Walks With My Dog

A while ago, I started a morning practice before I went to work. The effects that it had on me were immense and far reaching and even life-changing, I would say. After I fully built this routine into my life, I started talking about it a lot. Telling everyone in my life how transformative it was and how important it was to my sanity. Then a few more months in, I started to recognize the physical effects it was having on me. Not only did I feel stronger and more limber, but a constant pain from a past injury that I had been living with for several years at that point, miraculously began to fade away. I kept it up, daily, for almost a full 12 months. I started my day out with this routine and then I’d sit quietly and write in my journal. It was soothing, centering and self-affirming. It was healing.

Of course, as these things go, I eventually had some life changes which led me to begin neglecting this incredibly healing and helpful practice. I got married, I had the holidays, my job was hectic, etc etc etc. Until one day, the new norm was just not doing it. I would dabble in pieces of the practice from time to time, if I’d remember or motivate, but generally, I just wouldn’t. Then, things really changed when we adopted a sweet and traumatized 50 lb., energetic, loving, stubborn, 1.5 year old pitbull-mix child. Going from a quiet, no real time/energy obligations outside of work- life with just two little kitties to having two cats and a rather needy pup was all together life-changing. It was at this point when the ol’ morning routine was fully extracted from my life and placed on a cloud waaaay above my head labeled, “When I’m Not Tired.”

From there, I threw all of my energy into my dog. Without really realizing it until later reflections, I actually had a lot of fear and self-doubt and self-judgement around this new endeavor. I was afraid of what this dog was capable of and afraid of what others feared this dog was capable of. I was afraid of not being able to handle him. I was afraid of being bad at being a dog mom. Afraid of being too selfish, of forgetting about his needs, of being limited in life and autonomy. I was afraid of my neighbors getting mad. I was afraid of walking him. Afraid of his barks. Afraid of his fear. Afraid of just about every single damn thing you can possibly imagine that one could be afraid of in these instances.

Early on, recognizing his immense amount of energy, we decided that he would absolutely need 4 walks per day. I took on the early AM and the evening walks. And so, my morning routine was forever swept aside because of my ongoing battle for more sleep, and also for more time to do all the things you do before leaving for work in the morning. I’ve spent months judging myself for not going to sleep earlier, not waking up earlier and not fitting my routine back into the perfectly square little box I had built before our dog came into our lives.

IMG_3128After a while the funniest thing started to happen. With the small nagging memory of my therapist mentioning that dawn is a great time to practice meditation, the morning sky started to become a little reminder to open up the dialogue. At first it was scary because for so long I was used to being hyper vigilant of my surroundings with my new and scared dog. But once I got to know him and he got to know me more, trust was built and I began to allow myself to focus on the dialogue a bit more. When I had the sky-reminder, I would begin my old mantra. Always feeling better afterwards, sometimes even tearing up whilst in the process. And yet, simultaneously, I would be doing this internally. In the very hidden, beneath the muck part of me: “Okay, okay, yeah this is good…but…..it’s not exactly what you should be doing. What you should really be doing is that other thing that you did when your life was completely different than it is now. That was the right way to do it and this is the cheating way.”

Yep. We are all familiar with this muck-voice. The one that is so deeply ingrained in your being that it’s voice is super muffled and barely audible, but it’s message is so very loud and clear. You’re wrong. You’re doing it wrong. You’re not good enough. You’r taking the easy way out. You’re not trying hard enough.

WHEW! Okay! Cause here I am doing everything I can to take the very best care of my dog AND finding the time/courage/wherewithal to know that I must continue this important dialogue, BUT SURE! I’m just a terrible person who is mucking it allllllll up.

Oh wait a second. Wait, wait, wait, wait wait. That word. I get it now, I actually AM mucking it all up. But not in the way you’re saying that I am. I’m mucking it up by allowing this voice from beneath the muck shame me into not starting a new practice for my new life. Evolution, folks. So very important. We must always embrace change. Welcome it into our lives and then decipher what our new wardrobe must include. I had absolutely no conscious awareness that I was doing this to myself. So here’s a little story about how this came to light.

Yesterday, I brought my dog to the woods for the first time since one of the first few weeks he came into our lives. At that time, I brought him before we really knew each other. He was pretty freaked out by the experience and I really think I blocked out how scary it was for him and for me as a result of the aforementioned heightened state of vigilance I was experiencing in those first few months. Anyway, since that time, the muck-voice has been saying to me, “ya know once you’ve done enough work with that dog, he’ll be able to go into the woods again with no problem and then you’ll know you worked hard enough.” So yesterday, I got done work a little earlier than usual and thought it was a perfect day to try this out again. I packed up a little bag of treats and toys and my duck-whistle (a story for another time) and we set out. Naively walking into the woods with my muck-voice leading the way, “doo-doo-doo, lets see how hard you tried…” Meanwhile, my dog is anxiety-pulling me down this trail and my muck-voice is like, “wooooow, look how excited he is to be in a new environment! That’s because you always walk him in the same places and he’s tired of that walk. He needs new places to go. You suck, god can’t you do anything right!!!!!” And then a mere 3 minutes into the walk, a biker comes up the path (a total fear trigger for him) and he FREAKS OUT!! His terror-stricken barks pierce through the words of my muck-voice and I am startled out of the self-shaming, self-doubting, self-deprecating trance.

Immediately, we turn around and start heading for the exit trail. We run into several more bikers and pedestrians, each one striking him with more terror than the last. He was in a full blown panic and it was all my fault. I had a range of emotions from anger and frustration to guilt, shame and embarrassment. We got in the door and I threw my belongings onto the ground and had a legitimate meltdown. The whole 20 minute (tops) experience exhausted him and he passed out within moments of sitting down. I on the other hand sat with excruciating emotional pain and my well of tears was seemingly endless. I texted my love and I texted my friend and received comfort there, but I too was exhausted by this experience. I spent the next 2 hours letting myself cry when I wanted to, taking care of my dog and then begging for his forgiveness for not evolving to take care of his needs and my needs appropriately.

IMG_3142When it came time to take him out for another walk, my anxiety was at peak level. I was afraid I did some real and permanent damage to his stress levels. I was also just afraid of being out in the world in the vulnerable emotional state I was in. But, because we must, I got myself and hisself together and went out. The full moon was present in all her illustrious glory. Shining her big beautiful self with no mercy, both exposing my pain and also healing it. I watched her as we walked toward her. I stretched my neck to see her past houses and trees that blocked her from me. There was a beautiful and eery feel to the evening. With the full moon high and the dead leaves blowing around in a harsh, unpredictable wind. We got to the top of a familiar hill that we frequent and the sight of her was breathtaking. There were streaks of plane smoke across her resembling a claw scratch and she looked like a goddess and a warrior.

This beautiful imagery stirring me. The wind and leaves taking that stirring and forcing it up and out past that layer of muck. I began to weep. Not hard. Not painfully. Just weep. And I began to talk. I opened up the dialogue and the Mother of All Things spoke back in her own mysterious ways. Shining light, gusts of wind, moments that can not and will not ever be replicated. I spoke and I wept and I ran and jumped and pet my dog. I could feel the muck rising to the surface of my being with no where to hide from the moonlight and being blown away by the fierce gusts of wind. I felt transformed. Cleansed. Reborn. I felt forgiven. I felt loved and supported. I felt strong.

Moments like these are rare. They have happened to me before and I can only hope that I will continue to have the courage to allow them to pass through me when they are being gifted.



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