If there's one thing I'm constantly on guard against -- besides my ass getting any bigger -- it's narcissism. I can't abide it in others and am just always aware of it when it's in the room with me, my narcissism-detector always switched on, ready to move away from it in others, root it out in myself.
I feel like I've had way too much experience of it in my life to abide it any longer, as if it's one of those things like people who don't believe in evolution or global warming, up with which I need not put. And oh, the stories I could tell about the crazy-ass narcisisst nonprofit bosses I've had in my career, enough to quite literally fill a book, a long chapter each.
Still, as a self-confident person who loves to tell stories and loves social media, I sometimes feel like I'm a prime candidate for narcissism. I have access to all the tools. It would be easy to make everything about me. After all, this is my blog you're reading, right?
But nowhere in my life is the threat of narcissism more real than in training our puppy, Mr Burns.
That's where I fear my narcissism runs amok.
At least that's what I think you'd think if you came across us on a training walk, Mr Burns seated with his eyes locked on mine, or on the treat in my hand, while I keep up a steady murmur of Not Your Business, Eyes on Me, Watch Me, Good Boy, Eyes on Me, Watch Me, closing with a big bright GOOD BOY when he manages to let another dog or a bike go by without leaping and arcing like a salmon in his excitement to play.
Sometimes it feels like the entire process of puppy training is just one extended Me Me Me, making my dog's whole world about Me, revolving around where I am on the other end of the leash, am I moving or am I stopped, making the question in his mind always, Where is She, the dear Me I revolve around, the Me with the treats and the pets and the love? What does she want now?
I think I managed to slip the bonds of narcissism in my parenting. At least I hope so. No, I know I did.
But with Burnsy, not so much.
I know the training is essential. I've given months and months to this goal, almost a full year now since we brought Burnsy home with us, and it feels more important than ever to keep it up, as we cross over that anniversary date. Since he's part pit and adorably looks it, I know that any misstep on his part will be given less latitude than the same by, say, a lab or a golden. It's been my mission since adopting him that he be a vgb, his word for Very Good Boy, an exemplary canine citizen, everybody's favorite dog.
We're getting there, and meanwhile there's a lot of work still to do. And I'm out on the trail with him, correcting his pulling on the leash, letting my narcissist-flag fly high. These are words I actually noted myself saying the day-before-yesterday: "Excuse me. Who is walking whom here, my friend? I am the Subject, and you the Object. Heel Up. Watch Me. Good Boy."
Such a freaking narcissist and grammar lessons, too.
I tell myself I'm OK because at least I hear myself saying it and recognize how fully weird it is.
Honestly, though, if there's any place it's useful to make yourself the center of someone else's world, it's only here in puppy training that it's safe to unloose the narcissism. Burns'll be a better dog for it, I know. Meanwhile, it's Watch Me, Me, Not Your Business, Eyes on Me, Good Boy, Me, Good Boy, Me, Me, Me for the coming year, until it's in him so deeply that I don't have to say the words so much. Me will have taken up residence inside his canine heart and mind so deeply that his whole body will follow.
And I'll keep listening to my own words, over-saying Me for good reasons, anxious for the day I can stop but glad of the reminder of how weird it is.
Eyes on Me. Me. Good Boy.