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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life Lessons from My Dogs: Jolie

Sometimes our best teachers aren't humans - they're our four-legged friends.

I have had the honor of being friends with several furred-folk in my life and wanted to share a few of the things I've learned from them. This first post is Jolie's words on living a good life. Jolie is an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler mix who has more energy than 10 humans, combined! She's a bundle of love, though, and has been an amazing teacher :-) 

Life Lessons from Jolie

My name is Jolie and Nancy found me on an internet Australian Shepherd rescue site when I was about 3 years old. I'm now almost 13 and haven't slowed down a bit. They tell me 13 is pretty old for a dog, but I still feel as good as I did many years ago.

Anyway, over ten years ago, someone found me running along a highway up north - Nancy said it was Sheridan, Wyoming - and picked me up and took me to a shelter. They didn't know I came from a ranch where life was sometimes fun and sometimes really hard and scary. They just saw I was pretty and fun and wanted me to find a forever home.

One family up in Ft Collins, Colorado, tried to adopt me but the mom and dad lost their jobs and couldn't take care of me anymore. That was tough - they had two little kids who I adored and at first, I missed them a lot! It was hard to go back to the shelter where there were a lot of noisy dogs who were very big and scary. But thank goodness I wasn't in the shelter very long.

Nancy soon found me on the internet and brought me to live at her place with her then-husband (Tom) and their other dog, Jake. With Jake, it was love at first sight! We've been inseparable the last 10 years. He's not as fast or as energetic as me, but we get along really well, like to play, and love to wander out in the yard together. But we most enjoy just laying on the porch next to each other, looking out over the yard and watching the world go by.

Anyway, these are the things that I tried to teach my humans over the last 10 years. They haven't mastered some of them yet, but I have hopes that someday they will:
  1. Let go of past hurts. You don't have to forgive or forget, but if you don't let the hurt go it will hold you hostage for the rest of your life.
  2. Not all people are the same as the one(s) that hurt you. Don't make the other people in your life pay for what was done to you by someone else.
  3. If you see an open door that looks good, pause for a second to give it some thought. Then, if it feels right with your heart, run through that open door with energy and enthusiasm!
  4. Play like there's no tomorrow.
  5. Love.
  6. It's OK to be a goofball once in a while!
  7. Staying active is good for you.
Nancy said that some of the stuff that happened to me on the ranch was "abuse." I don't know about that. I just know it was tough and hard sometimes, and at first Tom scared me because he reminded me of one of the bad men on the ranch. But after a while, I realized that bad man who hurt me wasn't around anymore and Tom was OK, so I let him be my friend too. I let go of those hurts, things became really fun at home.

One of the things I like to do is to explore new places and do new things. And I LOVE running through open doors if they feel "right" to me. You just never know what's on the other side of that open door until you blast through it with energy and enthusiasm. Most of the time, there have been really cool things on the other side of the doors I've run through. And the couple of times things haven't been so great, I just turned around and came back. No worries.

Like I said before, Jake and I love to play! My favorite game with Jake is to chase him around the couch, then hide until he comes looking for me. Then I pounce out of my hiding place and scare him! It's so much fun to startle him, and he falls for it every time. We play a lot and love being goofy with each other - it keeps us young!

Love is a good thing. So are hugs and belly-rubs...

Last but not least, I still love to be active by running around and getting into things. I love chasing squirrels and following my people around the yard. Being active keeps me young and trim. Nancy says I'll probably be running through open doors until I'm in my twenties!

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Case of Mistaken Identity - Our True Selves

Who are we, really?

Recovery from the biking crash that sent me into Near Death has been much more difficult than I thought it might be. While the physical injuries were, and are, very severe, the brain injuries to my left frontal and temporal lobes has thrown my emotional state off into a place of grief over the person I thought I was...and lost.

Like many people, much of how I actually defined myself was by the things I did or my skills and strengths:
  • Technical
  • Analytical (able to solve problems)
  • Good at multitasking and managing large projects
  • A database geek
  • A teacher/Trainer
  • A beginning/Intermediate programmer
  • Able to translate technical jargon
  • Mid-distance road cyclist
  • Hiker
  • Cross-country skiier
  • Creative and artistic
It reads like a resume, doesn't it?

It's natural to do this. From the time we're small children, adults attach labels to us that may or may not be accurate descriptors: smart, brave, silly, slow, energetic, a good football player, bad with math, a pianist, graceful, clumsy, and on and on. Over time, we take these descriptions as identifiers for ourselves. We learn to define our Selves as merely a collection of these nouns and adjectives and adverbs.

But is that list of skills or strengths or activities really who we are deep inside?

I guess I always hoped that it wasn't, that we were somehow more than a collection of cells and genes and skills and activities. But my crash,  two Near Death Experiences, and recovery started the process of allowing me to really think about who I am at my core.

When my consciousness split during the crash, I could feel "me" go two ways: one stayed in my body and the other came to observe events from a distance away. I wondered...just which one of these states of being was "real?"

Later, during my supposed "recovery" period, I began to realize that I may never fully be back to the way I was - that there are some things I'll never be able to do both physically and mentally. The physical didn't bother me as much - I never really defined myself too closely with my physical activities. But my mental there was the sticking point! About 4 months after the crash I realized that a large part of my definition of myself was as a scientist, a technical person, an analyst, and a programmer. And at that same time, I realized those were exactly the skills I was struggling with.

I could no longer write even simple programs - I would blankly stare at the computer screen until frustration and a meltdown took over. Yeah, I'd start crying because I didn't know how to even start to write the code that just 5 months ago was so easy for me. My math abilities were also negatively impacted, as was my ability to analyze and solve problems.

A large part of who I thought I was no longer existed.

I wept, and grieved the woman who I thought had somehow perished in that crash.

Yes, at first I thought that the old me had somehow "died," but one of my young yet wise friends hit the nail on the head. What was happening was that I was redefining and expanding my internal identity. As she so eloquently pointed out, I am still "me" and I will always be "me," it's just that some of the things that I do has changed or will have to change in order to continue on.

The real "me" is not simply that collection of skills or knowledge or activities. There is a core Self that is deeper, more Universal, and much, much older and wiser. It is not the scared animal consciousness stuck in a battered body being dragged under a truck. It is the Watcher-me, the One Who observed it all from afar, one who experienced sadness but at the same time knew that this was as it had to be in this moment. The real Me is the one who stayed calm and knew that everything I experienced through those weeks had a purpose, and that it would be "OK" in the end.

The real me is at heart a Being of Light, same as you are, same as we all are. It is that Universal Watcher, the creation of Spirit, the link to everything around us.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

More details, including my thoughts, are in the book: Awakenings from the Light.