Perspective changes everything.
I’m training Nessie, my six-month-old chocolate Lab puppy, to be a therapy dog. Since she’s in the house with my Mom, who is 85, a big dog like a lab can really cause her problems. Nessie could cause a fall, scratch skin, cause bruises, steal food or a long list of dastardly doggie deeds so she has to be trained.
I ask Nessie to sit at the front door so I can snap her leash on to go outside. It’s a simple obedience command that she has long mastered. But recently she has been walking in circles before she sits down. It’s a long, annoying, unnecessary waste of time instead of simply sitting like she usually does.
I thought she was challenging me as pack leader. I thought she was trying to annoy me. I thought she was being a stubborn teenager.
I was wrong.
Last night I finally paid attention and realized she always circled to sit next to the wall. Why would she do that? Why would she go to that much trouble?
Suddenly things clicked into place. I remembered that Nessie tends to slide on the slick floor of the entryway when she tries to sit, her feet splaying and her behind sliding out from under her. She will try to sit on the carpet away from the door to prevent this.
Click! Nessie wasn’t trying to cause problems. She was sitting against the wall to keep from sliding away. She was problem solving! It was just like learning to open the door.
In a moment my attitude toward Nessie changed. No longer was she being a stubborn problem. Instead, she was just trying to keep from sprawling on the floor.
I didn’t see it before because I was focused on me and my problems. The rest of the day I watched from her perspective and looked for ways to train her that would make sense to a puppy.
Getting her cooperation is a lot easier than trying to make her do anything. She’s just getting too big.
Nessie and I got along much better for the rest of the day. Training got easier. We had a meeting of the minds.
Getting outside myself.
I spent the rest of the day trying to apply that lesson. If I was missing that much about Nessie by being too focused on me, what else was I missing?
I put myself in Suzie’s place. Then Mom’s. What were they dealing with? The lessons kept coming.
I watched Suzie try to take her daily meds with a mouth that only works on the left side. It was an ordeal but she’s never complained. Her bout with Bell’s Palsy is improving very slowly. We’re still hoping for a complete recovery. But in the mean time she has to tilt her head up and to the side just to take a pill. After all she’s been through, she has a few to take.
I watched Mom trying to read her word search book with progressing macular degeneration. She never complains about it either. I take seeing entirely for granted even if I do wear glasses.
I take pills and read every day without being grateful. Seeing life from their perspective made me appreciate the blessings I have. In fact, there may be no other way to be glad for things you do without any effort or thought.
A deep breath
My son forgot his inhaler last night. His medication makes asthma attacks much less frequent but if he has one without his rescue inhaler he could suffocate on the same air we all breathe every breath. He ran back in, grabbed it and took off for his night without a whine. It didn’t even register on his radar.
You can’t appreciate a good breath until you’ve watched someone you love try and fail to take one. Breathing is automatic, unconscious – until you can’t. Then it’s the most serious emergency an EMT faces. You have a couple of minutes and that’s all.
I took a good deep breath and paid attention. Air may be the most satisfying, life-giving, thing on the planet that we take for granted.
A better day
By the end of the day I had an entirely different attitude. My problems looked smaller and pressure fell away. They were just as large and difficult but they paled in comparison to the difficulties of others.
Even more important, they seemed doable.
Yesterday, I got more done than I do on an average day. I felt better about the work I did even though it was the kind of paperwork that makes my eyeballs burst into flames. I ended up solving some persistent and stubborn problems that we face.
A better tomorrow
It was so powerful that I woke up this morning still energized. I took on the day with satisfying anticipation. I still remember my perspective shift. I’ll work on hanging on to it.
But if I forget, I’ll have a determined reminder. I took Nessie to the dog park for a long run this morning. It was partly to wear her out and partly to thank her for my day of perspective. She is now sleeping peacefully with her head on my sock feet, but sooner or later she will insist on going outside.
When she does her circle dance at the front door I will remember and try to enjoy life from her perspective. Because, through her eyes, the world is a giant chew toy.