Tonight I was hoping to get a certain kind of picture to illustrate what I wanted to write about, but alas, everyone was getting along.
I don't know about your dogs, but mine provide excellent examples of how to handle conflict. Forget what that Loser on television has to say about all that dominance crap -- there really is no jockeying for position or fights about who is in charge at my house. Rather, living with six dogs is almost always a lesson in collaboration and respect.
There is sometimes conflict -- as I have previously mentioned, Zoey (aka The Dog Who Loves Too Much) frequently has Asia growling and carrying on, but this also represents a lesson. Asia's efforts at getting Zoey out of her personal space are ineffective because it is really like nagging -- lots of noise, no consequence -- and so Zoey just keeps on with the cuddling.
But the real lesson I wanted to share is what happens when there is a true conflict -- a serious difference of opinion between the bitches (and that is what they are called so I am not swearing). Usually there is a warning and then WHAM -- someone gets nailed. It is noisy and scary and intense -- and then it is over as quickly as it started. There is no blood or gaping wounds -- but there is no question that someone was upset and someone else knows about it.
This is how I prefer to handle conflict. I cannot stand it when people are like Asia and give ineffective messages about being upset, or when people just walk away and pretend like everything is fine. Yes, it is scary when the feelings are big and intense -- but its real.
I had my kids without drugs. It was very, very important to me to remain fully present and aware of everything -- even and perhaps especially the pain. I did not want the experience dulled -- I wanted to be there in every way, and experience the whole wickedly painful and blessed event.
And so that is how I like relationships -- I like them real, even when it hurts. I don't want to be protected from the genuine and honest experience of human emotions. And in the same way, I have no interest in pretending with others -- I would be a terrible poker player.
And so like the dogs, I am very slow to anger but once there, it is real, intense, and nobody ever sits around trying to figure out how I really feel. I do not see this as a bad thing -- in fact, it took years to arrive at this place of what I consider respectful authenticity and I do not plan to change it. I always remember what I was told as a very unhappy 21 year old -- depression is anger turned inward.
And so I learned to appreciate my full emotional range, and lose the cultural messages about bitchy, hostile women. And in doing so, I discovered along the way that anger expressed usually just goes away -- at least it does for me.
And this is what I see in the dogs also -- we have a scary bitch fight and then all is well, nobody holds grudges, and we are back to collaborating again. Yes, someone probably learned a lesson ("don't even think about stealing my food bowl, you bitch") but nobody seems to need to repeat it over and over and over -- its just done. And there is no sulking either -- it truly is just done.
I love this about the dogs and sure wish people were like that. Why can't we -- especially women -- have the freedom to express what we really feel (in a respectful way, of course)? And why must people see the expression of strong emotions as a negative thing? What is wrong with being honest and true?
And so -- like breakfast -- the dogs offer life lessons:
1. Get along.
2. If getting along isn't possible, walk away if that feels like a good option.
3. If you cannot walk away, make your point in a very clear and convincing way.
4. After you make your point, stop.
5. Get along again.
And here is my advice for people who find themselves on the receiving end of WHAM (i.e., honest and strong emotion) -- stay present. Yes, it is hard and scary, but the best things in life are the things we face -- not the things we run from. Learn to respect -- and appreciate -- your inner bitch.
Speaking of bitches...
Mrs. Maize is the most perfect, sweet and wonderful dog. Recently she got very tired of Cadi's new trick of snatching her bowl right from under her nose -- Cadi was doing this so fast that it was amazing. Maize had had enough, and WHAM -- Cadi heard about it. It was over in a flash, and guess what? No more bowl stealing...
This is Maize on her bed. Tony Mora made it years ago, and then died of ALS (I hate that disease) but I know he can see how much Maize loves this bed. Yes, I cover her with a blanket -- and kiss her nose -- every night :)
Sweet Mrs. Maize's granddaughter, Sydney-Lou, is every bit as wonderful and loving as Maize -- but watch out Zoey when Syd gets annoyed as she is quite in touch with her Inner Bitch... Aren't they (Maize and Syd) cute together?
Zoey is very much a peaceful girl, and prefers not to get in conflicts. She just waits until I leave the one chair in the living room and steals it -- a peaceful solution indeed...
Okay friends -- let's all be real - nice, but real. And don't be afraid to embrace your Inner Bitch.