This is an observation post. No life lesson here.
First of all- I love the dog park. It may be the happiest place on earth. If you are wondering why I feel this way I suggest you stop reading and do some serious soul searching about your dislike of dogs, and ultimately, yourself.
However, there is a dog park phenomenon that happens once every 6 or 7 trips: two or more dogs bark loudly at each other and growl. You may be correctly thinking to yourself- yea, of course, they’re dogs. But this phenomenon is not about the dogs at all. It’s about people’s ABSURD reactions. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the aftermath of a “dog altercation” looks like this:
Immediately, people from all corners of the park sprint to the scene. Several will be screaming “no. stop.” and “JACKSON… you come HERE NOW” as if their dogs’ animal instincts will suddenly cease to exist. If you are really lucky, you may see a man fall over himself, small children, and several other dogs while attempting to pull his dog out of the mix. A woman is observed to be clutching her chest in horror, unable to mentally process the situation.
As quickly as this war breaks out, the dogs involved decide to call it a draw and go sniff separate parts of the ground. This can only be viewed as an escape from the shrill over-reactions of their owners. Because, after all, they are dogs.
Then the processing begins. People start petting their dogs saying out loud “I know that must have been sooo scary…” and “you got startled by that other big dog, didn’t you…” This is a passive aggressive way of saying to other dog owners “your dog did it. 100 percent. no question.”
A man gathering himself begins a more direct dialogue with the guy next to him “Did anyone even see what happened here?” Please, I think. You don’t have to do this. It’s over, man. Unfortunately, several women take the bait and chime in. There begins to be a small debate about which dog started all the racket. We are now 15-20 minutes beyond the incident in question. The dogs involved are sniffing each other and prancing around their concerned owners who remain huddled and defensive.
At this point I try to remain far enough away from the conversation that I can block out the debate about “what went down” however it doesn’t always work. Sound travels. Two women appear convinced it was actually “the smaller dog over there” that was feeling “too cornered” and began to want space but the larger brown dog “didn’t really read the warning signs and kept trying to play too aggressively.” The hand gestures really reinforce how emphatically people believe it couldn’t have been THEIR dog that started it all. I mean, “Wishbone doesn’t communicate like that. He’s just so passive…”
We are now approaching the 40 minute mark post dog fight. A woman is STILL clutching her chest and explaining to her friend how hard her heart is pounding. I begin to worry from afar that she will need medical attention. Several other people have attempted to be nonchalant about leaving the park with their dogs while also reporting loudly “I think that’s enough excitement for today…” The magical, carefree aura of the park dissipates with the heavy cloud of panic, blame, and horror that dogs are in fact, dogs.
I love adult coloring books for mindfulness and relaxation. Such a simple concept that is super effective in taking a break from life’s stressors and creating something beautiful. When I feel stressed or have trouble sleeping I just start right in and if I can detach from what is bothering me-even for a minute-I call it a success! Some of my pages from a coloring book called Creative Coloring Inspirations can be found below:
I came across this amazing link below of visual representations of depression and anxiety depicted in photography. I found this to be so inspiring and accurate. From working with my clients and from my own experiences I can attest firsthand to the role stigma plays in accepting and addressing mental health issues. Spreading the word through art forms enables people to relate to one another and normalizes these struggles. Loving it!
I keep thinking about negative thinking. I don’t mean particular negative thoughts like “I hate my job” or “I literally can’t get out of bed I’m so tired today” but the combination of all negative thoughts and their impact in general. I know that thoughts directly impact feelings and behaviors and as a Clinical Therapist I help others identify and alter negative or unhelpful patterns all the time- but when it comes to myself, I am nervous about the level of negativity oozing out of my pores. Part of my fear is that I have been conditioned beginning at birth to view the glass as “half empty.” In my family, it’s genetic. Skepticism and negativity take on lives of their own and encompass every aspect of life. As I am sitting here I can close my eyes and hear my mother commenting on the “plastic face” of an actress in a powerful performance that before her comment, had me captivated. That being said- I need to fight it. I need to fight it because negativity creates a barrier between a person and the world’s beauty. So the question becomes- if I am not being cynical, sarcastic, or “negative” about things in my own life- how on earth do I survive the day?! (see, there it is right there). Sure there are the positive reframes I could apply to hard situations, but when it comes down to it- a lot of things in life just suck. What happens when you have consecutive bad days? Have friends who are experiencing tragedy or pain? Make not one, but lots of mistakes at your job? What is the tipping point for being able to think positively when all of these events happen at once?
One time someone spoke in ernest about how they’re always “making lemonade” out of life’s crap circumstances and are perpetually positive. For me this will definitely be a work in progress!
As I was stuck in traffic on my daily hellish commute home from work, I began thinking about how drastically people’s attitudes change in the context of individuals as “drivers” versus “passengers.” For example, if you were driving in your car and someone cut in front of you unexpectedly, first your heart may jump a little as you hope your car slows down in time to accommodate their idiocy and then you may start fighting the urge to curse them out. Frankly, I have been known to scream at people from behind the safety of my windshield for much less. But then I realized that when I am riding in the back of a taxi as a passenger, if the taxi cuts off someone at the last minute and receives a honk- well forget it- I’m already thinking “who the HELL do you think you are honking at my taxi driver.” Basically, people completely assume the identity of the driver, even the most reckless ones. After I thought about this, the following day as I inevitably witnessed a verbal altercation between the driver of a car and a taxi who almost ran the driver off the road- I could barely judge the passenger who leaned his entire torso out of the back window of the cab to scream at the innocent party.