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Are you Sick of Discussing the New Normal Yet? (podcast)
I really hope all of y'all out there listening have had a great week, and I really hope that it has been less eventful than my week.
These last seven days, for me, have been wild. And it has definitely taken a toll on my mental health and on my ability to practice what I preach about finding fulfillment and contentment and self-improvement.
But with all that said, it has also been a really good opportunity to put a lot of what I research and write about and preach to the test. And the good news is that I'm pretty happy with how I've managed and the way that my strategies have played out over these last several days, because when I say that it has been wild... I mean, it has been wild.
So let's jump into it. Let's chat a little bit about what's been going on in my life, and hopefully I can highlight some really helpful and important lessons for you along the way.
My week of adventure, let's go with that. That's a pretty optimistic term. My week of adventure started last Thursday. I had just gotten out of bed and started brewing some coffee, and I got in the shower to get ready for work. All was normal. It was just a normal Thursday morning.
And while I was in the shower, I could see out into the hallway outside of my bathroom. I have to keep my bathroom door open at all times, because I have a very needy puppy that weighs about 105 pounds. And so if he feels like he needs to be closer to me, or if he gets nervous, he will just peel the paint off of my doors trying to get into whatever room I'm in. And he's completely deaf. So I can't, you know, yell at him and tell him to stop.
So I just keep my bathroom door open at all times. I'm the only one who lives in my house, so I don't have to worry about traumatizing anybody if they see me in the shower or on the toilet or whatever. Anyway, I was in the shower and looking out into the hallway, I could see my older dog, Ryder.
And I noticed his body language. He just looked stiff. Like he looked tense.
I didn't feel good about that. Something just seemed off. So I called out to Ryder to try and get his attention and get him to come into the bathroom where I was, but it didn't work. I didn't get his attention quickly enough. And all of a sudden he and my other dog, Walker, were fighting.
And when I say fighting, I mean like scary fighting. They are both big dogs. They're both powerful dogs. And they were furious with each other. I sprinted out of the shower. I tried to break up their fight and I could not. I'm a strong guy, and I could not get those two dogs to part. No amount of screaming, no amount of hitting them on top of the heads, no amount of pulling their collars.
I could not get them apart. I was panicked. I was freaking out. I was considering going and getting my pepper spray and pepper spraying them to get them apart. But I eventually got my back door open and managed to drag them, still fighting, still biting each other. Over to the back door where they parted just long enough for me to push the older one outside and slam the door shut and get them separated.
And by that point, I've got scratches and bruises all up and down my arms and the top of my feet. And the deaf one, the younger one that's inside with me, he's got cuts on his face. The older one, I went out and checked on him after I secured the younger one, and he had a huge gash in his year.
My dogs get along so well, or I guess I should say they got along so well. They've always been the best of buddies. They have napped on each other. They play with each other. But something happened that morning. That just... they had a dispute, and they couldn't get it settled between them, and it ended up turning into a fight.
And so I ended up calling one of the local 24-hour vet clinics and taking my older baby in for an emergency visit because his ear was... the cut was horrible and he was bleeding pretty badly from it. I should clarify and say that with dog ears, if they get a cut on their ear, it's going to bleed. Dog ears are very vascular, so even a minor cut can get really bloody.
This was not a minor cut. This was deep. So I took my older dog to the vet clinic for an emergency visit. The vet looked him over and said, "yeah, I think he's probably going to need some stitches on his ear. So we'll keep him here for the day. Get him stitched up. And you can come pick them up when we're done."
It ended up being. About a 12 hour vet visit for poor Ryder. He was there from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and he was just kind of out of it when I got him home. The younger dog Walker wanted to sniff him and investigate and play with him like he always did, and rider just did not feel comfortable with that. So I had to keep them separate .
It was a very stressful night. None of us got much sleep. The next day was. Just as stressful. They weren't fighting, but Ryder was clearly not comfortable being with Walker. And so I had to install a heavy duty, extra tall baby gate at the bottom of my stairs, and keep Ryder upstairs all day and keep Walker downstairs all day while I was working, because my office is in the basement.
Keeping them separated so that rider could be comfortable and, you know, have, have his own space to heal was completely... It was just a challenge. It was hard. It was so stressful for me. It was time consuming. It was stressful for the dogs because they didn't understand why one of them had to be downstairs and one had to be upstairs, why I wasn't letting them go outside and play together or use the bathroom together.
It was a really rough situation . All I want. Is for my dogs to have a safe, happy environment. The fact that they got in a fight indicates that something was stressing them. Something was causing it to be an inhospitable environment. Something was causing them or at least one of them to feel uncomfortable.
That broke my heart.
Now the somewhat good news is that the vet thinks that what likely happened is that Ryder, due to his age, is probably starting to get a bit of arthritis in his paws. And she believes that since they get along well, 99% of the time, it was probably a situation in which Ryder was feeling achy and cranky and snapped at his brother, who interpreted that as aggression as a sign of, "Oh, we're fighting now."
