Category Archives for "Family"

Why can’t the people who care about us understand what we’re feeling?

Soumyaguna asks:

I want to know why do people tend to show their emotions to us and when we try to say what we have to, we are not understood.

Why do people not care about what the other person might be going through, especially when you are not just anyone….you are someone special.

To be clear, I’m tired of explaining myself every time….I’m tired of making others understand what exactly I feel and how.

But deep inside I’m very sad realizing that I actually don’t have even one person in my life who understands me or with whom I can share things, not even my closest ones.

I ‘m tired of this all happening to me all the time….I’m done with this and cannot take anymore, cause it is causing so much harm to my mental peace where I don’t know how to move forward.

Things have just burdened me a lot, with piles of stress and a lot of complaints with close ones as they are the ones whom I care about and always will. But the ignorant attitude just isn’t going down well with me.

Hi Soumyaguna –

         I know you asked about a lot of things, but fundamentally it seems to me that you’re asking about the problem that people aren’t sensitively picking up on what you’re feeling, or even expressing, and seem to need you to spell everything out for them (if they even care then!).

         Of course I don’t know the people in your life, but I will point out something I’ve noticed about humans, which is that you guys have gigantic brains, and they tend to be filled with gigantic amounts of stuff!

         We dogs are relatively simple.  We feel every bit as deeply as humans do, but our thoughts tend to center on a smaller number of items: our safety, food, play, territory, and giving and receiving love.  That’s largely it.  Even the super-smart dogs you see doing amazing tricks in shows have been trained through love and food.

         Meanwhile, you guys have SO MUCH STUFF on your minds.  The same day your heart is broken by someone dumping you, you might have a big exam in a science class, you’re trying to remember all the lyrics to that new song you like, you’re trying to master how to drive your parents’ car, you’re struggling with conflicting feelings about your dad, you’re wondering if you wore the right outfit, and you’re responsible to remember all the different plays on your basketball team.  That’s SO MUCH!

         And my point is that that goes two ways.  When a dog is upset, we’re clear about it.  Maybe we yelp in pain, maybe we whine and lay our head in your lap, maybe we growl and snarl… whatever it is, it’s clear.  But you guys have so many subtler expressions – sarcasm and silence and distance and begging for attention (okay yeah we do that last one too). 

         But when it comes to understanding what another person is feeling, that gets many times more complex.  A person has to focus on someone else (and not that science exam or their jeans), and then read their feelings correctly, and then respond in a way that lets that person know their feelings have been seen in just the right way…

         It’s hard, Soumyaguna.  It’s hard for everyone.  All the time.

         But I’m going to make one big argument about your concern that no one understands.  With all the complexities of the human mind, the amazing astounding unbelievable fact is that people everywhere are mostly just the same.  There’s a reason certain movies or songs or shows are universally popular – it’s because everyone can relate to those feelings. 

         Now you might have people in your life who don’t understand WHY you feel the way you do.  But I promise, there’s no feeling you’ve had that everyone you know hasn’t also had.  Sadness, heartbreak, ecstasy, hilarity, loneliness, alienation… everyone’s been there. 

         So your job – and I know it’s hard – is to find a way to connect to other people’s feelings, even if your reasons are your own.

         Here’s an example.  A guy falls head over heels in love with a woman who doesn’t love him back.  In fact, they don’t share many interests, and she doesn’t treat him well.  She breaks up with him, and he’s devastated.  He goes to see a friend.  The friend gets annoyed with him for acting so glum.  Now we’re looking at just one of those “no one understands” situations, right?

         So our guy explains he’s just been dumped.  The friend says “Good, she was useless!”

         He explains that he loved her.  “Well that’s just stupid.  She treated you horribly!”

         He explains that that’s true, but he still loved every second with her.  “But that’s silly.  You weren’t doing any of the things you like to do!”

         He explains that that’s true too, but that his love for her was bigger than all that, and her leaving makes him feel hopeless and unlovable.

         OH OKAY!  That friend has felt THAT!  And that’s when that friend, if they’re a good friend, says “Oh man I’ve been there!” and tells them THEIR awful story about when they felt that way.  Maybe they have a couple of beers.  Maybe they talk till they start laughing about their awful relationships.  Whatever it is, a line has been crossed.  And our fellow doesn’t feel alone anymore.

         Sure he still misses her, and his heart still hurts, but connecting with that friend helped him move forward.

         But as you see, the friend didn’t get it at first.  It took some work to get there.

         Now Soumyaguna, you may be right about some of the people in your life, that they’re not interested enough in your feelings to care.  If so, those don’t seem to be the best people for you to put your trust and emotions onto.  Better to find someone who’s better at it.

         And you know where I’m going to go with this – there’s NO ONE better for this than a dog!  We may not understand your reasons or your stories, but we connect to every emotion you have, and WE CARE.  We care as much as we do about ourselves! 

         And unlike your human friends, we’re very happy to lick all the tears off your face!

         So please don’t give up on everyone, and give people the chance and the information they need to connect with you.  But if they can’t… just remember, we’re out here, always eager to give you just what you need.

