Tag Archives: dogs

So hard to do the things I know I should do

14 Jul

In the mental health field we love that joke about not shoulding on yourself, meaning don’t harass yourself with self talk about what you should and shouldn’t do.  Yet that is precisely what I do-  I should do this, I shouldn’t do that, should, shouldn’t. should, shouldn’t. should.  shouldn’t.  SHOULD. SHOULDN’T.  SHOULD!  SHOULDN’T! 

Gross, huh.

Even though it’s been a month since I lost the baby, I’m a bit of a mess.  I stay up too late, forget to eat, then eat lots of crappy stuff, and lately I’ve been working way too much.  I often stay in the office until my brain shuts down in an effort to avoid free time.  Something I used to love and savor so much has become something I dread: free time usually means crying and moping.  Running my own business, I have no boss so it isn’t like someone stands in my doorway and says “your last client was 2 hours ago.  Why are you still here?”   Nope, it’s just me so I piddle away, listening to music, reorganizing my files and concocting new projects to occupy my mind.

So many of the shoulds are things that truly will help me feel better- eat more veggies, get more exercise, go outside more often, walk the dogs, lay off the coffee, lay off the sugar, for god’s sake PUT DOWN THE WINE, and so on.  But I just don’t do it.  Admittedly, there’s a part of me that really doesn’t want to.  In the moment I enjoy the chocolate, the wine, the coffee, and the 4 consecutive episodes of True Blood.  Also, part of me feels that I deserve to feel like crap and rush through each day like I’m white knuckling it on the interstate during rush hour traffic with only 1/8th of a tank of gas.  I don’t have much reason to treat my body like a temple right now. After all, it feels like my body betrayed me and because of that I had to give up one of the most meaningful dreams I’m ever had- the dream of being a mother.  I know it may still happen, but like I’ve written before, that dream feels far off.  Like, really, really far off.  I know, I see how irrational I am.  I know I’ll feel better if I take care of myself, I know I’ll be in better health both physically and mentally but it all seems really… really… annoying and difficult and stupid right now.  I should…. I should… I should…. 

I’m doing this big training for work all next week.  It is a two year training intensive so it is like being in school all over again.  Prior to the in-person training, I was to complete an online portion.  Wouldn’t you know I put most of it off until….um….yesterday.  I have to give myself some slack though, I planned to do mostof it this past month and well, things got a little crazy this last month.  So yesterday I stayed up late working on the online training and got right back to it this morning.  I was determined and when it was finally completed all of this dread and irritation washed over to me.  How odd, right?  I was so ready to be DONE with work and then when I was, I just couldn’t think straight.  I told my husband, very clearly, that he HAD to pick something for us to do, that I am incapable of making decisions in my free time because everything seems kind of pointless and annoying.  “Just pick something, I’ll go along with it and then I’ll be fine,” I told him.  Usually I’m pretty bossy and picky about just about everything, so this probably seem extremely exciting for Q, except that I’m probably rather scary to him these days.

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In case you wonder what I look like in real life! I admit that this isn’t a great photograph.

We managed to keep our cool (I’m so luck to have such a nice husband, because I’ve been acting really crazy lately.  Thanks hormones and grief!  What a combo!) and came up with a plan to take our dogs to a K9 FUN ZONE where we threw dog toys and chased the dogs around for an hour.  It was fun and exhausting for all.  That was followed by a walk, some sushi and then a visit from a dear friend, so I am feeling better now.

So this next week will probably be pretty hectic, which I admit is what I prefer these days.  I recently decided to change offices and billers and conveniently both of these tasks have proven to be quite time consuming and attention consuming.  It’s a blessing to love my work and it helps to find things to keep me busy, but I’m also aware that I’m keeping myself occupied as a way to avoid what I’m really feeling.

I’m going to keep trying, bit by bit, to take good care of myself.  The shoulds don’t really help, they just make me feel worse and more frustrated.  Eventually I will make it back to a yoga class and start cooking again.  Also, this week’s training might help because I’ll be by the water and much of the training is about mindfulness.  It might actually be beneficial to get out of the office and away from the overworking habits.  In the meantime, I’ll look at some pictures of corgis and maybe go see the new Guillermo del Toro movie.

It’s all gonna be okay.

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Walking dogs and taking names

29 Jan

We are nearing the end of January, the first month of the Body-Mind-Spirit project.  This is a great time to review goals set at the beginning of the month.  Are you still on track with them?  If not, what can you do to get back on track?

These past weeks, I’ve fluctuated between forced discipline and laziness.  I’ve realized that routine helps more than anything.  I’ve been working on a basic morning routine that includes all the of important elements such as breakfast, dog walk and training, yoga and meditation.  Oh and tea.  My nighttime routine is one that needs a bit of work too, so I’m starting to bring in helpful elements to that, such as reading great books in bed and brushing my teeth after dinner so I won’t overindulge in sweets.

