Category Archives for "Teens"

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

Juicybest asks:

I’ve been single for some months now but there are two guys currently trying to get me to be their partner. I’m confused on who to choose, because frankly speaking I don’t want a boyfriend.  Just one whom I could end up getting married to.  And they are both sweet people. Is there anyway or anything I could do to know who amongst them is the best choice for me?

Hi Juicybest –

Thanks for your question about the two guys.

I’m very glad that both these guys are sweet people, because you deserve to be treated well!  But I’m going to disagree with your question.

You ask me which of them “is the best choice for me.”  But I don’t know if either of them is.  Does one of them make you laugh so hard things come out of your nose?  Does one live a life you find inspiring?  Does one treat someone in his life so well that you know he’d make a good partner for you, or perhaps even a great father to your children?  Does one love (or at least tolerate) the music and movies and books that matter most to you?  Does one of them treat your family members well?  And maybe most important of all, does one make you feel excited at the prospect of seeing him?

If you were stranded on a deserted island, then yes, I’d agree that you’d have to decide between these two guys.  But you’re on a planet with over three billion male humans!  And you’re asking which of these two is the right one for you? 

Maybe one is just that great.  Or maybe both are – I don’t know.  But my advice is to enjoy their attention and see if, at some point, one of them gets you flipped.  Until then, I’d worry that you’d just get involved with this guy and then meet someone else who does knock you out, which would only result in hurting a good guy.

I know you’re tired of being single, but treat yourself with enough love and honor to wait for someone great enough to deserve you!

All my best,

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!

Should one commit to a relationship that’s about to become long-distance?

Goku asks:

My college is almost about to end.  All my life I’ve been into terrible relationships. I have an amazing best friend who supported me throughout and helped me get through. She went through a break up 6 months ago, for a lot of reasons, but main one being she wasn’t that into him, she says she distanced herself from him cause she knew that they don’t have a future since she’ll be soon leaving the country for higher studies.  Let’s name this guy “Y”. During this her ex, let’s name him “X,” who she dated 3 years ago came back. It looked like she had never gotten over him and jumped into a relationship with Y (from what I know, X was into a lot of trouble, trying to figure out things in his life, and since there was no communication, she started seeing Y; when she made out with Y she broke up with X), and till date is guilty of not being there for him.  Now when he came back she went crazy behind Y’s back, and kept drunk calling X. I was being supportive while he randomly ghosted her or avoided her. But a few months ago, when she was getting better with the whole thing, we had a moment and from then on we started making out almost every day and now we are physically involved, I had never known that I have feelings for her, and we decided we’d just have a few months, after which we’ll be in different time zones, different countries, so we’ll go with the flow and not give any tag to our bond since we’re best friends before anything else and we can’t ruin that. But 2 months ago X again texted her saying that he was hurt the first time she left him so that’s why he was pushing her away, and now he wants to give it a try, even though she’s leaving this country. He said he’ll make things better. She said we’ll see, and assured me that right now she’s sure nothing will happen, but in the future if he becomes the person he used to be she might go with him.  Well, that hurts! Now they talk every day for hours on video call or normal call and he hits on her casually, breaking my heart. I’ve told her that it hurts and every time we have this conversation it doesn’t end up well. She’s involved with me emotionally and physically and says doesn’t want to lose me. She can stop talking to him for me but I can’t let that happen no matter how badly I want it, because I don’t want to bind her or stop her, I want her to do what makes her happy. Every time I try to get myself better something happens, either he flirts with her or she casually tells me how in future they could be together, and it breaks my heart every day, I have anxiety and she knows that in my past I’ve been betrayed a lot. I am so scared, I don’t want to lose her, and when I spoke to her about it, she said I overthink a lot and she’d prefer not talking about him with me (while before she would tell me about their conversations). Now I travelled all the way to her place with her, celebrated Valentine’s Day with her, and right after that she said she’ll meet him once and maybe stay at his place for one night.  She said she isn’t sure that something wouldn’t happen between them and she wants to be honest with me so if there’s even a 0.1% chance, she wants me to know it’s possible. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Then, seeing that, she said she won’t meet him, nothing will happen, and she’ll stop talking to him – but in an annoyed tone. I don’t want to stop her from talking, but how is this fair to me, that while she’s with me (even without a tag) she could even think of having a moment with someone else? She says she’s complicated and she knows she’s hurting me, and doesn’t want to lose me ever. I don’t know what to do. I try to communicate with her every day, sometimes the conversation goes well, and sometimes it turns ugly and then I have to set it right. I’ve started hating X and now even if she mentions him it hurts so bad. I want to stop thinking about him or their conversations or what’ll happen when they meet. I told her about this and she said she’ll meet him but she won’t do anything because she doesn’t want to ruin things between us, but that she even had a thought bothers me. I don’t know what to do, it’s so messed up. I feel so overwhelmed and anxious, I just feel like running away. She hates it when I get upset over this, and tries to make me feel better, and even says she’s ready to give it all away, but I don’t want that. I want her to do what she wants.  Please help me, I have 3 months left with her and I want to make the most out of it, and that makes me anxious, that this will come to an end. We’ll be best friends forever but this that we have will end. I don’t know how to stop overthinking (or am I even overthinking?). I love her and that’s all I know.

