Category Archives for "Life Skills"

The Discomfort Zone … choosing your life path

A few weeks ago, Handsome was talking with a friend about a tough situation they were in, and they said they knew they needed to get out of their “Comfort Zone” and fix it.  Then they took a pause, and said, “But wait, I’m not comfortable at all!” 

We often hear about “Comfort Zones.”  Situations that are easy to stay in, while we know we’d be better off if we made the difficult choice to get out of them.  For me, lots of my learning as a puppy fit this – it might be comfortable to lie on the forbidden couch or pee inside the house, but I was better off improving my behavior!  Humans might find a situation like staying in their parents’ home, staying in a go-nowhere job, or avoiding a difficult conversation to be Comfort Zones.

But what I see so often is what I’ll call DIScomfort Zones!  Situations one stays in that make them actively miserable. 

For example, if you have nice parents who treat you well, and it’s comfortable to live with them although you know you need to move out and start to live your own life, that’s a Comfort Zone.  But if you’re staying with parents who abuse, shame, and harass you… you’re in a Discomfort Zone. 

In dealing with my Pack members, where I see this most often is young relationships.  Whether friendships or romances, people will stay with others they might not think the best of or get the most out of, just because that’s the way things are.  And really, that’s fine, until something changes.  But it breaks my heart to see you guys stay with people who treat you badly.  Who ignore you, who put you down (not in fun ways), who cheat on you, who blame you, who make you feel horrible about yourself.

Either zone requires strength and hope to leave.  But with a Discomfort Zone, I also think it’s really important to look at the question of Why:  What has kept you there?  What do you get from it, and what’s so scary about being out of it that you’ve stayed?

In the relationship question, what is it that keeps you with those friends, or in that romance?  Is it love, or is it maybe a deep-seated fear that you’re not good enough for someone else?  That no one else is going to accept you?  That this crumminess is as good as you’ll ever get?

And if that’s the case, then I want to challenge you to do one thing for me.  I’m not telling you what decisions to make in your life, but I do just want you to look at that question anew.  Really ask yourself – Is This True?

If you’re thinking no one else could love you, ask yourself why you have that belief.  Who told you that?  What about you is so unlovable?

Now I need to take a little pause here:  If this is just that you’re feeling your relationship isn’t good enough because the other person doesn’t have a billion euros or look like Ana De Armas, that’s another story.  You might be correct to think you’re not that very rare individual who’ll land someone with gifts such as those.  But if you’re thinking no one worthy could love you, or even like you, please look over your past.  Have you had other friends?  Has someone else been interested in you?  And if so, doesn’t that prove that you don’t need to stay in your Discomfort?

You see, the superpower of Comfort Zones and Discomfort Zones is in their telling you “Don’t think too much about this!”  If you’re staying out of shape because it’s easier to sit around watching YouTube than to go for a run, that’ll work until the day you start wanting to be stronger and fitter so much you turn that iPad off.  And if you stay sedentary it so much that you start having back problems and can’t stand what you see in the mirror, then it’s even more so: Once you ask yourself about the choice you’re making, you’ll start making a different choice!

Now again, I’m never going to argue anyone out of a true, considered choice to stay in an uncomfortable situation.  The selflessness that leads one to a life of austere help to others, the nobility of defending your homeland against attackers, the deep love of taking care of ailing family members… these are virtues, not flaws.  I bow to you for them.

But even with those, it’s good to step back and look at your choices.  Because maybe doing so will help remind you of just how great you are!  (I’m happy to do it too, but can’t be there with you all the time!)

Life offers joys, comforts, discomforts, and horrors.  Everyone’s.  All I’m pushing on you this month is to do what I do when I’m sleeping somewhere and it gets a little too sunny – so I wake, get up, and move to a shadier spot and go back to sleep.

To get conscious just long enough to do what’s best for you.

And do it Often!

Shirelle

How to get over someone who treats you badly

Blessing special asks:

How do I get over someone I really like?  After we spent time for the first time (cause we have been talking for a while), we finally met through a friend of mine – but even before we met he didn’t want any strings attached even though we liked each other. And then it wasn’t all good because he’s this kind of bossy type that always wants to do all the talking and giving out instructions. I always try not to make mistakes because he doesn’t hesitate to judge my mistake or point it out, but I really liked him because he was cool. As well we had some great moments, but when I got back he no longer talked or called me as before. When I asked, he said I wasn’t the vibe he needed, and it really hurt me so much!  I have been trying to get over it!

