She was with me when we started our walk, just a little behind and I thought that was a good thing. Perhaps she wouldn’t come all the way. At this point, the Manosh loop is a bit much for her teetery legs - but I needed the walk as much as Hudson and Bree so I kept going.
At the far end of the field, I looked back and a flash of white let me know that she was still all the way back at the burn pile. “Good,” I thought. “Let’s book it kids.” I said out loud to my other canine companions, picking up the pace and leaving Lily behind. I was surprised that Hudson and Bree were mellow on this walk. No barking squirrels up trees or chasing after deer ghosts. But at least I could walk at a comfortable pace and not have to keep waiting for Lily.
After an hour or so, I circled back to the house and when I opened the door, noticed that she was not inside on her bed. I grabbed the laundry basket and headed out to the back yard. I stopped short when I scanned the lawn. Lily wasn’t in her sit spot. Shit.
And here is the classic part: my mind raced to the worst case scenarios - she is lying somewhere in the deep woods, unable to get up. Or maybe she is dead, dropped down in heart attack. I will never forgive myself. I strutted off for a walk with the neighbor’s dogs and left my own beloved, elderly companion behind, actually wanted her to stay behind. How could I? I am a truly awful person.
Have you ever done this kind of thing, mind leaping to disaster? I wonder if men do it as much as women. It happens so much and so reflexively that oftentimes - I don’t even listen - it’s like white noise. But what IS it really, this human tendency for the mind to spin out to dramatic and often inaccurate realities?
I believe it is related to that essential component of thinking we all possess and are not very aware of: the thinking fast system described in Dan Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow. We rely on the thinking fast system for survival, like swerving from the oncoming car, and we can get into trouble when we rely on it for other things. Like me today, wondering where my elderly canine was.
At the end of the day, I noticed my progress. The fact that that I paused after a quick scan of the field and gardens, and even though the thought of her struggling was still present, I did not let it run my day. I engaged my slow reflective thinking and was aware of Lily’s steadfast reliability and continued with what I needed to do. Sure enough, when I returned from my errands, she was right there in her sit spot as if she had never left.
Today I did not have to do this consciously. I just felt my feet on the ground and knew that, knowing Lily, she was ok. How might I have handled this in the past? I think I would have dropped everything and gone searching, stress hormones pumping and with my heart pounding.
The mind needs grounding so that the body does not get flooded with these stress hormones. Letting the mind race untethered on tragedy and drama does exactly that. I believe that leaders of destructive groups are brilliant at keeping things moving so quickly that it is difficult for members to access their essential slow and accurate thinking capacity. That is part of why I was trapped in one for so many years.
And I’m feeling pretty good that I bypassed extra stress hormones today. It is important to notice progress. I’m celebrating what happened today as my new classic!
What is your progress? Let me know if you want.