Spend a little time around me and you will discover my latest obsession – pugs. I’m not quite sure when or how it started but sometime in the past few years I became fixated on the pudgy little critters.
I mean, what’s not to love? They’re fat and lazy and wrinkly and grumpy and flighty and they can’t breath very well or swim. The pug is basically my spirit animal – if spirit animal meant your anthropomorphic antithesis. I get pugs. Pugs get me. I make a point to stop and greet every pug I see out on the path when I’m running, and I’ve never met a pug I didn’t like. I have total pug cute aggression.
And yes, I want a pug. I would get a pug in a heartbeat, but common sense and rental agreements are no respecters of life goals. I’m honest enough to know that I value the freedom of my dog-less life, and that the idea of a pug might just be more fun – at least for now – than an actual pug living in my one-bedroom, fourth floor walk-up.
As fate would have it, last month I won a pug pillow in a raffle at a local running store. Ok, so it wasn’t so much fate as it was my friend and teammate buying the raffle prizes and maybe slightly rigging the game so that the pug pillow was available when my name was drawn. Details. Details. It was destiny.
It was also a joke. I didn’t really plan to do much with the pillow, or even keep it for that matter. Like I said, I live in an apartment. Space is precious. I’ve made a point to keep our home decluttered and its decor simple. The pug pillow fell in the category of things that – if I even let them get past the dumpster in the parking lot – end up in the trash or donation pile a short while later. Like buttons from a parade or tchotchkes in a Christmas stocking, the pug pillow was destined to be a victim of my perpetual decluttering efforts.
You know who Marie Kondo is, right? I haven’t read her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – and to be honest I’m a little put off by how obsessed everyone is with the Kondo method. But in my less cynical moments I recognize – from what I’ve read and heard – that she’s on to something. Her most basic and overarching decluttering technique is to approach each and every item in your possession with the simple question, “Does it spark joy?” Does it truly make you happy? If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it. – It all makes sense to me, even if the cult of Kondo is a bit annoying. I should probably Kondo-ify my apartment one of these days. I’m sure that I’m holding onto many things out of guilt or habit or laziness – and not out of joy. It would be a productive exercise, I’m sure.
The night I “won” the pug pillow, I brought it up to the apartment and set him on a chair, facing out to survey the room. The plan was to eventually – sooner rather than later – dispose of Puggy. He didn’t fit with our decor, and he was decidedly tacky. Who – other than a small child – would reasonably display a pillow with a life-sized snapshot of a pug on it? Puggy would be rehomed shortly.
But then something funny happened. As Puggy the pug pillow sat on that chair in the dining room, his eyes would catch mine each time I passed. They are such buldgy and happy eyes. His eyes do that thing – like the eyes of white Jesus in the picture that hung in my childhood home – that thing where they somehow follow you wherever you move, staring deep into your soul. My mom used to tell me that that picture of white Jesus at the end of the hallway next to my bedroom was a reminder that Jesus is always watching you. A not so subtle reminder, it turns out. To be honest, I much prefer the idea of an omniscient pug than an all-seeing Jesus who is reminiscent of Al Pacino in the movie Serpico. But that’s just me.
And as my gaze would meet Puggy’s, I noticed a strong feeling rise up in me. It started in my chest and tightened through my throat and made me want to say GAHHHH!!!!!
It was joy.
Puggy made me happy. Simple, pure happiness. Sometimes I would poke his nose as I passed, or say hello when I saw him. It’s silly, I know. I’ve never brought him to bed like a childhood stuffed animal, or played with him beyond taking his picture and trying to do a face swap on Snapchat [I haven’t yet gotten it to work :(]. He just sits on a chair and looks cute and makes me happy – really, really happy. And that’s not something to take for granted.
Of course, Puggy the pug pillow is no substitute for a real pug. He’s not particularly soft or moody. He violates all of my interior decorating sensibilities and he’s completely novel and ridiculous. He goes in the closet when company comes over. But, for all of his flaws, he does stand the test of Marie Kondo, the decluttering queen. He sparks joy. And as long as my husband doesn’t throw him away and I’m smitten with him, I let him live in my apartment.
Life is too short (and mundane, complex and ridiculous) not to keep the fugly pug pillow that brings you great joy. That’s my interpretation of the Kondo method, and current life philosophy.