Twilight Years Bring New Challenges

 

“He didn’t mean it,” I’ve found myself saying at least a dozen times in the past several days.

Our family pet, the little bundle of fur we selected from a litter of puppies over a dozen or so years ago, is now in his senior years.

I only need to look to the bandage on the back of my hand to realize this chronological fact.

Shelties are a sweet, loving breed known for always wanting to please their owners. As a matter of fact we loved our first one so much that when the time came up to invite another dog into our family, the decision was already made in our hearts. We love the breed as much as they seem to love us.

But earlier this week he showed his age, and in an act of confusion and self-defense, nipped at my hand – taking a gash out of the back.

As of late he’s getting slower in his motions, his hearing not the same, and according to the veterinarian, his eyes are now beginning to cloud (a common trait in the breed as they age).

As dog lovers I’m sure we all share a deep love for our pets – allowing them into a place in our heart reserved for very few. Even scientist marvel at how and why humans and dogs connect in a nearly perfect relationship. In some odd, cosmic way, dogs become a part of our lives like no other.

That is why this week, when he nipped at me, deep down inside I understood.

I’d called to him to come to the front door so I could let him out that morning. After several calls I went up the stairs to find him against the bed, acting a bit confused. I walked over to him, called again and reached down with my hand to get him to follow me.

Like I said earlier, dogs and their owners, share a surprisingly intuitive relationship.

Reaching down I noticed his normally attentive ears laying back and him leaning away from me as I approached. Something just did not feel right – and I knew it. Right then, as my mind began processing the signals and the lights and buzzers began going off in my mind, he lurched forward and bit the back of my hand.

Normally, when in pain, I’d react angrily — a somewhat natural reaction I’m sure. But in this instance, something unexpected happened: I felt sorry for him and what he’d done. I’ve known him from weeks after his birth, witnessed a lifetime of his actions and reactions to life around him, he was not being himself.

I calmly walked downstairs, dressed the wound and then returned to him. I should’ve known better, I thought to myself. All the signs were there – the confusion, the odd reaction to my approach, the ears flat in a submissive, threatened position.

A few minutes later I was back upstairs and this time he greeted me with slow, apologetic waging of his tale as he approached. He knew he’d done something wrong, but didn’t know what or why. My friend, the one I’ve known all these years, however, was back from his temporary state of fog.

Later that day I found the two of us sitting on the floor, my arm around him and he with his head on my lap. Quietly I told him I loved him and understood. Looking back up at me, his ears back in the normal position, he said all he could with his eyes.

I love him and will be by his side throughout the twilight of his years. After all, he’s my friend like no other.

 

– 30 –

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Keeping a Watch on Technology

 

The other day I read an article about how, after being left for dead, younger people were rediscovering the use of wearing a watch.

Now this might not seem like big deal to most of us, particularly those of us who’ve strapped a watch around our wrist for the better part of our lives, scientist are impressed (or amused). According to their research certain portions of younger people are literally finding wearing a watch as a tool to better managing their time.

This is particularly interesting in the face of everyone becoming increasingly – and voluntarily – tethered to technology at every turn.

Apparently the growing movement for younger people to acquire a watch is their way to keep their so-called ‘smartphones’ from controlling their lives. While there is also an element of fashion rooted in this trend – the urge to be different will always exist in youth – some are actually beginning to appreciate the singularity of checking your watch can be verses taking out your smartphone.

And darned if they are right.

Think of what happens when you take out your smartphone to check the time. What do most of us do next? Simply put it away? No, at least for me, I’ll use the time to gently active the screen and check my email or maybe a social media notification. Before I know it, my simple act of checking the time is consuming minutes instead the few seconds checking my watch would’ve taken. In a way, checking my phone for the time generally leads me down the proverbial rabbit’s hole of curiosity.

Recently I was sitting in a friend’s office recently when he made a similar observation.

In his words, he explained how he thought people were becoming tethered to their technology and allowing it to dictate how they used their time. Phones vibrating in coat pockets, emails dinging for attention across the room – each one demanded attention like a spoiled three-year old child.

After our meeting, as I walked down the street back to my office, I found myself demonstrating he was absolutely right. Rounding the corner of the block, I instinctively reached into my pocket to grab my phone and check the time. After getting the information I needed, I soon found myself being sucked down the rabbit hole and checking my email. After quickly glancing over the dozen that had arrived during my meeting with my friend, I closed the email app only to notice a little red indicator a social media app. Boom, before I knew it, I – and my attention – was needlessly sucked down the hole where I’d for minutes.

The next morning I did something unusual – I put on a watch with a purpose.