         All my best,

         Shirelle

What to do when your new spouse rebels against you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I’ve been married for a month now.  My wife is a wonderful person & a very generous human being (at least face to face). However unfortunately, we have had too little time together after marriage (it was an arranged marriage & we did not meet before). I wanted to spend some time with her, but due to her exams and classes, she left for the hostel on the 5th day of our wedding. During the 5 days we spent together, she was very formal and reserved (which happens). I did not mind and took things along. I gave my everything to make the transition phase a comfort for her, via calls, messages, travelling for 84KMs and meeting her up occasionally in her university and things like that.  Things got a bit smoother and I was happy. But suddenly one day when she was with me, she left her phone open and went to the restroom. I checked her phone (casually) and I was surprised with so many things I saw: 

  1. She was a regular smoker. 
  2. Almost 10+ Guys continuously messaging her & she is in chat with all of them (maybe friends or I don’t know). The chat was very informal and frank as it was being done for years. 
  3. Her language with her friends (Girls + Guys) was so abusive and dirty that it shocked me.

Well I did not overreact, and just told her in a calm way that this shall not continue as all this has hurt me and is taken bad in our society. You are a wife now and we both represent our respect. What’s done is done and I have no concern about the past, but from now on I request you to cut off the smoking and bad company, as they are good for neither you nor our relationship. Further, I also clarified that I have no further requirements from you for whole life; I will manage everything. But what’s bad is bad and it’s my right to keep you away from bad. She promised me to stop smoking, quit the bad friends, and not be involved in any bad company in future. 

Things got smooth again for a week, but suddenly one day, intentionally on our phone call, she again mentioned that one of her old friends (male) connected with her and invited her to a dinner party. I asked “Only you?”  She said “Yes – only me and I wanna go.” I said, “OK, but let’s conclude the dinner timely and I will pick you up.”  She said, “No need, he will give pick and drop.”  My mood changed again. Then the dinner happened and I felt bad about it  (I did not react but felt hurt as it started around 7pm and ended at 1am). 

Three days later, I took her to dinner in a restaurant. It was going smooth. But suddenly I realized that she was staring at the guy sitting across our table, and the same guy was looking at her too. This happened for 5 to 6 minutes. I stayed positive but my wife suddenly said “Look how cute this boy is!” Dinner ruined, and we left the place in bad mood. 

While on our way back to home, I expressed, “You disrespected my presence there and I felt insulted. It hurt my self-respect that I was in front of you and you were flirting with someone else and throwing me that sentence.”

She started crying. Later she said that she is like this and I have to compromise, and blah blah blah. The tone made it sound like I hurt her instead, like everything is my mistake and I am disturbing the balance of her life. 

I Said “OK, enjoy and continue. If you feel like problem is at my end, I will be careful next time.”

Shirelle, with all this, I am not settled, and my mind is not relaxed in her presence or absence as well. When we are together, she is always on Insta and Snapchat. She is not willing to go back on one single thing which is bad for her and is not putting a single effort to even address me or give me quality time for a night. She is hurting my self-respect continuously and I am feeling down since the 5th day of our marriage. While she has no change in her life. Yes I accepted her for who she is, but smoking is bad in our Asian culture, sitting with boys alone is taken as bad in our culture, not giving me proper time makes me more insecure, and my unaddressed emotional needs are becoming heavy now. Please advise me here. 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

There are many issues in your letter, too many for me to get to specifically.  About cultural differences, about arranged marriages, about smoking (I am not a fan of it!), about what constitutes loyalty and fidelity, all sorts of stuff.

What I want to talk about instead is marriage.  Marriage in general.

Whether a couple has dated for years before, or meets on their wedding day, marriage is a huge step.  It’s a promise to change oneself and devote yourself to this other person forever.  That’s terrifying!

When Handsome brought me home from the pound, I experienced something like that.  But we dogs are programmed to pack loyalty; while I had to learn some rules (and I was a BRAT as a puppy!), I still adjusted fairly quickly, and Handsome did to me too.

But for you guys, with your larger brains and longer lifespan, it’s much harder.  I don’t know your and your wife’s ages, but I’m assuming you’ve been alive for around twenty years at least, without giving a single thought to this other individual.  Now suddenly everything’s supposed to be about that person. 

Well no matter how willing and eager you two are for marriage and family, parts of your brains are going to rebel against this.  It happens to everyone.  And what I see in your letter is that she’s rebelling by behaving independently, and you’re rebelling by demanding control over her.  And it’s pretty easy to see that the more one of you continues doing what you’re doing, the other one will just do what they’re doing more strongly!  You make her stay home, she starts smoking in your bedroom, and so on!

The fact is that, in the law and in the eyes of whatever deity or deities you believe in, you’re married.  But between you and her and me, you aren’t yet.  Marriage takes work, and your work is just barely beginning.

The main job for you two is to start to talk.  A lot.  About what you want, about what matters to you, about what you believe and fear and hate and… all that.

