When Sidney is stressed, she picks up a bone and carries it around for a little while, pacing the room in circles until she finally settles on a spot, plops down, and starts gnawing on the bone. She holds it is place with one of her paws and then chews, scrapes and crunches without mercy and without a break.
I learned very quickly that the raw-hide chews were a waste of money. She devours them in seconds. Tennis balls get shredded. Fluffy toys are pulverized. But the thick shank bone is perfect; it can survive months of nervous chewing.
I am constantly amazed at her tenacity. Whatever is in that bone must be good. But I can’t imagine what it must be. I’ve evaluated this chew toy and there is no meat on the bone. There is no morrow in the middle. It’s an empty shell.
And yet, she crunches. She cracks. She shaves. She nibbles. Not once does she stop to stretch out her the muscles of her jaw or check for possible tooth damage. She is so singularly focused that we can actually get up and leave the room without her noticing. I can’t imagine going after something so worthless with such a vengeance.
Then I think of my friend who has a drinking problem. He sips. He drinks. He gulps. He starts quiet and ends loud. He doesn’t stop to assess the damage. He just keeps slugging back the drinks; first the beer and then the harder stuff. His face gets flushed. His eyes get red. He just doesn’t stop until he’s either driven home by an embarrassed friend or the police are called.
There’s the woman in our church who spends every waking minute thinking about her children. How are they dressed? What activities are best for their future careers? Why didn’t they make the basketball team? Is that coach stupid? Don’t hang out with that kid. His grades aren’t very good. Stand up straight. Get into the best college, drive the nicest car, date a better girl. She’s created two neurotic kids and one who is the most rebellious young woman I’ve ever met. This mother is working hard to destroy a fourth child even as I write this.
Or perhaps it is the man I know who works 80 hours a week to prove his value, increase his stock in the company, and make a name for himself in the business community. He wakes before the rest of his family and is out the door before his kids are on the bus. He arrives home late because there is always one more call to make, one more meeting to attend, or one more fire to put out. Sure, he attends his kid’s soccer matches but stands off to the side, his cell phone to his ear, talking animatedly about the next big thing. The work is always there and never ends. He has yet to consider where he will be in 20-years when his kids are gone and his relationship with his wife is non-existent.
But these people are not alone. It doesn’t take much to realize that most of us have a bone. Many of us chew nervously on one thing or the other. It might be children, or drink, or work. Or it might be image, exercise or gossip. It could be travel, success, the cars we drive, the homes we live in, the boats we polish in the warm summer sun. There’s no end to what we hold in our teeth when we lose focus on what matters most.
But let me ask you a question: Don’t your jaws get tired? Isn’t there a point when you just want to release the bone? Aren’t you afraid that some day you’ll look up and you will realize that the bone you’ve been chewing has no flavor at all and you’ve missed out on what really matters?
So, for today, drop the bone. Hold the hand of a friend. Sit in the shade and drink a tall glass of tea. Listen to your children laugh. Read a novel. Write a poem. Call your mother. Turn up the radio and sing along at the top of your voice.
Put down the bone and go for a stroll in your neighborhood…not a power walk, just a stroll. Find peace in your day. Discover the calm that comes from releasing the neurosis, putting down the preoccupation and relaxing for one day.
You’ll be glad you did.