Having lived in Florida for many years has given me the opportunity to learn from the lives of those much older than myself.
“I’m going back.” That’s what I told my husband on the way home from the airport. He smiled because after twenty-six years together he knows. Just nod and smile. I was talking about The Chopra Center. I learned a lot in four days. I knew after I put into practice what I learned I’d have more questions and have to return. My previous two posts have been about lessons I needed to hear while I was there, The first was Worry Is Not Love, the second was I don’t have to believe my thoughts or Limiting Beliefs and the third lesson, the one I underlined in my notebook and wrote, this is why I’m here! Embracing Uncertainty. This was a huge a-ha moment for me because even though I had had a lot of uncertainty in my past that turned out better than I imagined, at some point I had forgotten how to trust the unknown.
We were two hundred and fifty women from around the world. Doctors, teachers, therapists, moms and writers represented just a few of the women I met. The weekend was magical! I attended Spiritual Solutions at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. Generally, upon meeting new people, one of the first questions asked is, “What do you do?” Immediately I felt the difference in being amongst all women when the question was not What do you do? It was, “What brought you here?”
I was on Facebook and a picture caught my eye. A dog. A very big dog named Buddy and the caption read: The calmest and most well-behaved dog I have ever worked with at the shelter. Our friend Eric Wilson of Square Dog Photography had posted the picture.
Buddy – Bloodhound, Mastiff mix
I think it was the word calm along with the adorable giant face that stirred something inside me. Instantly, I felt as though he belonged with us. I’m not sure why. I didn’t want another pet. I shared the picture of him on my Facebook wall and told everyone he needed a home… before I took him home. Still, at the time I wasn’t serious.
When Eric and Arielle saw his picture they fell in love. I was surprised how much Eric wanted Buddy. I stepped aside and let Eric make all the plans to go see him. Since I mostly work from home I knew taking in Buddy would add hours to my housework. However, I also knew that Buddy was in a shelter and I wasn’t sure how much time he had left. His life was definitely worth more cleaning. Eric and Arielle set the date to go see him.
Two days later we found out that Buddy had been adopted. I breathed. Okay, he found a home all was well. Except for the small stirring inside of me. I remembered a post I had written long ago titled Life. I told of a story in Deepak Chopra’s Fire In The heart. I heard the words: It’s not over. I waited.
A week or two passed. Then one evening Eric announced that Buddy had been returned to the shelter. The person who adopted him lived on the third floor and had to walk him up and down stairs several times a day. Because of Buddy’s size it took a toll on his hips. Buddy was put back in his cage. Eric and Arielle made plans to go visit him.
Being more of a cat person than dog person I hoped that what our friend Eric wrote about Buddy being the calmest dog he had ever worked with would hold true once he was in a home. The greatest and calmest dog I have ever had was our greyhound, Anna. Anna was the perfect dog. I still get teary eyed every time I see a greyhound. I miss her so.
Eric and Arielle went to the shelter and I kept my phone close waiting to hear from them. After an hour I received a text with a sad face from Arielle. They couldn’t adopt Buddy. When the shelter learned we had a two-story house they said it wasn’t a good fit for him. I suppose since he was returned to the shelter because of stairs they weren’t taking anymore chances. Still, I had the feeling… I kept hearing the words: It’s not over. I waited.
Almost a week later,our phone rang just before we left for our rainy beach vacation. We could adopt Buddy. Not wanting to bring him into our home and then leave for vacation we said we would visit him as soon as we returned. We came home and found out Buddy had been moved to a different shelter. Eric and Arielle raced to see him and were allowed to have a face to face visit. They fell in love. Eric filled out all the paperwork.
Arielle and I went to pick up Buddy. I was nervous. First, it’s difficult for me to be in shelters because I know that some shelters euthanize. It’s heartbreaking seeing so many cats and dogs without homes. I was also nervous because we were adding to our family and I knew I was committing myself to years of caring for another pet. Now that I have more freedom, with Arielle and Kai being teens, I’m a bit more selfish of my time.
