Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What's Wrong With Your Dog?

I have always been overly sensitive. Someone tells me I look nice with my hair straight and whether I say it out loud or not, I think to myself "Oh, so my hair doesn't look nice when it's curly". I usually have an entire angry dialogue with this person in my head and get myself all worked up. To my credit, sometimes people mean the negative conclusion that I have jumped to in my head. They prove this by the next comment they make. But, it's not fair for me to assume everyone is a jerk just because some people are.

My dog has hip dysplaysia. He's had it since I got him 8 years ago. It's not uncommon in large dogs and can be managed fairly easily if you are proactive about it providing supplements and physical therapy. But my dog walks with a noticeable hitch in his step and he has collapsed wrists which makes it even more noticeable. I remember one day I was at a dog park in Baltimore with a friend of mine. We were sitting back watching our dogs play when a complete stranger came up to me and asked me "What's wrong with your dog"? He said it in a pretty nasty way and he had one of those bought from the breeder, snotty dogs. I looked him straight in the eye and said "Nothings wrong with my dog" and walked away. That was 7 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

The other day a woman at the vet's office shook her head and said "Poor thing" as my dog walked by. I wanted to punch her in the face. He has problems getting up after he's been sitting for a while but once he's up he gets around just fine. I did not want this woman's pity. I felt like explaining that my dog was really happy and not suffering and that he just had problems getting up because he hadn't been to physical therapy for a few months while he was healing from a skin infection and that normally he was more mobile than that.....etc, etc. That's how it comes into my brain. Like one long, angry run-on sentence of justifications and defenses of my situation. I don't know why I care so much about what complete strangers think but I do and I hold on to what they say and carry it with me for an eternity.

I often pre-retaliate to comments that I think people will make. That way I've already had the argument in my head before we have the actual conversation and I'm ready with all the points that I wouldn't be able to make in the heat of the moment. As you guessed, most of the time these arguments never come to fruition and I'm left spent from the wasted energy of preparing for a conversation that will never happen. Of course, when I let my guard down and don't prepare and someone slaps me in the face with a ignorant or hurtful comment I am always too emotional to collect my thoughts. I never get a chance to say what I mean and leave the situation feeling more frustrated. It's like the perfect comeback that you come up with the day after someone tells you off.

I remember that on Oprah a lifetime ago an expert recommended writing letters to people who you had unresolved issues with. You never sent these letters but the idea was that by writing down your thoughts you would be able to let go of whatever you were holding on to. I've done that a few times over the years and all it did was make it even clearer that I had no closure to these situations and that I never would. It brought up all the old anger and provided none of the promised relief.

At 33 years old I find myself worrying too much about what strangers think and wondering what happened to the confident, cocky woman that I used to be. I remember how I used to drive down the highway singing at the top of my lungs and smiling. Now I am so tense when I drive that I have developed a permanent frozen shoulder and stiff neck that require muscle relaxants and regular chiropractic and massage therapy. I am overly aware of other drivers when I'm stopped at a traffic light or passing people on the highway. I never look to see if any one's actually looking at me but I always imagine that they are. My husband doesn't even let me drive any more when we go places together because he hates seeing me that tense.

Maybe I should get hypnotized or something. There has to be some way to undue this knot that I've tied myself into. It would be so nice to be free of this anxiety.

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