The Encounter

Yesterday morning as my dog, Frankie, and I were walking, a neighbor was passing through the parking lot with his two pups. The Labradoodle and the Bernese looked to be about four months old and had all the exuberance you would expect of a couple of puppies that age. Frankie, whose introverted tendencies rival my own, ducked behind my legs—petrified of these fluffy beasts.


“Easy,” I heard my neighbor command. I looked over to see the puppies take a seated position. “Easy,” the neighbor added with a gruffness that belied his spoken word. The dogs remained in position, though they couldn’t stop wiggling with anticipation at the sight of two potential new friends. “Easy,” Neighbor barked again (perhaps he was trying to speak their language?). The puppies continued to sit as their owner repeated the command several more times. They did as they were instructed, though there was nothing easy about it. They were vibrating with energy.

Despite Neighbor’s harsh tone, the adorableness was overwhelming—or at least I thought so. Frankie not so much, so we kept our distance as we made our way to the car. Once we were behind Neighbor and his crew, he gave the okay and the dogs happily stood up. I took a quick glance back over my shoulders for one more peek at the cuteness. My desire to mind my own business when not at work was finally overcome by my desire to instill proper positive reinforcement to these wonderfully behaved fur-balls. “Good pups” I shouted back to them in the happiest voice I could muster at 8AM on a Saturday. Neighbor and his dogs continued on without a word and Frankie and I headed to work.

I’m not trying to pick on Neighbor. Judging by those puppies abilities to delay the gratification of getting to play with Frankie and me, he was actually doing a pretty good job of training them. And honestly, I’m not even really trying to talk about dog training.

The Dichotomy

What stuck out to me was the dichotomy of Neighbor’s words and his tone. He didn’t tell the dogs “Sit” or “Stay,” he told them “Easy.”  “Easy” is what we should be aiming for—a calmness, an inner sense of comfort. “Sit” and “Stay” are good behaviors to teach, but if the behaviors are at odds with the inner state, it won’t last. The dogs could follow the command, but they couldn’t follow the spirit of the command when their teacher was just as far from “easy” on the inside as they were.

We live in a world where our words have become disconnected from our inner selves all the time.

“How are you?”  “Fine” 

“Do you need any help?”  “I’ve got it.”  

“Do you mind covering an extra shift?”  “Not at all”

I sometimes write about burn out, compassion fatigue, and self-care. Yet yesterday, when I had this encounter, I was on my way to a full day of work despite having worked over 50 hours in the preceding five days. I voluntarily picked up an extra day of work every week in December. I was stressed and tired and emotionally drained despite all the times I’ve written about not doing that to yourself.

Talk is easy. We say things and we think we mean them, or we want to mean them, but too often the deafest ears they fall on are our own. So, for this year’s New Year’s Resolution, I’m resolving to do as I say, and not as I do. I’m resolving to not only write about taking it easy, but to actually doing it.