By Dr. Diane Lass
One early morning while I was out taking a walk, I noticed a medium sized furry dog standing in the middle of a fenced yard. I naturally assumed that the dog would run towards me barking, although I hoped not, as I was concerned that the dog’s barking would wake the neighbors. To my surprise the dog stood perfectly still; didn’t appear to move at all as I walked by. I wondered how the owners had taught the dog to do so, but then my thoughts wandered onto something else. I continued on my walk along the Cliffs near my house.
On my way back towards my house, I noticed another dog. It was a little miniature Doberman who was standing at the bottom of an alley. As I approached the dog, I heard someone running down the alley. I looked up the alley and there was a girl about 13 years old running towards her dog. She told me she was sorry as though she felt her dog was bothering me. As she approached her dog the dog ran off and ran fast. She ran down the hill after her dog. Then a woman, whom I assumed was her mother, drove down the alley obviously to help her daughter to catch her dog. The dog then ran back up the hill and continued down the street with the girl still running as fast as she could. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor girl. I thought she must be exhausted! Finally, the mother pulls over in her car and opens her car door and the dog jumped in. Moments later the girl flops in the backseat of the car as well.
I had walked a few more blocks before I noticed a young man on a long skateboard. He had a large Bulldog on a leash and the Bulldog was pulling him up a small hill. The dog was panting and pulling, while the man was effortlessly cruising along. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of energy that was being expended in each situation, but there was a sharp contrast as to who was expending the energy or not.
The first dog I saw had been standing in the yard motionless; no energy was expended at all. Almost as though the dog was paralyzed. The second dog was running as fast as it could and the girl was chasing after it as fast as she could. The last dog was also expending a lot of energy, but the owner was just cruising along just allowing the dog to pull him. In that moment, I couldn’t help thinking about how different each situation was, but also how similar the situations were to our various approaches to our lives. Sometimes we feel paralyzed by life. We don’t know what to do. We don’t move forward and we can’t go backwards. We just freeze, which often happens after a traumatic event or a life-changing event occurs. We don’t know which way to go so we stay stuck. Sometimes we are stuck for a short period of time and sometimes we remain stuck for longer than we should or longer than is in our best interests. Change is always hard and it can be scary to move forward, but staying stuck for too long does not serve our best interests either. We need to progress forward, but it can be very uncomfortable and change takes determination, confidence and a willingness to move beyond our current comfort zone.
The second dog, the miniature Doberman, was running as fast as the dog’s little legs could go. The girl was chasing after the dog as fast as she could trying to catch up, which is exactly what we often do in life as well. Chase after life as though we are going to catch it. Many times we don’t even know what we are chasing after. We just want to hurry up and get there wherever there is. Sometimes we chase after life thinking when we get there we will be happy without our discomfort or pain. If we have suffered trauma or life-changing events we falsely believe that we feel better if we are at least chasing after something as opposed to do nothing. Feeling stuck is worse than running as fast as we can in hopes of catching our lives. At least we are doing something.
The last dog was running fast and working hard to pull the skateboarder along. The skateboarder was just standing there allowing the dog to do all the work, which is once again what we often do in life. Allow life to just pull us along without any effort. Maybe we are being pulled along living someone else’s dream or blindly allowing ourselves to be pulled along without any idea where we are going and not knowing what we want our destination to be anyway. Sometimes we allow life to pull us along long enough that we end up at some point or place in our lives wondering how we got there in the first place. Once again life-changing events or traumas can often set us along a path of not knowing what we want in life so we end up being pulled along either living someone else’s lives or not putting too much thought into where we are going and whether it is even what we want.
Sometimes we fluctuate between a couple or all three approaches to life. At times we may feel paralyzed and not move at all and then we start chasing after life or anything that’s moving just to move. Or, we follow along with whatever life is dishes out to us. In reality what we really need to do is to just walk the dog. Life is a journey and a process. Instead of being paralyzed by life, chasing after it or just being pulled along by it, we need to keep moving forward, not giving up control, but instead to be active participants in our lives. Not to be innocent bystanders, hoping all will work out for the best, but to be present and adjusting to life as needed. In order to do so, we need to actively work on getting to know who we are and what we truly want. What direction we want to go in life as well as becoming aware as to what dreams are ours and what dreams are those of others.
Do you feel paralyzed or stuck? Do you feel as though you are chasing happiness, or just cruising along in life waiting for happiness to find you? Take some quiet time and get in touch with what makes you happy and what gives you pleasure and increase those activities. Start making a happy list! You are the most important job you have right now! Enjoy!