Although I am very fortunate to have a job I love, and to work with wonderful and talented people every day, my favorite part of the week is cleaning the dog cages at the rescue group based in my hometown. Every Monday morning, I am there to take each pup out of their cage, clean up after them, refresh the food and water, and then put them back in. Of course, I always manage to have some cuddle time, too – the best part!
Almost all of these dogs are there with some kind of sad or tragic story. Many were abandoned, abused, starved or dumped. One pregnant mom we had two weeks ago was left locked in a house where the family had moved away. The stories are endless. But as I walk in the door every Monday, I am greeted with a cacophony of barks, whines and wags. When each cage door gets opened, the canine inhabitant either bounds into my arms or shrinks back afraid until I pick them up, or take them out, and show them it is okay.
No matter what these animals have been through, they are still capable of showing an abundance of love and affection to the person who comes along and will feed them, hold them and show them some care. They readily give their unconditional attention and love to people even though they’ve been so mistreated by other humans.
How come we can’t have the same “dog-spirit” toward other people? Why, when someone does us wrong, do we hold on to it, keep it close and build a wall toward that person and toward other people? I’m not suggesting that we stay with someone who abuses us (even the dogs left their situations!) or that we allow someone who is hurtful to continue to hurt us, but why do we have to hold on to the hurt? Why do we experience a bad day, or a difficult confrontation and then inflict our feelings on the next person we interact with? Sometimes our family knows the minute we walk through the door if we have had “a bad day” because we let them know about it – even though they may have had nothing to do with it.
At times we could benefit from having a shorter memory span, like the dogs. What if every time someone did us wrong, we simply shook it off and licked the face (metaphorically speaking, of course) of the next person we see, instead of holding on to our hurt or anger? The ability to emotionally move past someone who has hurt us and turn our attention to happier and more uplifting things is lost for so many people. We allow ourselves to stew and wallow and continue to let the anger or hurt churn inside.
I find myself at times thinking about someone who has done something wrong, especially to my children, and wanting to “fix it” and make it right. But when I adopt the Interested Observer role and watch what I am doing, I realize that I am further hurting my children by continuing to churn and burn over what happened. Instead of focusing on them with a happy spirit, I am busy making plans to write a letter, or make a call and tell someone off who deserves it.
When I realize what I am doing, and simply let go of the need to let the negativity live on, all of my relationships benefit as a result.
So, this week – think of the dogs. Even if you aren’t a dog lover, hopefully you can appreciate the unconditional nature of the dog spirit. Try to shake off whomever or whatever is keeping you held back. I find it helpful to literally stand up and shake my whole body to rid myself of the toxic ideas I am carrying around. This week, in your Interested Observer mode, see what’s happening, then shake it off and move on!