Growing up, my family had cats as pets. We weren’t really dog people. But as we got older, my dad decided he preferred dogs. And so, for a while my parents had both. I surprised myself when I later allowed my children (which meant me I eventually realized) to get a dog. I have many friends who have dogs (and cats for that matter). Most of my friends and family have at least one or the other. Regardless, I have always been impressed by people who have well-trained pets (and when I say pets, I mean dogs because we know most often cats do what they want, but I don’t want to disparage those who have well-trained cats. Especially since that is quite a feat).
I know people whose dogs not only obey simple rules, like “come”, “sit”, “stay”, but who can also do tricks, “shake”, “roll over”, “drop it”, etc. I never had a dog that could do that, I was just happy for them to do the basics, and even then, that was a challenge depending on the dog. One of the most impressive accomplishments I’ve witnessed is when the owner puts some type of treat on the ground and has the dog wait patiently to retrieve it, using the command “leave it”. Not only am I’m floored that the animal displays such self-control, but I also feel squeamish and impatient for the dog, thinking “come on, let them have it”.
At the risk of sounding dehumanizing, I’ve found myself using that same technique internally over worries I’ve carried. Many times, in the last couple of weeks, I have said to myself, “Lauren, leave it!” This approach not only makes me chuckle a little, but it’s become a good simple reminder to stop, or let something go, or to just move on. I have a habit of perseverating on things. Maybe you do too. Some things are more important and potentially worthy of “perseveration” or at least contemplation. Others not so much. Yet I find that a lot of brain power and energy can be consumed by over-ruminating. I’m in no way advocating that we don’t take time to process or consider important decisions, I am however encouraging us to determine what areas deserve that much headspace.
Maybe it would be easier if we had a delicious treat waiting to reward us for our determination, patience and/or self-control. I would argue that there is a reward to learning to “leave it”. It may not be Milkbone (ha! No thanks) but it could be a sense of freedom, relief, resolve, peace and/or extra time and space to do something else more enjoyable. That has been my experience with this practice. I’ve sensed many of those listed above, feeling lighter, less anxious. And just like with our four-legged friends, who need to practice the skill to perfect it, I have to do that too. It’s like a muscle I must regularly work, to remind myself to “leave it”. There have been plenty of opportunities to practice and build that muscle this month. Insecurities and my ego have shown up in ways I haven’t felt for some time. Those insecurities were ugly and unwanted, but they were persistent. I had to pay attention and intentionally choose to stop, sit, shake, and drop it. If our furry friends can do it, then I can too!
Some things were easier to release than others. Some days I didn’t need constant reminders and could “let go” on the first command. Other days I had to repeat the words to myself over and over until I could move on. It’s all part of the evolution process as we work to grow in our graciousness with ourselves, just like we would do with our pet. Celebrate the progress and overlook any missteps, trying again with full confidence the next time and the next time.
I hope as we end this year, reflecting on all the ups and downs, that we can celebrate our growth, the steps forward we made in our journey towards our personal well-being. And that we can acknowledge areas for improvement with grace, courage and resolve to keep at it, practicing the skills we’ve developed this year to be better for ourselves and those around us. Just like our love for our non-human family members is unconditional, give that to yourself as well. Take the good forward with you into the new year. As far as any of those pesky heavy energy sucking detractors, just leave it and savor the treat that awaits you.