You are probably wondering if this is going to be an article about the New Year’s tradition of pounding mochi, or perhaps making the traditional mochi soup called ozoni. I have shaped mochi into those soft pillows with sweet beans in the middle, eating the delicious treat (more than I care to count) in between the rice being cooked and pounded. I also make ozoni every New Year’s Day for my family and have for many, many years.
But this article is not about that kind of mochi. It is about a sweet black-and-white dog that has nestled into my heart and taught me more about being a better human being than I ever thought I could learn from a four-legged bundle of unconditional love and forgiveness.
Mochi is the dog that came into my life after my previous dog was killed by a coyote in my backyard. For those of you who have dogs and love them like I do, you will understand the grief I went through and the reluctance to get another dog. But my son, Aiden, used to come to our house and say, “You need to get another dog because this house feels like a funeral home.” He was right, but for months I wasn’t ready.
Then one day, Aiden sent us a photo of a dog that looked just like our little Molly. The dog lived about two hours away from us, so I was surprised that my husband wanted to drive that distance to see a dog that may or may not fit into our family. A few hours later, this scared little puppy with big brown eyes looked up at me, and I fell in love.
Little did I know that Mochi would teach me so much about life. I think with Molly, I was too busy with work and family to notice all the lessons. But now, I see lessons all around me, and she was one of my sweetest teachers.
1) Mochi always sees me as a loving, supportive person and forgives me when I fall short — As much as I love this little dog, sometimes I make mistakes. When I step on her tail and find a considerable amount of hair on the floor, after a loud yelp, she does not run away and glare at me as if I have done something purposely to hurt her. She turns right around and comes to me with compassion and openness, as if to say, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me . . . . I forgive you and love you.” She sees the good in me and assumes nothing less.
I have learned that I do not always see the good in people. I sometimes believe people intentionally want to hurt me or judge me, but Mochi has taught me how easy it is to let go and just see people in a bright and positive light. In 2016,
I will look for the good in people.
2) Mochi creates boundaries for what she needs — Sometimes she likes to be a lap dog, and other times she needs her space. Sometimes she wants to be around us, and at other times she wants to be in a quiet room alone.
I used to say yes to everything. Today, I am working hard at creating boundaries, so I have time for my husband, my family, my work, my activism and myself. Sometimes it is easy, and other times I struggle, especially with creating boundaries for myself. I feel guilty about saying no, so instead of taking a nap to revitalize my body, mind and spirit, I take on one more meeting, one more project or one more speaking engagement. In 2016, I am determined to do less, but find ways to bring greater visibility and voice to all my areas. Let me know if you have any ideas!
3) And when Mochi needs something, she will ask — When it is time for our walk, she comes over to me and looks into my eyes, like, “Are you ready to go?” When she wants to play, there she is with a toy in her mouth. Sometimes I am in the middle of doing something, so she waits patiently, but she doesn’t leave my side. If I forget she is there, she will rock back and forth on her paws, as if to say, “I am still here.”
I have gotten better at reaching out for support, but it is still hard. Recently, a friend and I were talking, and I asked him how does he do it. He is working for a huge nonprofit and travels a lot. He says, “When I can’t do something, I try to recommend someone who can. This way, I don’t feel guilty, and they get more visibility for their work.” In 2016, I see myself finding a large group of supportive people who can take on the work I don’t have the capacity to do, thereby building up the number of individuals who can move our work for family acceptance forward and also get visibility for their work.
4) Mochi is always happy to see me and comes out to greet me almost every time I return home — Mochi does not take my presence for granted. I never realized how welcoming it is to come home and find someone that is excited to see me. When I see her running out of whatever room she was in with her tail wagging, it is almost like she is saying, “Okaeri, okaeri, okaeri” . . . which means “welcome home” in Japanese.
In 2016, whenever anyone walks through my door, I will jump up and welcome them into my home, especially my husband, who I never want to take for granted.
Today, I am a better person because Mochi has showed me ways to be more selfless and generous, more loving and compassionate and more grateful and forgiving. Mochi doesn’t try to be anyone but herself, and she only sees the best in me. Mochi . . . I hope I live up to be the person that you see in me. You have given me a beautiful reputation to live up to . . . .
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and the author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”