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  • Writer's pictureKatie Schalk

Allowing Imperfection

Life feels like a jumble, at best, sometimes. I'm still reeling from the events of 2022, most notably my mom's death a few days after Thanksgiving after a very long struggle with dementia. For me, this brought up a lot of contemplation about how I want to live - how to live healthier, how to have the kind of impact I'd like to have on the world around me ("leave it better" if I can, "tread lightly" at the very least), and how to engineer life to include more of the things that really matter to me. Then there is also the question of: what does really matter to me? What do I want to create?

I think so hard sometimes that I forget to let myself "feel" those answers. I forget to let myself enjoy these moments.

What do I really want to do here? I want to get into the habit of writing. I want to build my confidence in sharing my observations about dogs and life. It doesn't really matter if those observations are mundane, if my training is imperfect, or if I make mistakes. Maybe someone will find them useful. Or maybe not. Right now, this doesn't really matter. I have to let myself be seen in all of my imperfection and chaos even if it scares me.

Okay, to be fair, if I get too scared, I am allowed to step back. Like the dog who needs to step behind the barrier while the "trigger" passes because their brain isn't quite ready to handle that level of challenge on that particular day, I am also allowed to make that choice for myself. Know thyself. Train the dog in front of you. Train the Katie that you are today.

On 12.31.22 I wrote in my journal:

"My doggies anchor me. They bring me back to what's important in my life. I was feeling a bit down on myself lately, feeling like there is nothing I am good at, feeling like a loser who has accomplished nothing and isn't capable of doing much of anything. The one thing I kept coming back to is that I am very good at taking care of my doggies - I take damn good care of them. I put my whole unbroken heart into my relationship with them. It's such a simple, pure love. I know for a fact they would not be better off without me. And it's this thought which catches me on this spiral that would lead to despair."

And then I have the most brilliant morning playing games with my dogs - each one on their own walk. I try to cater to their own needs, preferences, and strengths. I see their progress and my own on this journey we are on together. One piece of happiness is noticing steps toward a larger vision. "Progress not perfection," as Tom Mitchell and Lauren Langman of AbsoluteDogs often remind us.

Once we start noticing and tracking progress, we can see possibility again and there is hope. Hope is the antidote to despair.

So this is my lesson for myself today:

Allow imperfection, embrace it. Perfection is fear's friend and these two would have you create a still picture with no forward motion at all.

Roscoe's misty backyard, 2018 (I think)

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