What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

It woke me up this morning, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  I heard this muffled gentle bark sporadically; every 5 or 10 minutes.  It sounded far away, and was almost an apologetic sweet little yelp.  Now, Gus will bark enthusiastically whenever he sees someone approach the front door, but he rarely barks in the house unless someone is engaged in a full out romp with him.  I assumed it was coming from some dog outside, so I went back to sleep.

I tried to snooze for another half hour, but kept being disturbed by this little noise.  I decided that it sounded like Gus, so I went downstairs to complain about being woken up.  I didn’t get my usual furry wagging morning greeting;  a quiet empty house was all I found.  So I made my coffee and assumed that it was a neighbour’s dog I had heard.  I figured that Gus must be out in the park with Jeff, and I began my morning routine.

Halfway through my coffee I went back upstairs to get something from my room, and then it occurred to me.  The door to one of the empty bedrooms was slightly ajar.  I gave it a gentle push.  Out bounded one incredibly grateful labradoodle!  He proceeded to smother me with kisses; almost knocking me down as he enthusiastically thanked me for setting him free!

What struck me as I settled down to finish my coffee was the fact that Gus had been sitting patiently on the other side of that door for close to an hour; waiting for someone to push it open and let him out!  His quiet little calls for help had eventually subsided, and he had been waiting silently in the dark when I finally stumbled upon him in there.  Now, Gus is one smart doodle – even our trainer remarked on this fact.  He can pry open the sock drawer and help himself to the perfect pair.  He can catch a frisbee mid-air on the fly.  He can find a ball that is lost under the chaos of the branches at the park.  That door to the bedroom was open enough that all he had to do was nudge it a bit more with his nose, yet he sat there feeling trapped inside; waiting for someone else to let him out!

What are you waiting for in your life right now?

We are all quick to delegate away responsibility for our freedom, happiness or success; acting as though we lack the power or skills to make things happen for ourselves.  We say that our career will take off when someone else gives us the right break.  We believe that we will be truly happy once we lose 10 pounds.  We act as though pursuing our true passion isn’t an acceptable course of action.  We sit quietly on the other side of that door; peeking at the crack of light on the other side, but somehow not believing that we have the ability to nudge it open and bound out of the room.

Happiness and success come from believing in yourself and accepting that you are the only one who truly controls your own life.  If you are clear about what you value and what you are passionate about, it becomes easy to see the road that leads to your destination.  That door is already open.  Go ahead and give it a nudge!

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Don’t Be Afraid To Make The First Tracks

So here we are again.  The fields are covered in snow.  The sun is blazing, despite the -15 degree temperature.  It’s a beautiful day to be outside, as long as you’re dressed for the weather.

I love to stand at the top of the hill and look down onto the sparkling expanse of snow below.  I’m always a bit reluctant to take the plunge and begin tramping ahead with Gus.  Somehow it seems a bit sad to puncture the pristine snow with my clompy boots and his prancing paws.  Never mind.  On we go, and before long, the field is a mess of footprints and pawprints; leaving evidence of everywhere we’ve been.   For the past two mornings we have spent ages outside in the fields; running and playing in the snow, and working up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures.  We’ve had the best time.

It’s a bit like life itself, isn’t it?  When we are about to begin something fresh and new, we stand on the brink, contemplating what we are about to dive into.  It’s often a mix of excitement, wonder and trepidation all rolled together that can keep us perched there; immobilized.  As if we’re afraid of ruining that perfect image before us with our footprints and actions, as we forge ahead into new territory.

You’ll think I’m nuts, but I’m reminded of something silly from my childhood.  When we were little, my siblings and I used to argue over who got to “break the rink” on a new jar of peanut butter, by being the first one to dig a knife into it.  (Boy, were we easy to entertain!)  I guess we knew then that it was less important to gaze at the perfectly smooth surface than to get on with taking the plunge, and enjoying what would come next.

Get going!