It sounds to me like she is a good woman.  She didn’t spend the night with that male friend, and she didn’t give the guy at the restaurant her phone number, right?!  She’s just, to use a canine metaphor I relate to a lot, straining at the leash.

And you’re a good guy.  You’re trying not to overreact.  But how can you when she keeps pushing your boundaries?

Again, this isn’t a sign that you two are wrong for each other or that you’re failing at marriage.  It’s a sign that YOU ARE JUST STARTING.

After he brought me home, Handsome had to learn what I wanted and feared and hated and loved.  And I had to learn all the same things about him.  You married this woman without even knowing she smoked, or that she had male friends, or that she uses bad language with her best girlfriends.  It’s time, before you try to make or enforce rules, to find out what else you don’t know.  And what are your faults?  What might she want to change in you? 

And then once those are all out in the open, what are you each willing to live with, and what not?  If she goes out with her girlfriends every few weeks and they talk dirty amongst themselves and have a cigarette or two, but with you she’s ladylike and healthy, is that okay? 

Do you know each other’s political beliefs?  You are part of the same religious community, but do you know what each other believes and doesn’t?  Do you know how each of you feels about children?!  Have you gotten to know each other’s families enough to know which members each of you, perhaps, finds it harder to love or be around?!

The greatest adventure of my life has been my relationship with Handsome.  The greatest adventure of your life is going to be this marriage.  Don’t worry too much yet about rules.  Find out who she is first.  And let her know who you are.

And if things work as I hope they do, what you two will really discover is love.  And then, truly, your whole worlds will change.

Wishing you all the very very best,

Shirelle

Is it right to give a new spouse properties of the late one?

K-Xengah asks: My mum passed away in 2014 and I got a step-mum the following year. I was okay with it until I saw her wearing my mum’s wedding rings. I really find that disrespectful. And what hurts is that that’s something I wouldn’t expect from her…or anyone for that matter. We tried talking to her and dad but they didn’t budge and made it seem like we were wrong and those weren’t even mum’s rings until my sister called her and gave her a piece of her mind. And even though the rings are off her fingers, emotionally I don’t think I’m okay and I have barely said a word to her for three days now, because all I can think about is “what type of person does that?”

Please advise.

Hi K-Xengah –

            I certainly understand your concern, but I don’t think I agree with you about who to blame in this.

            I know some people who have a dog as a pet, love that pup like crazy, take perfect care of it all the way including putting their beloved soulmate down when it’s time, and then save the pooch’s collar, leash, water bowl, etc., and give them all to their next dog.  While others find that just grotesque, and say “No, you save those as memories, and give the new dog new things.”

            Which is right?  I can tell you we dogs don’t really care, so I’d say it’s whatever’s right for the person.

            Now I’m not trying to compare your mother to a pet, but the issue is kind of the same.  I agree with you that most people would argue that her wedding rings are hers alone, and no one else ought to wear them (or if anyone should, it’s you or some other descendant – or the woman a descendant marries, which can be quite lovely, “I want you to be my wife, and I’m giving you my great grandmother’s ring as a statement of commitment!”).  But then, your father is sharing so much else that would have been your mother’s – his home, furniture, finances… and biggest of all, you! – that he might see giving her the rings as a statement of love and continuity.  In fact, I could imagine he might even see it as a way of honoring your mother, by saying “Every time I look at my second wife, I’ll be reminded of my first wife, so that I can be faithful in my heart forever.”

            My point is that, just as I wouldn’t blame a dog for wearing a collar a human put onto her, I wouldn’t blame your stepmother for wearing those rings.  It was your father’s choice to give them to her, and his alone.

            Clearly, between your reaction and your sister’s, your father and stepmother got the message that you two find your stepmother wearing those rings unacceptable, and acted accordingly.

            And so, my very strong suggestion is… Let the whole issue go.  Forget about it.

            Again, this was your father’s choice.  Maybe it wasn’t the best one, but you’re not planning on exchanging him for another father; he’s the one you’ve got and you’re sticking with him.  And assuming they stay together, he and your stepmother will be your family for a very long time.  And again, they’ve honored your and your sister’s wishes (though maybe you’d be happier about it if they’d honored your feelings without her having to speak up!).  So my suggestion is to pretend it never happened, and have the family life you deserve.

            Then, maybe a few years from now, you and your sister might talk with your father about what to do with the rings.  Again, maybe one of you should have them, maybe someone else. 

            But in the meantime, you will have honored your mother by speaking up, and you can honor your father by letting him move forward from his mistake.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

            Best,

            Shirelle

Should I be concerned if my child cries too much?

Mqasana asks:

I have a 11-year-old boy who is very troublesome. I love my first born child but he’s very disrespectful, doesn’t like to take bath to stay clean, cries at you when you talk to him, and his school is also trouble, he comes home late every day.
Where can I find a school that can help me and my child?

Hi Mqasana –

I can’t tell enough from your letter, but it sounds possible that your son has an actual emotional disorder.  The disrespect and hating baths are nothing out of the ordinary (both are true of me!), but his crying worries me more. 