And that is likely what triggered it. So the silver lining, there is not the arthritis, the silver lining there is that, if that is what caused the fight, then we can treat Ryder's arthritis. We can make him more comfortable so that he isn't as sore and doesn't feel cranky.
That said, it is still a really difficult situation. Right now, Ryder is staying with my parents. They are crazy dog people like I am, and they have a dog that's Ryder's age, who he gets along with really well. And we're just letting him stay with them where there are more humans, there's a dog, his age, and he'll be able to heal and get back on his feet at his own speed.
And right now, and I'm trying not to get emotional saying this, because this microphone picks up sound too much for me to be crying into it. Right now, what we are trying to figure out is if it's going to be better for Ryder to stay with my parents long-term.
And that thought is heartbreaking for me, because Ryder is my best friend. He's been with me since I moved back to Kentucky. He is the sweetest dog. He is the most loyal dog. He is the goodest boy-- that's his nickname within the family as he is the goodest boy, because he's just so loving and so easygoing.
Ryder takes care of himself. He loves to leisure. That is what we say. He just likes to relax to on a toy and just give and receive love.
His brother, Walker, is not nearly as low maintenance. Walker is still a puppy. He's very big. He has had chronic health issues. When I rescued Walker, he was just about dead. He had almost starved to death. He had been abandoned. He had heartworms. He had intestinal parasites, he's deaf.
I adopted him because I just, I fell in love with him as soon as I saw him. And I knew that with his health issues and as sick as he was, and the fact that he's a pit bull mix, I knew that if he went to an animal shelter, he would be euthanized. At that point in his life, it probably would have been a blessing if he wouldn't have found his way into a loving home.
Walker joined the pack and shook things up. As he got healthier and got strong enough to play, we realized that he loves to play and he loves to rough house.
And when he plays and rough houses, it's not aggressive. He's not trying to hurt anybody or anything. He's just so big and so muscular that sometimes his playing is a bit too much if you're not able to keep up.
And that isn't something that we see changing anytime soon. He still has a lot of growing and maturing to do . What I'm afraid of is bringing them back together, Walker still wanting to play and rough house like a puppy, Ryder not wanting that, and then them getting in a fight again.
And I have this deep sense of fear of what happens if that happens while I'm not home to break up the fight? What happens if I can't break up the fight? You know, I very nearly couldn't get them apart this last time. What if it happened again and I couldn't do anything?
It terrifies me to think that one of my dogs could get hurt, especially in a fight with each other. I don't want my dogs to ever feel like they are in danger or like they are in harm's way.
It is a really feasible, and probably wise option, for my older dog to stay with my parents.
I take some solace in knowing that I can still visit him and that he would be in an amazing environment that's really well-suited for a dog his age.
But that change-- of not having my Ryder with me on a daily basis-- breaks my heart. And I have cried about that on several occasions these last few days, this last week. But ultimately it's what I think and what the evidence suggests would be the best thing for him right now with what we know.
I was talking through this with my partner the other night, and I realized that I found myself using one of the phrases that we have used so much in 2020.
And that was that I called it "the new normal." I said something along the lines of, if this is what is going to be best for. Both of these dogs. Then I will just have to adapt to the new normal.
How many times have you heard the phrase new normal in 2020? Whether it is limiting our social interactions, or wearing masks in public, or having to operate in a work from home capacity long-term, we have called so many things "the new normal" this year.
And as I found myself saying that I would have to adapt to another new normal, I realized that I think adaptability is one of those facets of personal development that we really don't discuss enough. It's one of those things where we just say that people either can adapt or won't adapt. Or that someone is adaptable or that someone is resistant to change.
And we treat adaptability like it is a fixed entity. But I don't think that's the case. While, I think some people are more inclined to being adaptable than others, I still think of adaptability as a sort of skill. It's something you can get better at. It's something you can improve over time. Learning to be adaptable is like learning to be patient or learning to be focused.
There are things we can do to either undermine or solidify that particular skill.
And I think, especially with all of the conversations we've had this year about finding a new normal, it's a bit surprising to me that I haven't heard more about being adaptable in the face of new normals.
Life is going to change. The way that we live will change over time. That is just a facet of living in a human society. Someone born early in the 20th century very well may have seen life advance from outhouses to indoor plumbing. From cars being somewhat of a rarity to being everywhere.
From high-technology being personal house phones that weren't on a party line, up to having a device that we can carry around with us that can access the total sum of human knowledge.
And while that may sound hyperbolic, it's really not. My own grandmother grew up in rural Kentucky. She's in her eighties, and she remembers her family getting indoor plumbing. She remembers her family getting a telephone. She grew up on a farmstead that didn't have a sewage system. And then as an adult, she watched a mission to the moon.
So life changes. Everything advances and changes over time. That is inevitable. When we come up against change. We can either cling to the way that things have been, because that is what is comfortable for us, or we can choose to accept the change and adapt to it.
