Poor Mr. Rico. He was in a no-win situation–one he couldn’t change. A one-sided love affair that caused him great grief.
Every time we would see ducks at the park, he would freeze. And stare. The lure of the squishy duck teased him. The challenge of an unpredictable squeaky toy stirred his imagination.
But I, the wicked mistress, always stood between him and that feather-flying, splish-splashing, duck-quacking, scrumdiddlyumptious fun.
The first few times we came across the wading birds, the moaning and squeaking coming from him sounded like an exorcism. I tried capturing it in video, but between his unholy noises and the leash-tugging from both he and Roxy, it seemed more like the earth opening up and swallowing people.
To Rico, that might have been less devastating.
Each time we would see his forbidden loves, however, his reaction got a little less dramatic. This last time, in fact, he pined for them in silence. And when I said it was time to move on, he didn’t protest.
Dog trainers call this “desensitizing,” meaning he’s getting used to seeing them and understands nothing, in his opinion, good ever happens.
But I also learned from his desensitizing.
See, I, personally, don’t know if “desensitizing” describes Rico as much as “accepting.” Because I’m pretty sure if I dropped that leash, something, in his opinion, great would happen.
Instead, he seems to accept that it’s not going to and has stopped wasting energy trying to change it.
So often I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or wishing I had more, or wanting people or events to act or unfold differently. I know how it feels to have delicious duckies within reach and not be able to grab and enjoy them because of things beyond my control.
Like Rico and his accepting (or desensitizing, if you prefer), however, I can control how I respond. Maybe I can even accept that which is out of my control.
For example, I was the copywriter on a team that recently received two great honors – MAXI awards from the Direct Marketing Association of Washington – and my manager graciously mentioned it on a conference call. I really appreciated the public kudos and wanted to thank her as soon as all of the giggling and congratulating among managers stopped.
They went straight into the next topic without ever acknowledging my presence, let alone congratulating me.
I felt small. Invisible.
After hanging up, I expressed my anger to my faithful office assistant, Roxy.
I didn’t feel any better. Thus began the carousel of thoughts of what I coulda, shoulda, woulda done to make my presence acknowledged on that call. (Later, I was really glad I didn’t, because I learned from Roxy that we tend to hurt others when we feel hurt or weak, so goodness knows the damage I might have caused.)
It finally clicked that my reaction hurt me worse than the actual offense. I started to accept that I didn’t know why things happened the way they did on that call anymore than Rico could understand why I denied him a rollicking good time with the ducks. When I thought of it that way, nearly all of the hurt evaporated.
Desensitizing sounds robotic, to me. But Rico and I are learning to accept the things we cannot control and to stop wasting our energy on them.
Well, at least when it comes to ducks.