Hi Blessing special –

I have seen this same situation so many times.  We dogs tend to fall in love with whoever takes care of us, but you humans have a crazy tendency to fall in love with people who treat you horribly!  I’ve seen it in so many letters, and even at home.  I remember a few years back, Handsome was just nuts about this woman who had many wonderful qualities but treated him horribly (not abusive, just pulling him in, pushing him away, back and forth).  Eventually she broke up with him and he was simply devastated.  A friend of his said the words I couldn’t speak, “I know you’re heartbroken, but I have to say I’m glad she left you.  I couldn’t stand to watch her keep hurting you anymore.” 

So lots of people will tell you their suggestions on how to get over this guy.  “Eat a tub of ice cream.”  “Go out with ten other guys.”  “Dye your hair light green.”  I can’t say which of these will help or won’t, but I do know that the only way you’ll truly get over him is to make a change in your attitude toward yourself, where you say, “It doesn’t matter how great he is in other regards.  I deserve someone who treats me well.” 

And what does “treat well” mean to you?  Does it mean showering you with jewelry and flowers?  Writing you love songs?  Taking you out lots to help you escape from the boredom of your job?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I can tell you what it doesn’t include: “No strings attached,” bossing you around, judging your mistakes, ghosting you, or saying “you’re not the vibe I need!”  In other words, you deserve someone who’s at least better than this guy!

Blessing special, you are a special blessing!  Any guy who can’t see that isn’t worthy of you.  And the only one making you be in relationships that feel bad is you. 

So my answer is to like yourself better, and value yourself more.  You wouldn’t accept a person kicking a dog, so why would you accept a guy who treated anyone that way, especially you?

You deserve better.  If you don’t know it yet, take my word for it.  You do.

And the day you learn that is the day you’ll be over him – and anyone else like him – forever!

Here’s hoping it’s soon!

Shirelle

How to stop overthinking

Alllyyyy asks:

I’m a overthinker. I always overthink in every situation. My mind is always disturbed by this overthinking.  Nowadays I’m not able to sleep properly either, from this overthinking.  Please suggest to me what to do.

Hi Alllyyyy –

I have to admit, to us dogs’ eyes, all you humans overthink all the time! That’s one of the biggest differences between us. 

But maybe it’s better to say, you guys think way too much about the wrong things!  See, we dogs don’t have a big sense of the past or future, not nearly as much as you with your gigantic brains.  We stay centered in the moment.

Just as an example, imagine someone gives you a big piece of pizza.  Your mind is going to go ten directions at once:  “Wow, I love pizza!  Yum!” “Why did they give it to me?  Do I trust them to not be drugging or poisoning me with it?”  “If I don’t eat that now, they’ll take it away and I’ll never get it!”  “If I eat it, I’ll gain weight.”  “I wonder if this is as good as the pizza I had at that place on Main Street I loved so much.  I wonder if they’re still in business.  I need to find out.  Maybe if so, I can go there next week.  But who would I take?  Maybe that new coworker who’s so cute?  But I don’t know if I’m good enough for…”

Now, do you know where our minds go?  “YUM!”  And it’s gone!  No more thinking, no more questions! 

Now does that mean it’s easier to sneak a drug into our food than yours?  Sure!  That’s how Handsome gives me my supplements every day (but don’t tell him I’m onto him please)!  But yes, that also means it’s easier to hurt us than you.  And also, our way of thinking would never get us a date with that new coworker, or even finding out if that pizzeria is still around.

So your thinking has a lot of strengths, and there’s no reason to try to stop them.   Most of the time!

But sometimes, you do need to just give it a rest.  To live in the present, to center yourself in your body, to empty your brain of all…

Is this sounding like something familiar to you?

