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60 to 60: Inner Critic at the Dog Park, Part 2

It’s about 6 in the evening. The air here at 5371 feet is usually arid, but tonight it’s foggy, and smoky from the fires up in Canada. As we approach, I see that the dog park is almost empty. Oh good. I live right down the middle of extravert and introvert. I can switch easily, which comes in handy and I’m used to it, but I know it can be confusing for others. I’m pretty sure this evening is a time for me to be alone, to collect myself, and to let the power of Nature do her healing thing.

Wait. As soon as I enter the park and let the girls off their leashes, I spot her. There’s Michelle and her new dog! Is that you? I hear her say. Is that you? I soft-yell back. We are both delighted. We just haven’t seen each other that much in the last ten years. Life is like that.

Michelle and I grew our girls together. We met on the day Jay and I were waiting for results from my late-in-pregnancy amniocentesis. Some markers had possibly indicated Down Syndrome, so at 28 weeks pregnant, we got the test. We were all about getting the facts about our little girl! Anyway, it wasn’t my most upbeat day. But there was this super cheerful woman on my lawn, who was also quite pregnant. A unique friendship was born.

Her daughter Anna came three weeks before Marin in the summer of 2003, and for the next ten years these two girls were inseparable. Michelle was the one I called when my right breast was engorged but Marin wasn’t latching onto that one, dangit. Her home with Tom was the ‘safe house’ we brought our 3-year old to when we had to put Artemis, our beloved labrador mix, down. She was the brave soul who actually agreed to form a Girl Scout troop with me and a dozen exuberant 6 year olds. We ran Troop 3982 together for five years, the highlight of which might be the night we drove in a blizzard and then slept on the floor of the African safari exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. For some reason, the Girl Scout event organizers thought it was a good idea to give young children a cookie the size of a personal pan pizza AT MIDNIGHT. Michelle and I watched the girls literally climb the walls until the wee hours of the morning. That forms a certain kind of special friendship bond.

One lap around this amazing dog park is about one quarter of a mile. Here comes the power and beauty of open hearts, raw truth, old friendship and dogs. Michelle mentions she loves my 60 to 60 series. Says she gets it, she can relate to many of my musings. Admires how honest I can be. This makes my heart sing! But I sigh and tell her all about the Inner Critic. Oh she says, she knows that one. She reminds me that we also have an Inner Coach to call upon. I love that. Particularly as a Gemini (sign of the Twin) I rather like the idea of the Critic and Coach duking it out. We start to talk. Questions back and forth. Out comes the REAL DEAL, not the post office-answer you’d give someone when they say, hey how are ya? (Great, great, how are you?)

Over the years I have found these REAL DEAL friendships to be a rare gem, invaluable, and to be treasured.

Halfway through the park, my feet are lighter. The Inner Critic has grown tired. I ask Michelle to brag to me about her two daughters. Rachel came two years after Anna and was an adjunct member of our Girl Scout troop. After asking are you sure, are you sure?* and I said oh yes I am, I want to hear everything, she told me the most delicious and hopeful stories.

Sometimes we moms don’t take much credit for how our kids turn out. I reflected to Michelle that she was a Champion Mother, that I had a front row seat for a decade. My eyes filled with tears. You did that. You did that. Then her eyes got wet and we realized she’s late and she's gotta go.

Now I think I have to write Part 3. Please stay tuned.

*How often do we give each other opportunities to brag about something or someone we’re proud of, even ourselves? Where does this false sense of humility stem from? I say, BRAG. Show us your kids, your garden, your bookshelf, your car, your junk drawer, your BBQ dinner. Tell us about the cool stuff and the wonderful things AND overcoming the hard crap and those rougher edges. What if we say to each other more, “Will you brag about your (INSERT awesome person, place or thing here) to me for a minute? I’d really like to hear.” Watch what happens.

Lyons Dog Park that evening.


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