Saturday, August 31, 2013

What is the Lesson?

One of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves in any situation is "what can I learn from this?" This is especially profound - and especially difficult - when we are facing the challenging times in our lives.

When things do not go as planned, it is easy to react negatively. Indeed our social structure is set up to encourage us to do so. When we react we make the situation about us. Whether we get upset or feel under attack (or any other or a range of negative emotions), those reactions color our view of the situation. They make us angry, bitter, or to feel sorry for ourselves. Reactions fuel reactions and suddenly the entire event becomes a drama. During these times some people will encourage us in that behavior.

Recently, I read a quote from Mark Twain that said, "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

I think that this statement is true not only of our ambitions, but of our focus in life. People who encourage you to be upset and unhappy are trying to get you to focus on the negative aspects of the event. Those people may get great enjoyment from the drama because they can gossip and talk about it to others. Those people, however, do not have your best interests at heart.

There is no such thing as a perfect life if you define one as being devoid of any challenge or hardship. It is easy to look at people at the pinnacle of their success and to assume that they have achieved it all overnight. However, another great quote is "nothing fails like success"; meaning that we learn from our mistakes and difficult times. When you succeed, you don't learn nearly as much as you do when things don't work out as planned and you have to figure out why and move on. To succeed, you must experience hardship to learn what it takes to get to the place of your success.

So, if in dealing with hardship we take our mind off the event - and resulting frustration - and instead focus on the lessons we can learn from it, we will get to our place of success quicker.

Sometimes when I have expressed this idea the response I get is "I can't help the way that I feel!" Lets look at that. Feelings are not just emotions that happen to you from outside yourself. Feelings are reactions that you choose to have. Reactions are thoughts - the way you interpret events - and we certainly have control of your thoughts . . . or at least you should. You *will* have negative thoughts. We all do. You can choose to dwell on them or to move on to other thoughts that are beneficial to you.

When we make our experiences about the lesson we take the emphasis off ourselves, and the way we feel about the experience, and move it onto what we learn and how we benefit from the situation. This is true even if it is one that we don't think the event is in our best interest at the time. I know from my own experience that some of the events that seemed like the worst (for example a car accident the sidelined my early career as an artist) actually sent me on a life path (back to school) that improved my life dramatically.

There is great power in the questions we ask ourselves because they direct our thinking. Questions like "why me?" or "why does this always happen to me?" do not generate beneficial responses. They are a negative loop. It is important to ask the right questions to put us on a track that will give us something of value out of a difficult situation. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, as questions like "why does this always happen to me" will help you do, you can focus on the positive side of "what can I learn from this" because no matter how difficult there is always something to learn.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And "Baby" Makes Four

If you have been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I'm a sincere advocate for animal rights, and am guardian to several rescue dogs.

Until last week, I had three lovely dogs - Talullah (Great Dane) is the youngest, the Jake (Great Dane / Lab /Sharpei mix!), and Bandit (Border Collie / Aus Shepherd mix.) It is quite a full house!

Then, on Facebook, I saw this photo on an Oklahoma Rescue Page (Pet Angel Rescue of Edmond)

I have always wanted a Harlequin Dane. With my current pack, I really needed a boy dog if I was going to bring another dog in, and here was this little boy who had been surrendered by his family. He needed to be in a family without kids, and preferably with some larger dogs.

So, I applied with the Rescue. 

You might think that once you have gotten a dog from a Rescue, you can get dogs from any Rescue, but that isn't true. Each Rescue has it's own requirements, and has to research you and ask questions that satisfy them that you are a good match for that animal. Sadly, many people lie to Rescue organizations, and so they have to follow up on your information and check you out - as they should do!

So, I heard back that I was going to get the dog, and I was SO excited . . . but then the next thing I heard was that the Foster Family had fallen in love with him and didn't want to give him up. 

I can fully understand that. I am not ever going to be a person who can Foster animals. I wish I could be that unselfish and giving, but alas, it is not me. I knew it would be much better for the dog if he didn't have to change to yet another home after having left the family he'd been with since he was a puppy, being in a kennel for a month, and then with this family for a week or so. I told the Rescue that I understood, and would not press the matter.

The truth was, for a dog I wasn't looking for, I was kind of heartbroken not to be getting him. But, I'd prayed about this dog, and asked God not to let the Rescue approve me if I wasn't supposed to get him, and so I just turned it over to God that whatever was best for the puppy was more important than my feelings!

Then, the next afternoon I heard from the Rescue again! It turned out that the Foster Family, after considering their situation, decided it would be best for him to get to a family with fewer dogs and demands (the Foster Family already had a giant breed with special needs, plus several smaller dogs, as well as the horses you see in that photo!)

So, that night I found myself driving to Oklahoma City to pick up my newest family member. His name was Sampson, but he didn't answer to it, so I decided he needed a clean break and changed his name to Cary Grant. (My other Dane is named after Talullah Bankhead - she is Talullah Bighead!)

So, here is our newest "baby" - 3 year old, Cary Grant . . .

The photo above was his second day with us, when he discovered one of the several fenced paddocks that he has access to on our property.

I have yet to get a photo with all four dogs, but here are Cary Grant, Jake, and Bandit.

And here is Talullah with Cary Grant. Talullah is a European Dane, and she is shorter and stockier. Cary Grant is an American Dane, so he is taller - but he is substantially underweight at present. He needs to put on about 35 lbs to be where he needs to be for his size. (Talullah is about 20 lbs overweight! Oops! We are working on that!)

This was his first night in the house . . . I have since got him a raised feeder. Talullah's feeder is 13" and that was not quite tall enough for him!

And here is my big goof! He is very sweet, and once he gains some confidence, he is going to be a prince! I am hoping I can work with him so that he can do Therapy work with Talullah and me at the nursing homes, hospital, and library. But for now, we are just happy to have him here with us, and getting him healthy and confident, again!