I’m thinking less that he needs a new school than that you should ask if his current school if they have a counselor, and if not, if they can recommend one.  You might also consider taking him to a doctor to see if there’s anything physically wrong with him.

All kids go through rough phases, and eleven is a common age for boys to be problems.  But please find out if anything else is going on.  If so, there might be some treatment that can help him.  And if not… I don’t think it’s a new school that you want, but rather maybe a family therapist to help him grow through this phase.

Thanks and good luck!

Shirelle

What to do when they say we shouldn’t meet because they have too much work.

Tuktuk asks:

I started playing basketball in my college.  I saw a senior at a game. He is 3 years ahead of me. I started liking him. Sent him a request on Instagram. Both our teams went for finals but we lost. That day I started talking to him. Talked to him for the entire night before I slept while messaging him. Then he messaged me during my classes and we talked from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. In the conversation I asked him out. He said yes and we went for a date that very day at 7pm. We went to a pond area, because I wanted it to be just us. During that conversation he also asked me whether I want something serious or casual. So I said let’s go with the flow because he’ll be gone from here after 6 months and we both wanted to enjoy. We went out and we sat over there and talked for a while and then made out. After that he dropped me and that night we talked about it. We talked every day after that, some days less than usual because of his shifts at the hospital. He doesn’t let me smoke, every time he says no. After 3-4 days my practical exams started and my first didn’t go well. So I called him up and asked him to meet. He agreed but he said either we make out or smoke. So we made out. After that I was coming down the stairs and slipped and fractured my leg. We still talk but our conversations are sort because of his busy schedule. I don’t know why but I always wanna talk to him. Yesterday, he told me everything will stop for the next 5 months because he has an important paper. I do understand how important that exam is but I felt sad, because I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. He said we can meet sometime but I was sad. I don’t know what’s going on and why is he affecting me so much.

Hi Tuktuk –

            I think I have two immediate answers to your final question.  He’s affecting you so much because he’s really likable and he’s really great!  That, of course, doesn’t answer the big question of what you should do, but it’s a start.

            Let me begin with my own special issue:  I hate smoking.  I’ve had cancer myself, which almost killed me, and I love nothing more than running around, chasing people and dogs and other animals, as fast as I can.  Smoking gets in the way of all that.  It tremendously increases your chances of getting cancer, and even if you don’t get that, it reduces your lung power a lot.

            I’m not saying this to preach at you, but just to say… I like his idea, of less smoking and more kissing! 

            Beyond that, he’s someone you were attracted to at first sight, who has stayed in touch and shown interest in you through lots of long conversations… he just sounds great.

            Now, however, he’s suddenly saying your entire relationship needs to be put on hold because of a big paper he has to do.  And not for two weeks, but for five months!

            Well, my dear friend, it sounds to me like he’s gotten suddenly scared.  Nothing else seems to be wrong, but that can be scary too – if nothing’s wrong in a relationship than it could lead to anywhere, even forever! 

            It’s great that he’s a hard worker, a diligent student.  But no one works on their paper 16 hours a day for five months.  He will need a life.

            So my advice is to tell him you miss him already, that you want to be there for him, and you hope he’ll reach out to you when he needs a break from his studies.  But – and this part is super-important – that you also want to give him just the space he needs to do his work.

            If he sees you as a hindrance to his schoolwork, then that will just feed the part of him that’s scared of where things are going, proving that you’re not the right one for him, not supportive enough, all that. 

            But if he sees you as someone who actually helps his life while he devotes himself to his studies… then wow, you’re just the best thing possible!

            I speak from experience on this one.  Handsome has had numerous girlfriends who got jealous of projects he was working on, and he had to let them go.  But I – who was every bit as jealous – stayed around, being there for him when he could see me, and expressing tons of gratitude for his attention.  I don’t mean you have to let him take you for granted – just prove you’re mature and understanding.

            And if you do, my guess is you’ll see him WAY sooner than five months from now!

            All my best,

            Shirelle

2 Even Though – a guide to gratitude in 2021

            In the United States, where I live, we have a lovely holiday.  Lovely for two reasons.  One is that its only major ritual is cooking and eating a huge meal – huge enough that we pet-pups are pretty much guaranteed leftovers!

            But the other loveliness is the meaning of it.  It’s a day all about gratitude. 

            The legend (and the more historical discoveries that come out, the more it seems to be… yeah… a legend!) is that when a group of religious refugees came here from England in the 1600s, the local people helped teach them how to survive in this harsh new environment.  And to show their appreciation, the English pilgrims set up a great feast, sharing all they’d grown and caught with those who taught them how to do so.

            Now I’m not going to go into the details of what of that is true, or the horrors of what the Europeans later did to those local residents.  But I do love that it eventually resulted in a day of gratitude.  A holiday for everyone.

            Some time back, when The Pawprint was new, I put out a list every year at this time, of what I was grateful for that year.  It might be something exciting and hopeful in international relations, or some music that Handsome played a lot and I liked the sound of, or maybe just something tasty I’d had the day before.  Whatever came to my mind.