Yes, my friend, I’m going to recommend you try meditating.  I’m not pushing any religious or spiritual agenda on you, but if you can spend even two minutes every morning just closing your eyes, sitting still, and focusing on your breathing, that’ll be great.  If thoughts come to you, let them be there and go, and refocus on breathing in and out.  And if you have a little more time, try shifting your focus to what you’re seeing (I know your eyes are closed, but what designs or light do you see while there?), smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching.  And with each, putting your attention fully onto that sense.

See what you’ll have done?  You’ll have stopped those thinking wheels in your brain for just a few minutes.  And worked to build your brain’s “muscle” of being in the moment, focusing on just what’s there.

The strength you’ll develop from this won’t be that you get stupid or thoughtless.  Rather, it’ll be that you can direct your focus away from “overthinking” when that helps you.  To slow down panicky worrying, to stop yourself from ruminating over useless questions (which, in my experience of people, usually begin with “Does he/she like me?  What did he/she mean when…”)!!

Doing this won’t solve everything, but it will definitely help.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

And if that works, maybe you’ll learn our incredible ability to block out all thoughts but one for hours on end, usually involving staring at a tree and waiting for a squirrel to walk back down it!  Now that is a glorious mental skill!

All my best,

Shirelle

Sorry Not Sorry … the nature of regret

            Handsome recently told me about a fascinating movie he’d just seen.  Hard to describe, but in many ways, it was fundamentally about the nature of regret. 

            We dogs don’t deal a lot with regret.  Or rather, we don’t deal with it for long.  We’ll regret something we did because of its immediate consequences (whether that’s the punishment sort, like when I steal food off Handsome’s plate and he yells at me and makes me go outside, or the cause-effect sort, like where I stick my nose too far to sniff inside a hot oven and… OW!), but we don’t carry regrets on for days, or months, or years, the way you do.

            So I look on the whole concept in a different way than people would.  And what I see is… mixed.

            Okay, first let’s talk about the good.  A person does something thoughtless or awful, that has terrible consequences.  They drive drunk and cause an accident with permanent injuries, or they say something hurtful that someone never gets over.  And having realized the effects of their actions, they make a change.  They stop driving intoxicated (or maybe stop drinking altogether), and hold back on comments that might be taken in the worst ways. 

            Well that’s great!  They’ve grown, matured, learned… they make themselves into better people, more useful citizens of their community.  Regret has prodded them to self-improvement. Fantastic.

            And then there’s the bad.  A person does something they regret, and it damages them forever.  A breakup goes badly, and the instigator says “I hurt someone I cared about, and feel awful, so I never want to try romance again.  I’m too harmful.”  Or on a more general level, someone does something they regret and never feels good about themselves after that.  “I’m just not a good person.  I make mistakes that go bad.”  You know the type – the person who never stands up straight, only smiles with a nervousness, and can’t accept a compliment.  It’s not their breakup or mistake that’s ruined their life; it’s their regret that’s done it.

            But then there’s another sort.  Let’s call it “Dramatic Regret.”  The person who wears their regret, makes a show of it, lets it define them by choice.  You know them too.  The girl who is always telling her schoolmates she shouldn’t have broken up with that guy, the young man who’s always putting on a show about what a bad person he is for having punched his dad.  The regret might be real, but, again, these folk tend to make their regret into a new set of clothes for themselves! 

            Of course, what’s the very best is when regret leads one to simply act in a way that undoes it.  I know that’s not always possible, but when it can, I’m for it.  When Handsome accidentally steps on my toes, I yelp, and he collapses down, hugging me, apologizing, and kissing the tops of my feet to make them feel better… it works!  Sure I don’t want him stepping there again, but all the pain has gone away, and I’m fine!

            So, about this movie.  It was hard for Handsome to describe to me, and it’ll be even harder for me to relate, but it’s about a good woman with a bland husband, a rebellious daughter, and a distant father, trying to get through her difficult working day, while facing economic difficulties.  But suddenly she’s enabled to see all the different possibilities out there – of her past choices and her present.  It’s confusing, and surprisingly violent, as she confronts all these different realities.  But in doing so, she grows to learn more about who she is. 

            In other words, to grow, she is forced to face countless regrets.  Even for things she didn’t know were choices she’d made.

