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Rambunctious puppies & How to Find What you Love

My days this summer lately have been spent trying to shape the unruly. No, not the garden this week, but my puppy, Bree, a rowdy half-pint Staffy, who in her eighth month has had a sudden bump in energy — destructive energy.

So I do my work as quickly as I can in between bouts of entertaining her, desperate as I am to run off some of her energy, lest she entertain herself, which she mostly does by chewing on furniture, or socks, or the bath mat or the pillows. Or barking. Endlessly barking. To a bored pup, anything is game, no matter how loud the scolding she gets (or maybe even because of it).

The good thing about Bree? She knows what she loves. So it’s not hard to figure out how to keep her entertained, constructively.

Put her on some grass and watch her jump straight into the air with pure joy like she was an antelope on the tundra. In fact, she could spend hours outdoors just tooling around. A fact I learned when I tried to bring her in early one day only to have her turn into a sack of limp potatoes that I could never quite get a grip on, let alone get off the ground.

Leave her to her favorite toy, a bikini clad clucking rubber chicken and she’ll gingerly prance around with it in her mouth, showing it off to everyone in sight while making it cluck. It will go with her everywhere, even on potty breaks. After which she’ll happily spend the next thirty minutes or so adoringly rolling around with it over and over in a love fest the likes of which I’ve never seen.

Bree loves what she loves with all of her, with a passion and intensity that makes it all the more enjoyable to her. Watching her in her moments of freedom, play (and a touch of hooliganism)

I can’t help but wonder, is there anything that I love to do that much? What makes *me* that happy? And… I don’t really have an answer.

And I don’t think I’m alone in that. As an adult, why is it so hard to figure out what we love with that kind of joy? It certainly wasn’t hard for any of us to figure out as kids. But ask any grown up what they love to do, and you usually get, blank, wide eyed looks tinged with fear, and then a series of vague answers about the joy of reading or traveling.

When I press them to tell me when was the last time they spent a couple of hours gleefully engaged in some activity,or I ask them about the last time they experienced unabashed joy and what were they doing, they’re stumped. They too, don’t have easy answers. Just a faint sense of unease. As if, secretly, we all suspect that we might be missing the boat.

And why is that? Has something happened to the most of us on our way to adulthood where we no longer have the time, the energy or the inclination for joy? Is joy just for the young?

I hope not. In fact, whatever it is, my prayer is that it’s something entirely preventable. Something we can back track on, because a life of nothing but work and chores, even if it is filled with achievement, doesn’t sound like much of a life to me.

Perhaps, as adults, it’s the decades we’ve spent confusing ourselves over what we truly love. And trying to convince ourselves to love the things we’ve been told to. The things that are good for us. Like salads, and vitamins, and working long hours in places that don’t always offer us much in return. Worse, we shame ourselves for the all the things we do like.

Ice cream? Delicious, er, no scratch that. Bad, very bad. Loads of sugar. Can’t like that. Good people love Kale and green smoothies. You’re a good person, right? Not going to the wedding of your best friends cousin’s next door neighbor, because you’d do anything else? Awesome! Oh, wait. Nope. good people show up whether they want to or not.

Decades of playing this game, trying to convince yourself to like what society deems as acceptable, can definitely make you joyless, and confused. Why admit what you love when it’s just another cudgel used to beat you into a more socially acceptable shape.

Maybe the reason the question of what do we really love, is so hard, is that we no longer trust ourselves with the answers.

Deny and confuse yourself long enough and eventually you’ll stop paying attention all together and instead of reaching for what you love, you’ll find yourself numbing out to endless late night rounds of Netflix, one too many glasses of wine, or some mindless, regret inducing, online shopping. Not because you really love any of it, but so you can escape the burn out, the joylessness and resentment simmering just out of sight.

So how do we backtrack? I’m not sure, but it seems like we could all learn a few tips from, Bree.

Tip #1: Stop pretending.

Bree doesn’t enjoy sitting on command. Will she do it? Yes. Will there need to be treats in order for her to do it? Also, yes. But she’s not going to pretend she likes it, even then. On the other hand, Bree loves to help herself to whatever you are eating. Even while you are eating it. She loves it. Doesn’t matter how many times you tell her no, she ain’t gonna lie. She still loves it.

It's not that eating kale, or showing up for a wedding you don’t really care about are bad things, or that you can’t/shouldn’t do them. No, it’s the dishonesty in trying to convince ourselves we like them that is the real problem. That we want to do them, just as much, maybe even more, than the alternatives. Our bodies know the difference and feel the stress in lying, even when it’s to ourselves. And, you can decide to do something while still admitting you don’t like it.

More than that, we can love what we love, and not always chose it, without shaming ourselves for wanting it in the first place.

Liking ice cream, doesn’t make you fat and lazy, even when you’re dieting. Wanting to protect your time and deciding not to go to that social engagement doesn’t make you a bad person. Enjoying roller skating at forty doesn’t make you weird, and liking sports cars at 60 doesn’t make you ridiculous. It just makes you human. So tell the truth about what you love and what you don’t.

Tip # 2: Schedule in hooligan time.

Bree without time to be wild? A maniac. A maniac, that will push all your buttons and destroy half of the house. Hooligan time, that is free time to screw around and do wild things in a safe place (outside), helps her burn off energy, but It’s also how she’s figured out what she loves. By trying things. By being curious during her wild time. I’m really not so sure humans are any different, despite all our protestations about how civilized we are.

We too need our hooligan time, though what that entails may look different depending on the person, or we tend to turn into maniacs ourselves.

So, put time in your day to let off steam and try things. Play ping pong. Sing the entire soundtrack to the Music Man off key and with great gusto. Try Opera music. Learn ballet at 70. Eat fruit loops for dinner every once in awhile just because it’s hot and you don’t feel like cooking. Knit in public. Try out that new tiktok dance when nobody’s looking. Take piano lessons at 30. Take swimming lessons at 50. Host a Murder Mystery. And sometimes, eat the damn ice cream. Insist, at every age, on playing and letting off steam.

And last, when in doubt, when you can’t seem to find what you love, and you don’t even know what might be fun or where to look for it? Stop looking for it at all, and instead try joy’s lesser cousin: Curiosity. Ask yourself, what am I curious about? What sounds interesting? And go from there.

And with that I’m off for a little hooligan time myself. I’ve earned it. And there’s a sprinkler somewhere with my name on it. Here’s to a life lived in Joy.



Maryann Haas
Maryann Haas

I think I know that puppy. ;)



REally Good! Love that puppy!

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