Licking My Wounds Goes Nowhere

E-COLLAR - Lamp Shade
Originally uploaded by Bob the "Real Deal".
If you haven’t seen “Up” this summer then you might not know about the “Cone of Shame.” That is, unless, you have a dog that’s had to wear the Cone of Shame which is the only way to describe that satellite dish you see around a dog’s neck. They know it and know that you know it.

These Cones are attached to pets to keep them from reeling around and picking at, licking at the stitches or wound on some area of their body – no matter how much licking at it might relieve the pain or itch, it never allows it to heal, thus the Cone.
As a kid I had a dog that didn’t have to wear a Cone of Shame but, to his personal shame, would chase squirrels into trees. Yeah, that’s right, you heard me – into trees. We would get a call from some neighbor, “Hey, your dog is stuck in my tree again.” And I would head over there to find him halfway up a tree, nose bleeding with claw marks, and other cuts from the branches, and he would have the look of an addict falling hard off the wagon, as if to say, “I know, I know. I need help. I couldn’t resist. Now can you just get me out of this f**** tree already.” Sometimes he would get cut by a cat or on a branch in such a way that he would spend the next few weeks licking the spot for hours on end ‘till the fur was gone and the wound was now worse than before. We would place some kind of yuck-tasting ointment on it and he would eventually stop, and it would properly heal. No Cone of Shame – he had shame enough up in the tree.

What if we started using Cones of Shame on humans, though? What if we already do and just don’t know it? When we get hurt or wounded in whatever the context – relationships, community, work, religion – I imagine there is a marker of shame placed on us or we place on our self. The cone for dogs is to prevent them from further wounding themselves. But shame never provides space for healing among men and women, sometimes it is the wound itself. In fact, it does the opposite; it acts as a catalyst for infection.

I was thinking about this as I became aware how much I don’t trust my intuition and instincts anymore. After years of learning to trust my gut and go with my intuition, I had stopped. The events of this winter and spring were the culprits. Instead of trusting my radar and the sickness I saw in a community, I kept making excuses for it and moving forward; instead of seeing the wounded-controlling behavior of friend and trusting my instincts to step back and away, I kept moving in closer. And instead of trusting the outright negative physical reactions I was having to a church, I kept going. So, it is no surprise that I got my ass handed to me in each of these areas, seemingly bitch-slapped by the very things my intuition was telling me to watch out for.

Since then, I have been licking my wounds over and over again, just like my dog did. Sometimes making them worse, but definitely not allowing them to heal. And underneath it all I stopped believing some of the core good things about me, stopped believing I could trust my gut. It is when I stop licking long enough to realize that I, also, have been wearing a cone of shame – be it placed on me by others or my self. When I stop long enough to let the cuts heal, remove the cone, I see that the good hardwired parts of me are longing for their rightful place again, are jumping at the chance to be used and engaged. In this instance, it is trusting my gut, my intuition.

The religious types will tell us that we can’t trust our gut, that our intuition is skewed and it will only lead to trouble; that we must rely on God and not the gut. But my experience with God is that any time I ask him about this, he usually responds, “what’s your gut say?” Contrary to popular belief, it seems God wants us to take more risks, trust our guts more, run further out beyond what we think are the borderlines, to the places he knows we will thrive… if we will trust our intuition and go. In this context intuition is probably more likely what is called Spirit - the And, the intimacy between Artist and his art.

So, I laugh at myself much the way I did at my dog stuck in that tree, toss off the cones of shame and get up on my feet and run. I’ve heard it said that men mostly learn from their successes only up to about 30something. After that, they learn more from their failures. I am finding this true already. Stefan Sagmeister once wrote: “Having guts always works out for me.” I am learning still that trusting my gut always works out for me.
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