I have a shih-tzu; he is six years old, just the right size. Not too big, so I won’t look like he’s walking me, not too small either, so there’s no chance of confusing him for a toy. He’s truly my best friend. He’s cuddly, playful, so sweet, and loving. He’s a great companion, especially on my (yet to become daily) walks. He just loves going with me on those walks so he can mark his territory all over the neighborhood. As soon as he sees me grabbing for that blue leash, he’s headed for the door immediately!
So I take him on walks around the neighborhood and he’s usually well-behaved. He’s learned to heel and he’s even learned not to pay attention to other community dogs we may find along the way and begin what can only be characterized as a barking competition. We had to work really hard at this one, but he’s finally doing much better. I no longer have to worry about those embarrassing moments where I have to look awkwardly at the other dog owner and apologize for my dog’s behavior. I was so proud today, when we walked by a German shepherd who began growling at my dog, Kai, and he barely even glanced at him. This time I was receiving the apologetic glance from the other owner! If they only knew how relieved I was that it wasn’t my dog inciting a riot. I digress, though.
Ok, so there is this one particular spot in the neighborhood, which is usually a source of anxiety for me along the walk. It is part of my walking route because I like the wide sidewalks that start at that particular spot—they are well lit and often give me and Kai the room we need if we need to pass other neighbors that are also out for a stroll. This spot is near a retention pond, and whenever we get to that corner, and for no apparent reason, my very loving dog will rebel against me. He doesn’t always do it, so this is a random occurrence. But when he does, he will stop dead on his tracks, look at me with defying eyes, and dig his heels. No matter what I do, he won’t budge. I’ve tried to bribe him with cheese, which is his favorite, but he won’t move. I have tried pulling on his leash, and have practically dragged him, but he will become stubborn with me, and will roll over on his back, as if to say, “If you want me to go with you, you will have to kill me first!” I’ve gotten so mad at him because of this, had to pick him up, and walk with him in my arms until we got passed that spot, just to show him that “he’s not the boss; I am.” Or gotten so mad, that I’ve given up, and cut my walk short, turned around and gone back home (which he was happy to do). His tail wagging in front of me as to say, “na, na, na, na, na, na … I won!” So frustrating!
How many times have we seen this happen in our every day lives? Mom’s making their children do something “because I told you so.” Kid going, “But MOM! I don’t want to! Do I have to?!”
Or later in life, as adults, feeling like we have to do something, not because we truly want to do it. But because we feel obligated to do it. Perhaps it is out of a sense of duty, responsibility, or worse, because we got quilted or manipulated into it.
If you’ve ever been in those situations, you know you don’t “feel good” doing whatever it is that you are doing. In the end, you may even resent it. Perhaps you find yourself bringing it up in a fight later … “Remember the time that … I did that for YOU! I didn’t want to do it, but I did it, and where did that get me? I’ll tell you where … nowhere!”
So today when I was on my walk with my otherwise sweet dog, and he decided to make that sudden halt at our favorite corner, I decided to try something different. I immediately sensed his resistance, I tugged at his leash a couple of times, told him it was OK and (wait for it) … I crossed the street!
I held my breath and waited for his reaction. He did not resist and was happy to follow my lead and continue on with our walk. In that moment, it struck me. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It was the simple answer that was there, staring me in the face every single time! Was I so set in my ways that I couldn’t see it? All I had to do was acknowledge his resistance. Perhaps he was afraid of something I couldn’t see/hear/smell and he was trying to protect me or him.
How often had I done that in my life on other occasions? In my job, when something seemingly simple became so overwhelmingly complicated. Did I make it more complicated than it had to be because of my pre-determined plans? Otherwise known as expectations?
Or in my relationships, when I kept trying to make something work, but perhaps the other person didn’t? We both dug our heels in. Neither one of us ever looked the other way … to, how shall I say this? … Cross the street?
Why didn’t we forge a new route, one we could both be happy with? Or perhaps it wouldn’t have just entailed us making a small shift (but an adjustment really), not one that required great compromise, just a new perspective or way of looking at the road ahead. Then it dawned on me!
In life, the path of least resistance, is often, the road less traveled.
We all love to fight. We fight for what we want, even if it’s a fight, for the right, to paaaarty! We fight to survive each day. We love to go up against that resistance to show it we can win, we can have it our way. But in the end, no one really wins. We come out of it with battle wounds, tired, scared, disappointed, and worse of all, afraid to try again. We get disillusioned, mostly in ourselves, because we couldn’t make it work. Or because no matter how hard we tried it wasn’t enough. Always thinking of those expectations we had set for ourselves and for others, and wanting to make it something that maybe it can’t be, like trying to make it something perfect.
How often have I tried to meet the expectations of others and come up short? Felt like a failure, beat myself up, only to try harder the next time. How often had I tried to get others to meet my expectations, and when they failed to meet those expectations, created some resistance of my own by getting mad at them, even picking a fight?
That resistance, I realized, is there for a reason. Whether we create it (or others help us create it), once we acknowledge it and stop fighting against it, we see that there’s another way to do things. We grow, re-invent ourselves, become better people, challenge ourselves and others to think of new possibilities. We have people providing us with inventions, out-of-the box ideas, generating solutions, just plainly stated: we get creative. This single process can help us all generate those win-win situations, not only for ourselves, but also for others.
Today, my dog and I both had a wonderful walk. We both got what we wanted. I got to see another side of the neighborhood and I didn’t have to “fight” to accomplish what I wanted to: a thirty-minute walk with my best friend.
I leave you with this quote:
“Reexamine all that you have been told in school, or in church or in any book. Dismiss whatever insults your soul.” Walt Whitman