I could learn a lot from my dog… if I would only “sit” and “stay” in the moment.
After a year of trying to make it without anxiety issues, I found myself headed back to counseling this summer to try and get a handle on things. For those of you who struggle with it, you know that it can sometimes be debilitating — and for those of you who don’t, it can damn near ruin your whole day before it even gets started.
One of the many anxiety-related issues I discuss with the counselor is the one I have over our “new” dog, Sonny. He’s been with us for a little over six months now, and while there are some days where I’m very happy he’s here with us, there are others that are extremely difficult. In July 2013 – almost to the date — we lost our beloved Mick, a rescued corgi-husky mix, to lymphoma at the age of twelve. Watching him grow frail and worrying about his safety at every moment “amped” up my level of anxiety… until the night he looked me directly in the eyes and told me it was “time to go.”
For over a year after that night, we came home to a quiet house that had no furry carpets or dog kibble trailed through the kitchen but also found ourselves being able to pick up and go wherever we wanted to when we wanted to. My anxiety over worrying if I had done right by Mick lessened daily… until the day when my husband and the stepkids started talking about how much they wanted another dog.
Sonny Boy (named after Sonny Boy Williamson — we’re huge old school blues fans) came into our lives the week before Christmas 2014. Some friends of ours found him wandering through a local park. When no one claimed him, it was decided (by democratic vote… and I lost) that he would come live with us.
And so began my anxiety over whether I’d be able to take care of another four-legger… and over the inevitable moment when it would again be “time to go.”
One of the things the counselor suggested was that I get out and walk or at least do some kind of exercise to relieve my general anxiety. This summer, the kids are at their grandparents’, so responsibility for the morning walks falls on me. At first, I was terrified — wondering if we’d encounter a coyote or a snake or perhaps another dog who wasn’t very friendly. Or maybe he’d eat something that was poison. The walks weren’t relaxing at all. My chest was tight, I felt like my throat was closing up, and often, I wanted to cry.
But eventually, something began to change. I felt myself actually enjoying our morning time together — before the sun was fully over the treeline, watching him with nose to the ground, sniffing for the best spot to, ahem, well, you know. He was in the moment, and nothing could distract him.
The more I realized it, this damn dog GETS IT. He knows how to practice mindfulness.
I could learn a lot from him.
So, as I work through my inability to stop worrying about the future and stay in the moment, I leave you with these wise words of wisdom from my “other counselor.”
Sometimes you have to look at things from a different perspective.
Stare down your fears. Eventually, they’ll scamper into the woods.
Every now and then… let it ALL hang out.
Soak in a good sunset on your front porch… sit, stay… and appreciate the moment.