#truelove #allowing #dating
People thought I was crazy when I expanded my family to two dogs and three cats in addition to my two teenagers. The funny thing is, the animals are the sanest part of my life. It’s been fascinating watching them interact, and they’ve taught us all a lot. My relationships with the kids improved when the animals came to live with us. This is what they’ve taught me and how they have helped:
1. Cuddling is a great equalizer. There’s nothing more satisfying and heartwarming than close contact. It gives an incredible feeling of security and bonding. The newest kitten turned all the animals into cuddlers, and we humans have softened because of it. It fosters a sense of trust and companionship like nothing else. It helps us to stop and simply enjoy life for a moment and reminds us to be grateful. The closeness we experience from cuddling has long lasting effects and has changed the whole dynamic of the household.
2. Sleeping with a companion makes for better sleep. We find great comfort in sleeping with one of our pack. We are able to relax more. Of course there are exceptions (i.e. bed hogging and blanket stealing ), but in most cases, we find it reassuring to feel that press in the bed next to us or the light touch on our arm or leg. I often find the animals sleeping in twos, and they are the picture of contentment. And how good is it for us humans to wake up in the night just enough to acknowledge the warm, furry body next to us and snuggle back in deeper.
3. Predictability is comfortable to us. We know what we like, and we fall into comfortable patterns. We have our favorite chairs, our favorite foods, and our favorite routines. Since we can’t always control our work/school environment, we like our home environment to be just the way we like it. Developing predictable routines with and for our animals has been therapeutic for us. For example, morning walks have become meditative. When things are unpredictable and stressful, we all get a bit grumpy.
4. We need play time. When we’re doing things that are fun, life is one big doggy park. Nobody can be serious all the time. That’s why we hang out with friends, watch funny movies, make jokes, and keep things light. Everybody knows that one of the great attractors is “someone who makes me laugh.” There’s nothing more satisfying that seeing a dog smile and wag his tail, or having a cat rub against your leg for attention. Play with me, and I’ll do the human equivalent. You can’t dislike someone who makes you smile.
5. We have individual personalities (and quirks). We all have characteristics that are unique to us. Not all of those characteristics are considered positive. We’re not perfect. The key is to understand, appreciate, and at worse tolerate the differences. As the song says, accentuate the positives; eliminate the negatives. Or as I have often said to my kids/pets when they give me heartburn, “You’re lucky I love you.”
6. We don’t like to be told no. Animal behaviorists will tell you it’s better to train with positive reinforcement. People hate being told no or being spoken to harshly. It’s demoralizing, and over time it sucks the life out of you. So let go of the controls. Let your mate/kids make an occasional mess or make the decisions once in awhile. Do it because it makes them feel good. What an awesome partner/parent that would make you.
7. We need alone time — and there is nothing wrong with that. Everybody has things they need or want to do — just because. No two people like everything the same. Give each other regular breaks. If you give someone elbow room, they will enjoy being with you even more and look forward to your time together.
8. Finally, the more love you give, the more you get. This is the biggest lesson of all. Animals are incredibly loving. They will always one-up you when it comes to love. Same with us humans. We love to be loved, and when we are loved, boy do we give it back.
Who would have known that a bunch of stray animals could be so wise? But seeing this mixed group grow together to become a tightly knit family taught me a lot. Next time I’m feeling at odds with another human, I’m going to look to my animals to teach me a better way to behave to improve my relationship.
Cindy Tansin is author of the book Lead With Your Heart and the Rest will Follow. Her expertise is in developing strong thought leaders and community advocates. She is an author, speaker, writer, consultant, and coach who teaches personal and professional development. Follow her at www.cindytansin.com.
During the middle of my workday, the light filters through my office window just right, highlighting my clients’ faces.
And it’s easy to be fooled at first. Well put together. Decked out. Hair done just right. Good shoes. Maybe a North Face. The whole deal. Fresh from afar.
But the eyes, they often tell a very different story. And the story I see recently is worry. I see way too many worried eyes. I see them in 50-year-olds, and I see them in 15-year-olds. Weary, worried eyes.
Sometimes there’s an issue that carries an element of immediacy. There’s justified worry there. But far more often, the eyes carry a more permanent worry, more persistent, heavy and diffuse.
And lest you think I’m working with a skewed crowd, specifically those in therapy, I’ve been paying attention outside this room as well. And I see the unmistakable heavy brow of worry on the street, in adjacent cars, in lines at Starbuck’s or 7-11.
At times, I see worry in the mirror.
I used to think that worry was reserved for the future. But sometimes, I find, the worry is about the past. I worked recently with a man coming to terms with some trauma from childhood he’s carried in the recesses of his mind for well over a decade. Another client is haunted by the untimely death of her mother several years back. Though what happened has happened, their eyes read worry.
We worry about the future as well. We lose ourselves in the pragmatic, long-term, retirement-savings, colonoscopy, bi-focal worries, to be sure. I suppose there’s a certain survival-instinct-based utility to these.
Other times, we invite worry, eschewing all boundaries, and allowing the woes of anyone we hear about to become the basis of our personal concern.
Some guy you don’t know, but know of, has cancer. New worry.
That lady just one block over lost her job. New worry.
A plane disappeared on the other side of the planet. New worry.
But we also worry more broadly, and I am finding that most of us cannot articulate the nature of our worry. For many, we worry that we’re going to be afraid. We worry about worry. Worry and fear become the muddy ruts of habit, our baseline before the day begins.
I suffer this myself sometimes. It happened about a week ago. I had a full slate of clients for the day. I am healthy. My wife and son are happy and thriving. Yet I woke up filled with dread. I carried worry through the morning.
Later that morning, something strange happened. I’ve been practicing therapy for 15 years, thousands of hours. I’ve heard the darkest confessions, and mitigated the harshest battles. Not much surprises me, or throws me off my game.
But this one woman came in, plopped down on the couch and said, “So, I want to know. How are you doing? Are you okay?”
In my experience, this protocol breach had never before taken place. I was flustered, and lost my composure, if only momentarily.
“Yes, I am. But I wasn’t until you asked.”
I am grateful for the question. It snapped me into awareness, and I realized I was white-knuckling another day. I let go, breathed, and took in the moment. It was unremarkable, but at least I didn’t miss it.
Though spring was approaching, it was not evident in the frigid air as I walked home that evening. But I stopped on a corner, breathed deeply, face to the sky, and took a moment to take a moment.
I felt present and appreciative. And really cold. But present feels better regardless.
One thing that’s abundantly clear to me: outside the immediate specter of crisis, we rarely worry about the present. If it’s Now, we’re just here, experiencing it. We feel what we feel. We may be bored in a meeting, inspired by someone’s story, in the zone on a court or amidst a project, or freezing on a chilly night.
But the heavy eyes I see suggest to me that the vast majority of us are husks of empty worry in the present, focusing on a past we can neither change nor retrieve, or a future that is not yet here, and worry does nothing to change.
Step in front of a mirror today, and look into your own eyes. Do you see worry? If so, you need more Now, and less Then.