We stood in the lobby and waited as all the paperwork was processed. The shelter was beautiful and the staff was extremely kind. Gulf Coast Humane Society. I watched as people came through their doors. Many were there to view the cats and dogs up for adoption. Some came wanting to surrender animals. One woman was with her son. The son carried the dog in one hand and a dog bed in another. His mom made him tell the staff why they were there – to surrender the dog. When the woman was told that she would have to come back on a different day… she began to beg. “Please, please, please take him. We have his papers.” I watched. I moved the furthest distance away from her that I could because I was angry. It touched on a nerve from my past. As a child I said good-bye to many of my pets when they were no longer wanted. I wasn’t sure if I was more upset that she was teaching her young son that pets are temporary commitments or hurting more for the poor dog that was about to lose his home and the people he trusted. I told myself that she was doing the responsible thing – taking the dog to a shelter instead of just abandoning him. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one wanting to surrender their pet. Two others came in after her. Three people in one hour. This left me wondering how many people surrender their pets to the shelter in a week. My eyes were opened.
Standing there in the midst of the pet overpopulation problem it became clear to me just how important it is to spay and neuter and to adopt from shelters. I had tremendous respect for all of the employees and volunteers at the Humane Society. Their love for the animals was apparent. Thank goodness for kind people who care for these homeless pets like our friend Eric who first posted Buddy’s picture. If you are a volunteer or employee at a shelter, thank you. Know that you are making a difference.
Buddy came home with us on June 29th. He sat in the backseat and stared out the window. Arielle snapped his picture.
He is gentle and calm. Yep, even more calm than my Anna was.To say he is sweet doesn’t do him justice. All he wants is to be by someone’s side. Company. If I get up, he gets up. If I walk out the front door and forget to lock it he opens the door with his giant nose and strolls outside… “Did you forget something?”
We bought him a bed but when Nahla sits on it – he lies on the floor.
This is Buddy’s third day with us and it feels as though he’s always been here. He’s part of our family.
By the way – if you like this blog be sure to subscribe to it via email so you get informed of every new post. To do this, just click this link and give us your email address. Then simply click the confirmation text in the email you will be sent and you’re all set. Or click on the Facebook button above and click “like” on my Facebook page.Thank you.
My mind is intense. I have the ability to focus on something I want and hold onto the focus for years if necessary in order to achieve my goal. My husband and kids will tell you it’s an exhausting trait to live with because often my focus can lead to daily discussions on how I’m reaching my goal or not reaching my goal and going to try harder. Many times Eric has been on the receiving end of my focus and even though he has had the ability to put up a good fight on the other side of the tug-of-war rope I have come out victorious on many occasions. Not all thank goodness, but many. Example, when I met and started dating Eric he was, “never getting married and never having children.” That was a long emotional battle and all I say to him now is, “you’re welcome.” He laughs. After twenty-three years together we have both mellowed and more importantly understand each other much better than we did when we were in our twenties. Yet, every time I mention the topic of something I’ve been focussing on like needing a new camera or wanting to attend a writing workshop he replies, “no kidding?” with dripping sarcasm. I smile.
Focus of mind can be good when it comes to writing habits or exercise but it can be harmful when it turns dark. I remember once as a young adult someone asked me to describe myself and I said, “I feel too much.” What I meant was that I thought about things like people who were homeless, foster children, abused animals, animals being slaughtered, hungry children, thousands of greyhounds being killed, the elderly feeling lonely, and the list goes on. My eyes have been open to the dark side of life for… probably my entire life.
If I am not careful this darkness can overcome me. I can begin to feel helpless to the huge problems of the world. When I was fourteen my grandmother gave me, The New King James version – Possibility Thinkers Edition of the Bible. In it are highlighted all the positive versus. On the first page it reads: When I am faced with a mountain I WILL NOT QUIT! I will keep striving until I climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath – or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine, with God’s help!
I have kept this Bible close to me since I was fourteen. Looking back I wonder why she gave it to me. Did it have more to do with her life or what she saw in me? As a mom I’m guessing she was trying to impart on me the power in positive thinking. It’s exactly the same lesson I’ve been trying to teach my children.