            But as optimistic and cheerful a pup as I am, creating such a list would be hard this year!  Everything I can think of to be thankful for has a darker underside, a “Yeah But.”  Happy about a beautiful day?  Yeah, but climate change is taking those away.  Happy about a dear friend?  Yeah, but what about the ones you’ve lost to this awful pandemic?

            But I refuse to sit in resentment and misery!  That’s just not what dogs are about!

            So instead, this year I’m going to offer an “Even Though” list of Thanksgiving.  Not denying what’s wrong, but focusing on what I’m thankful for. 

            You see, I find that, when we do that, it makes us see yet more to be thankful for, and helps us create a world more worthy of that gratitude.

            And that creates hope.  The most powerful force I know, next to love.

            Here Goes:

            EVEN THOUGH the Glasgow Climate Change Conference didn’t come up with nearly enough solutions to our problems, more was agreed upon than ever before, and directions were set for future improvements.

EVEN THOUGH variants and fear have kept the stupid Coronavirus raging for another year, medical discoveries, international assistance, and growing awareness and knowledge keep us moving toward a new day of embracing and enjoying each other fearlessly again.

EVEN THOUGH the political system in my country is rife with forces keeping improvements at bay, the horrific top-down corruption and murderous neglect of the past four years has ended, and good people are able to at least try to make things better.

            EVEN THOUGH Handsome’s work keeps him away too much, he still gives me treats every time he leaves, which eases my heartache.

            EVEN THOUGH the stupid virus has still reduced attendance at plays, movies, concerts, and sports events, they’re all coming back, spitting in the face of the disease that tried to destroy them.

            EVEN THOUGH, on that note, most people aren’t able to see it on the big screen, In the Heights is a really fun movie that makes pretty much everyone who sees it happy and want to dance.

            EVEN THOUGH it’s still hard for young people to meet up freely, love continues to bloom and offer hope to all.

            EVEN THOUGH it’s still hard for anyone to meet up freely, technology has allowed for virtual face-to-face meetings that have kept humans at least somewhat connected (though we dogs miss smelling everyone SO MUCH).

            EVEN THOUGH international trade is blocked up in so many ways, most of us can still find something to eat, or ways to help feed those who can’t.

            EVEN THOUGH everyone is living in fear, and many get sick or even die every day from this awfulness, people still find joy and reasons to love life every second.

            And toughest of all to say, EVEN THOUGH we have lost beings we love and will always feel the pain of that loss, that pain comes because of the beautiful memories and the profound ways those now-angels have affected and changed us forever. 

            And maybe that last one is the greatest gratitude of all.

            Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.  And may next year bring countless reasons for gratitude that don’t require “Even Though”s!

            Like my gratitude for you!

            Love and Thanks as always,

            Shirelle

What to do when your boyfriend wants you to loan money to his family

K-Xengah asks: Hi Shirelle,

Once upon a time my relationship was great. I had an understanding partner who respected me and was always there for me. But things just slowly started changing ever since he started having intense family drama. He’s in the relationship but not there. He always wants me to be there for him but can’t be there for me. It feels like he is there for everyone else but me. And what stresses me out is that he never understands when I can’t help him out with something. Sometimes it just feels like I always have to be ready to always be more there for him than I am there for myself.  For instance today he was supposed to send money to one of his relatives but was short of a certain amount, and because of that his family kept putting him under pressure to send the money. So he asked me for a small top up, which I didn’t have. And he wanted me to credit from someone, and I made it clear to him that it wasn’t a guarantee I would find the amount because I already owe people money because of him. And I expected him to understand. He told me to call him at a certain time to tell him if I got the money but I didn’t do that cause I was still trying to find the money, and failed at it. Not knowing he had gone to get money from some drug dealer which “I was supposed to help him pay back” without me knowing or asking me. And now he gets upset with me because I don’t have the money when he didn’t even inform me of his decision in the first place.  I’m just really tired of this stagnancy and these issues. They are emotionally draining. Please advise.

Hi K-Xengah –

I have to say, my feelings about this guy changed throughout reading your letter.  At first my sense was that this was a great guy who cared about his family and you often felt “second place” in his consideration; that happens a lot, and there are very good ways to deal with it.  Then it got to being about money, and that made me a bit concerned; “he wants her to loan his family money?  I’m not so sure about this…”  Then it got to you saying you were already in debt because of money you’d given him, and then this whole thing with him getting money from a drug dealer and saying you’ll pay them back?

My opinion of him has turned completely.

My friend, the issue here isn’t about his family or how he deals with them.  It’s about how he treats you.   No matter how much pressure his family puts on him, it’s unfair of him to ask you to come up with the money.  And any guy who’d take a loan from a criminal and give them your name to pay it back is my idea of complete bad news.  All the way.

I realize that in the past he was great, but for whatever reasons there might be, now he’s not.  My advice – harsher than I usually give – is for you to let him know that your relationship is off for now, and that you don’t even want to hear from him until he’s paid the drug dealer off.  Then you two can talk about creating a better relationship – which likely does mean he’s going to need to tell certain family members that they need to find other sources of cash than him. 