Daily movement and exercise, a big focus this month, has been going quite well.  I started walking dogs for my dogs’ trainer in my free time and it has been fabulous.  I spend time outside, get to meet lots of great dogs, get tons of exercise, and it is sharpening my training abilities to work even better with my dogs.  While I’ve believed this to be true for some time, I am now convinced that spending time with animals is downright good for the soul.  The combination of regular exercise and hours of dog time has left me feeling happy, energetic, and excited.

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The number of steps I took on that particular day. This was a very long day!

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All of those steps, translated into 10.58 miles.

So that’s where things are right now.  I’m moving a lot, outside often, and enjoying meeting and spending time with new dogs.  This is a wonderful way to balance out the time I spend in with clients in therapy, which I am also enjoying but tends to be quieter work that is more still and thoughtful than walking around with a goofy dog.

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Some of my new friends

Sadness

15 Jan

Yesterday I felt very sad.  I won’t get into a lot of the WHYS, but there were a lot of things that bubbled up to the surface.  I was thinking of some upsetting situations and my hormones got the best of me.  I let myself have a nice big cry, remembering what I always tell my clients- Crying can be helpful.  Crying is a way we release stress hormones from our physical bodies.  Crying is cathartic.  So I just let loose with it.  I leaned my head against the wall.  I grabbed the hand towel from the bathroom and used it to catch my big ole tears.  I let my body posture completely slump down like a rag doll.  Radar, blind superdog, came into the room and began to growl at me.  Really, blind dog?  You growl at me when I’m sad?  This is what Radar tends to do when he isn’t sure what is going on and something startles him.  Although he knew it was me, I don’t cry like that very often.  My hypothesis is that he thought something was wrong with me.  He growled a bit and did these little yip barks.  I told him “I’m okay, it’s okay” and he stopped with the barks and growls.  All the while he held his little funny face really close to me, trying to assess each second with his big nose tilted towards me.  Once he got over his startled growling, he just sat next to me and that was comforting.

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“Are you okay?”

I thought a lot about what to DO about being sad and realized I didn’t really need to do much of anything.  My sadness felt appropriate, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I was trying to take care of myself.  I had a yoga class to teach so in preparation for it, I did a long home session of restorative yoga, moving very slowly, deliberately and carefully, like a moving mediation.  It helped.  Driving to yoga, I still felt pretty sad and realized I was going to need to pick my energy up just a bit or my students would spend 75 minutes crying into their mats.  I put on my favorite pick-me-up song, which I prefer to listen to at a loud volume while I hit the steering wheel to the beat.  This helped too.

XTC- Making Plans for Nigel

Yoga class was fine and it was actually quite nice to move around and get my mind on other things.  As I drove home, I listened to another song, this one is one of my go-to sad songs.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- People Ain’t No Good

Once I was back home, I ate some warm soup, talked with my husband, and we watched some TV.  Oh and I ate some delicious dark chocolate.  After a good night’s sleep, I really don’t feel sad anymore.  However, if I hadn’t let the sadness bubble up and be present when it needed to be, I would perhaps feel less present and connected now.  Although it isn’t fun to feel sad, it happens.  I recently listened to this podcast, Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn.  He talks about how in Western culture we tend to EXPECT constant happiness, which is completely unreasonable.  Sadness happens.  This really resonated with me.  It is what we do with it and how we treat ourselves that really matters.

Here are some of my general approaches towards sadness (based on DBT approaches for emotion regulation):

  •  Be curious.  Is it appropriate to feel sad? Do I have a reason to feel sad?  Investigate what it is all about.  Typically, emotions present themselves for a reason- they show us things!  Sadness can show us what is important and what we value.  When we feel we’ve lost something in line with that, whatever it might be, we feel sad.  However, there are also times when we inexplicably feel sad and it is helpful to know we can pull ourselves out of that if we need to.
  • Recognize appropriate sadness.  If there’s a reason to feel sad, try to sit with it.  Practice self-care even while feeling it, for example doing something soothing (drinking hot tea or taking a bath), or take part in an enjoyable activity (playing with my dogs or chatting about things with a loved one).  Sometimes when I feel sadness for a relevant reason, I just let it go through me (like I did yesterday) and assume that once I get through the wave of sadness, I’ll move on to something else.
  • Practice opposite action. If the sadness is making it hard to tend to necessary things (like teaching yoga, for example) OR if the sadness seems like it doesn’t fit the situation of what is going on, try using the skill of Opposite Action– Do the opposite of what you feel like doing.  The idea is that the opposing action can inspire different thoughts and feelings, which can actually change your mood.  This is what I did when I listened to the XTC song, which tends to make me energized and excited (instead of listening to the Nick Cave song, which makes me feel even more sadness).  When we’re sad, we tend to want to isolate and be very quiet.  Instead, try going outside, watching a funny movie, talking to a friend about light topics, and so on.  Exercise can be very helpful for this also.

Emotions are like waves. They come and they go.  They have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Some of them are very large and some are very tiny.  They will always be there.  We can learn how to understand them and how to work with them.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Water waves

Photo by Rob Casey (photo links to original source).

