I’ve had a rough couple of weeks at work lately. Things have been happening that are beyond my control and I’m left feeling like I am hanging from a trapeze wire by my fingertips. This sense of helplessness makes me go a bit inwards and lose my sense of self. The world becomes narrow and grey and I find it hard to focus.
To keep connected to the world, I have to keep doing all the things that feel good and right. I need to keep going to dance class and laughing with my friends. I have to keep going to the gym, no matter how grim I feel on first wakening. I have to eat healthy. I am an emotional eater aka when I feel crap = I will eat that whole pack of cookies and wash it down with half a bottle of wine. Then I feel even worse.
I have to go to work everyday, smile and behave like everything is fine and dandy!
But most of all I need to hug my dog George . He’s a therapy dog. I’ve written about him in previous posts here and here and also here. We have volunteered at aged care homes; childcare centers; schools and universities. George has worked with Psychologists to help children overcome their fear of dogs. He is a lovely, gentle and beautiful dog. He absolutely knows when things are not right with me and he will just quietly snuggle up with me and make sure I am ok.
Are the best. There is a lot of research on animals and their positive impact on people. I read an article last week about a prison in Indiana having inmates look after shelter cats. This was hands down the best thing I read all week and helped pulled me out of my funk. If nothing else, look at the pics – those cats!! If prison is to be rehabilitative as well as punitive, having programs whereby inmates can participate in something that connects them back to the world, that is a good thing.
After years of dating and some spectacular relationship fails, I think I’m a bit of an expert on red flag behavior. I can pick up on player tactics, commitment phobes, gas-lighters, bitter & twisted-haven’t-gotten-over-their-ex guys and hustlers that want to push you into a full-on relationship before their sketchy façade slips right down. One guy I was seeing earlier this year kicked my dog. Yep, he kicked my dog. So that’s a hell no right there!
I’ve spent many hours with my girlfriends (and guy friends) talking about red-flag behavior. People who lie about their age (men & women are equally guilty of this), that always baffles me, for sure you’ll be found out. For my guy friends their red-flag issues are women who not only lie about their age, but also their appearance – usually pics on dating sites, you know the photo of you that was taken 15 years ago? Yeah, that one. Just don’t.
Me – flagged? No. Really?
However, I did not consider that I would be flag-worthy (or should that be un-worthy?). I tend to see myself as a reasonably nice human being, with some (minor) failings, but generally good relationship potential. Seriously, I am so convinced that I would not set off anyone’s flag radar, that it came as a shock on the weekend that maybe I do! Yeah, I know – get my ego back in check. Ouch!
Family of Origin
And it’s funny (not laugh out loud funny, but peculiar funny) because it’s a flag that I think of as amber/orange too, but had never applied it to myself. It’s not enough to stop seeing the person, but something to keep in mind. And that is family of origin issues.
I have found that guys who have had fraught relationships with their parents and/or siblings can be tricky to deal with, mostly if they have not resolved and moved on from childhood issues. Research (here & here) indicates that family of origin conflict may impact on future relationship behavior.
The guy I started seeing recently did mention early on that he considered women as ‘orange-flag’ if they have issues with their family. That made me prick my ears, pause and think “huh…” So on the weekend I thought I’d talk a little about my family of origin with him (issues abound for sure, well not issues, more like the definition of ‘dysfunctional’ was invented for my family!)
Before starting in on the convo, I did ask him about his ‘orange-flag’ comment. He clarified that in his experience it was definitely a warning flag, however he did not get a “bitter” vibe from me. Nonetheless, I shut down the conversation at that point.
There is no bitter vibe, I’m not even sure that there ever would have been, it’s far deeper than that. Plus, I feel I have dealt with things as much as I can and I have a reasonable amount of self-awareness. However, I thought maybe another time we can talk, but for now and until he knows me better and understands who I am as a person, I’ll keep my orange-flaggedness to myself for a little while longer!
Physical health and emotional health are intertwined. As humans how we eat, how we exercise and how we feel are all connected. Most people know that having a sugar binge will lead to a sugar “high” and then you crash back down shortly afterwards.
For sustained energy you’re better off having a handful of nuts or a banana (yes there is sugar in fruit, however there’s lots of other nutrients and fiber too!!).
