Getting Over It

I’m done with Winter.  I’m ready for the cold, grey days followed by the frigid, dark nights to go away.  I don’t want to shovel any more snow or slide across any more icy sidewalks and parking lots.  I’m tired of dry skin, frozen nose hair, and chapped lips.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for Winter to be over.  Right this very minute.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been feeling a little crabby lately.  And it’s not just Winter I’m tired of, either.  I’m so sick of all those robo-calls that constantly bombard both my cell phone and my land-line that I’m seriously thinking of living a phone-free life.  (No matter how hard they try, no one can call you if you don’t actually have a phone.)  I’m tired of the way my dog insists on trying to lick his stitches, because it means we have to keep that silly “cone of shame” on him for another few days.  That thing hurts when he slams it into my legs, which he does on a regular basis.  When you live with a dog wearing a cone, sometimes love hurts.

I’m tired of all the nasty, petty meanness that I see every time I log onto my Facebook account, and really wish that more people would live by that old adage, “If you can’t say (or post) anything nice, then don’t say (or post) anything at all.”  I’m even more disgusted with the hatred and violence I see all too often on the news, and wish it would all just stop, immediately.

But the problem is, I can’t make any of it go away.  Not even my cell phone, because I really need that little device to stay in touch with my family and friends.  And I don’t really want to live my life as a crabby person.  So that means I have to figure out another way to cope with it all.

Today I think I took a step in the right direction.  I woke up in a particularly foul mood, probably because I went to sleep last night to the sound of sleet hitting the bedroom window.  It didn’t help that the morning dawned cold, slushy and very foggy, and I was due down at the animal shelter to walk dogs for several hours.   I thought, seriously if briefly, of not going in, but then my sense of responsibility kicked in and I got dressed and drove to the shelter.

IMG_4539And you know what?  The longer I walked the dogs, the less crabby I felt.  The dogs were just so darned happy to be getting out for a walk that it was kind of hard to keep that nasty mood of mine going.  And afterwards, when I came home for lunch, my own dog was so ecstatic to see me that I was willing to overlook a few painful jabs to my shins.

The lesson here isn’t just to spend more time with dogs (although I do recommend it).  It’s that when we’re feeling overwhelmed and crabby, sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t going to help.  But what will help is making the effort to do something for someone else (two or four-footed).  I honestly don’t know if it’s just the realization that we really can make a difference in the world, or if it’s the happiness that we give others reflecting back on us that lifts our spirits.  I only know that it works, and that’s good enough for me.

Spring Forward

I have always thought of myself as a bit of a cynic.  Believing that good things are coming my way doesn’t come naturally to me at all.  And even when good things really do happen, my first thought is usually, “This won’t last.”  So maybe that’s why I have a hard time recognizing what I’m feeling right now, and what I feel every year right about this time.  Because according to my calendar, Spring has finally arrived.  And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel hopeful.

IMG_1203I don’t know if it’s longer days, or the budding trees and flowers, or waking up to the sounds of the birds chirping in my yard, or just the increasing warmth of the sun on my face.  But somewhere in all of nature’s reawakening, I feel my heart opening up to new possibilities and growth.  I am more willing to try new things, to tackle those “to do” projects that I’ve been avoiding all winter, and even to take a few risks that I would normally avoid.  Somehow the things that used to seem comfortingly familiar now feel unbearably routine, and I find myself longing for all things new.

And so I begin my usual routine of Spring cleaning. I begin with my house, cleaning and de-cluttering like a mad woman, and even redecorating a bit until every room feels fresh and new.  I go through my closet, pulling out the clothes and shoes I haven’t worn in years, even if they are still in good condition and were purchased at a bargain price.  And then I go shopping in search a few new items, making a point to at least try on styles I don’t usually wear.  I read books by new authors, strike up conversations with people I don’t know well, and when I go out to eat, I insist on trying a new restaurant.  Accepting new challenges, big or small, actually seems attractive.

