June, my dog, stole our neighbor’s dog’s tennis ball.
Syndey, a striking reddish Golden Retriever, who doesn’t let beauty get to her head, would just as soon give the ball to June, but that’s not the point.
The ball was squarely in our front yard. This is no big deal since Syd is here every day. But the crime was committed when June, who is always told to “drop” whatever treasure she wants to sneak in from outside, did not do so with the tennis ball. I knew what she was up to, but I caved.
For one thing, a tennis ball is much better than what she usually finds out in the hay farm we live on: half decomposed birds, mice after the hawks got to them, frogs after the hawks got to them, turtles after the hawks got to them, sticks; sticks suddenly don’t seem so bad.
Anyway, I wanted her to think she pulled one over on me. She was so pleased with herself.
She tore into the house, did a few laps, held the ball high in front of the cats, and brought it everywhere with her. She dropped it next to her bowl at dinner. Our tabby, Boris, walked past her and the ball on his way to his cat fort, and even though the ball was already between June’s paws, she quickly put her mouth around it.
“Nobody wants your stupid ball,” I said.
She latched down harder.
Anxious Dogs and Fortune-Telling Thinking
Was this an anxious dog tendency? Was she having the kind of distorted fortune-telling thinking I often had?
It’s where you get lost in a trail of worries about what bad thing might happen next. Like “Boris, who is half my size and can’t open his jaw even 1/10th as wide as I can, might figure out a devious way to take my ball any minute.”
Okay, maybe I’m projecting here, but either way, if I had handed her a new ball, she would have been bored of it after 10 minutes.
I had no idea dogs got such a rush from petty theft.
She was still prancing around with the thing, now chewed open and no longer in ball form, today when my fiance and I were cleaning out our basement.
Decluttering with Company
We just inherited a bunch of my old crap from my parents, who are redoing my room in anticipation of my newborn twin nieces coming to stay this winter. I want the room to be perfect, obviously, so I was happy to take my stuff back.
We spread all the junk out in the yard. June and her ball sprinted between piles. Normally June freaks out when there is a new object in the yard, even a piece of trash, but today she was fearless. The ball gave her power.
There was so much I knew I should throw away, sitting in the grass with an iced coffee, surrounded by plastic tubs. My fiance would come by periodically as I pondered, and chant “Throw it out.”
There was this big royal blue windbreaker with my name, high school mascot, and the year 1999 embroidered on it. So ugly. I kept thinking of all these possibilities where it might come in handy.
What if I wanted to go running on a windy day? What if we got invited sailing? What if we decided on Scotland for our honeymoon, where the weather can be unpredictable? Then I’d be wishing for this windbreaker alright.
The Declutter Tennis Ball Test
June strolled by and showed me her ball again, as if to say, “If you don’t like that windbreaker as much as I like this ball, donate it.” So wise for her nine months.
When it came to the windbreaker, I had fallen prey to the same kind of rabbit-hole thinking that leads me to anxiety. The what-ifs can lead to clutter too, apparently. So I did what my doc trained me to do and led myself slowly down that hole by asking “What next?”
What if we do meet a few sailing enthusiasts at Acme this week and get invited on a sunset sail?
Humor me here. It’s what I have to do to myself. If that were to happen, I’d be too embarrassed to wear an oversized high school windbreaker. It’s not even cool enough to pull off in a vintage way.
No, I’d borrow that Columbia jacket of my mom’s I’ve had my eye on instead.
So if anyone needs a terribly uncool windbreaker, let me know.