I’m trying to work on my blog. It’s a beautiful sunny warm day (the kind I dream about in January living in New Jersey). My windows are open and my soul is happy. The perfect time to work on piece #3 of the Quarantine Cave – our spiritual health. I have so much to share on how to be grounded, connected to God and grow in our spiritual health. I’ve been trying to write for the last twenty minutes and can’t focus at all. Why? Because there is a dog who has been incessantly barking on the top of his/her lungs for at least that long and has me so on edge I’m ready to jump out of my skin.
I want to stick my head out the window and yell, “SHUT THE F UP!” The only thing stopping me is I logically know this is not going to stop the barking. Obviously, the inconsiderate owners aren’t home.
Then I feel bad. Bad for the poor dog who is left home, clearly in distress and can’t stop barking.
Another bark and I think, “Not my problem. Shut your Fing dog up and don’t leave him at home if he has separation anxiety!”
Is this some kind of quarantine dog purchase/adoption? In a moment of loneliness did some non-dog experienced neighbor decide they needed a friend and adopted a dog that is now sending me into a state of extreme anxiety?
Then I think, “Hey I’m supposed to be connecting to my spiritual self. Maybe my spirit is feeling the dog’s anxiousness and that’s why I want to crawl out of my skin. It’s because I’m soooo spiritually aware and connected to the universe I must be feeling the dog’s anxiety!”
Nope, that’s definitely not it because I still want to put a muzzle on the animal (or duct tape). So much for my spiritual connectedness.
Then I feel guilty (again). As a dog owner myself, I remember a few days post-adoption coming home to my neighbor telling me my sweet chiweenine pup had barked the whole time I was gone. I decide I’m clearly a dark-judgmental-pot-calling-the-kettle-black dog owner.
“Will someone please tell these people their dog won’t stop barking???”
My heart is now beating faster and I feel like I’m being tortured. “Think of the poor dog!” I keep reminding myself as I feel my blood pressure rising like a pressure cooker. The barks alternate with high pitched yelps that send anxiety driven waves down my arms.
Em comes downstairs. “Is that our neighbor’s new dog?!?!” she asks.
Smart kid. I forgot our neighbor (who is dog experienced and has one dog) just rescued another new dog. Who happens to be adorable BTW.
She goes downstairs to check.
It’s confirmed. The once-was-sweet-now-is-the-damn-won’t -shut-up-dog is our neighbor’s.
Now I feel more guilty for wanting to duct tape it’s mouth closed.
I text my neighbor. (Just call me Karen I guess).
Slowly something strange happens. My anxiety driven anger begins to fade is being replaced with compassion and sadness for this new puppy. She was recently adopted and is clearly in distress. I offer to check on her. (and by check on her I mean make sure she is ok and also GET HER TO STOP BARKING!)
Funny how by simply knowing the barking culprit personally, I feel my anxiety dropping. I hear back from my neighbor who is now horrified her new baby is barking. Simply knowing she is horrified makes me feel better.
And I have to stop for a minute and recognize that this is a life lesson wrapped up in a yappy dog bark.
I was mad because I didn’t know the dog.
I was mad because I didn’t know the owner.
I was mad because I assumed the owner wouldn’t even care that their dog was bothering the entire neighborhood on this beautiful window open sunshine day.
And I was wrong.
Simply now knowing who the dog is and who the neighbor is sparks compassion for the situation instead of frustration.
I begin to wonder how often am I frustrated about situations now in COVID that I might not be if I personally knew the person or their situation.
Like the other day when I found myself angry at the woman walking around the store without a mask. Would I feel differently it was my friend April who I know has a pre-existing medical condition which wearing a mask triggers and feels self-conscious knowing people are judging her every time she has to slip it off for a minute?
Or when I was mad at the person speeding past me who gave me the finger and I secretly started judging their priorities as the world suffers a global pandemic. Would I feel differently If I knew it was my friend Mark who was racing home to say goodbye to his dad because this might be the last time he ever sees him as he’s taken by ambulance to the hospital?
Or when I was frustrated at the checkout person for going sooo slow when I just wanted to get out of the damn store. Would I feel differently if I knew it as my friend Linda who is nervous at work because she’s having to leave her kids alone at home since school’s closed and she’s worried every day about bringing COVID home to them?
Or each time I’m annoyed at the person using Facebook to, yet again, preach to the world about why we all need to continue to shelter in place and not even go to the beach. Would I feel differently if it was my friend Bill posting who is an ER doctor and just lost seven colleagues to COVID and is living in his basement afraid to infect his family?
Yup I would.
So what if every time I felt myself frustrated, agitated, or annoyed with someone I pictured them as a friend? Someone I cared about and knew their story. Someone I knew had good heart (after all we are all made in God’s image) and believed they were simply doing their best coping during a time with so many moving parts we often feel dizzy trying to make sense of it all.
I know that this season will change us. I pray I am changed for the better. That I’m stronger, wiser, and closer to God. Maybe that starts with compassion, empathy and kindness. And maybe that was the spiritual lesson I needed to learn today….the one God wanted to teach me through a barking dog…not the one I thought I already knew.
And don’t worry…when the barking stops we’ll dive into the Spiritual Cave…. so leave a comment and check back soon…..