Charlie and The Broken Ball

Broken-Ball

I picked Charlie up from day-care and took him home after being laid off on a beautiful June morning. He followed me around the house looking worried. I wondered whether he was being sympathetic or just curios because he’d never seen me in the house on a weekday before. Then it dawned on me; it’s neither; it’s just time for his mid-day walk. I grab his leash and he runs to me, encouraging me to hook-up and go. And so it began. I took my release without notice personally and dramatically, too shocked and surprised to put my situation into proper context; my client’s market share had crashed and more advertisings couldn’t fix their brands’ issues. So a bunch of  us were laid off - just collateral damage. It was nothing personal. The park that Charlie and I walk through is green, warm and silent except for all of the birds, the bugs and the wind that are all trying to assure me that nothing of significance has happended. But I’m not tuned into their message frequencies or dialects. We walk as far as we normally do on our “long” weekday morning walks before I go to work. It’s a path that runs along the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs with the beautiful blue expanse of Lake Ontario a few hundred meters below. We go as far as the old service road that leads down to the beach. It marks the half-way point of in our walk and prompts me to say “OK Charlie, let’s go home now.” Charlie seems to sense that today is different and pulls hard in the direction of the service road. Translation: “Let’s keep walking.”  

In hindsight “Keep walking” is the first and most important lesson Charlie taught me. Walking feels good and beats back some of the worries that I have about what I’ll do next. On the way down to the beach Charlie finds an old cracked street hockey ball. With the ball in his mouth he prances, head held high, showing off his prize, a broken ball. He carries the broken ball all the way to our destination; a small secluded beach where we like to swim and play on hot summer mornings. At the shoreline he drops it beside me, steps back, stamps his feet and looks up at me. Translation: “Throw it!”  I toss the ball into the lake. He swims out, grabs it, returns, drops it beside me and looks up at me. Translation: “Again!” 

Seeing Charlie in his element, playing a game that he taught me and is inviting me to play with him now not only does my head, heart + mind good, it parks my ego and my internal dialogue to help me to understand the lessons Charlie has to teach me. The master is here and the student is finally ready. 

 I realize that in the last ½ hour Charlie’s has already taught me three important lessons:

1. keep walking,

2. play more, it’s good for your head, heart + mind, and

3. open your mind to see the opportunities around you. 

On the 5th toss the broken ball hits the water crack-first, fills with water and sinks long before Charlie can get to it. He panics and swims in circles looking for his ball. It reminds me of how I felt right after I was told that I’ve been terminated and will now be escorted out of the building. But while my career vanished while standing on solid ground, Charlie’s swimming hard against large cold waves and a dangerous undertow. He needs my help and encouragement to come ashore now if he’s going to let that ball go, move on and live another day. I strip and wade in - calling out to him. Murphy’s Law kicks in as I swim towards him. Finally he turns and swims to shore.

Once ashore he looks up at me shivering. I look down thankful that he’s alive.

The loss of the broken ball and almost losing him drives home two more lessons:

4. sometimes you need to let go of one thing so you can move on to another, and

5. sometimes you need to listen to others when they tell you to leave it + move on. 

It’s a beautiful day at the beach, made even more so by the fact that Charlie loves being here and exploring it just as much as I do. The reminder: 

6. enjoy the moment – alone or with a soul that shares your passion.

Further down the beach Charlie jumps onto the break-wall and sticks his head between the large boulders. His body freezes and his tail wags quickly.  

Translation: “Come. Found something.” When I look into the crevice I see an old faded tennis ball that’s probably been there for months. It could be his latest treasure if my arm is long enough.

Ball-Crevice

As I bend down these lessons come to mind:

7. ask for help - most people will be happy to do so, and

8. there’s always another ball on the beach.

In the weeks following my layoff I did a lot of soul searching, spent a lot more time with Charlie, and came to understand that he’s the guide that I need right now . . . which is another lesson:

9. it’s often better to get what you need rather than what you want. 

Charlie patiently introduced me to and reminded me of some of life’s important lessons. Some I had learned years ago and forgotten. Some I’d skipped the first time round. 

 

This web, and the companion book, are my tribute to Charles Convey and a reminder to myself to keep walking.

 

 

 

 

 

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