Positive thinking lights the dark thoughts that can prevail in my mind. The past five years I have been on a journey to better understand myself and my purpose here for… if I’m lucky sixty more years. While on that journey I have been reading books by leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Sue Monk Kidd, Rhonda Byrne, Charles Haanel and Eckhart Tolle. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from them is the necessity of gratitude. Gratitude. Being thankful for everything from the house I live in to the chocolate Toblerone bar I eat while sipping my morning coffee.
Feeling gratitude is more than simply making a list of things I’m grateful for. It’s more than every Thanksgiving sitting around a table and reciting, “I’m thankful for my friends and family.” It’s understanding why I’m thankful. Digging deeper in my mind and asking myself why am I thankful for my home or the chocolate or my friends. I have discovered that when I probe deeper I am creating a habit of being thankful. It’s not a rote mantra repeated over and over, it’s an exercise of the mind that strengthens a new way of thinking. A brighter way of thinking. One that leads to possibilities.
In my journey I have discovered that just as I have habits such as drinking coffee every morning I also have habits of the mind. I wake and immediately the to do list begins scrolling in my thoughts. I think about a party I’m invited to and immediately I tense. My mind worries about finding the right words among strangers. These are nothing more than habitual thoughts that create anxiety within me. I’m addicted to them just as I am addicted to caffeine.
The best way I have found to combat those habits of the mind (no way I’m giving up my coffee!) is to create the habit of being thankful first thing in the morning and before bed. Train my mind to recognize the positive. For the past month I have been keeping a thankful journal. I am reading The Magic by Rhonda Byrne and she suggests writing ten things you’re thankful for and why every morning. Some mornings I drag myself to the journal and my mind screams there’s so much to do today… make the list later. It feels a lot like the days I talk myself out of going to the gym. But just as I feel renewed when I have completed spin class – I feel renewed after I’ve written my thankful list. It is – like … Magic.
Recognizing the dark side of life has created a sense of compassion in me that I am thankful for, however, seeing the negative and feeling helpless to make a difference makes my life useless. Thankfulness brings hope and hope creates change from destructive habits of the mind to new possibilities and solutions. Thankfulness brings a sense of joy that can soothe the heaviness of despair. Thankfulness can make me realize what is truly important in life like a beacon guiding a ship through fog, I focus on the light.
Thankfulness is food for the soul.
Photo by Square Dog Photography.
It begins as an uneasiness that I push down and pretend is not there. I busy myself with chores. This time I cleaned our entire garage in four hours. That night when I laid down to sleep, proud of my accomplishment, there was the question sitting like a rock in my gut waiting for an answer. Taunting me, telling me I could clean for weeks and never escape until I faced it. The question? What did I have to say about New Years? I rolled over and went to sleep having no idea.
The next day I tackled loads of laundry and more miles on the treadmill and elliptical than I had ever done. This time instead of sleeping I turned on the TV and watched The Kennedy Center Honors. Halfway through the show I realized I had been smiling nonstop since I had switched it on. Seeing the lifetime achievements of artists passionate about their work brought an undescribable joy to me. Is that what I had to say – follow your passion in the new year? Maybe.
I have four people who I consider my teachers. Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Sue Monk Kidd and Oprah. Their understanding of life is far beyond mine and I often turn to their words to learn. Tonight I browsed Oprah’s website knowing I would find what I was looking for. I did.
When I asked myself how I felt about this new year and if I was going to set any goals or resolutions one phrase came to mind. I am going to be me. I am going to be the real me, not the me I think some people want me to be or the me that has to play a certain role. I am going to be 100% me and if that means considering my feelings before others than so be it. Why? Because I finally realized how much inner turmoil I cause myself in trying to protect others feelings. I realize how much I hurt myself in doing what I think “I should do” instead of what I truly want to do. Not being true to myself – causes pain and I finally get it. There is freedom in being who you are. Freedom when you are confident that your motivations and actions are true.
What did I see on Oprah’s site? I discovered the next book I will read and I learned a lesson about pain. There will always be pain in life. An accident, a loved one lost, the ending of a relationship, even saying good-bye to a child about to begin college. I can make that pain my identity and use it as an excuse, letting it affect my every day life or I can acknowledge the pain and be a lake. Watch and you will see what I mean.
Oprah Shares a Favorite Passage from The Book of Awakening