I refuse to begin this post with something as trite as, “HOW DID IT BECOME FALL ALREADY?!” But I guess I just did.
The cooler weather here in Brooklyn is a bit eery, kind of melancholy, and making me maybe a hair too self-reflective for my current taste. If I’m going to be honest, I’ll tell you that it’s been a rough time for me. But I guess we each have moments when the puzzle pieces of our life just don’t seem to line up properly, or at all. Pieces of ourselves that we always relied on suddenly shift, and we find we have to get to know those parts again, whether we want to or not.
“Hi, I’m Jazz,” I say.
“Hi Jazz,” this new part of me responds. “I am the brutally honest and perhaps unwelcome culmination of your childhood and adulthood thus far. I’m the very real result of periods of your life that you thought you got through unscathed, and perhaps you kinda did, but I’m an unabashed manifestation of your reaction to those painful times. You might not dig me very much, and you might even be afraid of me, but — tough tofu — I’m here, and I’m a part of you.”
“Um,” I respond. “Nice to meet you?”
I guess we each have parts of ourselves that pop up from time to time, forcing us to unravel a bit (or more than a bit), making us wonder if we know ourselves as well as we thought we did. The past weeks have made me reflect on huge, massive, important parts of my self. The parts that make me who I am — but who, maybe, I don’t look at, or hear from, that often. This apparently can happen to the seemingly most secure among us. It happened to me — blindsiding me in the process — because even in the recent past, I have felt pretty secure and confident. All of my [rescued] ducks were neatly in a row, and then, with no warning, they just went off in different directions, quacking wildly, as if the joke were on me.
I guess the reason I’m bringing this up at all is because even as I have faced (and continue to face) my own inner-demons, and as I work to find balance in an imbalanced world, I repeatedly feel grateful for having animals as my central guiding force — an unwavering life’s mission that drives me, even at those times when I find myself feeling that I don’t recognize myself. The animals remain a constant in my life — perhaps more so, even, than some of my very own character traits. This connection to animal rights is therefore not only what bonds you and me, but it is what bonds me and me. It is at the center of what I do and why I do it, a bright light that doesn’t dim even when it is surrounded by near darkness.
And when I go outside for a quick trip down the street to grab some soy milk from the nearby bodega, or if I take a slow and sometimes sad jog around Prospect Park, or a hurried traipse to the nearest Chinese place for some medicinal steamed dumplings (they’re medicinal to me, anyway), I feel eternally grateful for connecting with the animals I pass on the way…
…The adorable dogs who think they are much larger than they are, and so walk with their little legs a bit too far apart, their head admirably high.
…The glorious pigeons who are perhaps less timid than we think.
…The relentless mosquitos.
…The enormous white fluffy cat always in the window two doors down, guarding his street.
…The squirrel on a mysterious (but vital!) mission.
They are living their truths, these glorious animals. They don’t need to find themselves in that moment, because they are not lost.
It’s that very commitment to living fully in their present moment that makes me get up in the morning, on days I wouldn’t otherwise feel so inclined. This is, after all, a shared planet with us and with them, as well as with the many billions of other organisms and life forces that are each creating their own patterns and rituals, each existing inside of their own unique life force.
The mere thought of taking that life force away from them makes me shudder, just as I’d imagine it makes you shudder. And so we fight for them, since so often they cannot fight for themselves. In an upside-down world where animal exploitation is as American as blueberry pie, we become fiercer in our resolve — committing to embolden others to find compassion and action within themselves so that animals may live with dignity, just as any of us would want for ourselves.
That is the definition, I think, of a life force. And when I can’t seem to find my own, I simply borrow one from an animal friend, such as the dogs and cats and bugs and birds whom I call my neighbors. And I keep going, knowing in that moment that I can.
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