Posted in Relationships, Uncategorized

Is Your Pet an Emotional Surrogate?

This pure breed Sphinx cat is Shabbat. Shabbat...
Image via Wikipedia

I write this post encouraged by my sister-in-law.  This morning we were discussing the role of animals in our lives and how “aware and connected” they can be to humans.  I was reflecting on the recent loss of our dog Katie, and what she meant to me.  I remarked at how animals have helped me cope during times in my life when for whatever reason, human comfort or companionship wasn’t available or desired.  At times, I swear that animals are better listeners, better friends, and more tolerant than our human counterparts.

I think that because animals listen without judgement, are there for us no matter what, and tolerate our eccentric behaviors, we tend to attribute human-like emotional support to their expressions, behaviors, and routines.  They bridge a gap where humanity fails us.  I remember times when I was a teenager, I would go into my chicken house and sit down and start what I called a prayer meeting.  I could make the sound of a chicken and you wouldn’t have known it was coming from a human.  They would scratch the hay on the ground around me, sit on my legs and shoulders,  clucking and talking with/to me as though I was one of them (of course it did help that I hatched many of them.)

If you spend an huge amount of time with your animals, ask yourself…”do I allow myself more freedom of expression, love, compassion, grace, tolerance for my pets than I do my human companions?”  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with lavishing love and attention on our pets.  I have made some personal observations reflecting on my own past and realized that sometimes my pets were used as a crutch or surrogate because the human option was either too difficult or not available.  Do you find it easier to give love and attention to an animal/pet than to risk vulnerability or intimacy with another human being?  If you can honestly answer that question for yourself and find that you do have a preference for dealing with animals over humans, you might want to take some time to journal and explore “why?”

It takes a lot of work to reflect and look inward to understand why we behave the way we do.  There is however, a great reward in examining the differences in our relationships between animals and humans.  You might discover healing, you may gain new friends (both human and animal), and you certainly will benefit with better mental health.  Seeking to understand our own behavior and the reasons/motivations behind our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves.  Purposed avoidance in our relationships only creates great chasms/distance and awkwardness.

All relationships take work!  Healthy relationships require conscious, focused, intentional thought and energy devoted to keep them fun, comforting, and enjoyable.  That is the only way to keep both people interested, excited, and committed.  If you neglect your relationships and let them run on auto-pilot, that’s when the routine/humdrum ruts get carved into your existence.  Boring, predictable, responsible are attributes of a relationship that has been allowed to stagnate.  So, dust off the j0urnal, the bicycle, the tennis rackets….get off your couch and cushy chair, don’t wait until the New Year to turn a new leaf!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I dare everyone who reads this post to take a personal inventory and answer the question… “Are you living your life on purpose…or on cruise control?”

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving….even our four-legged, winged, and finned relations!

Cheers!

Posted in Relationships, Writing

How I Quit a 2-Pack-a-day Habit

a lit cigarette in an ashtray
Image via Wikipedia

This is a synopsis of how I quit smoking two packs of cigarettes per day after 9 years without any medical substitutes or mental health assists almost 20 years ago.

I started smoking Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes shortly after joining the Air Force.  My uncle had smoked the same brand–they were my favorite.  I always loved  the smell of Camel cigarettes too.   Not sure exactly what got me to start smoking but once I started I was hooked.  That is until I met my wife.  I chose not to smoke in our house, and tried to quit a couple of times after we got married in our first year.  I just couldn’t shake the habit completely but managed to reduce the amount by probably a pack.  Our first home together was in Alaska.  About a year after we married, I was stationed in Washington D.C.  I knew I wanted to quit for many reasons–one of them being the “low sperm count” attributed to smoking–I wanted to be a daddy!

My wife and I also had really deep, intellectual conversations that really made me crave time with her as much as I craved cigarettes.  So, I tried to figure out how to satisfy both cravings.  This challenge turned out to be my pathway to successful smoking cessation.

In base housing at Bolling AFB, they had mailboxes mounted to the house just outside the front door which weren’t used because they had larger mailboxes at the end of the driveway.  I decided that I would make myself smoke only half a cigarette, put it out, then deposit the unfinished cigarette in that mailbox just outside the door.  If I craved another smoke, I forced myself to go outside and finish the unsmoked half a cigarette!  Well, I’m here to tell you that the remaining half of a once smoked cigarette doesn’t smell or taste the same as a new cigarette!  With this new self-imposed requirement to satisfy my cravings it wasn’t long before I was down to half a pack a day, then 5, then 3.   Pretty soon, I was down to smoking only one cigarette per day.  I enjoyed much more time conversing with my wife and playing card games than I was wasting out on the front stoop.

I finally decided that the amount of time wasted smoking really wasn’t worth the time invested, and besides–it always made my clothes and breath stink!  From the time I began my half-cigarette smoking requirement to quitting totally was probably two months.  It’s been almost twenty years since I quit smoking cigarettes.

Do you have a unique story about how you quit smoking?  I’m always fascinated by what motivations and methods people use to quit bad habits…like chewing fingernails–I recently quit that habit too!

Cheers!