What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling sad?  What are some of your favorite songs to listen to, either as a pick-me up or to really feel your sadness?

My rescue animals

13 Jan

Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

It’s no secret that I love animals and am crazy about my pets.  I have two dogs (Radar and Sasha) and one cat (Bob).  They are a lot of work, they are silly, and they can be expensive to take care of.  But to me, it is worth it.  I love spending time with them.  The little things make them so happy: walks, treats, belly rubs, even just saying their name gets a tail wag (or a meow).  They make us laugh daily with their silly antics and pitiful food begging.  They definitely bring a certain charm and humor to our lives.

Our pets

Radar was the most recent addition to our clan; we adopted him as a puppy in October 2010. He is a beagle and rottweiler mix (yes, we even had the DNA test done) and he’s a very sweet and cute dog.  Born completely blind, Radar is quite dependent on his owners and on his dog companion to help him out- he rarely strays far away from us.  Despite his disability, he gets around quite well.  Many people don’t even realize that he is blind.  He is a sweet little buddy.  He loves to cuddle and he adores rolling the basketball around in the backyard.

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Radar on a walk.

Sasha is the product of my years-long quest to convince my husband to agree to dog ownership.  A careful and thoughtful man, he spent a great deal of time mulling it over and then, suddenly, he was ready.  “Okay, let’s get a dog” and there began our search.  After many fruitless and sad trips to various shelters, I finally found our dog.  She was a young, hyper and smart puppy with HUGE paws and had been given back to the Humane Society several times because too big, too hyper, blah blah.  Now 3 years old, she’s a real looker, a mixed breed of so many dogs that she’s taken the best from all of them and seems to be a pretty cool breed of her very own.  She’s regal, fast, smart and eager to please.  Her energy level is high, she needs lots of exercise and she can be aggressive with other dogs.  Sasha is a prize and I love walking her and cuddling with her, but she’s been a lot to work with.  About one year ago, I considered giving her up after she clocked me in the head while she was mid-air chasing a dog at the park and I was bending down to grab something for Radar.  My jaw was sore for days and I was LIVID.  Also, this incident followed several months of painful wrist tendonitis thanks to Sasha’s constant leash pulling. Luckily, we found our amazing dog trainers and the rest is history.  She’s still not perfect, but we understand her better and best of all, we know how to work with her.  I’d never dream of giving her up and I can hardly believe the thought ever crossed my mind.

 

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Sasha in the car, excited to arrive at our destination.

Bob is one of the most popular animals I have ever known.  People love Bob and it is because Bob loves people.  He’ll do anything to get a pet or a cuddle.  I have had Bob for a lifetime, it seems, but at this point it has been about 8 years.  I adopted Bob as an adult cat while living in Alabama.  My best guess is that he’s about 10 years old now.  He was a stray who showed up at a house, started eating the other cats’ food and even began to beat up on the other cats.  The house owners were desperate to find a home for him.  They liked his friendliness, but they knew he needed to go.  They named him Bob after Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob? When I adopted him, he was stout, scabby and strong.  He adjusted quickly to the posh indoor life and while he still likes to spend some time outside each day and engages in the occasional cat brawl, he’s a marshmallow of a lazy cat.

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Bob the cat wrapped in a baby blanket.

All of my animals are rescues and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am grateful for them and it is a joy to know that we’ve offered them a safe and happy home when they really needed one.  I am also glad that they have found friendship in one another.

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Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle.

If you ever consider pet ownership, please consider taking a rescue animal into your home!

 

Relax

16 Nov

Warm cuddles, close contact.

Busy busy, but in a good way.  Working, organizing, moving things around, cooking in the kitchen and preparing for an upcoming trip.  The pets are getting lots of walks, pets and cuddles.

Welcome to A Fiercer Life

12 Nov

I’m really excited to open the doors, so to speak, on this blog.  The title is from a William Butler Yeats quote:

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” 

I love this quote because it speaks to aspirations I hold for my life.  Like most people I wear many hats.  I am a mental health therapist, yoga student & teacher, wife, daughter, sister, auntie, dog-mom, artist and former world traveler/ returned Peace Corps volunteer.  I don’t take myself too seriously (well, I try not to) but I have found that ongoing attention to self-care and self-expression is extremely valuable both to the self and to others.  This world can sometimes feel overwhelming but with a certain focus it can also be quite peaceful and meaningful.  I’m excited to share my attempts to continually find and maintain such focus.  My goal is to be practical, thoughtful and humorous.  I’m sure I’ll sometimes fall short, but hey- it’s good to have goals.  That’s why this is a blog about mindfulness and silliness: mindfulness to explore practices to stay grounded and silliness to bring a sense of balance and not take things too seriously.

Stay tuned for ongoing posts about some of my favorite things:

  • Mental health & Wellness
  • Yoga
  • Cooking
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Mindfulness
  • Dogs
  • Buddhism & Compassion