Hi Goku –

Wow!  That’s a lot you’re going through!  I really have two responses to it, but first I have to say that I absolutely adore the phrase you used, “not give any tag to our bond.”  You see, I literally have tags to my bond with my human friend Handsome, and wear them on my collar!  So yeah, I love that term!

Okay, so first of all, there is no question in my mind that this girl is very afraid of full commitment right now.  The way she’s treated all three of you guys tells me so.  X may have not been the perfect boyfriend, but if she really wanted to be with him she’d never have gotten involved with you; Y really seems to have been left in the dust; and she is playing with you like a yo-yo: pull you in, spin you out, pull you in, spin you out, etc!  Now I’m not judging her; she’s young and there’s no reason why she ought to be committing fully to anyone just yet, but I might be inclined to say that she’s not a good match for you, as you are clearly someone who gets much more attached.

However…!

There’s another side to this.  You say that you and she will be living in different time zones in three months.  You even say, “knowing that I have 3 months makes me anxious, that this will come to an end we’ll be best friends forever but this that we have will end.”  Well, my sense is that you’re right to be anxious!  In fact, I’ll agree with you that what’s going on between the two of you is guaranteed to end in three months!  Or, better put, it will change in three months.

My friend, your job right now is to take care of yourself.  She’s doing just that for herself, and apparently doing a pretty good job of it.  She’s protecting herself from getting too attached to you or X, and only struggling with the fact that she sees she’s hurting you.  You need to do just what she’s doing, but in the way that works for you.

What would that be?  Might the best thing be for you to pull away from her and let her figure out what she wants for her future?  Might the best thing be for you to insist that she spend the next three months with you and stop trying to be so nice by giving her space to make her own decisions?  Might the best thing be for you to kidnap her and X, and put them in separate cells in a dungeon, telling her she can only be freed when she agrees to marry you, and until then you’ll starve him to death? 

Okay, so number three is NOT a good idea; I’ll accept that!

My main point here, Goku, is that she’s not wrong.  She’s acting in a very rational way for someone in her position.  While you, you wonderful romantic, are behaving in a way that would make total sense if no one were about to move, but you’re not facing up to the fact that something is about to change in a big way.

What I think would be especially great, whatever else you do, would be to have a good talk with her about what sort of relationship you two would like to have after college.  Maybe being best friends for a while isn’t a bad idea – you both know how easy it would be to shift that back into a romance if that becomes possible again.  Or maybe you want to try to get her into a committed long-distance relationship, and maybe she’d be up for it (particularly if X hurts her feelings again).  Or maybe you want to take care of yourself by getting space from each other, and not hearing about what she’s doing with other guys so you can move forward in your own life.

But what you need is to decide.  And in that sense, I’m going to disagree with her full-out: you need to think more!  Think hard, and think clearly.  If you can get away and go sit on a hillside or a beach for a few hours, that’d be great.  Really think about what you want to achieve in the next chapter of your life.  And whether you’d like to be free to get involved with other girls, or try to commit to her. 

Truly there’s no wrong choice for you to make (other than that kidnapping thing).  You guys have your whole lives in front of you, and any decisions can be changed over time. 

But you need to pick something now.  Knowing that you love her and she loves you, and that you’ll be far apart, and that she is who she is at this time.  What will be best for you?  Choose that, bring it up to her, and see how she responds.

And as long as you two stay as honest and good as you are now, all will be okay. 

Wishing you all the best,

Shirelle

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

What to do when someone won’t forgive you for a small mistake

Lilly asks:

I have asked you many questions about my relationship. My problem that I don’t know what is going on.  I can’t get over him; I love him so much and need him back in my life, but he doesn’t want me.  He thinks I am not good enough for him. He thinks I am bad. He still asks why I wasn’t there when he needed me… weeks after the issue happened. Today I asked him to just stay with me and hold my hand; he refused and then blocked me!  What should I do to have conversations with him?  I love him and want him back in my life.

Hi Lilly –

Okay, so he’s making himself clearer and clearer to me.  Here’s the awful fact – he’s simply not good enough for you!

I know it feels like it’s the other way around, and you’re the one who’s not good enough.  But that’s simply not true. 