It’s the journey itself that matters most

This morning at the end of our walk, Gus bounded up the front steps and plopped down as he always does to wait for me to toss him his cookie.  There he is in the picture, sitting and waiting for our little ritual that marks our return home.  It suddenly dawned on me that, in the four years we have spent together, Gus and I have been on more than 1200 walks!  When I think about the mileage we have covered, it is truly mind-boggling.  I have worn through several pairs of walking shoes to prove it.  As I pondered this, I was struck by an even more incredible fact.  Despite the distance we have covered together, we always end up in exactly the same place at the end of our walk:  right on our own front porch where we started!  I suppose you could say that, despite all of our walking, we haven’t really gone anywhere at all.

What a concept.  Walking and walking, yet ultimately ending up right back in the same place.  To some, it might seem crazy.  But not to me.

You see, for Gus and for me it’s the walk itself that is the whole point.

Sure, a daily walk is a great source of exercise and fresh air.  I highly recommend it for all the obvious reasons.  But, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you will know that  there is so much more that happens when we are out walking together.  Every day on our journey we meet people and dogs. We make new friends and share experiences.  We are inspired by magical sights right in our own neighbourhood.  In fact, it is while we have been out walking, ultimately going nowhere, that all the important lessons have occurred.

Today is my 49th birthday.  I’ve had a perfectly lovely day.  I got hugs and good wishes from family and friends near and far.  I had lunch with two incredibly special women. I had dinner with my wonderful family.  And I started it off with a very long walk outside with Gus on a beautiful snowy day.

I was thinking this morning that life itself is like these daily walks.  I don’t want to be morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to end up in the same place we started out eventually.  Dust to dust, and all that stuff.  Each time we mark the passage of another year, it’s as if we are setting out on another walk – one that will end up at our next birthday.  I truly feel that the years themselves aren’t the point at all.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been hung up about revealing my age.   To me, it’s what we’re doing on that journey between the milestones that really matters in the long run.

As I look back on the past year, I am overwhelmed by all that I have seen, done and learned on my journey.  I have met and developed relationships with so many incredible people.  I have marveled at the wonders of the changing seasons and the magical sights that have been right in front of me all the time.  I have learned valuable lessons about myself and what I believe, and I have a clearer sense of who I am and what I value.  There have been high points and low points, but all in all it has been an incredible ride.

Tomorrow is February 11th once again, and I will lace up my shoes and set out off the front porch as always.  I can’t wait to see what I will discover next, as my journey continues. . .

Listen to your heart

“You’re insane!”  The voice of my dearest and most trusted friend rang across the telephone line.  “You’re 45 years old!  Your kids are old enough that you are finally getting some freedom, and you can walk out the door whenever you want to.  You guys are already working so hard, trying to do everything for your family, and you never have time for yourself as it is. IF YOU GET A DOG NOW, YOU’RE CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There we were, four years ago this month, on the brink of the decision to get a dog.  You already know how the story ended. However, this week I find myself thinking back to that time, and remembering the process we went through in making that life altering decision.  I suppose it was the first lesson that Gus taught me, before he even arrived.

At the wise old age of almost 49, I know for sure that the one constant in life is change.  Just when you think you have settled into your groove, and you have it all figured out, something new will come along and rattle your world.  Perhaps you are deciding to give in to that urge to bring a dog or a child into your family.  Maybe you want to go back to school, to change your life’s direction.  Sometimes a challenging new opportunity presents itself at work.  It’s all part of this fabulous journey called life.

So what do you do?  As humans, our natural instinct is to be thrown off balance by the prospect of change to the status quo.  Even if we have chosen that change ourselves, we are comfortable with things the way they are. Even if it is exciting, the future can look awfully scary.  In weighing all the pros and cons, we tend to focus heavily on all the negatives associated with the change, and how it will impact our lives.

I remember methodically detailing all the ways in which getting a dog would strain our resources:  time, freedom, order and money were all going to be affected as we fit this new creature into our already bustling lives.  We would have to alter our daily routine and schedule to accommodate his needs.  We had to adjust our monthly budget to account for his food, pet insurance, vet bills, and supplies. We had to come to terms with the fact that we would have a whole lot of poop to pick up over the course of his life!

