My daughter’s alarm clock woke me up at 5:50 this morning.
While I have been waking up early this summer, I haven’t been waking up that early. So after using the bathroom I was definitely getting back under the sheets for some more shut eye. As I was crawling back into bed I noticed that Toby, our dog, thought it was time to get up. He was lying on his back with all four paws up in the air ready for his morning scratch.
I completely ignored him and went back to sleep.
Forty five minutes later when I awoke for real, there was Toby whimpering a little, having assumed the position again. I happily gave him his belly rub and received some loving licks and nuzzles before we headed downstairs to start our day.
This simple little hit or miss interaction with my dog got me to thinking.
If my husband had done to me what I did to Toby, the result might have been much different.
If I had attempted a snuggle in the night and been completely rebuffed, my reaction would almost certainly NOT be to wake up feeling lovey and touchy.
If I had been ignored, I would have made it mean something. Something like: he is mad at me; he is a big fat jerk; he doesn’t love me; or he is so wrapped up in himself that he doesn’t even notice me.
And I would have felt mad or sad or lonely. And then the next morning I might have given him the cold shoulder or sent him to work without his usual home packed lunch.
Later in the day when he called from work, I might have been distant and cold.
I most certainly would not have woken up the second time and been looking for a cuddle. He made me feel bad. Now I want to make him feel bad.
And so it goes.
But Toby showed me today how different things can be if we let them.
Toby didn’t make my going back to sleep mean anything. He just woke up the second time and said what he always says–love me.
Toby didn’t make up a story about how I don’t love him anymore. He didn’t jump to conclusions and think that I was going to abandon him at an animal shelter. He didn’t get mean or try to bite me. He simply saw that I was going back to sleep and he did the same.
As ridiculous as some of those examples just were, that is what the little voice inside our head can do to us if we let it. Whether it be with our significant other, a family member, a friend or a complete stranger.
We decide what someone’s behavior means and then we respond to what we think they did to us. The part that we forget is that most of the time the meaning that we have given the action is completely off base.
The other thing we forget is that people are engrossed in their own lives. Even when we think they are doing something “to us” most of the time their behavior is near us but has nothing to do with us.
We take it personally and want to make them pay for hurting us. But they were never trying to hurt us. They were just going about their business and we decided that their action was directed at us.
Toby didn’t need to know the reason that I ignored him this morning. Even though I shunned him, he knew that it didn’t mean anything about him or us. He still felt secure in our relationship and showed that love to me as soon as I was properly awake.
I think we should all take a page out of his book.
In order to change your life, you must first change your mind