Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Side by Side

When the dogs went swimming this weekend, each had his own style. I mentioned in yesterday's post that Baxter gracefully glides through water, Ridge muscles his way through, and the Elsie started out flailing her front paws out of the water, but eventually settled down enough to keep her webbed feet beneath the waves.

Their swimming strokes weren't the only ways their styles varied; they showed other differences, too.

Baxter preferred swimming alone. Except for the few times he came along Elsie to "show" her how to swim, he swam independently of the other two.

Ridge didn't care if the other dogs were there or not; all he wanted to do was find the retrieving dummy (and be the first one there to get it). If Baxter and Elsie wanted to join him in the race, that was fine; if not, that was fine, too.

Elsie, unlike the boys, wanted to have someone by her side. She was not a solo swimmer; she prefered the company of either Baxter or Ridge. And when I jumped into the water (in a vain attempt to teach the dogs to jump off the dock), she bee-lined right for me. She loves companionship.

Elsie just likes to be close. Always. No matter what she's doing.

Baxter does, too, but not when he's focused on something else (like a water toy floating twenty yards in front of him). For him, there's a time for companionship and a time for solitude. He's okay either way.

And, yes, Ridge enjoys company, too, and he needs company, especially when he's afraid (as in when he hears thunder or fire crackers). But when he's working (i.e.: retrieving), he's all business; no socializing for him. And when he's not, he's content to hang by himself, unless something frightens him--then he becomes Mr.-I-Want-to-Sit-in-Your-Lap-or-Lie-on-Your-Feet.

Sounds a lot like people, eh? Some people need to be close to others all the time. Others want companionship and solitude only as they need it. Still others are more business-like, but still need connection during times of stress or fear.

I suppose I'm most like Baxter. I love companionship; I enjoy being with my hubby, family, and friends. I can snuggle close with the best of them. But I also need solitude now and then. And when I work, I prefer to work alone.

We're all wired differently, and that's okay. The trouble comes when I expect others to be like me or others expect me to be like them. When Elsie-like people want me to be close 24/7, I feel smothered. When Ridge-like people want me to stay away, I take it too personally and feel rejected (although in recent years that's far less the case than in distant years past). And I suspect the same holds true for them.

When I'm in a Baxter-like solitude mode, Elsie-like people probably feel I've rejected them (I haven't). I just need to be alone sometimes; but that's difficult for the Elsies of this world to grasp. If I'm in Ridge-like productivity mode, I'll ignore people and focus on the task. Baxters and Elsies probably feel like I don't care (I do; I just momentarily focused elsewhere).

Ah, if only we'd learn to tolerate our differences the way the dogs do. Baxter took Elsie and Ridge in stride. Ridge wasn't affected by the other two at all. And Elsie just worked hard to keep up.

I'm finally learning that my need for solitude isn't weird or wrong or a defect. It's part of how I'm wired. I'm not Elise-like and never will be, and that's okay. I'm also learning that others who need more attention that I do aren't defective, either; it's just part of who they are every bit as much as my need for independence and solitude is part of who I am. So I'm trying hard to be patient with those who need more companionship than I, and I'm learning to come alongside them now and then as they have need. It's still a stretch, but I'm learning.

Wouldn't it be nice if we learned to allow others to be who they were designed to be, as the dogs do, and gave ourselves grace to be who we are?

'Til next time,

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