            If you’re able to see it, I recommend this movie.  It’s called Everything Everywhere All at Once, and while it’s being compared to superhero multiverse stories, it’s really more unique than that.

            But if you miss seeing it, or you think it’s not your type, that’s okay too.  It’s YOUR choice, and you don’t need to walk around in regret about it!

            What I want most is for you to look at yourself, at your own life, right now.  And see what regrets you have.  Are any of them fixable, like Handsome kissing my toes?  Or “growable,” like the driver changing their drinking habits?  Or if not, are any of them unfair, just pulling you down?  Maybe you can let those go.  (Or are any of them ones you choose to indulge, for attention-grabbing reason?  PLEASE let those go!)

            As a human, you have a huge brain that holds incredible amounts of memory and imagination.  You will never be able to live with no regrets.  But if you handle them right, and carry just the ones that you absolutely have to, then maybe, just maybe, you can live as happy and constantly-refreshingly-happy a life as a dog.

            And that’s something you will NEVER regret!

How to cope with the effects of a traumatic experience.

Shelby asks:

My life was normal until I was on my way to work, waiting for my shuttle service, and my phone got snatched. I have been living at my parents’ for so many years. But that night changed my life. I am so thankful that the robbers did not hurt me physically and just took my phone. Along with my phone is my ID which contains my photo, address, birthday etc. Ever since then, I’ve felt like someone is watching me always and is waiting for the chance to harm me again. And worst, I always feel like there are some people who will hurt my child too. I lost trust in everyone and I feel like any of them might harm or hurt my child or me. I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on my job. Please help me find the way to cope.

Hi Shelby –

You are dealing with something very specific, called Trauma.  People often refer to it as PTSD, meaning Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I don’t know that you’re having a real “disorder.”  You just are in the effects of this awful trauma.

Now let me make something clear about this – Trauma is not about what happened to you; it’s about the effect it had on you.  So when someone tells you, “You’re overreacting – lots of worse things happen to people every day,” it’s not that they’re exactly wrong, but they’re missing the point!  Yes, some people would order a new phone and shrug this experience off.  But they’re not you.  This incident cut to your core, making you distrustful of everyone and frightened of life.  The word psychologists use is “Hypervigilant,” meaning you’re always on the watch, and can’t relax and enjoy your life.

There are many treatments out there for trauma.  For some people, some deep breathing is enough.  For others, a massage, a glass of wine, and a good talk with a caring friend works.  Or of course I’m going to suggest a dog – both for the calming walks and for the barking protector with big teeth!

But for others, those aren’t enough.  There are psychotherapists everywhere who specialize in methods of trauma-reduction.  For some people, fascinating methods like specialized tapping on their face and body, or eye movements, can help heal the damage the trauma did to their nervous system.  For others, it might be a more in-depth work (perhaps the robbery triggered a memory in you of another violation to your safety when you were young, and accessing that memory will relieve your more recent anxiety).

I’m a pretty happy pup, and have likely caused more traumas than I’ve suffered!  But I have a few slight cases.  For example, when I was a puppy, Handsome tried to befriend me to a medium-sized long-haired black dog he loved, who attacked and tried to kill me before he got me away from her.  I was okay, but to this day, when I see a long-haired black dog bigger than me, I instantly fall onto my back and pee submissively, from the deep-seated terror in my memory.

There’s nothing wrong with your mind, Shelby.  You’re sane and smart.  But this incident has caused you the same sort of damage another person might get from an attack, a car accident, or being near a bomb explosion.  

I urge you to find a therapist of some sort to help you through this.  You’re not wrong to be bothered by being robbed, but you want to live a happier life in the future, and good trauma treatment can get that for you.

(Though I still say buying a dog is a GREAT idea as well!)

All my very best,

Shirelle

Because I Could … the danger of Entitlement

            A president, having lost an election, spreads lies about having actually won it, to the degree that hundreds of his supporters storm their own government in a failed attempt to take it over and undo the election – after which he denies any blame for it while many of them get arrested.

            A dictator bombards a neighboring country, arguing that they’re an urgent danger for having left his country and asking to join an opposing coalition – something they did a quarter-century ago.