Granted I love watches, but for the most part I’ve considered them an accessory for the better part of the past decade. Cool to look at, but destined to be relegated to the technology scrap heap.  But now I find myself enjoying the simplicity of purpose and how, if I’ll allow it to do its job, it can actually help put me back in control of my life.

 

– 30 – 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies Still Flying After 25 Years

Twenty-five years ago this weekend I married my girlfriend.

Time can play tricks on you. While my brain assures me that two and half decades is a long time, my heart struggles to distinguish between last week and a decade ago. If anything, love seems to eliminate any semblance of time passing.

Today we have two adult children, a dog and mortgage. But beyond that, I feel as if I’m still hanging out with my girlfriend. To this day she can still give me a case of the butterflies in my stomach when she enters into a room — just like when I first spotted her in a college history class.

My aunt once told me “always make sure to remember to hold onto the feeling of being two crazy kid in love.” Her marriage, one of the most romantic and beautiful relationships you’d ever see, only helped to underscore she’d nailed the formula.

And yes, I am still crazy for the I nervously asked out to lunch one day as class.

We were – and still are – two very different people. But inside we found we shared a good number of specific core values for not only then, but also the future. And based on those – and the fact we were crazy about each other – we soon found ourselves standing at the alter taking the big plunge.

Certain dates on the calendar seem to dislodge memories more than others – birthdays, holidays, or maybe even the first day of Spring. But for me, nothing compares to the day I married my girlfriend and never looked back.

Yes, this weekend twenty-five years ago I finished up midterms and drove across town to our wedding rehearsal. And the next day, the most beautiful girl I ever saw walked down the aisle and into my life forever. I can still feel the softness of her skin as our hands joined; I can see the moisture of emotion in her eyes as we faced the minster. Yes, those moments are still that clear to me.

But along the way I’ve learned to listen to others and appreciate their wisdom.

Marriage, they say, is not about liking the same foods, same sports teams or even being together every waking moment. Marriage, much like the literal term, is about melding two different properties together and creating a singular entity. And in the physical marriage of two different properties, the little DNA making each unique still remains. The resulting outcome – if done right – ends up creating something much larger, stronger, and interesting.

Marriage, therefore, is not forging – the act of where one item is created under extreme pressure to shape and conform to a single mold. Marriage is more akin to making a giant pot of gumbo and recognizing and respecting of the difference that make the end result better. While there is a recipe, no two pots will every taste exactly the same.

Yes, I married my girlfriend – the fact she is now my wife is just a mere technicality.

– 30 –

Learning To Get The Ball Rolling

Success in life is many times as easy as learning to getting the ball rolling in the first place.

I wrestled with shyness most of my life – and to a certain extent still do. To anyone who has never felt the pain of such a powerful anxiety, let me tell you the affliction can render you into a state of paralysis like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You know you what to do, but anxiety stops you dead in your tracks.

In anxiety’s grip the simple act of taking the first step might as well be the equivalent of jumping out of a airplane without a parachute.

But somewhere along the line a friend inadvertently clued me into conquering the potent grip shyness held over me.

In an odd way around to the subject, he explained the power of compound interest. Yes, we were talking about money – not shyness. But in life, you never know where or when the light bulb between your ears will ignite.

My friend was trying to help someone understand about how to invest a modest sum of money and put it away until one day later in life when he might need it.

“The first step in the most difficult,” he said. “Put the money away in an interest-bearing account or investment and let time do the work for you. Nothing works like compound interest.”

Yes, as he spoke about the magic of growing one’s money, my brain sparked to life of how this applied to me in painful social situations.

If you’ve ever found yourself playing the role of the shy person standing alone in the corner of the room during a noisy party, you know what I’m getting at here. You brain tells you to go up and speak with someone – anyone – but your feet don’t move. Anxiety holds a powerful grip over not only your emotions, but also your physical body.

But one day I thought of my friend’s investment advice – about how the most difficult step is making that very first move: put the money away in an investment tool and get the ball rolling. Think about the result, not the pain of the moment.

Step by step, I taught myself to focus on the positives of what can result from walking across the room and extending my hand to a stranger. Soon I found myself meeting very interesting people I’d never meet standing alone in the corner of the room. The result, I learned, dramatically outweighed the brief moment of pain.

Soon I found myself applying this very same attitude to everything from picking up the phone, sending a letter or making an appointment. Once I put the brief moment of pain behind me, the entire experience began to take on a life of it’s own — rolling magically along.

To this day when I walk into a room filled with strangers, anxiety still holds a grip on me, encouraging me to do nothing. But today I realize once I get past the temporary pain of the moment, the benefits far outweigh those split seconds of pain I feel as my feet move across the room to make a new friend. All I had to learn was how to get the ball rolling in the first place.

– 30 –