But that’s a longer-term issue for him.  Right now I want you safe.  And as great a guy as he might be in other ways, or have been in the past, he’s breaking the one biggest rule any boyfriend has, which is to protect his partner from harm.  He’s putting you into harm instead.  And that just has to end.

Okay, enough of a barking rant on my side.  You said that you’re tired of the stagnation, while I’m responding to fear of you being in danger.  Both are true, and you deserve better, and my guess is that your boyfriend knows that.

Help him be better.  It’ll be good for both of you.

All my best,

Shirelle

4 Number 100! – the relevance of math today

It’s my 100th Pawprint!  Isn’t that exciting!

Actually it means nothing.  No more than #97 or #102.  I’m very proud to have kept it going this long, but the big deal about the number 100 is just that humans have ten fingers!  If you don’t count the dew-claw higher up our legs, we have four toes on each foot, so we look at eight on our forelegs.  So should I have gone all celebratory when The Pawprint had its 64th issue?!

But this all leads me to thinking about something important. 

I’ve been thinking about the meaning of 100.  And the main thing I come to is…  geez I’m a dog and don’t even quite understand what a hundred is!  I just keep doing what I like and Handsome tells me that’s how many it is, but… that it!

You see, dogs can’t do math, but people can.  And mathematics (and its higher forms like Algebra and Calculus) have enabled the human race to all sorts of technological achievements, from movies and television, where you can watch that actor William Shatner pretend like he’s been sent into space, to rocket science, which just last week sent… um… that actor William Shatner into space!

But even so, with all your splendid achievements, I so often see humans not grasp the basics of math, the stuff you’re supposed to learn before you’re thirteen.

(Now for what it’s worth, I, like many smarter dogs, have actually achieved some mathematical calculations.  Stepping out of my house and seeing a squirrel, I used to run straight at it – while it would run to a tree and get away from me.  I figured out over time that if I run for the tree instead, I have a better chance of catching him, since he’s going to run there by instinct even though I’m headed that direction.  Cool, huh?  Handsome tells me this is because I innately understand something called the Pythagorean Theorem, but I prefer to argue that we dogs invented the field called Tree-gonometry!)

So let’s start with one of my pet peeves.  Ever since we were in a bad car accident some years back, Handsome has insisted on putting me in a harness whenever we drive on a freeway.  I hate it – it’s hard for me to move around, it’s uncomfortable, and… okay, yeah, it saved my life in that accident.

            But that’s just me not going through a window.  What about you guys?  Well, safety organizations say that, in crashes, seat belts save lives about 50% of the time.  Now I can see you saying “Well that’s not that much.  And car crashes that bad are pretty rare.  And I hate putting that belt on.  So I don’t think I will.”

            Wrong!  See, that annoying belt doesn’t just save your life.  It can keep you from getting injured too.  Or getting thrown out of your seat, which could make a crash way worse.

            And when that awful crash occurs – when that big truck is bearing down on you, or your driver falls asleep at the wheel, or when your car suddenly spins out across a highway (which is what happened to us!)… I’ll bet you’ll be glad you took a 50% improvement in survival chances!

            But one question I hear a lot – what about when seat belts kill?  Isn’t it true that someone trapped in a burning car, or whose car has fallen into a lake, might make it out more easily if they didn’t have a belt on? 

            Well yes.  And about a half of one percent of crashes involve fire or water.  But your odds of keeping conscious in such an accident are far better if you are wearing a seat belt.  And nobody unconscious figures out how to get out of a burning or flooding car!

            “But,” I hear one of you yell, “What about air bags?  Don’t they keep us safe when they inflate?”  Actually, no.  Air bags are set at a certain height assuming the passenger will be in a seat belt!  If you’re not belted in, that inflation might actually break your neck!  (That’s also a good reason to remember to keep your dog in the back seat, always.  You might like the feel of the pup being up front with you, but in a crash, their chances are awful up there).

            So did you see my math?  50% survival, .5% fire and water?  Cool, huh?

            Okay, here’s another.  In 2016, in the U.S., alcohol-impaired driving figured in 28% of traffic deaths, and 17% of those involving a child.  Now that’s more interesting.  “So you’re saying that 72% of traffic deaths, and 83% of those involving a child, had only sober drivers?!  Well those are sizable majorities!  So doesn’t that mean we’re better off drinking and driving, rather than not?!”  No, and that’s why I’m saying you need to use better math!

            The vast majority of drivers aren’t drunk.  About 18% of drivers admit to having driven “buzzed” in the past year, and obviously most of them drive most of the time not in that state.  So let’s guess some people lie and some people drink and drive a lot, and so let’s say that at any time 5% of drivers are over the limit (I’m making this part up; I imagine the actual number is far smaller).  Then that means an impaired driver is about six times more likely to be in a fatal car accident (5×6 = 30, close to 28) than a sober one. 

