Thursday, February 17, 2011

Expecting the unexpected leaves room for change

One of the more unusual things we inherited with our new home is a beautiful koi pond in the back yard. As attractive as it is, I was concerned about how the dogs would react. I wasn’t too worried about Chi. At 7-1/2-years-old, she’s lost most all the ‘puppy’ and is our sedate matron. I’ve found her dipping her paws in the edge, curious about the bright gold flashes under the water I’d imagine, but she’s never gone in after them.

But knowing Barkley, our 4-1/2-year-old English Springer Spaniel, I expected wet dog from day one. He surprised me, thank goodness, and only once since July has he taken the plunge. I wasn’t here to watch, but I’d bet he was chasing one of the two bullfrogs who reside on the water lily pads.

What’s been particularly interesting is watching their behavior change as the pond froze over. It didn’t take them long to adapt. Barkley bounds over it without hesitation when he’s in hot pursuit of the squirrels. Chi seems to have taken to the smooth, cool surface as her private resting place, rolling in the snow when it accumulates on the ice.

Now that the dogs have replaced the kids as my daily lesson-givers, I still find myself in awe of what they have to teach me. While my dire expectations of their curiosity have not panned out, I still cling to them, worrying unnecessarily, living the disasters that never come to be. I don’t allow Chi and Barkley the possibility of learning, too, and dealing with the situation in an acceptable (to me) manner. Unfortunately, I do the same thing to the humans in my life, myself included.

A recent disagreement with a family member sent me over the edge into a stress-induced migraine because I refused to let go of unrealistic expectations. I packed so much baggage onto a simple difference of opinion there was no possible way the situation could have ended well, and ultimately, I’m the one who suffered. Hubby did too, tangentially, and for that I humbly apologize. It doesn’t help at all that I thought I was protecting him when the whole thing started. I felt it was expected of me, and that in other tenuously-connected ways I was not fulfilling still other expectation. I got defensive. And when my misguided albeit well-intentioned motives were thwarted, I imploded.

By loading all kinds of history and expectations onto simple everyday interactions, I deny all of us the opportunity to change. How we have behaved in the past is not necessarily a harbinger of what will happen when faced with a similar situation. If I truly believe in the possibility of learning and growing, I need to let go of those restricting expectations that keep us locked in old patterns. The Dalai Lama said, “I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.”

Chi and Barkley are outside now, chasing the squirrels and barking at the wind. Barkley just realized the ice is starting to melt. His steps are tentative as his feet get wet. He’s learning. Any bets on what to expect?

1 comment:

  1. Often it is hard to see the correct path when we are set to spare someone else's pain. Just remember, we can change only ourselves and how we react to a situation. I'm betting Barkley ends up "in" the pond at some point when the ice gives.


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