For at least a few weeks, I find it easy to maintain my optimism and my passion for new things.  But as Spring turns to Summer my “spring fever” gradually wears off, and I find myself once again attracted to what is familiar and comforting in my life.  And in many ways, that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to live a life of constant change, and I certainly can’t afford a life of constantly buying new things.

But each year, a little bit of that “spring fever” experience sticks with me, and my horizons are broadened that much more.  Some new styles find their way into my closet; I discover a new favorite author, and sometimes I find myself with a new friend or two.  Some of the new doors I opened reveal new paths that carry me forward in unexpected ways.  And the best part is, I know that next year I’ll get to do it all over again.  Because, as we all know, hope springs eternal.

Let It Go

IMG_0348A few days ago, I was walking a shelter dog when a car did a “rolling stop” (think brief pause) at the stop sign before proceeding through the intersection I was crossing at the time, forcing me to stop in the middle of the street and wait until it passed.  The car was going slowly enough that I had plenty of time to see it and stay out of its way, so there was no real danger that I was going to be hit.  Still, I was a pedestrian (two pedestrians if you count the dog), crossing legally, and the car should have waited at the stop sign until I was safely across the street.  And there was no doubt that the woman who was driving the car saw me, because she turned and stared at me as she drove by.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit ticked off.  I glared at her, although my sunglasses probably meant she couldn’t see my angry expression.  And when I saw her pull into the shelter parking lot and get out of her car, I made a special note of what she looked like.  Then I mentally rehearsed exactly what I would say to this woman if our paths crossed, and none of it was particularly nice.  I was going to point out that stop signs mean “stop” and not simply “slow down a little,” especially when someone is in the crosswalk.  And I was going to ask how she was so certain that I would actually see her in time to stop and not get hit by her car?  I was right and she was wrong, and I wanted to make sure she knew it.

But she stopped at the front desk, and didn’t come near the area where I was returning my dog to its run and leashing up the next dog to take for a walk, so I lost track of the woman until about twenty minutes later, when I saw her leaving the building just as I was coming back in.  I don’t know if she remembered me or not, but she smiled pleasantly at the dog I was walking, and rather than pointing out the error of her ways, I found myself smiling at her and saying hello.  She responded by beaming back at me and adding, “What a cute little dog you’ve got there!”  I agreed that he was, and went on my way.

Now you might think that I was ashamed of myself for wimping out, or that I was nice to the woman simply because I was am shelter volunteer and she was a potential client, and I am always nice to the clients.  But neither would be true.  I was actually just happy to discover that this woman, who had aroused such fury in my heart just a little while before, was actually very nice, even if her driving skills left a lot to be desired.  I actually felt more lighthearted in that moment than I had all day. Yes, she had “done me wrong,” but I let go of the need to point that out to her, and I’m glad I did.

We share our world with millions of other human beings, most of whom are going to do things we don’t like from time to time, sometimes intentionally but more often not. Maybe this woman really didn’t see me when she pulled away from the stop sign and only saw me when she was passing me, and that was the reason she turned and stared. Or maybe she was just in a hurry and made a very bad judgement call.  I’ll never know.

What I do know is that all of us make mistakes, all of us occasionally misjudge people and situations, and all of us sometimes get a bit careless when we are in a hurry.  I also know that when we see someone else making those mistakes or bad judgments, its only natural to want to point it out and correct them.  But I don’t think its necessary or helpful to do so, as no one likes to have their faults pointed out to them.  Usually pointing out someone’s mistakes just makes that person defensive and angry, not remorseful and determined to do better next time.

Obviously, we do have a moral obligation to speak up when someone (human or animal) is being neglected or abused, and I will always do that.  But I’m not talking about anything that serious.  I’m talking about all the little times in the day when we feel wronged by someone else, or notice that someone is not doing things exactly the way he or she should, and want to let them know about it.  I honestly believe that in those cases, its much better just to “let it go,” and that when we do, everybody benefits.