As responsible adults, we tried to create a spreadsheet; weighing both sides of this monumental decision.  We also listed all the positives associated with getting a dog.  From our research, we knew that dog ownership brings more exercise, stress relief, and a chance for the kids to experience the love and responsibility that go along with caring for a living being.  This sounded great, but was it enough to outweigh all the negatives??  As the Mom of the family, the final say in the decision was mine.  After all, it was acknowledged that it was my life that would be affected the most by this change.

What followed, and what I have since distilled as the original Lesson from Gus, was a process that I realize I have gone back to time and time again through my life.  I did my homework, and I thoroughly researched everything I could that would help me with my decision.   I tried to gather as much information as I could to enable me to project what life would be like with a dog in the family.  I visited friends with dogs and asked them about their day-to-day life.  I compared notes about costs and benefits; love and headaches, and I asked everyone I knew what they thought I should do.

I was completely rational and practical as I weighed all this information. I went in circles, and drove everyone around me crazy as I analyzed it all to death, and tried to put it all together.  What if I resented being tied to the house more?  What if we got hit with  a huge vet bill?  What if he chewed up everything in sight?  Would we be able to fit his walks into our daily schedule?  How hard would it be to train him?  It would be good for us all to get outside more.  We would love having a sweet puppy in the house…

In the end, after so much analyzing that my head hurt, I stopped and took a step back from the issue.  I realized what I had to do to make my decision.

I finally understood that the research was critical, and the analysis essential, but that those parts of the process weren’t going to give me everything I needed to reach my conclusion.  I learned that, in making life decisions, there are some elements that you miss if you only look at the data and the balance sheet.  There’s another part of the process that’s just as important.  It hit me then what I had to do.

So, I closed my eyes, and I took a deep breath . . .  and I listened to my heart.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Bring home the big stick

Bringing home the big stick

You might have seen us one day.  Very often on our walk, Gus will discover a stick lying by the path, and he’ll decide to carry it home.  Now, this probably doesn’t seem unusual.   Most dogs will pick up sticks.  But most dogs don’t go after the kind of sticks that Gus does.  As you can see from the photo above, the sticks that Gus brings home are often bigger than he is.  Sometimes we even have trouble on the sidewalk because his stick takes up so much space!

It’s not uncommon for people walking or driving by us to honk, laugh, and give Gus the thumbs up sign as he proudly marches home with his trophy.  It’s quite a sight to see.

I’ve always said that I would do well to have the kind of confidence that Gus does.  When he comes upon a giant stick lying there, you can just see him considering it, and sizing it up.  Then, without hesitation, he will pick it up and position it in his mouth for the long walk home.  He never seems to even entertain the notion that he won’t be able to manage it.  Occasionally I have even tried to discourage him, saying “no Gus, that one’s too big!”  But he will always forge ahead; often wrestling with the largest sticks until he can get a good grip on them.  His behaviour shows that he doesn’t even consider the possibility that he won’t be successful.

You probably think that I’m crazy for letting him carry all this wood home.  Take a look below, and you’ll see what he accumulated during a couple of weeks last fall.  I guess I just feel that, since he’s so confident and determined, he’s entitled to have the reward of carrying his treasures home.

Gus's collection of sticks

When you are setting goals for yourself, do you reach high and go after the biggest stick?  If you’re like me, you often hesitate and feel limited by all the reasons why the goal will be challenging to achieve.  Can I really do it?  Am I qualified enough?  Will people listen to me?  This would be like Gus looking at a stick, and hesitating while thinking, “Is it too big?  Will it hurt my mouth?  Will I bump into things on the way home  with it?”  When we focus on the obstacles in our path, then we have a tendency to trip over those obstacles, and allow them to get in the way of achieving our goals.  Or perhaps they make us worry too much, and cause us to drop our standards and set our sights on some easier goal.  It’s like settling for a smaller stick because you feel that it will just be easier to manage.

If, like Gus, we refuse to think that way, and we just know that we can carry home that big stick, then we don’t even see any obstacles, and our actions will surely lead us to be successful.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look on my front porch!

The biggest stick

After I finished posting this, I came upon this quote that I think is quite relevant – I think you’ll agree.

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” — Michaelangelo