            A popular successful actor, on the most honoring night of his life, hears a comedian make a dumb joke about his wife, storms onto the stage, strikes him, and yells obscenities at him before an international audience.

            What do these huge news stories have in common?

            I’ll answer in one word: Entitlement.  That’s the attitude one has when they think the rules that apply to others don’t apply to them, and, worse, that they deserve these special rights.

            You’ve likely known people like this, especially when you were growing up.  Some snotty kid in your school who thought they were “all that” and treated others with disdain or even cruelty.  (Maybe you were one of these yourself!)  But that’s childhood, when everyone’s supposed to go through bad phases and learn from them.  The problem is when we see these qualities in adults!

            But meanwhile, while it’s easy to despise spoiled brats, at any age, doesn’t our society also honor them?  That president and that dictator gained their powers by thrilling people with their senses of entitlement, creating a viewpoint of “If he can do it, and I’m on his side, I’ll be entitled too!  I won’t have to play by the boring rules I’ve had to before.  And even my country won’t have to!”

Now this brings up a question, though.  When a leader takes charge and directs their people through a difficult situation, making horribly risky decisions, is that also entitlement?

What about when someone sacrifices their own life for a cause, when none of their friends or family would have allowed them to do such a thing?

Or what about when a person walks up to a poor person on the street and insists on giving them their lunch?  Is that entitlement?

I will certainly argue that it’s not.  Rather, they show a viewpoint that they have the right to make choices for themselves, but each of these involves a thoughtfulness, a consideration of the greater good, that renders their action the opposite.

So let’s look at those examples I started with.  Imagine that president had said “I lost, but I think I can do a better job if they give me another chance.  I’ll run again, and spend the next four years giving people reasons to vote for me.”  Or if that dictator had said “I need to find ways to help that country, to encourage them to ally with us.”  Or if that actor had waited until later and publicly stated, “I thought that joke was stupid and even cruel.”

In each of those cases, the person would have still pursued their goal, but in a way that would have honored the rights and even lives of those around them.

            Now here’s another question: Is my writing this to you a sign of a sense entitlement?  I’m certainly believing my thoughts are worth your attention. 

But no, it’s not.  Because you have the right to click off this page, or shut down your computer, and walk away and grab a nice pastry any time you like.  If I barged into your home, jumped onto your bed, bared my fangs, growled while drooling onto your throat, and, keeping you terrified, demanded you listen to what I had to say about the Oscars Slap, then… yeah THAT would be Entitlement!

            So does that mean that nothing can undo the actions that these entitled men have done, or even some of the rotten things some people did as kids?  Maybe not.  But is there a way to undo entitlement itself?  To move on from it?

            I think so, and can think of one excellent example.  A couple of decades ago, another U.S. President was caught having had, and lied about, an extramarital affair.  He denied it for a long time, and confessed to it only when undeniable evidence proved him guilty.  Years later, he wrote an autobiography, and in it said some amazing words.  He said that he’d had the affair “for the worst reason in the world.  I did it because I could.”

            It was no big deal for him to confess to the cheating yet again.  But instead, he confessed to entitlement.  Something so rare as to be truly beautiful.

            Have you been guilty of acting entitled?  Do you have it in you to admit it? 

            If so, you will have redeemed yourself.  And you can move on into a world of bravery, humility, and strength.

            But if not, you’ll be stuck in it.  And even those who think you were right to… oh, to contest some election results, or attempt a takeover of your neighboring country, or stand up for your wife to a comedian…  even they will see you as less than they did before.  

            Because you have proved your truth.  And the truth isn’t just bad; it’s entitled, which might be the most disgusting quality a person can have.

            Look, if I climb onto a couch I’m not supposed to, I know I’m breaking the rules.  But nothing I or any other dog does comes from that entitled place (our brains just don’t work that way). 

So I’m not asking you to be better than us. 

Just… don’t be worse.

            All my love,

            Shirelle

PS: And just to repeat my last newsletter’s complete text:  ALL. DOGS. HATE. WAR.

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’s the best way to deal with false rumors at school?