When I was a puppy, I was very disobedient, and broke all sorts of rules all the time.  Handsome would get annoyed, or even angry, and discipline me.  If you saw us then, you’d say “maybe that puppy’s not good enough for him!” 

But if he were meaner than that – if he would beat me with a belt or a stick, or starve me in the yard for days on end, all in response to exactly the same behavior from me, you’d say “That guy’s awful, and not good enough for that mischievous puppy!”  And you’d be right.

Your ex (yeah I’m calling him that now) is being a JERK!  You’ve tried very hard to make up for what was a pretty minor mistake, and to show that you wouldn’t do it again – and he’s not even willing to listen.  I know he went through a bad time, but he’s putting you through one too!

And here’s my big point – I don’t want you getting used to being treated like that!  I don’t want ANYONE getting used to that sort of abuse (and yes I’m calling it abuse!), any more than you’d want a puppy expecting beatings and starvation.

I know you’re in pain, but I want you to start to realize that this is pain HE IS CAUSING.  And to ask yourself the big question: if he’s causing me this much pain now, for this, how much pain would he cause someone later, who maybe made an even bigger mistake?  Like, oh, scratching his car, or forgetting a date? 

You deserve better, my friend.  And he deserves to face the consequences of his selfish cruelty – by which I mean the consequence of seeing you live the life you deserve.

I’m not pushing you to be selfish, but I am asking you to take care of yourself.  Like the puppy who runs away from the beater, you have a chance for a better rest of your life.


Take it!

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when you find you wanted more commitment than you’d thought

Tuktuk asks:

I met a guy in college, a senior. We talked on insta and snapchat for some time and then we met. I didn’t set any boundaries and it was go with the flow concept. We met and we got intimate. Our relationship was more of a physical one than an emotional one. We used to meet and used to make out. Then I broke my leg and went home. When I was home, we started talking and slowly connecting on emotional level. After I came back, we were still more physically involved. Since he is in his final year he didn’t have time to meet and we used to meet only to get physical. In December, I went back home and we decided we’d spend some more time when I came back. But after few days when I asked him about the plan, he started ignoring me. On my asking what was the matter he told me that he doesn’t have time and he needs to focus on his studies. I understood and gave him his space. And he didn’t contact me after that. Then recently, I came to know from a junior of mine that while he was talking to me and was with me, he was talking to another girl as well. Till this point I was kinda over him and talking to another guy, but then all of this started coming in my mind again and again. It’s been like 3 to 4 days since I came to know. I know that we weren’t committed but still I felt used. I felt that I wasn’t enough. I am so disturbed and disappointed. I feel numb. I can’t focus on anything. Please help me deal with this.

Hi Tuktuk –

I’m not going to disagree with anything you say here, about the guy, about you, about your relationship, or about what you did right or wrong. 

To my mind, you had a perfect experience with him.  Nothing bad happened, no one got a disease or an unwanted pregnancy, no one’s chasing anyone in a jealous fury, it’s all just fine.  To quote that old song, “I used her, she used me, but neither one cared – we were gettin’ our share.” 

However, you do care!  The only thing wrong is that, by pursuing exactly the relationship you knew you were gladly in, you’ve ended up feeling bad, “not enough,” “disturbed and disappointed,” “numb,” and “used!”  Not exactly our romantic ideal!

It reminds me of when someone goes to their first university party, and is thrilled to at last be able to do all the things they can’t do in their parents’ home, and smokes cigarettes and a cigar and drinks six beers and a few vodkas.  And the next morning, wakes up feeling like a truck ran them over and spilled all its exhaust into their mouth – and wonders what they did wrong.  NOTHING!  They got exactly the consequences they ought to, from the actions they embraced, and all rightly so!

Tuktuk you’ve just had a true learning experience.  Some people hate commitment, and would find your situation just perfect.  You had lots of fun with the guy, and now you’re both free – all’s fine.  But I think we’re learning that that’s not you.  You didn’t want full commitment, but you felt more attached to that guy than you’d expected.  My guess is that you’ll find that this is true of you from now on, too.  You care, you get attached, and you’re going to have to take responsibility for yourself in that. 

I don’t mean that you’ve been irresponsible.  But just that you’re learning what you like and what you don’t, and even a good honest guy like this one can’t make you happy unless you clarify what you need in relationships. 

So while you’re feeling all these awful feelings, I’m going to say to you, “Congratulations!”  Because you had a fun exciting experience, and learned some really important things about yourself. 

I couldn’t wish anything better for you!

So feel those bad feelings, but be ready to move forward out of them.  Now that you know what you don’t like, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself next time.

Just like the person who goes to their next university party and says “Oh yes, I’ll have one beer, thank you!”

All my 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.

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