once upon a time, I had an experience with a dear friend that felt challenging to the core, and I was feeling rocked and unhappy. the way I handle my upset is to walk in the woods and talk it out with myself, until I find my center. I was out walking, trying to process why I was feeling so much hurt and unease. just as I started to understand what was up…a little dog ran out into the windy road in the woods, barking loudly. this is no big deal – I walk all the time and encounter dogs and coyotes and wildlife. what felt like a big deal was that this dog kept getting more frenzied and started darting in at my legs and snapping, and the loud noises I make to deal with dogs off leash weren’t getting me any space to walk on by. just then, a car drove by, almost hitting the dog as it lunged at my left leg…and that’s when the owner appeared up the hill.
let me say here that I was not at my best in that moment. I was so triggered and hurt by what had happened with this friend, and so angry that this dog was growling and barking and lunging (and, man, I had to be carrying some funky energy with me, can’t say I blame him), and then overwhelmed by this car in the middle of an already charged interaction. I yelled up at the dog owner that his dog was in the street, barking and lunging at me, that he’d almost been hit by a car, and he needed to come get his dog.
the dog owner was upset, the dog was going nuts, I was upset, and we yelled back and forth at each other for a minute. nothing horrible, per se, but we were both angry at each other. it is HUGELY unlike me to yell – ever – and I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. as we parted ways, me continuing on my walk with the dog still lunging at me, he yelled after me, ‘don’t make such a drama about it!’
that stung. here I was, getting up in my ‘mighty righty’ about how dramatic this challenging situation with my friend felt, and I was in the middle of the street yelling and…causing drama. ouch!
I was really adrenalized, shaking and crying after the interaction (I’m super sensitive, and anger scares me), and kept walking. it felt like Big Medicine, and as I walked I tried to understand what had just happened and what was up for me in the midst of all that emotion. what got really clear this little dog showed up to help me look at how unsafe I was feeling, both with him and with my friend.
with more clarity now, feeling the grace of the medicine, I considered what to do. still shaking and tearstained, I resolved to turn around (I almost didn’t), and apologize to the man for my behavior. it took a driveway or two, and a conversation with a friendly neighbor, to find the right house again. that driveway was steep (!) and I was out of breath and scared, as I stood knocking at this man’s door.
he opened the door, immediately recognized me, and I introduced myself. I told him that I’d been out walking because something really painful had happened for me, that I was walking to try to work it out when I met his little friend. I shared that when his dog came at me barking and lunging, I felt afraid, and reacted in fear and anger. I spoke that this isn’t who I usually am (great heavens!) and that I was so, so sorry to bring that into his day.
he was super gracious and kind, introducing himself as well with his (now calm) dog who turned out to be really sweet, and shared that he was quitting smoking and having a hard moment, too. we both apologized a lot, wished each other well, and thanked each other with full and open hearts. it was humbling, beautiful, hard, and ultimately an amazing experience.
it took the rest of the walk for me to sit with the medicine that had been delivered. I’m writing about it this because – even if it seems like a small courage to go introduce myself to a stranger and apologize for my unskillful behavior in a hard time – it was a big deal for me, and I had a (messy) chance to be what I want to be in the world – to move out of contraction and ‘being right’…into openness and connection.
here’s to being what we want to see in the world. for me, that’s being open, vulnerable, generous, kind, compassionate, caring, in action, humble, curious, honest, and doing the hard thing even when it scares me. many thanks to that beautiful man and his little dog…and to you for being what YOU want to see in our shared world.
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