Deacon amazes me. That’s my dog, in case you haven’t read my blogs before. Yesterday he had to go to the dermatologist for an annual check-up, and was slightly traumatized when we pulled up. He knows that he gets a shot there, and a few other personal invasions that he does not look forward to.
But once his visit was completed, we took him to daycare, and as soon as he arrived he perked up, ran into the yard, jumped on a teacher, and dashed over to say hello to the border collie who literally sits by the fence and protects the boundary of the yard. He is a literal dude.
What amazed me was that as soon as his circumstances changed, Deacon was happy. He did not gather the other dogs to tell his sad story about the veterinarian. He didn’t scare them by relaying that they just might be driven to the vet some day and they better start dreading it by imagining how bad it will be for them. He didn’t tell the border collie to watch for the scary veterinarians that might show up at any moment. He didn’t relive the painful shot or the mental trauma created when the vet said he was a little overweight.
Instead, he immersed himself in the situation around him. He jumped in the baby pool knocking half of the water out of it with his 86 lbs of delight. He sniffed other dogs as they sniffed him. Deacon didn’t even look at our car as we stalked him from the parking lot. Because he wasn’t in the car. He was in the yard. And he was ALL IN with that moment.
As humans, we tend to not live in the moment, but in the possibilities of what might be. And when we jump into our negative thoughts and develop the stories we find there, we are all in, no matter what is happening around us. I remember going to a carnival with my mom once, who spent the entire time telling us about a young girl who died on a carnival ride and how dangerous they tend to be. While she wasn’t wrong, not one sad thing happened at the carnival that night, except for the morose story about the three kids who were scared every time they got on a ride.
We can be at a carnival, or a delightful lunch with a friend, and our stories can be about sad, awful situations. It doesn’t matter that we’re eating cotton candy or surrounded by others who are laughing, because that’s not where our mind is. And if we are sharing our negative stories, we are dragging down the other person we’re talking to.
And then we get sick, our chronic stress taking down our immune system, literally shutting down parts of our frontal lobe that impact happiness. We are in the dog yard still living out the fear experienced at the vet’s office. Instead of jumping in the pool, we’re frolicking in fear, and our body takes the brunt of it.
Why don’t we try, for at least an hour a day, to be totally IN THE MOMENT. If we’re talking to a friend and laughing, feel that laughter all the way to our toes. If we’re talking to our kids, listen with fascination that this human is interacting with us. This human that we have raised from a little tiny beginning. If we’re talking to anyone else, hear their every word. Immerse yourself in the experience.
And when sadness comes our way, be ALL IN. We should cry our eyes out and release those stress hormones. Feel the pain. Because that pain cleanses and prepares us for joy. As poet Kahlil Gibran says:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Feel it all. Be the dog. Cry. Play. Laugh. Work. It’s all there, in every moment of every day.
Life really is like a carnival. Enjoy the ride.