Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning to Live with Different Temperaments

I had just finished with the Live Chat today for (Live Chats) and went to take my dog for a walk when I realized - how my experience with my dear puppy was such a good model for how we can learn to get along with people of other temperaments.

To understand this you have to understand a little about my background with dogs. I like to pet other people's dogs but I don't like them to lick me and I don't really like dogs that much (well until this year). I always said I was a "cat person" - for 40 years I believed this. I have five cats. I love cats. I don't want a dog. I think they are slobbery, silly and messy. I am allergic to dogs. They are bad for me. They take too much commitment. But then my son wanted one. He wanted one for five years. So finally I decided he was old enough to get a dog.

So why did I decide to do something out of my comfort level? Well, first of all, I didn't know enough about dogs to know I would actually be taking care of it when he was busy but ultimately I agreed because I love my son. So this is the first step in accepting new people and new things into our lives - love.

But how did I then get to this last step where I am completely accepting and loving of this creature and thankful for it as well? I even enjoy it!

The first step was not easy. My son wanted to stay overnight with a friend and the dog missed him. Another time my son was gone and the dog needed her walk. Both times it looked at me with those "puppy dog" eyes and I realized that it was dependent on me and that it had needs as a living creature. No matter how much I didn't want to walk the dog or let it sleep near me at night I had to do this - out of compassion. So compassion became the second step. It is so much easier to accept people and animals when we can look at them with compassion - not with a sense of anger, duty, being upset or annoyance - but compassion. When we can look at another living creature with compassion and not focus on "what they did to us" or "what we don't like" or "what is wrong with them" our heart's open to new experiences.

As I said this first step was not easy. I allowed the dog to sleep with me the first night and I woke up with a horrible allergy attack and could hardly breathe for two days. I took the dog for a walk but I didn't get my work done that day because I had not planned on the walk. And it was hot. I don't like the heat. But there were nice things too. I realized how fun it was to wake up and see these adoring eyes looking back at me - that mothering part of me appreciated that look - one that I've missed since my babies have grown into young adults. And the walk was good. I love nature and I had to admit that I have not been very good at getting out on those walks I keep "meaning to take". So when my son went on a vacation for the summer to see relatives for three weeks I decided to keep the dog with me instead of putting it with a babysitter for a few weeks. Why? Was this compassion again. Partially. But it was also me trying to save money, and feeling a sense of duty to this animal I had taken responsibility for. These reasons were not as noble as compassion but this is another part of step two - if noble reasons do not motivate - life will bring you other reasons and you can choose to complain about or embrace those reasons.

What I am saying is that life brings us what we need. I needed that dog and if I was not going to completely accept it out of compassion and love life would kick in a little bit more motivation. In this case it was funding and duty. Do you ever find yourself being "forced" into situations you don't want because of financial reasons or duty? Do you find yourself resenting this? Perhaps, embracing it would lead to the place you need to be more quickly. In my case I decided to embrace it. I was "stuck with" this dog so I mapped out my plan and did what I "had to do". I allowed it to sleep with me, but not near my face. My allergies got better and after a few days I didn't have any bad episodes again and it was awfully nice to have that adorable dog to keep me company when my kids were gone for three weeks. I think that is one place we bonded :)

I decided we would walk every day at 11am and go outside every day at 6pm. I started to look forward to the walks. I am the kind of person who loves to walk but I never took enough of them because I always like to have a "goal" for my walks (collecting herbs, walking to the store, walking with kids, etc...). Macee provided me with that goal each day. After two weeks I also noticed another change. I had lost ten pounds. I had been trying to lose that ten pounds for a year but never managed to keep it off and had not put it on the top of my priority list as I was "not that much" overweight. But I did feel better without that extra weight!

Two months later I've lost 17 pounds and I love my walks with Macee. We talk and play and see deer on the nature trail. The sunshine and the trees are beautiful and I love being motivated to take walks every day. If I try to skip them she comes to me every day at 11am and reminds me. I adore her and love to notice when she is happy (her tail is straight up) and am sad when she is not happy (like when her tail goes down if we pass scary dogs or traffic). I secretly miss sleeping with her and enjoy that she naps in my office every day as I work. I love her and completely adore her. When did this happen?

I think about this - here is a creature that is bad for me - I am allergic to her and I really took on too much responsibility when I purchased her - time-wise and financially. I didn't even like dogs and for the past month I've had to spend money and time trying to get rid of there are all these negative things. But, by being able to find the positive parts of our relationship, by opening up my heart to the gift she is (how else would I have gotten out for walks every day for the past three months - nothing else worked so far) I am able to accept her and love her and completely overlook (not focus on) the negatives.

When we can learn to do that with people that are different from us - when we realize the gifts they offer us and can look beyond the negatives - this is when we can start to get along better with people of different temperaments. It goes beyond understanding the different temperaments or "accepting them" or even learning "how to work with them" or learning about them. We must completely embrace them.


Jen said...

Great post, Kristie! I love the analogy and the chat this morning left me thinking about some of the people I love, but feel somewhat incompatible with - perhaps if I just look at their temperments, it will help me understand and accept the differences & the relationship can escalate to a level I only dreamed possible :) Thanks! You truly have the gift of healing...

henriette said...

great words of truth!
I have always thought this yet you knew the words to choose. I am specifically thinking of the last paragragh

Anonymous said...

Hi there

Thanks for sharing, I have digged this post

Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND said...

Thank you for sharing it!