Learning and Unlearning

It is, fortunately, possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s not easy, it takes patience and grace, it takes understanding of the dog’s personality and nature, and it takes a lot of love, but it is possible.
Ezri is 12 now, and in the past couple of months she’s beginning to show her “senior status.” She still wants to play catch, she still carries her toys around, and her tail still does the helicopter thing when we come home. But the game of catch doesn’t last quite as long, the many, many toys are down to a few favorite choices, and after the initial greeting, she’ll lay down.
And it’s now possible to sneak up on her. If she doesn’t feel a vibration in the floor, she doesn’t usually hear you.
Seems like you just get to know them, and then they are getting ready to leave. *sigh* So we are learning to work with her where she is at, to help her along as she slows down. To navigate the changes with her and help her.
So it is with me.
While my hearing is slightly diminished, it’s still alright. My legs are a little stiff, but nowhere near what they were 18 months ago. And though the clock has been rolled back in many things physically, let’s face it – I’m 52. No amount of weight lost changes that.
But my head is still a puppy brain. I look, I see, I explore, I play, I discover, I test the boundaries, I learn the limits – sometimes. But I do so with the weight and momentum of 52 years of experience. Old dog, new tricks.
I learn… I move differently, have different needs, have new essentials I must maintain, take up a lot less space. I am becoming more comfortable with who I am, and how God has gifted me.
I smile. A lot.
But, in equal measure, I also need to unlearn… I don’t have to sit down after standing for two minutes. I don’t have to do the dishes sitting down or cook sitting down or do most tasks sitting down. People aren’t staring at me saying “look at the fat guy.” Sitting in my chair in the living room doesn’t mean I’m staying there for the next 8 hours. I don’t need to worry about the stairs. I can sit in a booth…
I’m not worth more at this weight, nor was I worthless at 480 pounds. God loves His kiddo, whatever size I am.
The unlearning comes hard. 52 years of experience and momentum, being obese all my life. 29 years of having to be cared for by my beloved, with the expectation of not living many more. Years of being a spectator instead of a participant.
Learning to relate to people, unlearning the need to be introverted for protection. Learning that acceptance was there all along, unlearning the things I “thought” people were saying when I walked into the room. Learning how to use my new abilities and mental state to change my home, to control the clutter, to wrangle the finances, to live minimally and happily. Unlearning the habits of home as a “safe place,” where I go to numb out, veg, and shut down for hours and hours. Unlearning the desire to sit in my chair and remain immobile for entire days.
These habits and behaviors sometimes kick in before I even realize it. I lose a day, right before my eyes, and never see why. I could blame depression, I could claim lingering illness, I could come up with all manner of creative excuses…
Or I can unlearn that behavior, and learn a new one – taking responsibility (not guilt) for where I am at, honestly assessing (not drowning in hopelessness) where I need to go, and moving forward (not becoming overwhelmed and hiding in a corner) in God’s grace and His strength.
It’s not easy, it takes patience and grace, it takes understanding of the dog’s (my) personality and nature, and it takes a lot of love, but it is possible. Old dog, new tricks.
The ones who are cheering me on through this – my beloved, my family & my friends – ARE patient, they extend grace, they know me, and they have a lot of love.
And the One who knows me best, is infinitely patient, has limitless grace, understands my personality and nature better than I understand it myself, and loves me more than I can imagine. He walks this path ahead of me, with me, and behind me, supporting me when I stumble. He promises that just as He began this work, He will continue it.
So, I look at Him with bright eyes and twitching ears, tail doing the helicopter spinning thing, eager to play, to go where He leads, and to learn whatever He wants to teach me.
Father, help me to have the same trust in you that Ezri has in me. Thanks for using her to show me just a tiny glimpse of how You continue to teach me, at any age. Thanks for patience, grace, love and acceptance. Help me to learn, to unlearn, and to walk with my eyes on You. Give me this day what I need for this day, and help me trust You for all the days to come.
Amen.

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