I tend to be really hard on myself. It’s my default setting. Since I was diagnosed with ADD at 18, a big part of my journey has been getting to a point where I let go of the qualities I wish I had, and work with what I bring to the table. When I can do that, oh, life is glorious! I can laugh at my quirks and make allowances for the things I need to do to be productive and happy. I don’t begrudge myself the time I need to zone out, my weird filing system, or the fact that I feel better about the world when all my clothes are in color order in the closet.
But the last two weeks have been stressful. There have been a few curveballs. And while I’m fine and things are so much better, I know I added to my own stress. Even while I took care of the things that needed taking care of, I had this constant inner dialogue about how tons of other people could probably take their stress in stride and still somehow manage to keep their house spotless and their paperwork filed and at any given time have a good idea of where their left shoe is. And some people would even manage to keep a smile on their face and not break a sweat and never ever whine or have a hair out of place. No matter what I was accomplishing, I couldn’t stop thinking that someone else would do it better. It wasn’t a productive line of thinking, but my inner critic is a strong, stubborn SOB and it was hard to shut it down.
Yesterday afternoon, I was out in the yard. Argo ran around with his Frisbee in his mouth, happy and carefree.
Stella doesn’t like to be outside when the neighbors’ kids are playing. If she can hear them laughing and shrieking, she’d rather be in the house. But she wanted to be with me and Argo, so she stood in the garage and watched from the doorway. She flinched every time she heard the kids. I made eye contact and told her it was okay. She took a step outside and I cheered her on. “Oh, you are such a good girl!”
She came all the way out and wagged her tail and ran over to lick my chin. I was so proud of her. What Argo does easily was an act of courage for her. He was just playing. She overcame a fear.
I threw the Frisbee for Argo. He’s amazing. He almost always catches it. He takes the most gorgeous, graceful leaps in the air when he does.
Stella never really seemed to learn how to play. We work with her, but she doesn’t quite get toys or what she’s supposed to do with them. Yesterday, a few times, when I threw the Frisbee for her, she ran after it, her clumsy legs flailing. She picked it up off the ground and brought it back to me, and every time she did, I got a little teary. Even though she never caught it, Stella playing Frisbee was gorgeous too.
I realized that I had no problem praising Stella for just stepping outside or picking up a toy, while Argo (who gets plenty of praise, and completely knows how awesome he is, don’t worry) was running circles around her effortlessly. It would be ridiculous to hold Stella to Argo’s standards. They’re different dogs. They have different strengths and weaknesses, and they are both wonderful. Stella deserved praise. It’s easy for Argo to walk outside and play, but that doesn’t in any way diminish how hard Stella tries or how brave she has to be to overcome her fears.
I can give Stella credit for how hard she works to do the best she can with what she brings to the table, but for the past few weeks I hadn’t been able to do that for myself. Like Stella, I’ve been trying hard. I’ve been doing the best I can. Celebrating Stella’s victories reminded me that it’s okay to acknowledge the things I accomplish, even if I get stressed out by stressful things or the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes and I’m not sure where my keys are.
I know it’s sappy to say that my dogs teach me how to be a better, kinder, more patient person, but they do. And I really needed a reminder to be nicer to my self.