Arty asks:

A few weeks ago at lunch one of my friends at school told me that someone who I thought was my friend made a story about me on FaceTime (Maybe she was jealous but she also might have just been bored or feeling mean. I’m not sure.). It was about me having sex with someone else who is now out of our school, and us having a child and giving the child away. When I heard the story I went to someone who’s always supervising us during lunch. She’s someone I guess I trust, and we’ve known each other for however long I’ve been at this school, and my friends and I love her and always talk to her. So I told her everything. And this lady I trust called the girl who made the story about me and told her she was very disappointed in her because the same thing had happened to her last year. Then lunch ended and my teacher called everyone who was involved. She talked to us and the lady I trust also talked to us. I was silent the whole time and was on the verge of tears (I had wanted the lunch supervisor to talk about it to the person who made the story, but not to bring my teacher into it and get people in trouble and stuff like that cause I feel people would call me a tattle tale.), but tried not to show it. When they were done talking, I asked if I could use the restroom. I felt vindicated but also horribly embarrassed.  When I reached the restroom, I started crying. Then one of my used-to-be best friends but now sorta-friends walked in, gave me a hug, and we both cried a little bit. Then we went back to class. I’m sorta over this, and no one talks about it anymore, but whenever I think about it I feel like I still wanna cry. I don’t know what to do anymore and who to trust or who I can trust. My parents don’t know about this and after a few days no one at school talked about it anymore – which always happens whenever something major occurs. Now I feel like I’m wearing a mask and everyone thinks I’m ok. It’s just so hard not to have anyone to talk to (Sometimes when I say stuff, my schoolmates sorta just laugh at me. I feel like I just can’t get personal with them. And I don’t want to dump my problems on them because I’m sure that they have problems of their own.). And right now I myself feel like I’m being dramatic and selfish.


Then… a whole different story happened! Almost all of my classmates were added to a new group chat a few days ago (including me). And they started talking about a kid in my class. I’m going to name him r. Ok. So they were just talking about r liking every girl in the classroom and wanting to date me! And then they sent a picture of r with like a huge grin on his face and below it wrote r when he sees (I’m going to put j for my name) j. And I’m just like ‘ooook then’… I didn’t really have anything to say so I kept quiet. But with my friends (in a different group chat) were talking about it and stuff. Then r texted in the group chat ‘I like j’ and I was just completely shocked but told myself it was probably a dare or he’s just seeking attention and stuff like that. Then one of my other friends who was not in the group chat with my friends but was in the group chat with the entire class texted me and asked me if I saw the text r wrote. I told her yes. Then she asked if I liked him back. I knew that she was going to ask me and when I answered she would send it to her bestie and her bestie would send it to the whole class. So I just ignored her text. That was during the weekend. So come the school week, everyone is asking me ‘do u like r?’ ‘Are you and r dating’ ‘do you know’ and all that jazz. And one brat  told me ‘go kiss r’. My answer for all of those questions except the last one were ‘I’m not going to answer that question’ ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively (is that the right word?). Now, my question for u is what do I do? Do I text this boy and ask him why he did that? If it was a dare? Does he actually like me? (But I’m worried that if I do, he’ll take a picture and send it to everyone) or do I talk to him in real life. Or do I just ignore it and wait for it to be forgotten?  I will appreciate any piece of advise you have to offer. Thank you! 

Hi Arty –

Before anything else, I have one big statement for you:  you are NOT being “dramatic and selfish.”  You went through something terrifying with that crazy FaceTime incident, and are still trying to make sense of it, as anyone would. 

But I’m going to give you a suggestion on how to deal with all this that might sound really odd:  Take a deep breath, and do nothing!

Here’s my thought.  First of all, it seems quite clear that everyone quickly forgot about that idiotic story about you and the child.  It sounds to me like your class looooooves drama, and so is always looking for something new to talk about, so that crazy tale was forgotten as soon as some other nutty one came around!

Secondly, with the story about r, all he’s done was to write that note that said he liked you.  Well “like” is a very vague word.  I like you and I’ve never met you!  But he might mean that he thinks you’re cute (which anyone could say, whether or not they were actually interested in getting involved with you).  Or he might mean he has a huge crush on you.   Or, as you suggest, he might have just said it on a dare.

