Can I tell you the truth?
I grew up on lots of property, with lots of space for lots of animals. I lived way out in the country and people often abandoned their unwanted pets by dropping them off on our street. I never understood how they could do that. It was cruel.
But, as fate would come to have it, these dogs often became ours. And we loved them. And I loved them.
But somewhere in my life those feelings changed. As much as I continued to view myself as an animal lover I found I was increasingly annoyed by their presence and frustrated with their "baggage" (chewing my personal belongings, snatching my food, peeing in my bedroom, licking me...).
And one day I began to view my pets with the attitude of "Life would be easier if I didn't have to deal with you."
And that is when they became nothing more to me than a punching bag. Never physically...but, definitely emotionally.
See, once I decided that life would be easier without these pets... I began to resent them. And resent everything they did...from standing too close to me, to just walking into the same room that I was in. And the resentment turned into loathing when they really did something naughty...like chew up my feather pillow with my brand new quilted pillow case on it.
Each new "infraction" would make my feelings towards them more and more bitter. My default reaction towards them routinely became 'attack!'
"Tucker, go away!" "You stupid dog." "Nobody wants you here. Get out!"
I guess in some small, bizarre way I felt that humans... I had to forgive. I had to say sorry. I had to be better for. But these resented creatures? They made my life miserable, so I had every right to not be nice to them. I had ever right feeling angry whenever they came around. The solution was them going away! They were the problem, not my behavior or attitude towards them!
And then my husband mentioned one day that my life might be easier if I just decided to love our dog.
And oh, it bothered me! I was not going to accept our dog. He was stupid. And a nuisance. And one more thing that made my life difficult!
I mean, it is hard enough having to deal with tantrum-ing toddlers... but to have to make them a new lunch three times in a row because the dog keeps snatching their food off the table? Unacceptable.
Love the dog? I wouldn't do it.
And it was then...when I realized that the key words in my thoughts were that I wouldn't forgive/love/be nice to our dog that the reasonableness of my husband's words started to get to me.
I began to realize I had decided that it was perfectly okay (and justified, even!) for me to treat this being, this animal, like dirt because of whatever "bad things" he had done "to me" in the past.
I realized that I had turned my dog, or animals in general, into my emotional outlet...my punching bag for all my frustrations, my hurts, and my aches. And I felt sick inside. And I decided to be better. And I decided to stop it. And I decided, as hard as it would be for me to do this, to try and let go of the anger...and just love the darn dog.
After all, our dog had done all the same things to my husband...and he loved the dog. So what was the difference? Put simply...our decisions and our attitudes.
It was my decision to resent the fact that I even had to deal with our dog's issues that made me despise him the way I did.
And then I thought about our human relationships. Are they really all that different?
Who have we felt justified in turning into punching bags, just because their presence has made navigating our own lives a little more difficult? Republicans? Democrats? Christians, atheists, in-laws, spouses, co-workers, bosses, public figures, telemarketers?
The point is... I'm convinced that when we decide that our lives would be so much easier if we didn't have to experience these opposing forces is the point at which we begin viewing and treating others through the lens and medium of resentment. We feel justified in our outbursts, our name calling, our nit picky fault finding, and, honestly, we become in these moments one hundred percent selfish.
I mean, let's be honest here! When we really resent someone...it doesn't matter what they say or do we'll find some reason why it was wrong, why their feelings on the subject were absolutely invalid, and why it was perfectly okay for us to lash out at them...but not for them to lash out at us.
So here is my challenge to myself and anyone else who wants to accept it: Recognize who and or what you've turned into your own personal punching bag... and make a conscious effort to accept the reality of their existence, as difficult or as frustrating as it may be, and decide to love them anyways.
That love for them, I guarantee you, will make all the in-between moments not as bad as they have been in the past and the hard moments more easily navigated. Even if it might be hard at first to extend them that love.
Anyways, yes...that is all. I'm gonna go stuff my face now and hope ya'll don't judge me for being the lamest pet owner ever. I'm officially signing out!