My little dog June is my best pal. That’s right, I say it unapologetically: she’s my favorite thing. And when it comes to the mundanity of everyday life–the walks, poop bags, the mischief–sometimes I forget to appreciate this as much as possible. But then the Universe finds a way to suck you back into the things that matter.
We went out for our usual walk this afternoon and it was GORGEOUS out there. After what seemed like four solid days of cold drizzle and sometimes snow (in late April…c’mon Chicago…you can be better), this afternoon was sunny, warm, and the street was incredibly quiet. I was looking for photo ops and June was sniffing every blade of grass as is her wont to do.
The issue usually comes at the crossroads. See we have a usual fundamental disagreement when it comes to deciding where to go next–June will want to go over there when I want to stay kinda around here. Today was no different in that. Butd in what is usually an argument won 100% of the time by me, today’s loggerheads ended differently. With one stubborn little tug, June slipped her collar…and ran free.
I don’t know if this is terrifying for all dog owners but Lil’ June doesn’t usually go outside untethered so…within nanoseconds I was in a full flop sweat, truly panicking. We were close to two big roads and for about two heartbeats, my brain flashed on about 5 different terrible endings to this story. What happened next, though, really gave me true pause.
Instead of running at her which was my inclination, I stooped down and just called her to me. I literally got on the ground and called her to come. And dang it, if she didn’t come right to me. My hands shook as I tried to find some kind of hold on her squirmy little impatient body as I re-connected her collar and leash. She licked my nose. Crisis averted. But then I thought, “what crisis?”
I had plenty ideas of what to write today but this one really took me aback: in the midst of panic, I did something very non-panicky and it worked. The fear and horror of all the possibilities of her running into the street or dashing away from me and not coming back played out in full display across the front of my mind in that total of three seconds that she slipped her collar and I got it back on her. I had made a potential crisis out of nothing and then felt the physical effects of it immediately: my heart was racing, my head was (and still is) pounding, I could feel the adrenaline coursing through me. I needed to take a nap. It made me question and reflect on how much I do this when it’s not June running free in the world. How much do I not trust people and then react in panic? How much do I stir up stress out of conditions that are not as stressful as I think? How much do I create a confrontational world? How much could I right-size a “big deal” if I tried?
I’ve been feeling incredibly stressed out recently. Work is a horror show among other circumstances. But this one little tableau gave me pause because it illustrated how much my reaction to circumstances dictates everything about how things go after that. This made me think there are 2 easy changes I could make to my everyday approach that could make a big difference in my stress and anxiety levels:
- When something stressful happens, don’t chase in a panic but stoop down and call them back. I knew with June that when I chase her, it freaks her out because I never chase her. So I had to seek calm to get her to come back to me even though inside I was in total freak out mode.
- Don’t let worry of “might” get confused with the reality of “will.” This requires a little trust but not scrolling through every gory tragedy that could happen would probably save me some exhaustion. Maybe this comes down to just a slightly more optimistic approach: “uh-oh, but things will work out” instead of “she’s going to die a bloody death in the intersection.” Who needs that kind of thought when the cutest dog in history is running toward the intersection.
June’s been snoring on the couch since that fateful trip this afternoon. In fact, she kept looking at me the whole walk back like, “what is your PROBLEM?” She wasn’t going anywhere because somewhere in that little dog brain of her she knows she’s living the good life right now…even if it means she has to wear her collar…and doesn’t get to go over there right now. There’s always next walk.