Adaptability can be scary. Change is not easy. It's usually pretty difficult. It's usually pretty rocky, but I think when we manage to take a quick step back and realign our outlook and our perspective, we have a great capacity to adapt.
In my own saga of dog drama from this last week, one of the things that I've really been trying to do is go to my journal as much as possible. And as I start to feel hung up on this sense of "things are going to change in my household" I open my journal, grab my pen, and I really flesh out on paper what it is about the situation that feels so scary.
And I essentially, within the pages of my journal, go through a series of questions that I would give to a client if I was coaching them. So I basically do a reflective process of analyzing and reframing the situation so that I can gain a new perspective on the change that is occurring, and use that new perspective to make it easier to move forward.
That doesn't mean it's easy to move forward. It means it's easier to move forward. So there's still going to be some challenge. And that's okay. One of the topics that I've talked about quite a lot, especially on this podcast is that challenge is a good thing. When we challenge ourselves, we are putting ourselves in an opportunity to grow.
When it comes to adapting and being adaptable, doing those reframing exercises, such as journaling or working with a coach, gives us a starting point. Once we have clarified or begun to flesh out a new outlook or a new understanding of a situation, what we then have to do is choose to act upon that understanding.
It very well may feel unnatural at first. Our instinct may be to treat the situation as we've always treated that situation. But when we have new information, it's really important that new information, new experiences recalibrate the way that we function.
Here's what that looks like. It's really easy to say, "oh, reframe the situation and then live that out." Those are words that sound great, but they're kind of meaningless. What that means in practice is that as you start to feel those feelings of discomfort, and that sense of fear that makes you think, "Oh, I need to run the other direction. This is not how this works. This is not what I'm used to," you give yourself a moment rather than acting on instinct.
You take a step back. Do a couple deep breaths, if you need to. And you ask yourself, "okay. In this situation, what are my core values? What is most important to me here? Is it more important for me to cling to the way that things have always been, or is it ultimately going to be better for me to approach this situation differently and try something new?"
When you step back and give yourself that mental buffer to think through that question of what do I value and what is going to be best from you long term, you'll start to notice that your options aren't as limited as they may have seemed at first. On top of that, you'll also start to recognize that this type of approach shifts your thinking from the immediate discomfort to the long-term. That is super, super important for being more adaptable and for thinking about adaptability.
When you think about the longterm, a couple of really important things happen. First and foremost, it gives you a different sense of perspective. If you're thinking in the longterm, it's easier to recognize that of the dozen or so choices you have in a given situation, most of them aren't going to have that big of a difference in terms of impact on the long run.
It zooms us out and helps us recognize that our current roadblocks, in the grand scheme of things, are a lot smaller than they seem right there in that moment. So there's this shift in perspective at our understanding of the scale of the challenges we face in those moments, when we're choosing to be adaptable.
Beyond that, incorporating this reflection into our own decision-making processes helps us recognize options that we have that we didn't recognize beforehand. So going back to my situation with my dogs: rehoming one of my animals is not something I ever want. It is not something I ever would have chosen. I would not have seen that as a valid option.
I would have said, going off of the way that things have always been, that I would spare no expense, no amount of energy to not have to rehome one of my dogs.
By reflecting on the situation--by examining what other options I have, and what is going on in the big picture of things.
Speaking of which you can buy my book, Big Picture Living at https://shop.selfhimprovement.com. Never gets old Slipping that one in.
When I looked at the big picture. What I realized was that I could invest so much money and time into improving the situation for my dogs at home and ultimately, it wasn't going to favor Ryder. It wasn't going to favor the dog who I feel needs to be more protected because he's older, he's smaller, he's getting a little bit weaker with some arthritis.
No amount of changing my home environment was going to change the fact that because Walker is so much higher maintenance and needier and needs more one-on-one attention, every possible change that I could have made was ultimately going to benefit Walker more than Ryder.
By stepping back and giving myself some perspective and not just going with the way that I've always done things, I recognize that by having Ryder stay with my parent long-term, he was going to have a much higher quality of life. He was going to get so much more love and attention and not have to be sequestered so much. And it was ultimately going to be better for him.
And so even though that was an option, I never would have considered in the beginning, ultimately, it was probably the best option. It probably is the best option. I still have a lot to figure out in this situation, but right now, what I want is not to do things the way that I've always done them. It is to make sure that both of my dogs are as happy and healthy and safe and comfortable as they can possibly be.
I'm coming up on time. I try and keep these episodes around 30 minutes. But I hope that between the drama of my dog saga of the week, that you've been able to glean some insights into adaptability and ways to become more adaptable. Remember: pausing to give yourself some time to reflect and expand your perspective is huge. If you can get good at doing that, it will open so many new doors for you.
And beyond that, being able to recognize what your core values are and how they can be applied in a given situation will really help you narrow down those options and figure out what path forward is going to be best for you in the longterm.
Have a lovely day. And I hope and pray that for all of us, myself included, and all of you listening. That none of us have to break up any nasty dogfights anytime soon. Have a great week, everybody.