Regardless, he hasn’t done anything more about it.  And while a bunch of people are asking you how you feel about him (and I don’t know – do you actually feel anything toward him, good or bad?), they’ve probably moved on to other, equally earth-shaking questions, in the seven days since you wrote me.  But unless he’s done anything (like talk with you, or even try to get your attention), you have no responsibility in this at all!

You see, you care a lot about what your peers say and think about you, of course.  But what you’re not focusing on, or at least not telling me, is what you want.  In all the nutty stuff you wrote me about, I don’t hear anything about your excitement or hurt or wishes.  And I’m guessing that’s because they aren’t as important to you right now as what the group thinks and feels about you!

So focus on that.  Would you like r to approach you?  Let him know.  Would you prefer he not?  Then keep things as they are.

I know it seems the opposite is true, but YOU HAVE ALL THE POWER HERE!  Someone saying they like you is a nice compliment but nothing more.  People talk all the time about liking pop stars and actresses, who don’t need to respond at all.  Neither do you!  

You’re just fine, my friend.  And what’s cool is that, for the second time in a very short while, everyone at school got focused on you.  Think how it would feel to be one of those kids no one ever thinks about!  You’re one of the lucky ones!

So stay cool, and take that deep breath — and don’t do anything till you have a feeling that makes you do something.  You have the power, and you have the right!

All my best,

Shirellle

How do we move past our flaws to self-acceptance?

Soumyaguna asks:

We all should be brave enough to accept our flaws, at least with ourselves we can be true. We always tend to have a fear of people judging us, which gradually becomes an unconscious state and being in that longer we forget what we actually are ! We shouldn’t care about what other people think or would say to us, because the truth is they are not going to be a part of your life, your sufferings, your pain, your struggle or any of these. 

Honestly, I have been very grateful about where I have reached today but I’m not satisfied. I deal with a lot of stress, anxiety and unhappiness with my work due to some situations with which I’m not comfortable dealing with but I am. 

I am just fed up dealing with situations, people, their mood, their anger, and not caring about the other person when going through the same.

Today, I’m writing this to share my space with you or someone who listens to me every time I want to say but find no one around. .

I guess we all need that one person who can just hear us out !

Hi Soumyaguna –

I fully understand where you’re coming from.  I find that this stupid virus has wreaked havoc on humanity, and whatever anyone’s flaws were before it just seem more so now:  the intolerant are more intolerant, the cruel are crueler, the angry are angrier.  (And as Handsome will gladly tell you, the bad drivers are way worse too!)

I’m here to talk about whatever you like.  But I will caution you about one thing you said.  Sure it’s great to be brave enough to accept your flaws, but if at times you catch yourself not doing so, please don’t beat up on yourself about it.  This is a tough time for everyone.  And you have enough people judging and criticizing you without you adding in. 

I know it sounds like I’m saying just what you were, but I’m taking it to another level here.  Not only is it important to accept your own flaws, but also be sure to accept your occasional failing at doing so! 

I don’t know exactly what lies on the other side of this strange time, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be very very good – as long as you humans let it be!

Thank you!

Shirelle

2 The King’s Nightmare … finding power in what you don’t want

            Over the past couple of months, it’s been a bit different living with Handsome.  He got all excited about this pair of books, and hardly talked about anything else.  Not only that, but they led him to constantly play music by this one guy, and while it’s all good, and often great, I developed a craving for Bach, Beethoven, Billie Eilish – anything but…  Okay, it’s not true – this has really been fun!

            I mean, you have heard of Elvis Presley, right?!

            The basics of Presley’s life story ought to be familiar to you – born into poverty in the Southern U.S., a shy, awkward boy, he paid a local studio so he could record a song for his mother, and later went back there with a guitarist and bass player to jam, recording music that changed history: his talent, sexy charm, and mixture of multiple styles he loved creating something unique and original, exploding him into the most popular performer of this new thing called Rock and Roll.  Breaking the world’s teenage hearts when he signed up to join the Army for two years, he returned an even bigger star, though becoming more bland and ‘safe,’ till his music and movies got so boring it seemed he was through.  Then, shocking the world, he “came back” and became the top live act in Las Vegas, till that destructive lifestyle pushed him into depression and drugs, killing him at 42.

