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Cold, blowing, winter roads


Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: mikemol

Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.

— Edith Wharton

I am constantly surprised by what I have to relearn, over and over again.  Last weekend, was one of those surprising weekends.

Sunday was one of those days that tested my fortitude as a doggy mommy.  The first time we went out, AccuWeather informed me that it was 48° with a real feel of 54°.  So, I bundled up to take her out for the morning empty the dog exercise and rushed back inside.  I had no intention of taking a walk when it was that cold.

Several hours later, we went out for our daily walk.  Oy!  AccuWeather was now claiming that it was 54° and feeling like 54°.  Unfortunately, no one had bothered to inform them that the wind was blowing like a son-of-a-gun and it really felt like freezing.

I need to tell you that prior to deciding to get a dog, I had agonized over the very real need to take her out several times a day.  As the post office used to say, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”  When you have a dog, you must swear to the creed or you better not choose to have a dog.  Get a cat.  They have a litter box and no matter what else you have to say about a litter box, it means you don’t have to go out into the real weather.

For years I’d had cats.  They are great for people who prefer to avoid snow and sleet and rain and cold blowy wind.  (Is blowy wind redundant?)  When the real weather gets unpleasant, they had no more urge to go out into it than I did.  I’d grab a book and a blankie, put on some good relaxing music, and sit down to read/nap the afternoon away.  And my cats would be right there with me.

That Wonderful, Invigorating, Freezing Wind

Dogs, on the other hand, love the blowing wind.  (Remember, in the car, they stick their heads out of the window to simulate a hurricane.)  Despite the fact that my dog is a short hair, she stands with her head up, enjoying the feeling of the wind through what short hair she has, and reveling in the smells.  When the wind is really blowing, it brings her tales of far off places – at least farther off than usual.  If I weren’t dragging her forward saying, “Let’s go!” she’d still be out there sniffing out the stories.  She never shivers from the cold wind.  Me, I practically freeze in place.

And, this is where I must admit that although I go, I do not go joyfully.  Unfortunately, I’m a bit grouchy about the whole thing.

I keep urging her on.  “Hurry UP!”  “Go already!”  In between these “encouragements”, I’m carrying on a running dialogue with myself about how ridiculously cold it is – about how miserable I am – about hurry up!  Sunday morning, while we were standing out there, one of my neighbors came home from getting his morning Starbucks.  Me, I’m bundled up in a heavy sweat shirt with a hood pulled up over my head and tied tightly around my neck.  He takes one look at me and laughs.  (After all, it’s not really that cold.)

I did not appreciate his sense of humor!

The most embarrassing part of all of this is that I grew up in Chicago – the Windy City – with temperatures in the low 0’s and occasionally in the minus numbers.  And yet, I manage to suffer with 54° and windy.  It’s actually a bit humiliating.

Nothing Changes Unless I Do

So, there I stood, shivering and swearing.

Dogs are living creatures with minds of their own.  Admittedly, they’re not as opinionated as most cats, but even so, they sometimes do what they choose to do, not what the “pack leader” wants.  (In case you’re not a Dog Whisperer fan, I’m supposed to be the pack leader.)  Some days taking the dog for a walk is a joyful event and some days, it’s a drag – literally, as I drag her from bush to light pole to blade of grass.  And my ongoing dialogue during the walk is the same.  “Come on, hurry up!”  “Keep moving!”  In 9 years, it hasn’t changed a thing, but I’m nothing if not stuck in a rut.

The thing is, if the dog were the only one I interacted with the same way over and over, I’d say, “what’s the harm?”  But this harmless bit of ongoing dialogue is simply indicative of the ruts that I get into.  I look at some problems the same way I looked at them last year (and I’m ashamed to admit, the year before).  I have the same conversation over and over with certain people.  I get frustrated because nothing changes.

H E L L O!!!  Of course, nothing changes.  I’m not changing.  Every day, I get the opportunity to demonstrate the definition of insanity – doing the same thing and expecting different results – and demonstrate it I do.

We all do this.  We live unconsciously.  We’re unconscious because we can’t give everything our attention.  In reality, when we walk, I’m seldom giving the dog my attention.  I’m usually listening to a book, planning my day, praying, or just day dreaming.  And so, when she isn’t doing what I want, I react out of habit and my habitual behaviors don’t get me the response I want.  It isn’t until I’m annoyed enough that I become conscious.  Then, I change my behavior.  And when I change my behavior, the dog changes hers.

It took a very cold wind to wake me up, but finally, I’m conscious again.  Isn’t that amazing?!!

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