Old Dogs and New Tricks
It was late at night, and ten-year-old Maggie was sitting at the end of the bed. She was hungry, but her snack was on top of the TV cabinet, way out of her reach. She glanced to her right, and saw Dad was fast asleep. She turned and looked at Mom, who was sitting on the loveseat a few feet away. She let out a soft, “Woof.”
Mom started laughing so hard, she woke Dad up. He couldn’t even be mad about it, because whoever heard of a dog being that considerate before?
Within a couple days, Maggie could soft bark on command.
* * *
It’s a good thing Maggie couldn’t think the way we humans do, otherwise her thought process might’ve been something like “They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I guess I’m considered old now, so I must not be able to do anything new. Crap. How the hell am I gonna get my treat now? Guess I’ll just have to go hungry for the rest of the night—or maybe even the rest of my life. I think I’ll just curl up into a little ball right here on the edge of the bed and hope one day by some miracle I get my treat anyway.”
She never would’ve come in second place in that doggie talent show.
* * *
The bad news is, as humans, our brains are wired to think all those hold-us-back thoughts.
The good news is that once we notice those thoughts, we can loosen them up and make it easier to start going after what we really want. One way is to look for examples that the opposite thought could be true, too.
For example, let’s say you feel driven to run a race to raise money for your favorite charity, but you can’t help thinking “I can’t run a 5K.” Make a list of at least three reasons you can. Maybe it’s something like, “1. I can get a trainer. 2. I can start small and build up. 3. I didn’t think I could [fill in the blank], but I did.”
Or maybe you want to get a new job, but you don’t think anyone would hire you. Now make a list of all the reasons someone would want to hire you. (If you’re having trouble with the list, try a trick a wise friend once told me: be your own agent. From that removed perspective, it’s often easier to list all those wonderful qualities you possess that would make an employer crazy not to hire you on the spot.)
* * *
For all the things we long to do, most of us have a million reasons why we can’t do them. But unless your dream is something completely out of reach, like living on Saturn or adopting a pet unicorn, chances are all those “reasons” are really just thoughts getting in the way. So the question is, are you gonna let mere sentences keep you from making your dreams come true, or are you gonna address them head on, then do whatever you need to do to start living a life you love?
me with Maggie, the literal dog whisperer
Sick: the Sequel
If you love Shel Silverstein as much as I do, you know how badly little Peggy Ann McKay desperately wanted to skip school. Well, recently I started thinking about how growing up doesn’t necessarily mean growing out of that desire to hide from whatever’s making us unhappy. Then this happened:
SICK: THE SEQUEL
“I cannot go to work today,”
Said grown-up Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have a migraine and B.O.,
Dry eyes, numb thumbs, a stubbed big toe.
My nose is stuffed, my ears both ring,
My voice goes sharp each time I sing.
My cheek is streaked with unknown schmutz,
I’ve counted thirteen paper cuts,
And there’s one more — now that’s fourteen,
You see that bump? My swollen spleen!
This carpal tunnel’s something new,
I’m pretty sure I’ve got swine flu.
I burp and fart and moan and groan,
I think I’ve got a kidney stone.
My butt expands each time I sit,
My face is one ginormous zit,
My eardrum’s sore, my brain is fried,
My hair goes flat when I’m outside.
My sleeping sucks, my B.P.’s high,
No doubt the end is drawing nigh —
My feet are flat, my shoulders ache,
When I lie down, I start to shake.
My nails are all bitten off,
I think that I’ve got whooping cough,
I’m bloated and my skin’s too fair,
I have ennui — I just don’t care.
My ankle hurts, I’ve gone insane,
I’ve got a rash I can’t explain.
I have a bruise, and my hip is — what?
What’s that? What’d you just say?
You said that it’s…the weekend? Yay!!
Oh wait — I’ve still got work today.
So, the question is: do you want to be a Peggy Ann McKay, or do you want a life that’s so awesome, you’re actually exited to get up in the morning? If it’s the latter, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your free thirty-minute consultation. Let’s figure out what you can do to start living a life you love — no pretend health issues necessary.
Willy Wonka and the Worst Waitress Ever
In honor of my birthday, my friends and I were sitting in the big corner booth of a new chocolate-themed restaurant when the waitress came over to bring us our water — carrying the glasses with a finger inside each and every one. She then proceeded to put the cups on the table in a circle and pour the water, not bothering to lift up the pitcher as she moved from one glass to the next. So what if half the water and ice ended up on the table? She had the perfect solution! She took her hand and pulled the mess off the edge of the table — and back into the pitcher.
We sat there, mouths agape (and, of course, dry since there was no way we were drinking that water). Hesitantly, but with a determination found only when you’ve been thinking about a chocolate-centered meal for two weeks, we ordered our food. Jessica essentially asked for a deconstructed banana chocolate sandwich, and when the waitress brought it out, her way of serving it was to throw a still-in-the-peel banana Jessica’s way. It landed on the table with a thunk because even Jess’s reflexes couldn’t believe what was happening. We were waiting for her to get the chocolate part of her food when Kim realized her salad dressing was much thicker than it should be — thankfully just before the chocolate hit the lettuce.
When the manager stopped by to check on things, Carolyn ever so tactfully told him what was going on. He apologized profusely, chatted with us a bit, and promised free dessert. The waitress came back with the manager a little while later and said, “I’m sorry, did I put my fingers in your glasses?” Um, yeah, not awkward at all.
So…worst restaurant experience ever, right? Actually, it was one of the best nights of my life. How’s that possible? Because my friends and I saw it for the comedy of errors that it was. There were hilarious one-liners, questions about how the service could get any worse (quickly followed by answers), and sore cheeks and stomachs from constantly cracking up; by the end of the evening, we’d probably already laughed off all those calories we’d eaten.
Sure, we could’ve looked at it as an upsetting dining travesty of mythical proportions; the whole situation would’ve played out much differently then. Instead of a bunch of friends having a blast, it would’ve been a table full of grossed out, hangry, complaining women waiting for their chocolate, and that’s not something anyone wants. (Although I don't know that our our fellow diners appreciated our presence either way…)
I’m not saying you can always make a joke out of the bad experiences in your life or that you should push down those feelings of frustration, sadness, or whatever else comes up. In fact, it's exceedingly important to acknowledge and fully feel all your emotions. But, at the same time, chances are there's at least one thing to be grateful for in every sucky situation; finding that will make whatever you're going through just a little bit easier. Then, instead of getting upset as you remember an experience as being, say, a birthday dinner completely ruined by the world’s worst waitress, you can grin as you reminisce about that hysterical night you shared with your friends and think about how lucky you are to know wonderful people who all have a find-the-funny outlook on life.
Life’s more enjoyable and less stressful when you can find the positives in it. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but there are ways to change your perspective. It’s something I’m really good at it, so if you’re having a hard time, go ahead and set up a session using the form on the contact me page. I’d love to teach you how to start looking at things in a different way!