Six weeks ago, we adopted a new puppy called Maya.
A protracted process which would take 12 weeks, a journey covering approximately 4,600 miles and more good souls than I will ever have the privilege of actually meeting, her foster mum is a dog trainer, and she was living with an older dog (so dog friendly) She had been beaten up by the local mama cat (So cat tolerant at least)
What could possibly go wrong….
Over the years I’ve taken in more dogs & cats than I had space or finances for, but I always found a way through, I’d encountered most scenarios and learned frequently the hard way. What I’d never encountered was a dog who could go from happy go lucky to absolute fear in the swish of a perfect tail, we expected the dynamic upheaval with the existing family and once Gatsby recognised he had a new playmate, albeit one entirely not aware of her paw size the play has been relentless, It’s difficult often to separate which of them has been responsible for the breakages, chewed Christmas lights etc, they are true partners in crime, and neither gives the other up.
If we were to never leave our little home fear would never feature in a day of Maya’s life, but a life without fear is simply not real life. I had been told Maya was crate trained and whilst I’m not a fan I do believe in continuity to help with animals adjusting to their new environment, we left her in it this week for 30 minutes and she chewed through it, the power of total fear gave my oh so silly 25 kg girl the power to chew through metal, her window of tolerance isn’t small, there is no window.
So out went the crate and everything I assumed I knew about separation anxiety, in other words pure, visceral fear.
As a teacher ‘Fear of…’ features a great deal amongst those I teach. Many people do not start something simply through fear of failing or not being considered good enough, I often remind people that showing up to a session or to class is frequently the hardest part, particularly in Winter. Admittedly some have said they fear the classes after I have attended a course, my exuberance and enthusiasm resulting in dynamic ad challenging classes but also in me sometimes doing 180 turns on my previous understanding of things, in other words that was then but this is now.
And that’s the point, when we get too attached to things as they have always been (In the case of Maya never being left alone) we can become bound to them to a life limiting extent, it isn’t simply feel the fear and do it anyway, rather an opportunity to learn what it is we fear and can we literally sit down and have tea with it. When we first allowed Gatsby out, whilst he was instinctively cautious, I was the one drinking a great deal of proverbial tea, he meanwhile never looks back through his daily adventures and delights in coming and going, truly a cat’s life.
So just as we’ve had to learn very quickly what it is our newest member needs from us, that her fear is not naughtiness, malevolence or wilfulness, it is the expression of a base emotion we all have. Can we all learn to be kinder to our fears, shine a light on them but be committed to the idea we will not be ruled or limited by them.
The process is going to be slow; our fears and anxieties were not born with us; they weaved their way in over our lifetimes, but they can become part of our landscape whilst not being all that we see, hear and feel.
Maya has great adventures ahead and we wouldn’t be without her, how brave she can become will depend on how patient we can be
So, the next time you feel you are not facing your fears and your self narrative is harsh, can you change the tone, the intention of your words, the direction of your thoughts. Can you try, and keep trying? Can you be kinder to yourself.
There is a time to run, our survival has been dependant on it but there is also a time to stop.
Maybe the time is now, and if not now then soon.