Food can affect our emotions and our emotional well-being too. How many times have you overindulged on the weekend, either a junk food binge or too many wines out with the girls? (mmhmm hand up guilty on this one…) Then come Monday morning you drag yourself awake feeling terrible and promising to eat healthy, drink more water and haul your ass out the door for a walk/run/swim/hit the gym?
But what can I do?
Good question. What can you do? Everyone talks about “everything in moderation” and for sure that cliche has some merit. However, what does moderation actually mean? And how do you ensure you are being “moderate” in what you choose to consume? Here’s one simple tip:
Keep a food diary– it really does help keep track of everything you eat and drink on a daily basis (including that one, sorry two or was that three glasses of wine each night?) try it for a couple of weeks and you’ll surprise yourself for sure!!
Then you can use your food diary outcomes to change up what you eat and how you eat and you can easily spot things that you can swap out or cut down. For example, if you find you have a choc bar every arvo, swap it out a couple times/week for a small handful of nuts or piece of fresh fruit. If every morning you have a super large full-cream vanilla coffee latte – swap it out for low-fat coffee a couple of times/week. Glass or 3 of wine each night? Aim to have a couple of wine-free nights, swap it out for mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Making small changes makes you feel less deprived and more likely to stick with them and maybe even increase the changes over time! And remember:
create the change you want to be!
Love and Emotional Health (for me)
ok, this one is surprisingly tricky. It’s all very well for me to say that you need love in your life to improve your emotional well-being. It’s a loaded concept and far too easy to criticise. Many of us have been or are alone without a significant other in our lives – so it’s always painful to hear that love is important and necessary to stay emotionally healthy, but it kinda is…
But you know and I know that love is not just from the husband/wife/partner in our life. It’s also our family, friends, child(ren), pets whether that’s a dog, cat, goldfish, goanna (an Aussie lizard, go google it, I’ll wait…).
Animals and small children give us unconditional love and that’s the kind that makes us feel wonderful and that all is right with the world even when it really is not. My daughter is just as loving and adorable at 26 as she was as a tiny child, I look at her and am amazed at how awesome she is and how lucky I am. So, go hug your child/children or your fur-baby, whichever, whatever – it’s all good.
I also have my therapy dog George and I share his love with the students and staff at work, with dementia patients and with random strangers I meet out walking him (love and exercise – mmhmm, I’m in heaven!!) Here’s a pic of George for y’all to make you smile.
Get on over to his fb page Georgie-boy on fb for more joy and happy, then come back here for my final comments on love.
Love – that is all
So, now for my final comments on this blog post. Y’all know I’ve been in a relationship that has had some serious stops and starts and it’s caused me a fair amount of anguish and my living it all out in social media means everyone pretty much knows my business, so I have no secrets – not sure if that’s a good thing, but that is how it is for me.
Yes, we are back together. Yes, I know some of my friends worry about this. Yes, I know what I am doing. Yes, I know how the story may end (hey I’ve been living it for the last year!) and No, you don’t have the right to tell me how I should live my life. I love my friends, but you cannot make my decisions for me. You can choose to question my decisions, but I’d truly appreciate you keeping that to yourself and having respect for my choice, even if you think it is not the right one.
And me? I always choose love and you know what? That is my happy. He asked me if I had put this photo on fb and I’m like nah, but it’s killing me and he laughed coz he knows I put it all out there – so here, this is us…
I read a while back that owning a dog encourages people to exercise more… which somehow does not surprise me – especially when my dog George gives me those sad puppy eyes and is all like “so, hey human – walk me?!?” or when I get home from a rough day at work and he’s bouncing all over the place in total joy that I’m home…
He’s actually a certified therapy dog and we volunteer at a dementia residence on weekends and he’s also an ”approved wellness activity” at the university where I work. The students and staff love him*
He’s a fixture during exam time and he helps students de-stress before they go into their exams. He has his own facebook page and he gets messages from students and staff to come visit and hang out with them for a while. I even put up a fb status recently saying my dog had the exact same number of friends as me and right up two of my friends went and friend requested him to make sure he was in the lead!!
* side note: George is a spoodle (or cockerpoo in the US!) a spaniel/poodle cross and low allergy because he doesn’t shed hair and as his handler I’m careful when I notice people who are uncomfortable around dogs.