crate. when i woke the next morning, he was stretched out alongside my legs, sleeping peacefully.

i murmured to wake him, and he didn’t jump. i spent the morning just sitting there, showing him different kinds of touches and pats… increasing pressure to normalcy and soothing him when it made him nervous. by the time the adoption team showed up for the day, he was calm. very reserved, very quiet, but calm.

over the following week, we made a point of introducing him to strangers. the adoption team took turns spending time with him, helping socialize him. by the end of that next month, he no longer flinched… and he had not howled or cried since the night i spent there.

two weeks later, he was adopted by an elderly woman. she named him ‘Paisley’. heh. no idea why. i would have adopted him myself, only i didn’t have the room for him. and as strange as it may sound, i never felt like he belonged with me. perhaps that’s just my own weary acceptance of life talking… hard to say. regardless, it ended well for him, for the elderly woman, and yes, for me too.

my own outcomes tend toward affirmation and learning. i do not think i am intended to have much more than this from others. i try not to be angry for it. mostly, i succeed.

huh. somewhere in the telling, i lost track of why i was telling it. maybe you know. i suppose that’s what matters in the end.