He Said, I’m Afraid

I was really proud of myself today. I was out riding my bike while giving doggie a walk.

It is a challenge for me to be the pack leader with her. She is the dog of the person where I rent, so I have known her as long as I have lived here. I love her and enjoy spending time with her. She gives me a lot.  When she is with me she needs someone to be the pack leader, most dogs aren’t natural born leaders and they get anxiety and fears like anyone when they are managing a life they are not confident in. Having to be a pack leader is a big job for a dog. And as Cesare Millan, The Dog Whisperer, would say, a dog needs humans to do that in the home, so they aren’t taking over and bossing humans around all the time, so that they aren’t anxious and afraid all the time.

As her pack leader I take my job very seriously. It has helped me to work on being calm and assertive and that has helped me in every aspect of my life. Doggie is a strong dog, from a strong breed, and so I have to work hard at managing her while out in public.

The nicest part of that is that she loves people. She loves to be around them, she loves time spent interacting with them, and she feels happier when they are close. Me too.

She also loves to see other doggies and always wants to meet them, which isn’t always possible. Sometimes she whines, sometimes she barks, and sometimes she bolts towards the other dog, all challenging behaviors I am trying to change.  I tell her, you can’t meet everyone, you can’t become friends with everyone, no matter what you want. Again, kind of reflects my own life. She might not understand the words, but I think my tone of voice consoles her. She likes being understood, I think. I am still teaching her proper behavior and social skills with new doggies. It helps remind me of what I expect of myself and to help me practice my own interpersonal skills.

I’ve been trying to notice reactions from others. Some give a look or make a comment, usually to say nice dog or pretty dog. I used to just bike on by, sometimes say thank you. Now I try to stop for those people and ask them if they would like to pet her. She loves that.

Today we were out and there was a group of people on the sidewalk and I decided to get off my bike and walk her through the group. Some people moved aside as we went through, but I got a good vibe from them, so I asked this one person if she would like to pet her when she started talking to doggie. She did. Several people did. Several kids did.

Then a guy, who was standing back, looked over at me. He said, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of that breed. I told him that she is nice and doesn’t bite. He said no I’ll just stand here.

I said okay, you don’t have to pet her. I told him she never bites, even once she got bit by another dog, and she didn’t bite back. I think that did it for him. He got this look on his face and this light in his eyes, I would call it courage. He stepped forward, several steps, and then, he petted her.

I didn’t know him, but I was so proud for him.

There is No Spoon

A lot of the time I have fears and anxieties.

Sometimes they really really are based on reality, things that could happen. It happens. Life happens. Abuse happens.

However being afraid all the time about those things and others just isn’t helping me live my life. They might not ever happen to me, but I might end up spending all my life scared witless about them.

Sometimes they really really are based on my past experiences of abuse, torture, and torment. Because my life tends to repeat certain patterns established through abuse, even when I am trying not to, some things that are abusive continue to happen in my life.

Sometimes they are based on things that are never ever going to happen. If a spider has not dropped down upon me from the ceiling while I sleep, really what are the chances of that ever happening?

When I was a teenager and my older sister stupidly let me read her copy of Jaws I was afraid of sharks. But seriously I lived in Minnesota at the time, was never in the ocean, and leaping onto my bed at bedtime because I feared a shark was under it and was going to attack me. Well really sharks do not live under beds, so I am safe. Knowledge is power. But just in case, I keep my bed on the floor, so nothing can get under it.

I can work on boundaries, learning better coping skills and using them more often, learning to love myself and care for myself better.

I used to be terrorized in my bed for fear someone was coming to get me, to rape me. Well when you are tiny and your mother is your abuser, you fear that. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t sleep deep. I knew it was realistic to think that I might be raped. But it was not making me any safer. 

This was not surviving my life in any way that was positive. I had to start ignoring it, pretending I didn’t think that, feel that, know that. And it helped me sleep. Denial sometimes works. Sometimes Ignorance is bliss.

I get scared trying to go somewhere I haven’t been before. If I have an appointment I get very upset. I look for maps online and go over them a lot. I look at the incomprehensible bus schedules. I call the bus company for long conversations. 

I get scared that I will be in the middle of nowhere and get off a bus and be lost. Well there are always buses going back the other way, but I get scared.

I hate not knowing where I am. I try to cope by going and getting it over with. Once I have been there, the anxiety will stop. Exposing myself to new experiences helps.

So I vacillate back and forth between denial and knowledge. I’ve often thought that I inhabit the space between the two phrases Knowledge is power and Ignorance is bliss. It helps to have a few good skills.

And helpful to remind myself there is no spoon.