            I’m too goofy all the time to say that a person doesn’t have the right to enjoy a drink that makes them feel as good as me.  But math tells you – be careful when you do.  I’d hate for you to be arrested for it, but even more for you to hurt someone and feel horrible the rest of your life about it. 

            Math can’t prevent mistakes, but it sure can reduce them if you use it correctly.

            All right, another math question I get asked about often:  When is a good age to start dating, or marry?  Well, the first one has two answers.  A legal one and an emotional one.

            The legal one depends on where you live.  Find out what the laws are – what can teenagers do and not do?  And are there laws about the difference in ages (such as if an 18-year-old dates a 15-year-old)?  Getting in trouble for these can be horrible for the rest of your life, even labeling you a child molester just for dating someone who looks older than they are!  So be super careful about that one!

            But emotionally?  I’m a big fan of holding on to childhood and its innocence for a long time.  And that when the joys and excitements of romance begin, taking things S L O O O O W !   Why?  Because you’re only young once!  There are so many delightful “stops along the way,” as the old song says, so enjoy each one.  And let yourself mature at your own rate; don’t let someone push you into something before you’re ready.  I’m not anti-romance in any way; rather I’m saying to savor it as it comes.  You’ll be amazed at how many old married couples, who have had the ability to do anything they felt like for decades, really treasure a walk holding hands.  Why not learn what they know?

            But marriage?  Oh now I get to go mathematical on you!  In the U.S. (which mostly doesn’t have arranged marriages), 48% of those who marry before the age of 18 will divorce within ten years.  While only half that many divorce if they marry after age 25.  Now maybe you say you don’t care about divorce.  Well you’ll care when the lawyer bills come.  And if you have to split custody of children with someone who disliked you enough to break up with you! 

But maybe you say “Oh but that won’t be us; we’re truly in love and know we’ll stay together like those other 52%.”  And all I can say to that is that every single one of the 48% who divorced believed they were in it forever too.  (And some of that 52% didn’t divorce because one of them died!  Ouch!)

            Okay, then here’s another one that I think is really important.  An adult German shepherd runs about 30 miles per hour, and an adult human runs, on average, between five and seven mph.  The fastest man ever measured just over 23 mph.  So when considering doing something like climbing into a yard or sneaking into a home with a dog, DO THE MATH!  Unless it’s a Maltese, you can’t outrun that pooch, so do the Algebra:  How long will it take you to run the distance you need to, and how long will it take the dog to catch you?  If the answer to the first isn’t well shorter than the second… it’s a very very bad idea!

            And last but by no means least… the area where I’ve seen the most bad math ever is in  dealing with this insufferable virus!  Every day I hear people say that because someone who wore a mask died, masks don’t work, or because someone who’d been vaccinated got sick, they’re fake medicine.

            The statistics are so simple, though.  Here’s the deal: if ANYTHING was 100% effective against Covid, we’d know about it and someone would be getting very very rich off of it.  But just as with colds and cancer, humans have not found a perfect preventative or cure (Yet!). 

            In the meantime, here’s what we know.  The vaccines out there reduce a person’s chances of picking the virus up from someone else by 50-95% (depending on age, health, and the particular vaccine).  And if a person gets it, vaccines reduce their chance of passing it on by about 50% — and reduces their chance of hospitalization by 64%, and dying of it by 70-90% (depending on their age). 

            Does that mean a vaccine is 100% effective?  No of course not, no more than seat belts or driving sober.  But it improves your chances, and those of people around you, incredibly.

            Now you may have health reasons why you don’t want to take a vaccine.  That’s fine.  But if you don’t – what else are you doing to stop this thing’s ridiculous spread?  Staying distant?  Keeping yourself as healthy as possible?  Or maybe wearing a mask, which reduces your chance of spreading by 70%!

            In other words, my dear friends, here’s the bad news: this whole thing has been preventable!  Sure, it began with lots of confusion and mistakes, but if everyone had masked and distanced a year and a half ago, you would have had it almost completely under control, and then the vaccines would have eradicated it at once. 

            Just think about that.

            If people had just done the math… SO MUCH would have been different!

            But it’s not too late.  You, just you, that 1/7,000,000,000th of people today, can make a difference.  As with so many of the gifts that your humanity gives you, math enables you to make great decisions that help everyone, and dumb decisions that make the world worse.  At no time in history has the human race been more prepared and able to handle a new disease than in this past year.  And while much of what you’ve done has been astounding, you could have done so much better.

Because in the end, all the math ever discovered isn’t as important as the most basic number: One.  The one person you love who gets sick.  The one person left alone by a loss.  And the one person most important to me right now:  You. 

You see, here’s what is amazing about this situation: What you do for yourself in this regard helps everyone else.  And what you do for others helps you.

And that’s more true, and more frightening, and more beautiful, than any math equation ever discovered.

Take it from an expert tree-gonometrist!

What to do when you hate your father and think all men will be like him

Soumyaguna asks:

My problem is somewhat serious and hard to handle.

It’s about my father

Father has always been a Hero figure for almost every kid since their childhood reflecting strength and having a back every time and Mother being the righteous figure of nature, morals and ethics.

