As I prepared to leave my job, I started making a list of all the things I would be able to do that hadn’t seemed possible prior, and near the top of that list was “get a dog”. Most people that know me now, know me as a cat person. I have the most amazing “cat-dog” ever, and I admit I might talk about him incessantly….and he might even have his own Facebook page (Puzzle But, if you’re interested). But what a lot of people don’t know is that I used to be a dog person. In fact, growing up on the farm (another surprise??) I had three dogs and 14 puppies (that’s 1…4… fourteen) at one point. For a kid, it was f*cking fantastic! There’s nothing better than jumping on your bike and yelling “C’mon puppies!!” and having 14 little guys excitedly jump up and follow you off on an adventure. Just thinking about it makes me smile a huge silly, child-like grin…..but I digress. The point being, I consider myself an animal lover — both dogs and cats — and only ended up with a cat (and not a dog) because of the job. Or so I thought…
For the past four days, I dog sat for the most adorable furry mammal that melts your heart with his sweet doggie smile, Charlie. If you don’t believe me, just look at that photo! I’ve known Charlie since Erin got him a year ago, and he’s spent plenty of time visiting “Aunt Candy” so dog sitting for him was a no brainer. I actually thought it’d give me something to do while I made my way through this transition. It would also serve as a test run for whether I was really ready to get a dog or not. It’s a practice that I like to call “sitting with it”.
I’ve used this many times over the past several years as a means of active contemplation. Rather than just thinking through the pros and cons of something I’m considering or a decision I need to make, I’ll go a little deeper…akin to pretending that I’m existing in the decision to see how it feels. For example, when I was contemplating retiring, I used my weekends for several months to test out what it would feel like to no longer work. I wouldn’t check my email or log onto my computer for anything work related. I’d wake up each morning and tell myself that I was retired. That the day was whatever I made of it. And then I’d sit with it. How did that make me feel? Did I feel calm? grounded? anxious? freaked out?
Believe it or not, for about the first month that I did this exercise, every Saturday I got horrible allergies. I was miserable, sneezing my head off for nearly the entire day. Sunday would roll around and I’d start the day with the same intention – I’m retired…the day is whatever I make of it – and I’d be fine. No allergies. This finally subsided as I started to face all the emotions that I was triggering with the thought of leaving my job. So in sitting with this potential decision, I had the opportunity to “feel my way through it” and deal with all the shit…the fears, emotions, anxiety, trepidation, etc….that rose to the top during the exercise. The great thing about doing this? When I finally did retire, I was ready…emotionally, mentally, and financially. No sneezing.
When making the list of pros/cons, it’s all to easy to focus on the tangible impact of a potential outcome, and we often overlook or underscore the importance of considering the emotional triggers that we might set off. The most common emotional reaction that almost everyone can relate to is buyer’s remorse. We have the money to buy that “big whatever it is” and we want it. But we fail to think about the emotional triggers that may rise up as we leave the lot or walk out of the store. How often do you take the time to dig into those feelings and search for what is at the root? Probably not often…or not often enough. But what if sitting with the decision in advance and watching the triggers…feeling your way through them… meant that going into the situation you were fully informed, present, and prepared?
So back to Charlie. After four days with this delightful, lovable, fun, needy, demanding little four-legged creature, I had to admit to myself that I’m not ready for a dog. Being only seven days into this new life, I’m still trying to figure out what I want my routine to be. How often do I want to volunteer and where? (Open to suggestions, btw.) I want to do some fun, odd jobs…what and when? What’s my exercise routine going to be? I’ve been hitting yoga hard but I haven’t made it back to the box (crossfit) yet. Do I want to teach? How often? What about travel? What about my mom? Point being, for me, introducing a dog into my life now would cause a layer of responsibility that I’m not interested in…at least not at the moment. Walking away and leaving my career behind was so I could disengage. Relax. Start from ground zero with no obligations beyond myself and Puzzle….and build from there. I know all this because I allowed myself to sit with the options before acting. And in both cases – retiring and not getting a dog – I know that I made the right decision for me…for now.
What decisions do you need to sit with?