I remember being a little girl, and a grownup man asked me, “What do you like to do?”
And I said, “I like to have fun.”
He didn’t say any words back to me, but made a sound and his body language said, “That was a stupid answer.” He might have been trying to avoid saying what he wanted to say because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
I thought, “What’s wrong with that?” I couldn’t understand why a grownup would reject the idea that I liked doing things that were fun. I was completely mystified. But I realized that I was in the wrong and that he was too mannerly to say anything.
I also remember being around age 40, and working in a large office, and a nice lady asking me if I would ever want a dog. I had never been in a living situation that allowed me to have a dog until then, except a brief time when I was living on a kibbutz at the age of 18 and had a kibbutz dog until I left there.
But I was no longer restricted by apartment rules. I had just bought a home. I didn’t have a fence yet, but I was legally allowed to have a dog. My ex-husband had always spoken well of having dogs, so I said, “Sure, maybe.”
She asked me what kind of dog I wanted, and I thought it over for a few minutes, and I said, “A nice one.” I got the same reaction that the grownup man had given me lo, those many years ago. It was clearly not the right answer for some reason.
The lady said, “No, I mean what kind of dog? What breed?”
Well, I didn’t know anything about breeds. The kibbutz dog was a mutt.
I thought about dogs, and what kinds of dogs there were, and what kinds of dogs I’d seen, and I finally said, “A black one?”
She still seemed disappointed with the answer, but finally suggested that she had seen a beautiful chocolate lab in the shelter, and it had papers.
I had never heard of a chocolate lab, but agreed to go out and see the dog.
When I got to the shelter, I saw a gorgeous Dalmatian in the yard, and I really wanted that dog. I even loved her name, “Daisy Mae.”
But the lady was really urging me to take the chocolate lab, and of course, the shelter worker (or volunteer?) was delighted about finding a home for this chocolate lab, which was so important because she had papers. So I did. I could see that I was supposed to care about the dog having papers, even though it seemed so irrelevant. They even let me take the dog without spaying her, probably because she had papers.
What happens when you go against your own instinct and replace the action that you want to take with the action that pleases others?
Brownie had some health and behavioral issues that caused me some grief. She was also the wrong size for me — we just didn’t fit. Because she was obviously a puppy mill mommy, she had no training or manners. And she barely paid attention to me. I didn’t have a fence up yet, so it was a struggle to get her outside to pee, and I had no idea how to potty train her. She would pull strenuously on the leash, and people would tell me, “Ignore bad behavior and praise good behavior.” But I couldn’t praise her for good behavior that she didn’t have. She would get accosted by males, sometimes quite frighteningly, whenever she went into heat, as well as bleed all over the place. She had a false pregnancy and almost died. When I finally got her spayed, the vet told me that it was a good thing – having puppies again would have killed her, and that she had had a C-section in the past. We had a life full of difficulties, and she eventually got hit by a truck.
Don’t get me wrong. Brownie was a deserving dog. I always wanted the best for her, but I was really not ready for that one, maybe not ready for one at all.
And I never found out what happened to Daisy Mae.
Maybe most of us get trained very early in life to second-guess all our opinions, desires, abilities, and gifts. I had a gift of being able to look into the yard of the dog shelter and see exactly which dog would be the right one for me. We were a “vibrational match,” if you will. Also, I wasn’t looking for a dog and knew that I didn’t really have the equipment that you would logically need. But just as I’d always done since being a wee child, I deferred to the opinions of others and went through years of grief (which were also very hard on Brownie, I must add). It wasn’t Brownie’s fault, of course. Every decision I made was based on what someone else wanted me to do, and there are plenty of decisions to make when you have a dog.
Do I have any proof that things would have worked out better with Daisy Mae? No. Perhaps lack of proof that things might have been better is what keeps us attempting to please others by doing what they want.
When have you pushed aside your own desires to fulfill the wishes of others? Did it hurt? Has it worked out well? Does it work out well sometimes, just enough times to reinforce you for doing it? Is that why you continue?
Or, are you really good about choosing your own path and following your own inner urgings?
Once you realize that you are a worthwhile human being, the next step is perhaps the hardest – giving up your addiction to please others in an effort to prove your worthiness.