Being as a solopreneur can be lonely. Although I’m grateful for a career that allows me to pursue my passion for writing and photography – the solitude can be difficult. Thankfully, I’ve found a happy balance between spending time with my clients and working from a home office.
Over the years, countless individuals have entered my life through my camera lens. Whether I’m shooting an event, capturing images for a business, or taking family portraits, I’ve loved meeting and working with people. Recently, the Covid-19 crisis brought my business to a screeching halt; the cancellations came like rapid-fire. Not only did I lose my income, I lost my social connections.
As new cases emerged by the hundreds across the nation, we hoped and prayed the spread would slow. But every day, the news delivered stories of further outbreak. More deaths were reported, and more businesses were closing – it became clear that the world would be forever changed. As a small business owner, it was like watching a runaway train and being helpless to stop it.
Like everyone else, my routine has been turned upside down. I’m overwhelmed with uncertainty and financial worry. It feels like everything I’ve ever taken for granted is at risk. My emotions are an ebb and flow of worry and sadness. Even on good days, something as random as a song on the radio can reduce me to painful tears.
Luckily, there’s someone in my life who’s been a constant through it all. The presence of a beautiful individual who helps me cope with the ever-changing crisis and the chaos that clutters my thoughts. Parker, my overgrown, silly-hearted golden doodle has been the purest form of stress relief I ever could’ve hoped for. She is the emotional support animal I never knew I needed.
I hadn’t realized how far I’d drifted from mindfulness. But recently, in the midst of a particularly tough day, as I walked from my office to the kitchen (because I can’t stop snacking) I noticed Parker sitting quietly on the ottoman in our living room, staring out the window. “What are you looking at?” I asked, joining her.
Outside, dozens of birds peppered the front yard. We’d gotten a fresh blanket of snow the night before, and now, countless chickadees and gray juncos were happily gathered on the ground – hopping, fluttering and pecking at seeds that had spilled from the feeders. Parker looked up at me, as if to say, “Aren’t they neat? There are so many of them!” I sat next to her and we watched the birds together. For those few minutes I felt a flicker of hope and happiness. I was in the moment – my mind was quiet.
The next day, on yet another trip to the kitchen, Parker followed me. Before I could open the refrigerator, she sat in front of it and leaned casually against the door, staring up at me with big, brown eyes. Knowing she had my attention, she got up and walked to where her leash wash hanging on a hook near the pantry. Her tail wagged as she looked up at the leash, then back at me. I laughed when she crossed the room and nudged my hand with her wet nose. “Okay,” I said. “I can take a hint.”
We took a walk through a city park, near my home where a marshy area attracts ducks, geese and red-winged black birds. The snow from earlier that week had melted and we were treated to a warm, sunny afternoon. Parker trotted alongside me as I took long strides, breathing in the fresh, April air. Then, without warning, she stopped and layed down in the grass. I tugged at the leash. “Let’s go. Come on.” She didn’t budge. In fact, she ignored me, and gazed out across the pond. The black birds were singing a springtime celebration; hundreds of them, calling merrily from their cattail perches. And Parker sat contently, listening to their song and watching more swoop down from tree branches to join their friends amongst the reeds. Just be in the moment. My furry friend seemed to be telling me.
Again, we watched the birds together. I felt myself relax and noticed the sense of calm that had settled over me. When a goose waddled onto shore, Parker jumped to her feet. The goose honked and flew, and Parker ran after it, dragging me behind her. “I guess meditation time is over!” I yelped. But even as a jogged to keep up, my mind held onto the calm. I noticed every cloud, crack in the sidewalk and budding branch as we made our way back home.
When we turned down our street, Parker spotted a large puddle on the opposite side of the asphalt. She pulled at her leash, and I followed as she happily plopped and pranced through the water. When she looked up at me, her tongue was hanging from the corner of her upturned mouth. That silly dog was smiling at me. We turned around and splashed through the puddle one more time, for good measure. In that moment, my heart was light. Pure joy.
I’ve grown to rely on our regular, afternoon breaks. I get to press pause on reality and allow my mind to be still. Some days, we take a walk, others we curl up with book or sit at the window and admire the birds. Each day is a new lesson in awareness, as Parker reminds me to slow down, be present and observe the world through her eyes.