But for me these figures didn’t last long, not even 10 years.

I don’t know why my men are so dominating. My father may be a good father, but he was never a good MAN, husband or anything.

He became my example of how men are from the start, which I used to hate a lot.

Later I tried a lot to change my perception and try to understand him, but whenever I try to do so, I end up releasing new facts about him which leads me to hate him even more. 

This man has always tortured my mother mentally, hurts her, disrespects her. Whenever it has been in front of me, I have always stood by her like a pillar and yelled at him a lot of times. 

But every time he starts off idiot drama by saying, “yes when I’ll die, everything will be sorted.”

I’m always alone in this fight.

My mother doesn’t speak up for herself fearing maybe he’ll harm himself and things will go worse.

My elder sister also keeps mum fearing what if they part their ways.

But I’m not okay with any of this, why will she suffer every time. Whenever he is angry, frustrated, he takes it out on mother. He disrespects her so freaking much.

And above all this he talks nicely about mother’s friends, he kind of flirts with them too.

such an insult he is for me. 

I’m ashamed that this man is my father

I want to take a way out, I don’t know what to do.

I want my mother happy, I even want my father to actually die.

Please help me in taking out a solution which will be good for everyone.

Hi Soumyaguna –

I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.  In a way you’re dealing with something everyone has to go through, but you’ve got an especially awful case of it.

Children and Puppies are born programmed to trust and idolize the humans that care for them.  They believe those adults are perfect, because if they don’t, the world is too terrifying for them to survive. 

In dogs, this belief might last an entire lifetime.  In humans, though, we count on it going away eventually.  This usually happens in the teen years, when humans start questioning all sorts of authority – their teachers, their religions, their governments… and especially their parents.  We hear about it all the time, teens rebelling for no reason, driving parents nuts with their sullenness or anger.  “It’s a phase.”  Right?

Well in your case, no, it’s more than a phase.  You have some real problems about your father, and about your parents’ marriage.  And it drives you nuts that you haven’t been able to solve them.

And here’s the awful news.  Most likely, you can’t. 

Your mother has chosen to stay in this relationship, for whatever reasons she has.  And whether it’s due to his creating fear of him hurting himself, or just because she feels she doesn’t deserve (or can’t get) something better, that has kept this dynamic going.

But you do have a job here.  The job every person has in their family.  The job of making a life that’s better than the one you were born into.

In many cases, parents work terribly hard at jobs they hate so they can send their children to school to get better and better-paying jobs.  In others, parents dream of their kids living healthier lives than theirs. 

In your case, your job is to find – and create – better relationships than this. 

I promise you, all men aren’t like your dad.  (At the very least, I can tell you that my human, Handsome, is kind and generous to a fault, especially to me!)  There are men out there who are kind and nurturing and loyal and want nothing more than to make their partners and children happy. 

In fact… are you sitting down?…  MOST men are like that!

Your job – and it might be a lifelong struggle – will be to build relationships with men that aren’t like your parents’ marriage.  It won’t be easy.  You’ll find a guy who seems great and then for some reason starts acting just like your dad.  Can you change him?  Or do you have to leave?  You’ll have to decide those things for yourself.  (And just to be clear, even if you end up having romantic/sexual relationships with women instead, you will still have many other kinds of relationships with men – as coworkers, as neighbors, as family, maybe your sons!)

But no matter what, I promise you, a better life lies ahead.  And as you create it, your mother will watch you and, even if she can’t say it in words, her heart will be so happy to see what you accomplish.  And who knows, maybe over time your creating a better life might even inspire your dad to change his ways, at least a little.

It’s happened before!

So go forward with hope and love.  You can do this!

All my best,

Shirelle

Is it okay to prefer to be alone?

Scarlett4 asks:

I am taking care of myself, but sometimes I feel like not to talk to anyone, just simply be in my company? Is it bad that I am loving this phase of staying alone manifesting and doing things of my own?

Hi Scarlett4 –

My friend, no one has ever been more social than your friend Shirelle.  I love my human friends, my doggy friends, and strangers of all species.  To me, waking in the morning is an invitation to excitement, my chance to meet, to interact, to jump on and lick everyone possible!

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t also love time alone.  Sitting in the yard watching for squirrels, or just sleeping under a tree.  Or, my greatest love, spending long afternoons and evenings with Handsome, watching him work or playing catch or taking walks or just lying nearby, loving feeling him close at hand.

Everyone needs both – time with others and time alone.  And no two beings are exactly alike.  Some people are called Extroverts, because most of their energy is about (and created by) others.  While others are called Introverts, as they are usually happiest (and charged up by being) alone.  There is nothing better or worse about either.  Politicians and salespeople pretty much have to be extroverts, while authors and composers have to be introverts. 

The only thing wrong with spending your time alone, my friend, is if you do it so much that you lose the ability to be comfortable with others.  So do spend some time in the company of other people.  But if you mostly like being alone, and are productive and happy when you are – no one has the right to tell you that’s wrong. 

And this puppy sure won’t try!

All my best,

Shirelle

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