            A glorious and tragic story, one we’ve seen variations on too many times – Judy Garland, Carmen Miranda, Michael Jackson… always leaving the same sad question: What Could Have Saved Them?

            So these giant biographies that Handsome dived into, Last Train to Memphis (about the exciting early years) and Careless Love (about the more complex later ones), both by Peter Guralnick, told him pretty much everything anyone could want to know about the man often referred to now as The King.  The obsessive work it took to create his singing style, the conflict between his deep religious faith and the irresistible fun that stardom offered, the girls girls girls, the drugs (which started, not in Hollywood or Vegas, but in the army, where soldiers were given all the amphetamines they wanted, to keep them alert and active), and the miserable loneliness he battled always – but did they answer that big question?  Not really.

            However, I wonder if a key was hinted at, one I want to share with you because I think it’s important, not just to this grandiose life, but maybe for you as well.

            Shortly before he died, Elvis told a friend about a nightmare he had suffered over and over, since he’d first hit it big:  “All his money was gone, the fans had abandoned him… he was alone.”

            Think about that.  For twenty years, close to every night, this most popular and successful of performers would dream of his life being the opposite.  His greatest fear.

            But dreams are funny things.  When I dream of fighting off mountain lions, is that a bad or good dream?  It’s scary, but also way more exciting than anything I experience shut in Handsome’s yard.  And maybe that dream is telling me that I’d be living my truest and happiest life in the wild – or that I could even save lots of lives by reducing the fierce mountain lion population!

            And here’s what I’m wondering – if Elvis had lost all his popularity and riches, if he’d been alone with his thoughts and memories, if no one wanted to hear him sing or see his show…  might he have lived? 

            Sure, he’d have been miserable.  He’d feel like a failure.  He’d be lonelier than ever.  But he’d know that anyone who came around was a true friend, and not after him for his fame or money.  He’d be able to live a healthier lifestyle than one gets touring or performing.  And maybe he’d even be unable to afford those drugs! 

            And then, over time, maybe he’d have pulled himself together.  Become clean and sober, been more of a father to his daughter, maybe even gotten a hound dog like he’d sung about!  And then, of course, anything would have been possible.

            The reason I’m bringing all this up isn’t to depress you about a death some 45 years ago.  But to point out that so often, what people are most afraid of losing is just what they need to experience, to move forward into a new stage of life.  I get so many beautiful heartbreaking letters from you guys, so afraid about losing a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t want you anymore.  And every time, once I see you let go of them – you’re happier.  You realize that that person was keeping you down, keeping you feeling bad about yourself, keeping you from moving into where your life could go. 

A few years back, I watched Handsome hold on with terror to a career that wasn’t helping him; once he moved on to another life, he was so much cheerier (and I can’t tell you how much better company he was; Whew!). 

And for me, when I first moved in with Handsome, I was always trying to get away.  I liked him, but was annoyed by being locked up, so I’d try to dig under the fence, or climb over it.  Till I realized that this was exactly where I wanted to be most, to the point that if he accidentally leaves the gate unlocked, I don’t walk out.  I’d rather wait for him to come home and take me on a walk.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have dreams or ambitions.  Sure, pursue that romantic ideal, and if it works out, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.  After all, heaven knows the world is a better, happier place because Elvis worked so hard to be a success. 

But when things go wrong, I also urge you to take the chance that perhaps the Universe is telling you something.  That the fear that’s propelled you this far has done its job, and it’s time to let it go.  That you can be happier and more productive if you give up on that girl, or quit that job, or… leave Vegas, move back home to Memphis, and spend your days in the meditation garden you built at Graceland while letting some other singers enjoy the successes you once knew.

It’s funny how you humans constantly think that if you fail at something, no matter how well you’ve done with it before, that makes your life and you worthless.  But you’d never say that to one of us pups when we don’t catch a squirrel or get a trick right.  Maybe because we don’t see them that way; we’re really good at letting those failures go, and trying to learn from them so we can do better later on. 

I urge you to do the same.  Maybe it’ll make a few months better for you, or maybe it’ll give you decades more of life.

Either way, you’re all kings and queens to me.  And your lives, whether you’re succeeding or falling short of your goals, are my happiest dream.

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