Love: Habits

I am paying a little more attention these days to the habits that leave their mark on my life.  Recently, what was our last family pet, a beloved dog, passed away.  I say “last family pet” because, at 18, she was the last dog that we had (and we always had dogs) who helped us raise our children.  Her last few years were those of an elderly dog–no much activity, eating and sleeping and being present in the house.

In the weeks that follow her death, we find ourselves wondering in the morning when we get up what kind of a night she had.  We wonder as we pull into the driveway how she fared while we were at work.  I walk into the family room where her bed stayed near the fireplace expecting to see her.  I walk through the kitchen expecting to hear her feet on the floor making that little clickety-click noise.  None of these things happen, of course, because she is gone, but the habits of listening, noticing, caring, tending, enjoying, feeding, bathing, seeing and expecting are etched into us over much time.

What I am noticing is that this is more than grief.  Grief is certainly a part of the experience, but I find myself in wonder about those daily habits that have shaped my relationship toward this beloved animal friend.  It’s teaching me how much love is born of chosen habits of presence as much as anything else.  Do we really love because of some sudden magical attraction–always?  Or, is love something more that shapes itself into our lives because we choose to be present to another? We were looking recently at pictures of this beloved dog over the years.  She was a cute puppy, but my heart really moves when I see pictures of her in her later years.  That’s the face that shaped my heart, and that took a lifetime.

Bob Patrick

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2 Responses to Love: Habits

  1. BArbara says:


    I will take this reminder about habits, and apply it to the emotional realm. I have a habit of not trusting my knowledge in new areas with a fear of putting it out there and “being wrong”. I know for me that is related to the white supremacy system that I was raised in and continue to live in.

    Yesterday, I used some habitual language about a set of staff that could actually be hurtful. I was ashamed for saying it because it indicated a non-loving view and non-acceptance view of their pain especially in the context where I made my statement.

    I apologized immediately, and at the end of the meeting I talked with the supervisor for these staff and apologized for the thoughts and the expression that they came from. She listened intently for which I am grateful for. I apologized for causing her pain during the meeting. She accepted the apology in a deep way and said thank you. Others at the meeting quietly listened.

    This habit in accepting negative language about others and internalizing it will come out. Changing my mindset and acknowledging that these thoughts do not match my beliefs and faith in people necessitated me to go deeper in myself and recommit to changing my language in my head – the negative thoughts – the judgement as those are not helping improve anything in my world. Additionally, I am not perfect and I will make mistakes. I must continually work to live out my values in this world. This will mean putting out in the world and in front of others that I was wrong.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      A very powerful lesson for us all, Barbara. Thank you for your transparency and willingness to share this wisdom with us.

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