During the life transition of family caregiver recovery, if you have been isolated, gradually resume social and community activities. Start with people who are easy to love, or at least easy to be with.
Source: Holistic Tips for Recovering
After Family Caregiving, Gale Lyman, June 2019.
Just because we love or like someone, does not mean that they are easy to be with. The same goes for animals. Once upon a time, I had two Labrador retrievers, Daisy and Rosie, both of whom I loved. Both were high on my list of best girl friends. We traveled together, worked together, played together, and healed together.
Although I could never truly choose a favorite between them, there were times when I preferred the company of one over the other. Daisy the elder (alpha in canine terminology) was brilliant. Tell or show her something once, and she remembered it for life. If it interested her, that is. She completely filled a space with her energy and her self, her presence. Once she stayed overnight at the veterinarian center. Although the house was busy and Rosie tore around squeaking her favorite toys, the house felt empty. I loved Daisy, but due to her intelligence and rascal tendencies, I felt the need to be vigilant around her. Daisy’s idea of hiking together meant, “I’ll meet you back at the car when I’m done exploring.” Not comfortable with the safety of Daisy’s proposition, she stayed on leash. Wary of her bolting and taking my arm off, I hiked with eyes in the back of my head, and ears on full alert, seeking things that might distract her from the path I had chosen. It is tough to enjoy the peacefulness of the woods when your hiking partner is seeking to satisfy her intelligence with new stimuli.
Rosie, on the other hand, was a quiet soul. Although a playful knucklehead Labrador retriever, she had a cloak of serenity around her when at rest. The first time Rosie and I hiked alone was on Amesbury’s Riverwalk. I still remember my amazement. Loose leash, no need for wariness, I could be fully present, noticing and enjoying my surroundings. Rosie was with me, wanting to be companionable. Being a dog, she sometimes ran ahead or to the side of the trail to investigate something particularly pungent. If I stopped to talk with another hiker, she waited serenely. Catching a bit of her serenity, I strived to wait quietly when she stopped to sniff.
Rosie and I were aware of each other and of the other people and creatures, but didn’t need to be watchful. There is a big difference. Mutual awareness felt gentle, respectful, balanced, healthy, soothing. My stress level didn’t increase as it did when walking with Daisy, so my shoulders did not tense up and reach my ear lobes. Rosie was easy to be with.
Being with dogs or people with whom I feel the need to be vigilant feels stressful. My muscles are tight, and the fight or flight syndrome is in full gear. What lies around the next corner?
You know people like Rosie, and like Daisy. People like Daisy lead you along, encourage your adventurous side, stretch your mind, and perhaps try your patience. Those people bring you to places you might not have gone without them, and that’s a good thing.
Seek out people like Rosie when you want a soothing experience. People who, like Rosie, are easy to love and easy to be with. Those people allow you to simply be present. Aware. Not vigilant. Simply soothing.
Sooth yourself. Spend some time with someone who is easy to be with.